Thursday 16 February 2012

"Didn't See That Bit" coiney "scholarship"

Collector-with-conviction Jorg Lueke's discussion today ('William E. Metcalf on Coin Hoards and Archaeology') misses out some interesting facts about The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. I wonder why that could be? He claims that the text contains:
"quotes [which] summarize several key points made by those seeking a rational approach to heritage preservation, import restrictions, and the ancient coin market: Hoards are rarely found in archaeological sites, coins found at sites are not always found or recorded in detail, and such exact detail or context is not required to advance numismatic study.
well, I would argue that those who support the no-questions-asked selling and dealing in artefacts, and support the removal of import restrictions on coins without documentation of lawful export are hardly the ones who could be said to represent a "rational" approach to heritage protection. They are the exploiters. The rational ones are - I would argue - those who say that the modern antiquities trade needs to clean up its act and strive for a new ethics and participate responsibly in creating conditions for the sustainable use of a finite and fragile resource. Everything points to this conclusion. Those who see "no need" for this are those whose profit margins may suffer if they had to be more careful about documenting where the goods they peddle actually come from.

Now what else can we glean, also just from the "Noddy Book introduction" by Professor Metcalf to this handbook? Well, I am awfully surprised that Lueke does not mention what Metcalf writes on page 8. We remember that one of the coiney (anti-CCPIA) mantras is that "coins were made to circulate" and they often travelled outside the province/region where they were minted. It is one of the fundamental props of their current attack on the MOUs (almost as if by not allowing them to continue to "circulate" all the way to the USA we are somehow doing the coins ad their makers an injustice!). So one might wonder at Lueke's lack of interest in one bit of Metcalf's text right next to the bit he quoted on site finds:
But the knowledge that a coin was excavated at, say, Antioch in Syria makes it a priori likely that it was minted there, or in the neighbourhood, since excavation finds themselves confirm that lower denominations did not stray far from their point of origin".
Let me just repeat the bit Lueke omits and which directly contradicts one of the key ACCG mantras: "excavation finds themselves confirm that lower denominations did not stray far from their point of origin". The low denomination coins were of course those which circulated fastest, changed hands most frequently. The ACCG anti-CCPIA mantra not only IGNORES excavation evidence (cited by Metcalf) but also is in complete contradiction to what Professor Metcalf here asserts. Who is wrong, dugup dealer Wayne Sayles and his coiney camp followers or Yale University's Professor William Metcalf? We remember Lueke's recent flurry of posts was a response to Nathan Elkins saying at a CPAC meeting that Sayles had misled the Committee over the circulation of coins outside a region (and showed this by proper use of the numismatic literature).

As I have said earlier, the ACCG ideologists (like John Hooker) are really keen to quote analogies from "Celtic" coins - the key point about which is that both high and low denominations had a circulation which was on the whole regional, allowing the use of coin dot-distribution patterns to map the zones in which they primarily circulated - often equated with 'tribal' areas. So another piece of evidence conveniently ignored by the mantraists.

Coin collectors claim that the proper route to numismatic scholarship is through collecting huge numbers of dugup coins no matter where they come from (hence no-questions-asked). If we exclude certain groups of coins (for example those without documentation of lawful export) from the market, they argue, scholarship will suffer. What does the "Handbook" have to say about this? Oddly enough, not a lot.

I am going to take a guess here that not all the authors contributing to this volume are active no-questions-asked buyers of ancient coins. Roger Bland for example, does he have a big box of coins at home bought on V-coins? Does he have a big bath of electrolyte in his garden shed with corroded coins bought on eBay suspended from wires being 'zapped'? What Roger Bland does legally in the privacy of his own home is of course his own business, but I would be disappointed to learn after hearing what happened to one FLO a couple of years ago to find he had.

But, more directly, let us have a look at the names of the 34 contributors. How many private collectors were deemed able to contribute to this volume? I make it four. Four "independent scholars", that is 12% of the authors of this book. That rather undermines the argument that even in the second decade of the 21st century the private collecting of coins should be left alone to carry on in its old nineteenth-century ways, because "otherwise scholarship will suffer". It really does not look like it from the list of authors of this handbook. Again, Lueke makes no mention of this.

Not surprising, because in all the coiney pseudo-scholarship, there is no sign that they are at all interested in looking at the truth behind all their mantras and glib assertions, they are interested only in producing and consuming propaganda which is to serve one purpose and one purpose only, to maintain for as long as possible the no-question-asked trade in dugup antiquities in its present erosive and destructive form.

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