Friday, 11 September 2009

From Ground to Dealer as Fast as the Finder's Legs Can Take Him

This year’s Coinshooter Commercial Metal Detecting Rally will be taking place near Padbury in Bucks. Three hundred acres of prime detecting land. “Much Roman occupation has been found in the general area surrounding the fields with a suspected ford over the River Ouse bordering one field. Hammered coins have frequently been discovered closer to Padbury village”. Whoopee. Lots of stuff then for the PAS to bost the numbers on their database with (their presence is announced). Of course nobody’s in this for the money are they? Its just a coincidence isn’t it that the main sponsor of the event is “Dei Gratia Coins” who will be there buying and selling. Let's hope the FLO's table is between the field and the dealer's table. It is envisaged that there will be between 400-600 people attending, at twenty quid a day, there’s somebody making a lot of money from selling off the archaeological content of those alleged Roman occupation sites on this bit of land.

Dei Gratia Coins must be a reputable group, it is a member of the renowned Ebay Numismatic Seller Registration Board. This is a group of reputable dealers as can be seen from their Charter (for example Clause 27 - Registered dealers will not threaten to bring bodily harm upon any member of this group, any other registered dealer, or anyone who has won /bid on one of their offers on eBay). Nice people these coin sellers.


Eftis Paraskevaides said...

I agree with Paul's insinuations about the ebay coin group.
To me this merely accentuates the need for a proper reputable dealers' association, both for coins and antiquities.

I do however believe that properly guided, metal detectorists are sdoing a lot of good - all these artifacts would eventually perish under the corrosive effect of man made chemicals, if left in the soil unearthed; state archaeology does not have the resources to adequately deal with this pressing bloblem...

Paul Barford said...

I really do not see why we need more dealers' associations, why not just one that does the job properly?

This "chemical damage" argument is a smokescreen disseminated mainly by metal detectorists and their supporters, generally people who it turns out are wholly ignorant of basic soil chemistry. Their arguments based on "common sense reasoning" and subjective impressions ignore the fact that when surveys have been carried out to measure this effect, no actual evidence has been found of it. Take for example the massive project 'The Management of Archaeological Sites in Arable Landscapes' (published seven years ago, so long enough for the dullest dullard looking into the question to have caught up with the literature). This concluded ( Appendix Dii: The Relationship between Agronomic Factors and Archaeological Survival and the Advantages of Minimal Cultivation and Direct Drilling Techniques, p. 3) that there was "little available research evidence" to verify these concerns about artificial fertilisers which had been raised a decade earlier. No surprises there.

There is a whole half-chapter on this in my forthcoming book explaining with full references to the literature why its a load of nonsense.

In any case even if it was true, the English Heritage policy document "Our Portable Past"
(2006) makes fully clear what the response should be, and - I hope it will not come as a surprise to you - its not organizing a commercial artefact hunting rally sponsored by a coin dealer.

Ju said...

What a shame that Mr. Barford (whoever he may be as unknown to us) didn't actually attend our well-organised CHARITY rally.

Perhaps if he had he could have seen the previously unrecorded coins & artefacts being presented to the FLO for recording. As such, a new Roman site was discovered adding yet another chapter to my local history.

As a respected detectorist of 30+ years, the rally was organised to benefit charities exactly as our previous two rallies.

As a coin dealer, I agreed to have my name put down as sponsor as I was one of the organisers. As regards the finds over the weekend, not one item was offered to us for purchase & we wouldn't have expected otherwise as the majority of what we sell is bought at recognised English auction houses. If other detectorists wish to sell their finds, that is their prerogative.

If Mr. Barford cares to check with the SMR, he will see that I personally have recorded a hoard of gold staters found locally along with an important mosaic discovered some years ago (Bellaraphon). Of course, I could have ignored the law & sold them under the table!

Spend less time attacking small businesses that are trying to earn a living for their families & less time on the computer Mr. Barford. I have a life.............have you?

Dei Gratia

Paul Barford said...

Mr “G” (whoever you are), thanks for your response.

I am really not likely to ever be seen participating in a commercial artefact hunting rally. This is because, as reading this blog should make clear, I disagree with them on principle. In the same way you are unlikely to see me participating in a seal pup clubbing meet.

It makes not a hoot of difference if the money gained from ticket sales to the portable antiquity grabfest went to charity, a new muck-spreader for the farmer or hookers and booze. The point is the degree of unmitigated destruction of archaeological evidence carried out for commercial ends which these rallies cause, and not into whose pocket the money went.

How many archaeologists did you have at this rally? Was it run as a recording project like the 2007 Water Newton rally with people searching “in marked squares” and archaeologists out among the searchers recording? Tell us about the methodology and controls you set up to make sure everything (and I mean everything) was recorded. Or am I supposed to be impressed by “better than nothing” as usual? Do please get your FLO to write up on the PAS blog about what a great archaeological project it was.

As for you not selling gold staters and a mosaic (sic) “under the table” , we are supposed to be impressed to find a metal detector users that abides by the law? Are there many of your fellows that do not?

Artefacts coming fresh from archaeological sites in British fields by their nature do tend to be, as you say, “previously unrecorded” , but that is not the point. Frankly, I happen to know one does not actually need a metal detector to discover “new Roman sites” in Lowland Britain, and certainly not a commercial artefact hunting rally which will strip it of diagnostic finds and much more in the process and then lay it open to nighthawking (Stixwould discussed here

> As a respected detectorist <
a bit of an oxymoron as far as I am concerned. I’m sure many here would respect you more for being an ex-detectorist, an ex-collector (see Renfrew).

Dei Gratia coins: "the majority of what we sell is bought at recognised English auction houses".
Really? As David Gill’s “Looting matters” makes clear, buying in an “English auction house” is no guarantee of legitimacy of origin of the goods whatsoever - the question is how they got TO those auctions.

Well, let’s take a look:

Looks like there’s a fair smattering of UK metal detected stuff in there. “Oxon” is not an auction house (nor is it a proper provenance come to that).

It looks like from those auction houses, you’ve also got some of the stuff I’ve discussed on this blog from looted sites in the Balkans too.

And oh, looky-here, you bought a job lot of arrowheads from sub-Saharan countries. [“Algeria & Libya”]. See

I presume that as a legitimate dealer you can post a scan of the Algerian or Libyan export licence for the latter (do you and your British colleagues do much trade with Libya after the Lockerbie bomber release Mr G.?)

I am sure that you can show the documentation that these finds were not excavated and exported legally. Otherwise you'd run the risk, wouldn't you, of being accused of partaking in illegal activity (Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, knowingly dealing in tainted material). Can we see that documentation posted on your website showing title to it, as per the PAS "guidelines for buyers of ancient objects in the UK"?

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