Thursday, 28 March 2013

No Coiney Lawyer Left Behind

Faced with the latest comment from the coiney fold ("Coin lobbyist: "The single-minded obsession with archaeological context puzzles most coin collectors"... ") Elginism replies "The attitude of the ACCG etc is bizarre. But they are very vociferous in arguing with any critical blog posts etc".

Bizarre indeed, because there is ample opportunity for even the dullest coin collector to get un-puzzled about why context is important in studying the past through its material remains. Admittedly the notion is missing from Simple-English Wikipedia entry for "archaeology" (and it may not have been tried in comic-book format yet), but there are many other sources of information.

To help them out, cultural property law blogger Rick St Hilaire has a post on his Culturalheritagelawyer blog (Thursday, March 28, 2013 "Archaeological Context: Hard Evidence Attorneys Should Value"). Nicely-presented. St Hilaire expresses his case succinctly:
Context means that the artifact is an integral part of its place of discovery. It also means that the place of discovery is an integral part of the artifact. Both the artifact and the archaeological site lose information when an artifact is ripped out of the soil without proper scientific excavation or documentation. Reconstructing the past is made difficult when contextual evidence is damaged or tampered with.
He then draws parallels with crime scenes "Crimes like murder and arson have little chance of being reconstructed unless evidence is properly documented, collected, tagged, examined, and tracked. A judge will quickly toss out evidence deemed too be unreliable in cases where the find spot has not been documented or where questions surround the chain of custody". Not so US no-questions-asked numismatists, they will accept incomplete and possibly illegally-obtained (and possibly inauthentic) evidence quite happily.
Archaeological context helps reconstruct the past accurately. That is why it is the kind of hard evidence that lawyers should appreciate.
Unless they work for no-questions-asking dealers' associations. Would some types of hard evidence then potentially be troublesome in some way?

I think it is also well worth noting that in a certain recent (failed) dinosaur case defence, the same lawyer who now claims he is "puzzled" by the notion of context was trying to make full use of the notion of the precise findspot of his client's goods in defending it from seizure. So, context matters, or does not matter in US cultural property issues?


Cultural Property Observer said...

Since St. Hilaire no longer allows comments to his blog, see

I've never maintained protection of archaeological context is not a worthy goal, just that it should not be allowed to control all else.

If anything, your posts and others taking what I said out of context really just supports my general thesis that all all the talk about archaeological context really is just being used as a justification for unthinking controls on collectors.

Paul Barford said...

Nope, what you are quoted as saying is (I quote) " "The single-minded obsession with archaeological context puzzles most coin collectors"..."

MOST coin collectors.

You make them all out to be dullards.

Unless you claim you were misquoted (but take that up with the author of the interview, not me)

"your posts and others taking what I said out of context ..."

Put it IN context, clarify what you meant. Try writing something more thoughtful like lawyers
Michael McCullough, Rick St Hilaire and now Laurie Frey, instead of filling your blog with shameless and senseless, provocative and at times puerile sniping. IMO, you only succeed in making yourself look shallow and a pen for hire.

"talk about archaeological context really is just being used as a justification for unthinking controls on collectors"

Well you carry on "thinking" what you like. Those who understand the problem as a little more nuanced than you are obviously capable of see that your sniping is intended to distract from something far more damaging.

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