Monday 29 April 2013

Burke County Graves of Revolutionary and Civil War Soldiers Looted for Collectables

Larry Rothfield, I think, gets it about right in the title of his post: Welcome, America, to the world collectors have made, in which no cultural patrimony is safe from looting, not even that of white Southerners .

The text refers to an Augusta Chronicle article by Wesley Brown, 'Grave-looting part of new black market for artifacts', April 26, 2013.
Graves of Confederate soldiers could be the new black market source for war collectibles. As TV shows such as PBS’ Antiques Roadshow and History Channel’s American Pickers and Pawn Stars attract millions of viewers, criminals are going to extreme measures to find buried treasure. In Burke County, two men are accused of desecrating and looting the Old Church Cemetery graves of five soldiers in search of heirlooms [...] At the core of the black-market trade of historic war relics, experts say, is the inability to easily verify the history of Confederate artifacts [...] The lack of background data enables private dealers and online collectors to sell large quantities of stolen artifacts under claims they are the heirloom of a distant relative [...] .
The "old collection" argument. The article notes that one button off a Confederate uniform from the Civil War can sell for as much as $150. Uniforms and medals range in value from $500 to several thousand dollars. A general’s or officer’s sword can go for between $20,000 and $30,000, antiques brokers say.

Read all about it in these related stories:

Reward offered in Burke County cemetery desecration, Thursday, April 18, 2013
the remains of an infant casket and the corpses of five Confederate and Revolutionary War soldiers were dug up sometime before Saturday 13th April at the Old Church Cemetery, which dates to 1758 in the east Georgia countryside near Waynesboro in Burke County.

2 men charged in Burke County grave robbery, April 22, 2013/
Two Waynesboro, Ga., men were charged Monday for the grave robberies and the seldom-used felony charge of malicious removal of the dead from a grave. Accused were reportedly: "Jerry Atkinson, 39, and Ralph Hillis Jr. [41...] who goes by the nickname “Bubba”..." Hillis was in custody in Richmond County on Monday night, but Atkinson managed to escape when authorities approached his house on April 22 when he jumped out a back window. A methamphetamine lab was reportedly discovered in his home when police called. ("More charges are expected in the case"). The Sheriff's Office says Atkinson and Hillis were identified after receiving multiple tips from the public.

Burke County grave robbery suspect still on loose
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 - reportedly hiding in a swamp.

Photo: On the Run, Jerry Atkinson


 UPDATE May 3rd 2013 It was reported May 1st that Mr Atkinson has been apprehended ('2nd grave robbery suspect found wearing dress, wig', WRDW-TV , May 1, 2013)
Investigators say 39-year-old Jerry Atkinson was found inside a home on Hancock Landing Road in Burke County disguised as a woman wearing a wig and dress [...]  Jerry Ralph Morris, 44, is being charged with harboring a fugitive. 

Renewed Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Metal Detectorist Deals with Trespassers on "His" (sic) land

The video by Ged Dodd (ironically calling himself "Peacehavens") "How to deal with Pirates" is very instructive about the attitudes of entitlement they feel towards the property of others.

"That's the way to do it!" he cackles as he dreams about blowing somebody's son/brother/father into oblivion. Surely the landowner is the one to decide whether any action is to be taken against a trespasser, and I suggest that not many would be willing to actually contemplate the legal consequences of the action postulated by self-centred tekkies. Note the forum thread on it is called: "How to protect your fields, LOL". Note the "your".

UPDATE  30.04.13
Devon metal detectorist Sam LeBailly writes (in a comment to this post) "You agree that illegal detectorists need to be brought to justice too don't you?" Umm, no, certainly not like that. This is not "justice", it is not even vigilante justice as I really cannot see here the evidence that any crime was being committed. I think if I posted a "joke" video showing "how to deal with looters" showing a similar vision, not only the metal detectorists would be up in arms about it, and quite rightly so.

Trespass in England is a misdemeanour, not a crime, still less a capital offence. Note that the person squatting could be anyone from a Ministry of Agriculture inspector, a geological survey staff member, a green-waste quality inspector, an entomologist, and may well be on the land with the landowner's full permission and knowledge. The man who came equipped-to-shoot did not challenge the assumed intruder, just blows his head off with no provocation, no warning.

If "that's the way to do it" in tekkie mentality (as Mr LeBailly seems to suggest, as does Mr Steve Taylor in a subsequent comment), then I think we can see why some people think these individuals need to be treated as potentially dangerous. If I were a landowner, I'd not let anyone like that anywhere near my land.  

Sunday 28 April 2013

How to Show Appreciation: Tekkie Style

"Well, thank you Mr. Barford for the ID. I appreciate that. Actually it was not found here in Texas, but in the UK, on the same field as the Staffordshire hoard, and at night".
The coin the tekkie was puzzling over was a beat-up a quarter ecu of Henri III of France (1574 – 1589) also one-time ruler of Poland and suitor of Queen Elizabeth I (not all at the same time). You can actually see on the photo he posted on his blog "+HEN_ _[C]VS III DG FRA []". So rather than being "passionately interested in history" and eager to research what he'd found, he just stuck it in a drawer for a couple of years before eventually asking others to do the legwork for him. When eventually somebody offers the information that would help this "enthusiast" make sense of what he'd found and taken home, he simply cannot resist the temptation to rub the archaeologist up the wrong way with a joke in poor taste about nighthawking of the Staffordshire Hoard findspot. No doubt his barely-comprehending-artefact-grubbing-and-hoarding fellows will be guffawing their empty-headed amusement at his lack of manners.

The detectorist later claims "I was not lazy in trying to indentify my coin. I had indeed researched it, but could not come up with matching photos" which says a lot about the way these folk go about "researching" the finds they come home with. Coins are easy because they have their identification actually written on them. This one had a creux fleurdelis and "+HEN_ _[C]VS III DG FRA []" staring you straight in the face once you've got your eye in in the gentle art of reading hammered coin inscriptions. These folk say they are engaged in "finding out about history" using the finds they remove from the ground. What "historian" would have difficulty following those clues through to the information needed? To what extent is there any actual truth in the claims made about artefact hunting and artefact hunters by the supporters of maintaining the current damaging status quo?

Vignette: Henri III

UK Metal Detecting: The Shirky Principle

The Shirky Principle should be written above the door of PAS HQ, 41 Russell Square:

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

Saturday 27 April 2013

SAFE: Please, USA, Do the Right Thing

A comment by SAFE on the return of the rat and rabbit head to China:

As long as another alternative to the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970 (UNESCO) and the Cultural Property Implementation Act has yet to emerge, we urge the Department of State and the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to recommend to the President to continue to abide by the US obligations as a member state of UNESCO and reaffirm its commitment to shared global cultural heritage by renewal the MoU for another five years. This is why until media pressure focuses on the “other” looting problem: the plunder of sites to feed the black market trade of antiquities, we could celebrate the repatriation of the the rabbit and the rat only with cautious optimism and hope that the US would also do the right thing, as Pinault has.
SAFE-admin, 'China’s “other” looting problem', SAFECorner April 27, 2013 

Friday 26 April 2013

Collector's New Blog: John Hooker's "Past Times and Present Tensions"

    Celtic knob   

I first came across John Hooker about a decade and a half ago when I was debating metal detecting on the CBA's British Archaeology discussion list (Britarch). He had some interesting points well-made and certainly made a better job of being an effective advocate of the artefact hunter than the insulting, disruptive and aggressive behaviour of the metal detectorists on that list. It was Hooker who induced me to give thought to another side of collecting. It was Hooker whose writing drew me to realise the parallels between the tekkie arguments of the UK and what was at that time beginning to happen in the world of collecting ancient dugup coins in the US [some of the arguments were the same]. This then led to my interest in the ACCG and the discussions then brewing about the CCPIA. This would probably have gone a different way if the only people I had to discuss the issues with were the likes of Baz Thugwit and Gnasher Klout the tekkies and their Fiona Fluffy-bunny and Johnny Jobsworth  supporters among the archaeologists on Britarch.

Certainly then, I would have to say that the early stages of the development of my current thinking on artefact hunting owe a lot to sparring with John Hooker. In those days he was generous with his time and in the information he offered and never descended to the levels of uncouthness which the archives of Britarch will time and time evidence was the common model adopted by the metal detectorists. There was a time when I opened posts from Mr Hooker with anticipation of some good points being made and also that we were discussing on familiar ground - things which the average tekkie had not the slightest idea.

In later years, I have been a bit harsh on this blog about some of Mr Hooker's writings. I feel he began to get repetitive, rehashing the same old stuff, and also going off onto a tangent not always of benefit to the discussion. His recent and apparently growing fascination with post-modernism also leads him to areas that do not seem to me very helpful when it occurs to the exclusion of all else. Above all, getting more deeply involved with the lunatics of the ACCG over the last couple of years has certainly dragged him down to their level I feel, but it seems that there is not a comparable milieu in Canada (where John lives) - John is very much one of a kind over there. That is why I am very interested to see that he has started a new blog of his own, "Past Times and Present Tensions" with its first post "Better to light a candle than curse the darkness". Of it he writes:
Rather than waste my time with further academic publications, which are useful to produce only for those within that system, but of no use at all to independent scholars, and the public at large, I thought it might be a nice idea to go directly to the public, so this blog will have current research that is ongoing, and will be about a number of topics. There will also be links to an e-book or two that I will publish at a price that anyone can afford; perhaps a few guest spots from the cream of academia, and elsewhere; good friends, anecdotes and issues far removed from Celtic coins and Celtic art-- artistic, environmental, social, and just mundane but interesting stuff. Something for everyone. You never know what, or who, you might encounter here. Perhaps this is the way of the future!
The author seems to be contemplating making regular posts. Certainly one to watch with interest.

"A Treasured Legacy": The Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection

There is a particularly irritating commentary to the film accompanying the sale of 'A Treasured Legacy: The Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection', New York April 29, 2013. Much of the material on offer in this sale is from Europe, and now it is being held and sold by rich people in America to more to rich people in America:
Theyre's nothing personal about taking the whole collection that Michael, particularly, has put together and having them put in a museeum. This waay [ie, flogging them off at Sotheby's], people, can really enjoy this collection and pass it on to the next generations, so that people can have these abjects in their homez and youse them, and I think that's a beautiful thing, to be able to expose them to the public.
Instead of having them shut away in collector Steinhardt's home she means. If, however the collection is split up for financial reasons, it is not the collection which is passed on to the future generations. Neither is it clear which "public" this woman has in mind - probably not America's - or anyone else's - 99%.   Where did these items come from? How did they enter the market? Through whose hands did the central European ones pass in the War years?

CultureGrrl (Lee Rosenbaum) writes that Steinhardt has recently flatly refused to donate some of 'his' objects to the Metropolitan Museum, reportedly adding "that he was “less than overjoyed” with how that institution has handled antiquities controversies".

The catalogue reveals that several objects in this collection are listed as coming from "Poland" with no mention of how and when.  Did they go west with pre-occupation refugees, or did they 'surface' on the market from Nazi seizures of household goods (blood antiques) or from post-War Poland? There is not a word on the collecting histories of any of the items from "Poland" (and "Germany") which I looked at. Surely in precisely this sort of ('post-Holocaust') case, there jolly well should be.

Photo: the Steinhardts interviewed

Italy: Looting cases down 29%, forgery cases up

The Carabinieri (Cultural Heritage Protection Command) are reporting that last year the trend was that there was less art theft but more fakes on the market. They report a decrease in art theft (-1.7%) and illicit excavations (- 29%) but an increase in the detection of the activities of counterfeiters (especially in contemporary art) and increases in the number of people referred to the judicial authorities for crimes related to cultural heritage (1150, +6%). Churches are the places most affected by art thieves, followed by private collections and then public institutions. Lazio, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna are the regions which recorded the highest number of thefts, while Sicily, Apulia and Sradegna are the regions with the highest rate of illegal excavations found.  Monitoring of Internet sites has led the Italian police to seize 50,686 items of illicit cultural property (how many other states exercise a cmparable measure of monitoring of the trade, and if they did, what would they find?). They have broadened their investigations in the international level and obtaining the return of over a thousand illicitly exported items in 149 foreign countries. 

The Rome department presented the results of a bust of a smuggling ring there which resulted in the seizure of more than 2000 archaeological artefacts and six paintings, the latter resulting from thefts of objects from private collections in central Italy, 35 people were charged with receiving stolen goods and unlawful appropriation of archaeological material. In the raids the authorities arrested both those engaged in clandestine archaeological diggings as well as others who had been paying large sums of money intent on indiscriminate collecting of elements of the archaeological heritage.
Another investigative action, coordinated by the Public Prosecutor of Rome,  had focused on a group of people working in the interior design industry. This had been seeking precious marbles to decorate houses in the capital, employed reclaimed material, obtained clandestinely, to make mosaic floors, satisfying the demands of some of its customers with a strong taste for the antique.  Among the items recovered were fragments of mosaic tiles and marble flooring of the Roman imperial period, crammed into two containers and ready to be reused in the landscaping of private houses.
A.D., 'Carabinieri,
furti d’arte ma più falsi sul mercato. Bilancio del Comando tutela Patrimonio Culturale',, 24th April 2013.

Palestinian Authority Police Thwart Artefact Smuggling

'PA police thwarts antique smuggling in Bethlehem', Ma'an News Agency 26/04/2013 15:23
Palestinian Authority Tourism and Antiquities police on Thursday seized 900 artifacts as they were being smuggled out of Bethlehem, police said. Bethlehem police chief Alaa al-Shalabi said they received a tip-off from the Ministry of Tourism that a man from Jerusalem was smuggling the antiques out, which are illegal to own or sell under Palestinian law. The suspected was detained at the scene, where police found 830 metal coins from the Byzantine, Roman and Islamic area, as well as 70 works of pottery dating back to the [Canaanite era].
A stone sarcophagus was also recovered. Under Palestinian law, antiquities and dugup artefacts belong to the Palestinian Authority for the preservation of heritage and culture.

The seized artefacts (Ma'an). Do you know anyone
who'd buy coins and antiquities like this from Jerusalem dealers?
Where do they actually come from, and how
do they reach the dealer?

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Worse Than You Thought Possible?

"Remember that when you are out
with your metal detector you are
an ambassador for our  hobby.
nothing that might give it a bad name".

Hoard Hunters: Full Episodes and Video clips.

Wooden acting, forced humour and horseplay, completely unappealing telly personalities, jumpy camerawork and superfluous frenetic drama-enhancing soundtrack to cover for the juvenile and at times incoherent presentation. I've only watched a bit. It's enough for me, can you bear to watch it all? If you can, I bet the PAS will welcome your job application with open arms.
TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy". 

Vignette: Hereford bull (Michael Black)

Thursday 25 April 2013

Wayne Sayles Complaining on Video

There's a 'Coin Week' video of a tired looking Wayne Sayles complaining nobody wants to listen to the Loony Coin Front. "But we have a secret weapon" he smiles, "they've taken away our property and now we'll fight a forfeiture case!!". Ta tarah, Wayne Sayles rides into battle again, against US Customs - they'll be needing more collectors' money soon then...

If you really must watch it, the video is here, and there's some more online Giedrojcian moaning here.

How long can the LCF keep up this embarrassing spectacle?

The View From America

"Coins are generally acknowledged by archaeologists to be the most commonly encountered artifact of civilized man" witters Richard Giedrojć of US-based World Coin News, probably news to most archaeologists and not only those working on Bronze Age civilizations in Europe or the civilizations of Mesoamerica but also South America and most of Africa. But then the pronouncements of the US coiney lobby long ago ceased to have any sense, logic or relationship to reality.


Vignette: The Front
No prizes for guessing who said this:  
Those actions by ECA/CHC [U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs/Cultural Heritage Center], [...] have been labeled “extralegal”, “arbitrary”, “capricious”, “secretive”, “disdainful”, “unbearable”, “immoral”, “lawless”, “subversive” and “absolutely unAmerican”...
 Yep, the Loony Coiney Front.  [Note capitalisation in the last phrase.] They will now presumably be calling for a resurrection of the House Un-American Activities Committee and set it to the investigation of disloyalty and subversive activities by US public employees over the importation of dugup ancient coins from other countries.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Myths and UK Metal Detecting

It seems that the British heritage community has conned itself (and the British public) into thinking that it is a "responsible" thing to do to take a metal detector and a spade to an archaeological site and mine it for a few displayable geegaw collectables - though in the process ruining the site as a resource for future study and interpretation. In my experience, challenging them to say why that is a responsible way of managing the heritage tends to produce an embarrassed silence and foot shuffling, or a suddenly-remembered appointment to take the dog to the manicurist. You will search the literature (even that of the PAS) in vain for any discussion whatsoever setting out the reasons for this way of thinking. In other words, you'd get about the same sort of answer if you ask a heritage professional searching questions like that as you would if you corner a metal detectorist. "It's legal innit?" is probably the best either of them will offer. Followed of course by "cor, whata-lotta-stuff-we-get-from-it!" and some mumbled mantras about "better out than in". The moment you start to show an interest in discussing the pros and cons of that in more detail, they're off like a shot again. Pathetic.

Then there are the myths. You've got to have myths to defend the indefensible. So the bulk of the metal detectorists are "responsible". That is, however, if you define that term in a specific way (not open to discussion either?) and shut your eyes to the fact that there is quite a lot of evidence that the bulk of them do not even fit that definition. So you have to add another myth. Those who say it ain't so are wrong, wrong-headed, mere trouble-making trolls. People not worth paying attention to. Why, "NOBODY who knows anything" will pay attention to such arguments will they? Just ignore them, they'll go away.

Sticks and stones and all that, but the issues however will not go away.

[See post below]

Maintaining the Myth in Ipswich

I suppose if you are a metal detectorist it might be a bit worrying having that Barford chap address some heritage professionals in Ipswich. I mean he's not likely to stand up there in front of everyone in torn jeans ranting and frothing at the mouth making himself look a right fool, is he? He's probably going to get a haircut, polish his shoes and actually prepare a fairly reasonable set of arguments and then there will be some rational discussion of what he has to say. How to deal with it? Ignore it? Or come up with a cunning plan? How to use this to keep the myth (see post above) going?

Take a look at the UCS Heritage blog. It is quite revealing and shows precisely what is going on in the little fantasy world of the beep-beep boys. David Gill put up two posts about the upcoming seminar. There is one here (my abstract - ), and another one here (April 2nd, a plug, indicating the intention to initiate some 'constructive dialogue'). Now take a look at the comments.  The first attracted as many as ten comments, the second one.

I think it is expected that the reader will believe that the first ten have been contributed to the UCS Heritage blog by archaeologists. Let's just put their names up George Somerfiled (sic), "Clare", "Adam C", Clive Falstaff, "Pat", and, "Digger". The two that give proper names (one misspelt?) do not seem to exist in British archaeology, the others use pseudonyms. But let us look at this rash of comments in context. The blog has been going for several months, and only a few posts have attracted (single) comments from members of the same milieu. What is notable is that all of the latter belong to identifiable, and real, people (here, here, here, and a spam one here). So the crop of comments by 'archaeologists' attached to these two posts is exceptional on those two counts alone.

But then look at the content. How many archaeologists are there (apart from "Digger") that get through higher education still unable to differentiate the words 'its" and "it is"? How many finish university thinking (like "Adam C") that 'misogyny' means "sceptical" and is spelt "mysogony"? Either standards are falling, or these people are not who they claim to be. The range of terms used in their 'critique' of Paul Barford, while obviously they've made an effort to disguise that, is remarkably similar to the terms used to describe myself and Nigel Swift on metal detecting forums. I suggest that a textual analysis of these comments indicates that this is the origin of all of them. Wordpress identity "Pat" is a commentator on the Heritage Action Wordpress blog, 'Clare' has recently made a comment on the same blog, trying to use a (common enough) Latin phrase that she apparently does not know the meaning of. I have a pretty good idea who "Digger" is by several characteristic phrases used. I think most, if not all, of the above-"named" commentators are metal detectorists, pretending to be archaeologists.

Note they keep harping on about this blog. They (Somerfiled, "Clare", "Adam C") do not like its "tone", they do not think it fosters dialogue with metal detectorists and collectors (see the post below). Now is that really the main concern of a group of (real) archaeologists coming to a talk on the sustainable management of the archaeological heritage? I suggest not.

Those who said they would be coming (I assume, bearing in mind what else they said, I was supposed to regard that as a threat) did not turn up [So that's Somerfiled, "Clare", "Adam C"].  "Digger" who said he was there despite the distance of his home from Ipswich must have fallen asleep (or is lying) because his perception of the flow of discussion differs markedly from that of those who actually were present (including myself) - it does, though, reflect what the tekkies would have liked to have happened.

In the same vein, "Clare" wrote before the event that she is "hoping (sic) to see how well he stands up to academic scrutiny when challenged by those who are better informed and without personal agendas". "Adam C" goes further: "I for one, along with a few of my colleagues are looking forward to this event immensely as he really is sticking his head and weak arguments well above the parapet in his vanity glory hunt of a ‘presentation’..". Hardly 'vanity' if I was about to be thrashed!

As it happens I myself was pleasantly surprised that what I was saying about the numbers of unreported finds involved was not actually directly challenged. Metal detectorists challenge what I and Nigel Swifft say, it seems the archaeologists who actually came (some of whom have indeed that actual hands-on experience with these people) were perfectly happy to accept them. Discussion instead vacillated mainly between 'what can we do?' and 'what would you see as a solution?' (I told them, and the interloping tekkies sat there tight-lipped).  Adam C and his "colleagues obviously could not make it to put their point forward.

Then of course we had the other myth. It goes like this: all 'good' archaeologists sympathise with metal detecting, and support the PAS, and therefore those archaeologists who do not cannot be real archaeologists (or are out-of-touch 'dinosaurs'). The glib simplicity of such a black-and-white scheme fits the tekkie world-view. So it is that they try to convince themselves and the world that this Paul Barford... well, he's not a "real" archaeologist. So "Adam C" divulges what he calls "facts" about me. He seems to want people to think he knows a lot about me when it seems he knows nothing about me (because his "facts" do not correspond to any reality except what is in his own imagination). "Pat" reckons "the last I heard was that he does taxi driving around Warsaw and a bit of translation work", which I guess means that "Pat" (whoever that is) has not actually heard anything much about me either (the last time I acted as a taxi driver was, I think, when I drove my mother-in-law to the church for a family wedding last summer, but translations, yes, I do translations). "Pat" thinks I should "clarify the matter during his talk" confusing a seminar on heritage management strategies with "This is your life". Ridiculous. Clive Falstaff cannot tell the difference between a lecture and a seminar.

"Digger" pretends he was there and suggests I was "called to account on various matters and had facts presented to him that went against his perception" which "[took] the edge off his fervent position". Hmmm. Surely the confrontation of ideas, different viewpoints and facts is what seminars are all about. I am not sure which "facts" he is referring to, maybe he will enlighten his readers somewhere. But once again "Digger" seems more concerned about the 'tone" of my personal blog, rather than any conceptual changes involved.

The single comment to the other post was submitted by somebody calling themself (suggestively and provocatively) "Roger" who went on about... the tone of my blog ("his aggressive attacking tone towards a lawful legitimate hobby"). Lawful it may be, I would question the legitimacy of much of it, and the tone of my blog will continue to reflect that personal feeling. But for "excessively rude and insulting behaviour" I invite Roger to look at the metal detecting forums and blogs for far more egregious examples.

Really this is all rather pathetic. It seems while the archaeologists who came were quite willing to listen and engage in civilised discussion, whether or not they agree with some, any or all of what I had to say, metal detectorists have a totally different approach to the whole process. They do not want any proper discussion of the issues (probably fearing what it will reveal about the effects of their hobby on the archaeological resource), they want to avoid it themselves, and they would have preferred it if I had not turned up to face critical voices, and would prefer as few archaeologists to bother to turn up to take part in the discussion. Well, their partners the PAS boycotted the meeting, much to their shame (and, if they take that attitude, no great loss to the rest of us I'll wager).

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

Weird Stuff from a "Clare" (About this Blog)

A bloke was going to talk in Ipswich in a few days about artefact hunting in the UK and the sustainable management of the heritage, somebody called "Clare" however felt it was more interesting to talk in a comment to the UCS heritage blog about the guy's other activities. She wanted to focus not so much on the upcoming seminar, but the guy's personal blog. She suggests of me that my "personal agendas" (don't we all have them?) tend to "get in the way of real dialogue and discussion of the issues that he tries to elaborate on". She says she will be attending to see me "challenged by those who are better informed and without personal agendas". I replied to her on the UCS blog, but soon decided that was a mistake, the comments section to a post on an upcoming discussion of heritage management on the UCS heritage blog is not the place for answering such things. There were a whole load of personal comments about me posted by various semi-anonymous folk (metal detectorists, probably) on the UCS blog, and it really did not seem worthwhile entering any discussion with such people. So I have moved the text here to my own blog, the one this woman was writing about. She is welcome to come and defend her views here if she likes (come on "Clare", do not be shy):
the title of this seminar is not about “blogging” or “dialogue” but something else. I would hope we can keep discussion there on topic rather than allowing the debate to yet again be driven off-topic by those with their own personal agendas that conflict with the need to have some real debate on these fundamental issues. To take up your point, I do wonder though whether, Clare, you consider my blog (and I stress MY blog) is about metal detecting – or whether it is about presenting some personal opinions (it is a blog) about portable antiquity collecting in a wider context.

As for the notion of engaging in 'dialogue' to which you refer, suppose, Clare, the archaeological record IS indeed being pilfered in an unsustainable way, not just in the UK - what kind of “dialogue” do you then foresee and with whom? If this was happening, despite most archaeologists trying to apply a “partnership” approach, would you continue to plug away at those involved (all busily ignoring, and determined to deflect attention from, the issues)? Or would an alternative solution not be to turn to trying to produce something to inform a wider public about these issues and their broader contexts and get them talked about? It is their heritage too. Why would a blog not be a suitable means of doing the latter?

My blog is about collecting, its effects and wider contexts, not an attempt to reach out to those doing it and causing all the damage. As for the fact that it discusses real cases and what real people do and write, would you advise that I write about invented examples and generalizations? Given their accessibility on the Internet – why not take actual (and verifiable) examples of bad practice and go through why they may be considered to be bad in a readily understandable way? Is that “classism”?

But I stress it is my understanding that my blog is not the subject of this seminar. We only have two hours to discuss the topic which is.

So we know who is who, I am going to sign my full name, "Clare", Paul Barford (medievalist and archaeoblogger from Poland) 
Despite her implied promise, this "Clare" did not turn up at the seminar and make either herself, or her views on the matters discussed, known. 

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Archaeological Looting is an Environmental Issue

"Archaeological Looting is an Environmental Issue" argues Paul Barford on the SAFE website (April 23, 2013). Dealers and collectors try to present it as an "ownership" issue and related to "access to the past". This however is an object-centred (not to mention self-centred) approach to the problem.It surely is however primarily a conservation issue, one can always provide ":access", but never rebuild the destroyed finite archaeological resource after it has been disrupted by plundering of collectables.
On my blog, I suggest that perhaps there is a need for a World Archaeological Resource Awareness Day (WARAD?) that could in some way focus attention on the issue of the nature and importance of the archaeological record and how prone to damage it is. While we can do little against such threats as dessication, soil erosion, coastal erosion and some other natural causes of damage to archaeological sites, there are some forms of damage which arguably are avoidable. Looting is one of them. Public attention should be brought to the fact that current modes of indiscriminate collecting are shielding the looters from scrutiny and giving them a market. A worldwide awareness day – perhaps in some way linked to Earth Day at the end of April – may well be a useful tool in the process of public education about the damage caused by looting and indiscriminate and irresponsible collecting of archaeological artefacts.
  What is wrong with saying "Stop Taking Our Past"?

Maybe a PAS-supporting British archaeologist or two would take the time to think about an answer that question: What is actually wrong with saying "Stop Taking Our Past"? Maybe also the PAS would like to add its voice to SAFE's in promoting a World Archaeological Resource Awareness Day - it surely would fit in with its (declared) mission.

The Next Provenance-challenged Pre-Columbian Antiquities Auction in Paris

Nord Wennerstrom is reporting (April 9th - In Paris – Another provenance-challenged pre-Columbian art auction) another provenance-challenged pre-Columbian art auction in Paris. This one is scheduled for April 24, 2013 at Binoche et Giquello.
The online catalogue for the sale features 90 lots, most from a handful of private collections – only one lot has a pre-1970 provenance, an additional 16 lots list a previous collection (but no date), and the remaining 73 lots have no provenance at all.  Again, my standard disclaimer: All of these works may have been legally exported from their respective source countries; and, if that’s the case, why not list that information?  
Why are Mexico, Guatemala and Peru apparently not contesting this sale? Can we please stop calling this "art" as so  many Hogarth copperplates or Dali lithographs?

Monday 22 April 2013

Gold-adorned Skeleton Found Near Windsor Kept Under Wraps

It is one thing to say you are "partners" with a bunch of artefact hunters, it's another thing to say you trust them all implicitly. So it is that when a Beaker burial with objects of go... [shhhh!] was found on a large scale open area excavation in the Kingsmead gravel quarry, the decision was taken to keep it quiet in case some blokes with metal detectors visited the site to get their hands on a few nice thingies themselves.

David Keys, 'Four-thousand year old gold-adorned skeleton found near Windsor', Independent 21 April 2013

Knocked-off Sri-Lankan Temple Fabric Under the Hammer at Bonhams Indian and Islamic sale

The knocked-off bit of Sri-Lankan temple which I wrote about earlier figures in Bonhams Indian and Islamic sale in London tomorrow (April 23rd, lot 278w, estimate: £20,000 - 30,000). I wrote to the Sri Lankan High Commission about this a few months ago, but they did not even acknowledge receipt of the letter, let alone - it seems - do anything about this matter. So it looks like instead of going back where it belongs, it will be another case of: "Sold, to that gentleman over there....".

The London representative is presumably there to look after Sri Lankan interests in the UK, it would seem from their reaction that attempting to maintain the integrity of the island's heritage is not one of the interests to which either the Sri Lankan government ('Archaeological sites islandwide plundered for priceless artefacts' Sunday Times, n.d. ) nor its foreign delegates give much importance. Unless, of course they are hell-bent on being the winning bidder.

UPDATE, Results of sale, sold for £553,250 - somebody values it higher than the Sri Lankans(that estimate was a bit 'off', I suppose its not often something like this comes up for sale)

Sunday 21 April 2013

Crown Estates Issues Nighthawk With Metal Detecting Permit

In the UK, anyone can go out with a spade and hoik out virtually anything they want. A Mr "Nighthawk" was recently issued with metal detecting permit  by the Crown Estates.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Update on Berk-Rubinger Deka Dispute

I am informed by one "J. Ramirez" (no idea who that is, he or she did not say) that the Berk-Rubinger dispute over the return of money for an Athenian dekadrachm is over and they have:
"the Court Order dismissing the case and a copy of the Settlement Agreement. You will note in paragraphs 7 & 8 the plaintiff’s acknowledgment that, in fact, neither Steve Rubinger nor Antiqua, Inc. committed any fraud, as had originally and wrongly been alleged [in the press]".
So according to Mr Ramirez, Berk's now saying the coin is real?  I see it's hard to make your mind up when you do not know all the facts about where a dugup actually came from, leaving the question of "authenticity" very much in the eye of the beholder. So which deka is this, and where did Mr Rubinger get it from?

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: "Which Machine for Deep Pasture"?

On a metal detecting site near you, outreach has failed to extend to a certain member "mark1976" who no doubt would prefer us to think of him as among the legion of "responsible metal detectorists". Sadly he totally ignores what that is taken by the rest of us to mean (and mutually agreed between a number of national organizations including metal detecting ones). Namely, this guy [Tue Apr 16, 2013 10:18 pm] asks what kind of a machine is "best" for digging archaeological and historical artefacts out of deep pasture [clue: the actual answer to that from the point of view of conservation is "none"]:
I have been using a dfx but I want more depth as the good stuff is deep, the land i go on is pasture that has not been ploughed for hundreds of years. I am looking at a price of about 500 tops I have thought about a t2 and mine labs but am at a total loss as what will give me the best depth. My mate uses an etrac and I can't believe he depth he is pulling things up from.
Now of course, you'd be forgiven for thinking he'd be immediately slapped-down by over a dozen truly responsible detectorists on the forum who told him that artefact hunters are only "supposed" (that's what they all say they do) to take stuff from the freshly-ploughed ploughsoil, not aim to did stuff out of stratified levels hundreds of years old. That's what happened, surely? If that's what you think, sorry to say, you've been bamboozled by the pro-tekkie propaganda of the PAS and its supporters. The next post by "Glenfiddich" [Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:00 am] without so much as batting an eyelid recommends not only a machine but a dealer that will sell it to him for the purpose. Yes, but then another responsible detectorist comes in and protests right? Nope. Somebody called "Le Rocher" chimes in [Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:37 am] extolling the praise of the Minelab Etrac:
i have an etrac and it never ceases to amaze me as to the depths it gets me to. i'd bide my time save my pennies and get an etrac. There are plenty of second hand machines on a certain auction site. expect to pay £800 ish for a machine in good nick
Then, another member cuts in [Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:32 pm] with a plug for his favourite minelab site-wrecking machine, not a mention of the notion of avoiding deep detecting ancient pastrure.

 Now, surely, PAS outreach will see this discussion is going on and a FLO will immediately join the discussion and give the organization's stance on such matters. After all the British Museum announced not so long ago that they were using the detecting forums for their "outreach" (Pull the other one). Let's see a little bit of it right now. Or perhaps the PAS should just give  back all the money they've taken for ostensibly promoting "best practice". Recreational artefact hunting on relict areas of deep pasture which have "not been ploughed for hundreds of years" is most definitely NOT "best practice".

Of course the alternative is that the forum moderators will now hide this thread like they generally do when what is displayed on the detecting forums is at odds with everything the British public is being glibly told about "metal detecting".  

Take a good look at what's happening on forums like this. People like these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners"  of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals - and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a sustainable heritage management "policy". 

UPDATE 21.04.13: and quelle surprise, attempting to follow the links given above reveals that the thread has now been deleted or moved... So what have UK metal detectorists got to hide?  Quite a lot it seems.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Antiquities Exporter's Unsolicited Testimonial

Kyle and Suzanne left a comment on my blog post "'ZZ' Dealer Brandon Leon Lets his Feelings get the...". It is signed "K[yle] Duncan" and addressed to "Hello all"... Anyway Kyle claims he was "looking up Brandon's info again so I could refer someone to him", and he just happened to stumble across this post - of which he opines "it seems like a mountain is being made out of a mole hill, or else someone has another agenda going". Well, yes - it is clear I have an agenda, which is questioning the no-questions-asked trading of freshly surfaced dugup antiquities and those who engage in and benefit from this trade. That is what this blog is about Mr Duncan. Then comes the "unsolicited testimonial":
All I have to say is that when I was a beginning collector 10 years ago, Brandon was the most honest, reputable seller I found. And the ONLY one to offer free advice to me, with no strings attached. I bought 1,000 Greek and Roman uncleaned coins from him, and approximately 90% of them were attributable. Unlike many other bulk uncleaned coin dealers I've dealt with, Brandon was honest and transparent, and was a pleasure to work with.
Aha. So he will not mind being honest then about where his antiquities have been coming from ... but then, the trouble is that when I asked him about this, he was not too keen on "transparency" (ie whether they were dug up within Israel, or in the countries around the modern state). Anyhow, ten years ago, Kyle Duncan says he bought 1000 coins from ZZAntiquities and about 900 of them were "attributable". What do you do with 900 attributed dugup coins?

But what is really odd is that on 01-04-2008, 04:35 PM a "Kyle" from "chilly Minneapolis" took a moment in another place to "share my story of how I came to purchase high-quality uncleaned coins from ZZ Ancient Art".
At first, I was planning to just buy 150 "test" coins to see if the merchandise was worth the money, but due to Brandon's gentle (but skilled!) convincing, I ended up purchasing a lot of 500 premium high-quality uncleaned coins[...] I would say that of the 502 coins I purchased, 85% (or slightly more) will be attributable. 
Is this a different version of the same event? How many "Kyles" does ZZAntiquities sell coins to who are willing to write such glowing testimonials? This earlier Kyle gives an address:, so is a fellow dealer. Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours?

In the post to which this comment was sent, I commented on the way ZZAntiquities was advertising some dug-up pottery, jumbled into apparently unlabelled supermarket (washing powder) boxes in which they were accompanied by discarded black plastic bags and blue plastic string (the photos are still visible on the forum). Very few  of the individual complete vessels (from a cemetery?) seem to be labelled in any way I can see to differentiate one from another - allowing them to be associated with a particular findspot and context. Kyle Duncan does not see the problem with a dealer displaying goods in such a way:
I looked at the box of pottery mentioned above, and truly don't understand all the fuss. It's not as if he is going to ship them off somewhere stacked as such; and if placed carefully on a shelf in a back room or office, what harm is it to the pottery? They look carefully handled an in good shape to me. 
Where are these vessels from? How did they arrive on the market in an office in Jerusalem?  What were their archaeological context and associations?

Kyle and Suzanne's profile links to a blog of theirs, primarily about the process of adopting a little boy from Ukraine and taking him to the USA. It is interesting to see the attention paid to getting the paperwork sorted out to make the transfer properly. What paperwork did Mr Duncan consider was enough to make the transfer of cultural property dug up "somewhere" (where?) to a litter-strewn backroom in Jerusalem and from there to Minnesota, or wherever these coins ended up for "cleaning", attribution and (I would guess) resale? ZZAntiquities describes them as a "hoard" but the stated composition of the decontextualised heap of bronzes bought ("approximately 50% are Roman provincials, 40% are Greek and Seleucid, and the other 10% a mix of Ptolemys, Byzantine and I-don't-know-what-the-heck-those-are coins") rather argues against that actually being true. Are these not then metal detecting finds from a number of sites, and if so are those sites in Israel, or areas outside the borders of the country which issued an export licence? In what way, precisely, are these actually licit antiquities as opposed to "they-can't-touch-you-for-it-legal" antiquities? Or does Mr " truly don't understand all the fuss" Duncan - apparently a US publisher of Christian literature - not see the difference?

[It should be noted that no answer was ever received from the Jerusalem dealer to the questions posed a year ago at the bottom of the post Mr Duncan attempts to dismiss. I assume the jumpy dealer has by now worked out how to remove the animal (rodent maybe) hairs from the tracking mechanism of his jumpy computer mouse and would be able to type the answers, if he had them.]

Ka Nefer Nefer "Negotiations" Fail


It is being reported that "negotiations" in the US about the fate of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask have failed (Rick St Hilaire, 'Failed Negotiations Put Ka Nefer Nefer Forfeiture Case Back on the Docket', Wednesday, April 17, 2013) and the case will proceed to litigation. It is unclear what precisely it was that SLAM were trying to "negotiate" with the Egyptian authorities and whether or not in the circumstances they were acting in good faith or just stalling as a legal tactic. So the hunt is on again for traces of the network of dealings that led to this object leaving Egypt and ending up in the USA and to resolve the many open questions that still remain. What is the truth? Chances are we are more likely to get closer to it if the case goes through the scrutiny of a court than if its fate was determined by some back-door deal. What is notable is (I stand to be corrected on this) an apparent total lack of comment from the dealers that supplied the object to the museum. I assume they have been following the developments of this case and have an opinion on the matter.

Vignette: The PACHI 'honk if you hate heritage thieves' bumper sticker

Focus on UK Metal Detecting Forum: "Work is...."

Seen on a metal detecting forum near you:
"Work is for people who don't know how to MD"
"manicdev" Clevedon, North Somerset [Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:29 am]. Let it be noted that in an English content, he is most likely talking about using a metal detector for finding saleable relics - taken from the archaeological record. Could only happen in Britain.

These are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. What do you think about that as a "policy"?

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: "Challenged by Formal Education" - and dictionaries

I'll not give his name, but indicate that some metal detectorist asked a metal detecting forum near you a notable question [Sun Apr 07, 2013 7:37 pm] " Brooch or Broach?":
These roman dolphin brooches...
Are they Brooches or Broaches? ::g ::g :)) 
Don't know the difference :)) :)) 8-}
Cheers, [...] :;@
and too lazy to look it up. This is symptomatic of a general tendency one sees in artefact collecting circles to wait for somebody else to sort out a problem, rather than getting on and doing it themselves. This is part of the reason why there is so little reflection from within the hobby on the effects of the activity and what could be done to mitigate them. This blinkered outlook and general lack of intellectual effort or  engagement is the reason why it seems to me unwise to simply leave the resolution of these issues to such a time as artefact hunters and collectors can be persuaded to come around to a point of view that places their resolution as a priority. They never will, and any such pious hopes are, as any closer examination of the mindset of these people will reveal, profoundly misplaced.  

Log on to a metal detecting forum and look around. These are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy"

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: The Bounds of "Responsibility"

"All metal detectorists are responsible, its only the nighthawks that are the problem" goes the official creed. Like most of the things said about artefact hunting in the UK, on closer examination that turns out to be glib superficial rubbish. Many metal detectorists are not responsible, they go deep-searching on long-unploughed sites for example. Many refuse to or neglect to report what they find (though there is some controversy about the extent of this phenomenon, there is no doubt in most objective observers' minds that there is an issue here).

One of the reasons for this is sheer bloody-mindedness. At various intervals, the metal detectorists of britain (most often led by their NCMD) announce that if their "partner", the Portable Antiquities Scheme, does not do or say what they demand, they will withdraw the favour of showing them the finds they have ripped from the common archaeological resource and appropriated for their own personal use. Nigel Swift has counted 15 previous strike threats here. Just recently we have been witness to a sixteenth (see post below).

Another reason cited is that the degree of recording that is going on has not prevented people questioning the degree to which the erosion is being mitigated by current measures. Since it has not provided the 100% total legitimation of artefact hunting those involved in it desire, these erstwhile "responsible reporters" have decided its not worth their while. In the thread on a detecting forum near you ("Re: Barford comes to our shores"), one "nero" explains that it is the fault of somebody he calls "Barfart" who has allegedly been "slagging us [metal detectorists I presume he means] off for so long"  that he or she has stopped reporting finds to the PAS [Sun Apr 14, 2013 8:45 pm]
It's because of him I have now stopped recording, as he is the one driving the wedge between us and the P.A.S.
I find the logic of that position somewhat difficult to comprehend. I am equally critical of the PAS as I am of the policies it promotes and upholds. Without the PAS and the way it promotes a rosy picture of its "partners" the hobby would have been regulated a decade or more ago. I'd say if the detectorists do not want this to happen, rather than pretending that criticism drives a wedge separating them, they should work together to refute that criticism. But perhaps logic is not "nero's" strong point, and it's easier to think up facile excuses than buckle down and engage the real issues. Somebody calling himself "demon hunter" concurs [Sun Apr 14, 2013 8:55 pm]:
I totally agree, the more he rants the less I want to record.
I think for them to even give him the time of day for his talk, speaks volumes!
So, apparently the condition" for this "responsible detectorist" to responsibly show what he's taking is that the critics and polemicists are all silenced. Furthermore that no opportunity is ever given for archaeologists to even discuss the issues among themselves, not even in a university heritage group seminar. For the record, there was no "ranting" in UCS Ipswich on 10th April 2013. Just very civil discussion of the main issues raised by the seminar's title (only spoilt by the subsequent irresponsible behaviour of the artefact hunters allowed to attend).

Renewed Focus on UK Metal Detecting: NCMD members to Refuse to report Finds to PAS in May?

On a metal detecting forum near you is a thread which indicates some very serious challenges to the PAS and its institutional hosts of its regional branches which are emerging from the ever-militant and antagonistic National Council of Metal Detecting (NCMD). This thread concerns what the authors call the issue of "FLO Insurance". The issue is that very few finders being their objects in for recording while-they-wait, but FLOs pick them up at club meetings, take them back to their office, and then delver them back to the finder at the club when they have finished. In the meantime they (hopefully) have a backlog of finds in the office to work through when not doing other kinds of outreach.

Now metal detectorists are fretting about any possible (financial loss) they will suffer if the finds go missing while in the care of the FLO. Will they get compensation? We've already had at least one court case where a finder alleged they'd left an object to be recorded, and the museum "lost" it (the court decided that there was no evidence that the object in fact even existed) This question was raised by "Holedigger Pete" [Mon Mar 11, 2013 10:43 pm] who complained that he was having problems getting a firm reply from the FLO about this. He says this "needs to be sorted". He cites a case of a member of his club who lent coins to the BM through the FLO for "recording" (was this a Treasure case?) and "one or two" of them reportedly arrived in London damaged ("The value of the coins dropped because of the damage").  Member "liamnolan" [Wed Mar 13, 2013 10:48 pm] suggests that the FLO could be held by a metal detectorist personally liable to compensate the owner "for any damage or loss" which could be documented ("If you loan someone an item on the understanding that they will take care of it, then that will be binding in court").  Member "findyaown"  [Fri Mar 15, 2013 4:12 am] suggests rather unhelpfully:
my opinion is, if they cannot take full responsibility for the find that they want us to declare ,then how are we supposed to let a find out of our sight, knowing it may go missing or get damaged in the process . it is the arcies that brought this about ,so why dont they foot the bill for insurance ? i for one will not be forking out. the first time any find of mine gets damaged or goes missing while in the hands of the flo , will be the last .
Then on March 19th "Holedigger Pete" reports [Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:32 pm] that as a result of his raising the matter the NCMD have said
"if no FLO comes up with insurance by the end of April they will be asking members not to hand over finds till the matter is sorted [out]". 
Note that these guys are impatiently expecting a definitive answer to the question concerning measures applicable in a highly diffuse nationwide organization in just eight days. Anyway, now, as "Anorak" points out [Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:18 pm], they have their excuse:
They are always reminding us how we should always act responsibly as Detectorists but they are clearly not doing this themselves Our club was recording huge amounts of finds with the FLO every month but it has now stopped. Our club has always been in support of PAS in the past but can no longer recommend recording with PAS,at least until this is sorted out.[...] Our club is agreeing with the topic put here by Holedigger pete and what looks to be the obvious outcome. No Insurance,No Recording. Their loss.As Holedigger pete has already said. NCMD are giving them till the end of April.
One wonders about the actual commitment to responsibility the phrase "their loss" represents. To whom do "responsible" detectorists consider their responsibilities lie and why? To my mind the phrase represents responsibility to the common archaeological heritage from which individuals are appropriating things for their own personal use (personal entertainment and profit). It seems that all those contributing to this thread consider it means in fact something else.

In fact, despite the anecdotal evidence offered to support this latest reporting strike (the sixteenth in recent years it seems), documented cases of actual examples of objects going missing or damaged while in the hands of the FLO, PAS or collaborating museums is relatively low - especially considering the number they handle each year. I am sure many detectorists mislay items within their own collections (which it seems to me from what I can ascertain about those that reach museums after someone's death tend not to be very thoroughly documented) with a greater frequency.

I'd also like to ask what type of insurance artefact hunters can demonstrate for any valuable treasure items they bring home and may keep there in the 14 days they have to report them. I cannot see many normal domestic policies covering an "Anglo-Saxon gold hoard I dug up last Tuesday, but when missing when I popped out to the corner shop to buy batteries for my camera to photograph it" over a certain value unless the object has been separately itemised as part of the contents of the house beforehand. Otherwise if it was as easy as that, we'd all be trying it wouldn't we? The point is if a treasure item is lost or stolen while in the detectorist's hands or home, it is not he who loses it, but the public - all of us.

Towards the end of the thread is an interesting post by a "mrstiffler" [Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:13 am] who reminds the more indignantly militant members that it is not a common problem, and that most FLOs are very professional and trustworthy and care  responsibly for loaned finds.
at what point can the BM become liable to insure[?] remember the PAS cannot give a valuation, therefore, your item will only become insured, if, it comes under the treasure act,and if, its only going to go to a valuation committee,and that will only happen, if, the BM decide they want to keep it. Now the end result of this, as I see it, if you want your Item to be covered by insurance, then its down to you to have it valued, then insured, then recorded, if you so wish to do so. As recording is voluntary for items not subject to the treasure act,I really cannot see the BM paying out on insurance for items that dont belong to them. Myself, I will continue to record with the PAS on low valued items without insurance, anything I consider to be of higher value, subject, or not subject to the treasure act, I will have a private valuation, and then insure it prior to recording. 
Liamnolan endorses this viewpoint and makes some eminently sensible points [Wed Apr 10, 2013 9:19 am]:
Lets be positive about all this - Pete has uncovered a problem that affects us all, no sense in rabbiting on about good and bad FLO's, we now know we have to get ourselves sorted out and hopefully someone will come across a good insurance policy that we can all use.[...]
Food for thought and I for one will be reviewing all my finds and trying to get them insured for their real value and hopefully with cover that includes transit to and from museums.
At which point the question emerges whether metal detectorists in fact generally have such insurance cover, and if they do, how those individual non-treasure finds are valued. Is the information about the value of these items kept in a personal collection in a metal detectorists' home ever passed back to the landowner who so cheefully signed away their rights to what after all is by English law ultimately their property?

So is the NCMD going ahead with its call to its members to withold their finds until somebody else sorts out the problem?  Or are they going to think a little before shouting their mouths off and consider advising members how to proceed to protect their (financial) interests in finds - like ascertain and then advise precisely what kind of documentation a detectorist should be in possession of before he makes any such claim?

Hoard Hunters Website

There's a website just going up for the ITV's new Treasure grabfest programme  initiated by the recent PAS-sponsored offering "Britain's Secret Treasures". Hoard Hunters, this new encouragement to get a metal detector and have a bash at treasure hunting: "follows Gordon Heritage and Gary Brun as they team up with archaeologist Mike Webber to embark on a quest to unearth hoards of treasure and unlock historical mysteries". It is billed as:
A sort of Top Gear meets Time Team for the History Channel [...] the show resembles a boys own adventure.
It says the programme will follow "expert metal detectorists" Gary Brun and Gordon Heritage, taking "bigger and better equipment than before" to target the UK sites of the previous discovery of old hoards, a different one each week. They have hopes that they may show the viewing public that not only by going over such sites they could find objects that may not have been found by the original discoverers or even that right next to the findspot of a nationally important archaeological treasure there may be more such finds lying undisturbed in the archaeological layers around it and up for grabs. Splitting up any treasure awards and sharing them with the original finder is going to be a nightmare. The shows will combine the artefact hunters' view of "history" with tekkie version of humour (uh-oh).
Hat-tip to Heritage Action

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Portable Antiquities Society Threatens Heritage Critics - Again

On Wednesday in an interesting candid discussion, an archaeologist resident in Poland asked the lady from the PAS whether in her opinion an archaeologist based in Britain could allow himself to be a free-speaking critic of artefact hunting and policies about it as himself. After a moment's reflection, she admitted that in the circumstances, it was pretty unlikely. As if in illustration of that, the Portable Antiquities Society (nota bene) forum had a series of posts about what would happen when "Barford comes to our shores". Let it be noted that the trip was at the invitation of a heritage group attached to a British academic institution addressed to a colleague to invite him to come over and conduct a discussion in an academic setting of certain issues raised earlier. T2man thinks of it more in relationship to metal detecting and [Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:22 am] expresses the hope that:
a few people can meet him for a chat. ['evil' emoticon]
The forum's administrator responded [Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:40 am - nota bene: the same individual on the same day sent a comment to this blog indicating he would be at the seminar]:
I'm sure we can arrange a special greeting for him, when he leaves the building
Member "Charleyboy" shouts [Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:30 am]
presumably this refers to the member calling himself "Steve the Barford Slayer" who then [Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:23 pm ] replied
Word is already out on the street, should be interesting!
Member "Nero" apparently approves [Sun Apr 14, 2013 8:45 pm]
Well what does Barfart expect if he comes over here, after slagging us off for so long. 
On Sunday [April 14, 2013 9:09 pm] "Chainmail" adds about the illicitly-taken images of me he'd been disseminating:
He will return, at least now everyone knows what he looks like, even his fellow Poles. So I would be a very worried man. [The post is signed "Steve the Barford slayer"].
One "Fred" is also pleased the detectorists have a copy of a recent photo of the preservation advocate [Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:59 am]  
Let's hope the photo doesn't fall into the hands of the Italian mafia who also like to collect art.
Cheltenham metal detectorist "Chainmail" (Steve Taylor) makes a number of nonsensical accusations and then blatantly threatens to visit Heritage Action's Nigel Swift at home and beat him up [Sun Apr 14, 2013 6:42 pm]:
Perhaps I should publish your home address on line, along with young Nigel's ! but I don't expect we will hear much from him as he only lives a 40 minute drive away, just a little bit too close for comfort, and I would hate to have to squash his nose!
I assume the reason why Mr Swift is the intended victim of this threatened attack is because he did the maths for the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter. 

We get this all the time of course in the Bach Appreciation Society. The melomanic thugs of the Chopin Lovers Association are always threatening our members like that over their critical approach to the blatant way the latter composer 'borrowed' from folk melodies. The 2010 Cheltenham Ladies Club Punchup also comes to mind - when the William Wordsworth Society met the supporters of Alfred Lord Tennyson and bicycle chains and cudgels were used when a disagreement broke out over the true meaning of the word "enwrought". The discussion of the British cultural heritage nowadays is full of similar outbreaks of violence and blatant threats, hardly a week goes by without one cultural heritage group or other threatening to beat up, shoot or stab their critics. This has somewhat tended to lead to a stilting of the once so-vibrant cultural debate in the British Isles of course as British society comes to terms with the fact that yob-culture has even taken over parts of the cultural debate.

Nevertheless amid this moral and intellectual decline it seems to me that, instead of name-calling and threats, a more appropriate response from Britain's metal detectorists and their partner the Portable Antiquities Scheme to a blog called "Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues" and "Heritage Journal" and an April  UCS Heritage group seminar would be to address the issues raised about the effects of current policies on artefact hunting on the archaeological resource.  

UPDATE 17th April 2013:
The observant reader following the above links will now note that several of the posts quoted above have either been deleted or modified by their authors. We still await however a proper discussion of the issues from these people. I would say that the intellectual level of the alterations suggests that interested parties may have a very long wait.

UPDATE 27th June 2013:
It seems its not just British detectorists that have their hate-ins.  ("The FMDAC Convention & a Chance to Come Together…), "After 20 plus years of stupid hatred for each other it is great to see the NEW FMDAC shaking off their destructive history and seeking to come together with similar organizations.. "

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