Friday 28 September 2012

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Iron Age "Skully" and His Mirror to be Sold

EHCrimeAdvisor (English Heritage) is "working in partnership to protect England's heritage from the impact of crime & anti-social behaviour". I do not know who this is, but I would say the guy doing their twittering  spouting off PAS rhetoric without a thought is obviously a twit. Followers will find him or her rejoicing that another significant artefact has been dug up and is being flogged off
Dorset Iron Age Chesil Mirror to be sold good example of responsible metal detector user finding and reporting Treasure
What is this that English Heritage thinks this is a "good example" of? Well, let us look at this story.

In a field between Abbotsbury and Chickerell there was a man's grave. It had lain undisturbed for millennia, safely below plough level (it was 45cm down according to the newspaper reports in 2010). The man had been buried with piety some time in the early-to-mid first century BC in a crouched position and some of his possessions (glass beads, a mirror, a bronze amulet, a coin, tweezers and a two thistle brooches) were placed in the grave by his grieving relatives. There, they thought, they would remain. Sadly that was not to be. A treasure hunter, Carl Walmsley ("who has been using a metal detector for 25 years", came across the grave and despite the depth of the hole he was digging, decided to hoik out the finds from it.
Carl, of Weymouth, said: “I wasn’t expecting to find anything like this. “I’d been metal detecting in that field before, but this time I had walked just 60 yards into the field when I found it. “I started off digging a small hole and dug down a little further. “Then all of a sudden a bronze amulet came out, then out popped some glass beads with parts of a mirror. I then came across a bone and that’s when I knew I’d found a grave.” Carl, a member of Weymouth Metal Detecting Club, called the police and reported the body. It was painstakingly removed by specialist officers and members of Bournemouth University’s archaeology department. ‘Skully’, as Carl has nick-named him, is now in the process of being cleaned up and researched by university archaeologists. 
Let it be noted, in reference to what the twitterer tweeted, that Mr Walmsley reported (as the law requires) the human remains, rather than the artefacts (also required by law), that is why the police were  involved instead of just archaeologists. As "Skully's" possessions were seen as a "hoard of prehistoric metal objects", there was a Treasure inquest in August 2011. The objects were declared Treasure. The artefacts were valued at £23,000 in April 2012. Dorset County Museum is hoping to raise the money from public donations to buy the artefacts for its collection and prevent them from being taken overseas (it seems some journalists despite - or maybe because of - fifteen years of PAS "liaison" are talking of this find "raising  £23,000 FOR the Museum").  The museum has until the end of the year to raise the money. The money would be split between the finder and the landowner. When the metal and glass objects are sold the human skeleton, ripped from the grave as a result of this artefact hunting, and which is currently at Bournemouth University "will be reunited with the other artefacts when they are sold". No doubt it is precisely what "Skully's" relatives would have wanted.
Museum director Jon Murden said: "These rare and fascinating objects are significant because they tell us so much about power and wealth in Iron Age Dorset."
No, they tell us much more about the total ineffectiveness of Britain's legislation for protecting the buried archaeological heritage and securing for public collections significant finds. It also tells us of the greed and lack of public spiritedness of Treasure Hunters. Back in 2010 Mr Walmsley was quoted as saying:
“The thought of money hasn’t even crossed my mind. “For me, the excitement of finding old things means more to me than finding gold. It’s the find of my life,” Carl said. Condor Ferries cabin manager Carl said he would like the skeleton and the items to go on display in Dorset County Museum.“We’d like local people to be able to see it,” he added.
So why are we not hearing that the good news is that this "unsung hero of the British archaeological heritage" immediately volunteered to forego his share of the reward money and was trying to persuade the landowner to do the same? Getting the objects for the County Museum for half price or (gasp...) donated would be somethng for English Heritage to Twitter about. Anything less is simply praising the take-take-take tekkies' anti-social activities.

Joanna Davis, 'Treasure hunter unearths Iron Age grave in field near Weymouth', Dorset Echo, Thursday 8th July 2010.

BBC News, 'Dorset's Iron Age Chesil Mirror to be sold', 27 September 2012 [The BBC's got it right the mirror is not Mr Walmsley's to sell, it belongs to the heritage of the people of the whole region, not any individual].

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