Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Nowhere Safe as Treasure Hunters Plunder Heritage Sites for Profit

Louise Hogan, 'Nowhere safe as treasure hunters plunder our heritage sites 'for profit'....', Independent, 22 May 2013.
Our heritage is being "plundered by people for profit", the keeper of Ireland's national treasures has warned. Ned Kelly, keeper of Irish antiquities with the National Museum, said no site was safe [...]
Video here.

In the Irish Times (Steven Carroll, 'National Museum unveils haul of ‘looted’ artefacts', 21 May 2013) Ned Kelly, keeper of Irish antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, is quoted as saying:
an increasing number of “treasure hunters” were purchasing metal detectors and using them to find and then pillage artefacts from historic sites in order to sell them on to dealers or auction them off on the internet. Similar historic objects were making hundreds or thousands of euro when sold, he said.“There has been an upsurge in treasure hunting in an orchestrated campaign and we can see dealers of metal detectors are at the back of this,” Dr Kelly said.
One wonders whether he has any one dealer involved in orchestrating a campaign to get legitimacy for artefact hunting in mind. According to the BBC article ('Irish treasure hunter's loot tracked down in England', 21 May 2013): 
The presence of medieval objects suggest that sites such as castles and medieval churches may have been targeted while the presence of Georgian and Victorian metal furniture mounts, spoons, coins and thimbles, suggests the targeting of local estate houses, the museum said. No value has yet been put on the collection.
This factor is so often disregarded in discussions of the "partnership" with artefact hunters, they do not tend to search randomly, they target what are thought likely (by their relationship to known historical features and other factors) "[artefact/collectable] productive sites". To a great extent the artefacts that are disappearing into private collections like this come from the deliberate targeting of known sites.

As for the value, disregarding the high-value finds, selling each of those 900 objects for a few quid each (and some for ten quid  or more) on eBay still represents a tidy profit on items which may well have been given to them for nothing (except for the traditional "Christmas time bottle of Whiskey and a box of chocolates for the wife")  by the landowner unaware of their market value.

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