Sunday, 1 August 2010

Artefacts "Saved" from the Scrap Metal Market

One of the "justifications" offered by collectors for buying ancient metal artefacts no-questions-asked is that by doing so, they are saving the items from being melted down as recycled scrap metal. They postulate that individuals and groups are digging their way across the ancient landscape moving tonnes of sterile soil to systematically remove all the metal encountered to sell as scrap. Their buying of the metal from these scrap-metal hunting "subsistence diggers" (otherwise known in plain English as 'thieves' when mining archaeological sites in this way is illegal) is, they say saving them from ending up in the melting pot. I have questioned the degree to which it is possible to make a living doing what collectors assert and even challenged them to put their money where their mouths are and demonstrate that it is possible. So far the challenge has gone unanswered. Here however is the text of a Problem-Oriented-Policing brochure from the US on scrap metal theft (thanks to MSN for the heads-up). Interestingly it does not even mention digging ancient sites as a common source of stolen scrap metal. It does however indicate a large array of other much more cost-effective ways that thieves use to gain scrap metal of commercially viable quality and quantities. It also details manners of dealing with the problem other than buying the stolen items back no-questions-asked.

Dealers and collectors buying ancient artefacts from scrap metal thieves should perhaps read it and think about it. Maybe they would like to write to the authors of the pamphlet and suggest that buying the stolen items for resale is the only viable approach to fighting this crime. Will we see the ACCG announcing on its website that they have done that?


Anonymous said...


Paul Barford said...

Well, it does not exactly take an Einstein to see that the majority of collectors' arguments are nonsense does it? But then the majority of collectors who unthinkingly repeat them are hardly Einsteins...

Damien Huffer said...

True indeed

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