Friday 19 August 2011

EU and UK Antiquity Laws According to Metal Detectoris

The UK metal detectorist posing as a dyslexic blonde legal secretary from Bournemouth seems to have run out of arguments setting straight "the misinformation and lies spread by the anti-metal detecting/anti-collecting archaeological lobby" (sic) and attempting to "expose their lies and set the record straight on a legitimate and lawful activity". So he's having a bash at people who've sent comments to this blog, Professor David Gill, Damien Huffer and now Mo. Unfortunately as a collector he really seems lost when dealing with what makes the activity he is engaged in "lawful". In doing so, spreads some misinformation himself, hence the need to correct HIS "lies and misinformation". The post concerned is called with his usual Wellington-boot charm, "Uninformed, misinformed and just plain ignorant".

On my blog Mo asked in passing whether when all the fuss had died down, the Crosby Garrett helmet would always need an export licence to leave the country. "Candice Jarman" takes exception to my answer, which was: "As a fresh dug-up yes. As an object - even if curated in a private collection for some time - of value over a certain threshold value, yes." To this the imposter replies (edited the writer's original bold font):
Well, I am sorry Mr Barford, it looks like little ol' Candy knows the law better than you do. ANY UK found antiquity - fresh OR old dug-up will need an export licence REGARDLESS of value - there is NO "certain threshold value" Mr Barford! Just read here! So what can we summise (sic) from this? Well, it seems some of Mr Barford's readers are really quite uninformed and Mr Barford actually knows less about national antiquities laws than he would like his readers to believe! So much for the self-proclaimed expert in Poland!
well, there is certainly a lot to read there and metal detectorists are not known in general for their ability to read a text longer than eight sentences without needing a break (one actually admitted that to me on a forum - Minister Lammy once described them as people "challenged by formal education"). As a result, I "summise" that "Candice" did not read any of this himself, or what I wrote, or at least with any understanding.

First of all I am not responsible for what people who drop in to my blog know or do not know about anything. I do not hold entrance exams...

Secondly, I think it a little risky to attempt to determine what Paul Barford, who not long ago sent a book to press on the topic, knows or does not know about British antiquity law and policy on the basis of a single one-liner on my blog. If I had written a six-page essay in reply (setting out the various aspects of the question with regard to UK and EU legislation and guidelines with respect to direct products of excavations and material on the collectors' market from within the EU and outside it), and got it wrong, fair enough. The legislation is in fact awfully complex when it comes to cultural property and antiquities in particular.

Nevertheless, I said the Crosby Garrett helmet would need an export licence, and nothing "little ol'Candy" and his neighbour's ten-year old daughter say about these matters indicate that I am wrong. It does, by both UK and EU law. Which is what I said. The problem I hinted at and on the basis of which "Candice" questions my grasp of the subject is whether that will always be the case (which was the gist of Mo's original question).

British export licencing legislation for archaeological artefacts is as nuts as its Treasure legislation. Having variant EU legislation thrown in on top further complicates matters beyond what could be covered in a one-liner. The Waverley criteria are about as much use for ascertaining archaeological significance as the gold or silver content of the Treasure Act. That, for the slow on the uptake, means "zero" use.

The problem I was alluding to is with this definition of "direct product" in the wording of the guidelines, and the suggested proof that the would-be exporter is required to demonstrate that is "sales catalogues" and "publications" which show the object has been on the market and not a "direct product" of excavations. Archaeological objects which are not "finds" are in certain cases exempt from licensing.

Here we begin to run into problems. A single copper alloy Celtic coin of Cunobelinus from the nineteenth century Sir John Evans' collection bought in Spink's for example would not need an export licence to leave the UK. Especially if - even though it came out of the ground in England - Spink's bought it accompanied by Evans' original collector's ticket in an auction held in Munich. What about the Harry H. Scroggins collection of Constantinian Fel Temp Reparatio reverses made from a lifetime of eBay purchases from UK, Italian Bulgarian and other metal detectorists and US 'bulk coin' dealers? Sold individually, that question starts to become very complex if the letter of the law was being stuck to. Sold as a group the situation is simpler - but not if the letter of the law was being stuck to by the exporter. It also matters then if the items are going outside the EU or not.

I suggest that if "Candice" wants to tell people what is what, he gets on to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and clarify that question if he is unclear. But of course the PAS should be monitoring what their "partners" the artefact hunters are up to on the Internet, and should be jumping in when they start misleading the public about the nature of the legislation affecting the hobby of collecting antiquities. In fact, should the PAS not - long ago - have issued its own guidelines written for the benefit of those of its "partners" who want to be law-abiding and do the right thing. I am sure they do not want to encourage "brown boxing" among their partners.

Curated in a collection, however, there comes a time when even the Crosby Garrett helmet is not the "direct product" of excavation. Of course it is too much to expect that British law can actually define when freshly dug up is not freshly dug up (ie. how long ago and in what circumstances), and what criteria apply to that definition. The UK export guidelines say each case is studied on its own merits - which seems rather unsatisfactory. Equally - which is surprising given the amount of metal detecting and international finds trading going on - there have not (yet) been any test cases to aid in a closer definition.


Hidden History said...


Paul Barford said...

Mainly to yourself I suspect, Steve.

Neither of you really have much of any import to say, it is obvious to everybody that metal detectorists like you are just sniping to disrupt.

Mo said...

Regarding export legislation the reason I asked this question is because in a previous post I gather that Levett had bid on the Crosby Garrett helmet. He did not say that he had bought it but it's possible that he was either the buyer or the under bidder.

As you are aware I have not made any claims of knowledge in your field. I asked a question and you gave me a text book answer so I really don't know where Jarman is coming from on this one. Scraping the barrel a bit I think.

Any book written about such an emotive subject as the Elgin Marbles is likely to receive emotive reviews. I guess though that Jarman and Co. being only interested in the monetary value of artifacts cannot possibly comprehend how people can feel passionate about their heritage.

Paul Barford said...

Yes, you are quite right, Jarman is sniping and lashing out at anybody who does not think the same way as he and his coarse-mouthed metal detecting mates.

Still, it is a valid question why there is not a PAS brochure or webpage about "export licences 101 for detectorists" (oh sorry "... for members of the public who might find and want to sell on eBay archaeological finds to foreign buyers").

After all, you as a member of the public also should be told in clear easy to follow terms by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (which you pay for) what other metal detecting members of the public should and should not be doing in various circumstances with the things (your heritage) they find to be within the law.

Instead of turning to some bloke over in Poland and asking him directly, you should be able to click up something online from PAS' "outreach" to members of the public of England and Wales on portable antiquity issues. The fact is, isn't it, that they are simply not doing this outreach for which they are paid for (and of course this issue is very much concerned with "best practice" among their artefact-selling "partners").

Mo said...

Whoever has bought the Crosby Garrett helmet is from the UK and is obviously wealthy so they will be in a position to fight their corner if they decide to take the helmet out of the UK. The law does need to be very clear on this one.

Paul Barford said...

I think in this case the object would probably end up leaving the country. If you remember the estimate of the auctionners, and then the fact that it sold for much more than that. If an export licence was applied for and deferred, the reviewing committee cannot value it as less than the selling price. If no public body or other buyer approved by them comes forward to pay that inflated price, the licence cannot be refused. It can only be refused if a buyer comes forward and the owner refuses to sell. the situation is of course more complex than that. If you asked the PAS they'd probably refer you here:

Of course a canny owner would do some creative paperwork and "sell" it to somebody else for a higher price still, and then that is the sum that would be being looked for to keep it in the country. This happened over the Coenwulf gold coin a while back.

All this is why the UK needs to change the "Treasure" Law to one putting archaeologically significant parts of the heritage in the control of a body acting for all citizens and not just leaving what happens to it to the one self-centred one who's bought himself a metal detector and is hunting it down - people like that are bound to go to the auction houses at the first opportunity. Britain sorely needs to look at its legislation again.

The system you have is nuts. And what (actually) are British archaeologists doing about it? Patting metal detectorists on the back is what they are doing about it.

Paul Barford said...

Patting people like Mr "Poulton Hoard" Steve Taylor on the back and planning making TV programmes about Treasure hunting with the participation of the PAS. But, shhhhh.... don't say anything, don't rock the boat...

Mo said...

I took a look back at the auction of the Crosby Garrett Helmet and there were six bidders. I am not sure how many were left when the Tuille House Museum went out. It was sold to an anonymous UK telephone bidder as you know.

My train of thought when I asked you about the export of this artifact was that if Levett was the buyer then he would want to show this in the Museum (one would think).

Mo said...

It was the comment by Kyri under the thread called "Kosher Collecting" that mentions that Levett had bid on the Crosby Garrett Helmet.

There were six bidders. One was a Californian that went out at £800K.
There was the Tuille House Museum and some bidders that were more contemporary art bidders.

He certainly could have afforded to have gone the course.

Anonymous said...

Let us not blame PAS for merely not outreaching to Mo. What about the Crosby Garrett farmer who, because he knew no better, let the helmet out of his hands and into those of the heritage-contemptuous detectorist - with all the negative consequences that followed.

Why did he know no better?

Paul Barford said...

Ah, that's easy, there are members of the public and members of the public with metal detectors. The first lot pay for the second lot's outreach and get precious little themselves.

Mo said...

I agree about the farmers. They are very naive about their rights and entitlements and seem to rely on the word of the detectorist.

With the cases of the Crosby Garrett Helmet and the Staffordshire Hoard both farmers were under the impression that their entitlement was 50/50. This is something that is sold to them by the detectorists.

The Staffordshire Hoard farmer rues the day that he let Terry Herbert on to his land. I wonder if that will come out in the TV programme mentioned in another thread.

Paul Barford said...

If it is, it'll only be because it "makes good TV", certainly - by the look of things - not for any reasons connected with making good archaeology.

Paul Barford said...

Well well well, Candy who claims to know so much more about these matters than me has just posted up WITHOUT COMMENT what Ed Snible posted to him:

"According to "Guidance to Exporters of Archaeological Objects (Including Numismatic Items)" at the link you provided, some UK found antiquities -- "numismatic items of a standard type which are published in a reference work on numismatics" and also some other minor object types are exempt from export requirement at value £Zero. I believe I read elsewhere that the license is still needed if the value is above £65,000 but I am just making that up, I can't recall where I read that.

I have bought low-value ancient coins from UK auction houses which arrived without export documentation. I was assured documentation was not needed because of the exception above.
19 August 2011 20:57

Well, Candy, what's your answer to that then? What a shame isn't it that its a Saturday and the PAS is not there to help you out? Go on, answer him.

Oh, and when you do, just ask him for the name of that "auction house".

By the way there is already an answer to that very same point out there on a coiney website with links and everything. It was written by me a couple of years back, but if Candy can find it he can make use of it to answer Ed as the law has not changed.

And Candy, it's worth answering Ed, he's one of the thinking ones and he's come to you with a serious query. We will all be watching with intense interest what kind of information you offer in answer.

Mo said...

Regarding the Crosby Garrett Helmet. I was revisting some of the details regarding the sale and I noticed that the Tuille House Museum had £1.7m to purchase the helmet. Before the sale they tried to privately buy the helmet from the owners. If the owners had cut a deal with the museum then they would not have been worse off.

By the time that the various fees and restoration costs plus the capital gains tax had been taken out of the proceeds the sale price would have been considerably reduced.

What a pity they had to be so greedy.

Mo said...

Totally off thread have you ever considered writing a blog about the research work that you undertake in Poland.

There is a huge diaspora of Slavic and Baltic people who are interested in their heritage who would read a blog but may not read an academic study.

Paul Barford said...

Actually, yes. I wanted to put up a website of research I have been doing on the "origin of the Slavs" but that got complicated and I realised a blog format was easier, so yes, in the next few months I will be doing that.

It will probably be under a different blogger name as this one's "dashboard" is getting clogged and I want to add one more here (to supplement what I had set out to do with the "Floating World" before Candy and Tompa cut in and rather deflected the original aim which was to explore issues connected with collections and collecting in a somewhat more sympathetic light).

Sadly though the Slavic one is not going to be easy stuff, the first section will be my critique of the written sources (needless to say I am in total disagreement with most of my colleagues here about how they should be used - and they get as bolshy as metal detectorists, so sparks might start flying about minutiae).

I'm supposed to be producing a boring academic account of this question, but am determined that when that's all done there's a good book "the Mystery of the Early Slavs" to get out of it. I also started work some years ago on one on Slav religion (lots of neopagans around were actually asking for that when the old book came out) but I hit problems getting access to the literature about the Balkan Slavs and put it aside.

Paul Barford said...

OK, 17 comments, starting with obscenties and then getting way off topic, "Candice" despite his confidence he knew better than everybody else still seems at a loss for words with which to respond to Ed Snible. He should have come here and not go to a sniper.

Let's move on (unless Candice says something really dumb in response to Ed). Lots of other things happening.

Have a look at what the US dugup dealers are doing now.

Thread closed for now.

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