Monday 24 February 2014

SAFE Corner on "Metal Detecting”

SAFE Corner have some comments on metal detecting, prompted by the story of the illegally dug up “Ruelzheim Treasure” ('A Treasure Found … and Lost: An amateur discovers a 5th c Roman curule seat, then destroys it', SAFECORNER  ). They correctly observe the difference between hoiking selected artefacts out for collection and sale and archaeological exploration: 
News of the discovery is appalling [...] because the priceless information contained at the archeological site where the hoard was buried has been ruined by the metal detectorist, who removed everything of value that he could find. Soon the amateur was visited by German authorities after they learned that attempts were being made to sell the objects on the black market.  [...] As valuable as the “Ruelzheim Treasure” may be in dealer circles, its archaeological and historical value would have been much greater if the integrity of the site had been maintained so that it could be scientifically excavated. How must damage was done by the amateur with the metal detector? The importance of the various objects in relationship to one another may have been indicated by the burial arrangement. But the site has been destroyed, so that information is lost. Clues to the identity, rank  or status of its late 4th – early 5th century AD owner may have been deduced by archaeologists at the burial site. But the site has been destroyed, so that information is lost. Other items that may have existed at the burial site, such as ceremonial clothing and jewelry, have not been reported. The looter may have discarded or sold these items before the authorities found him.
Most appalling for the writer was the news that: 
the most amazing survivor of all - a folding silver bench, known as a curule seat, reportedly survived intact … that is, until the untrained individual with the metal detector tried to remove it from the ground and broke it into pieces.[...]The very idea that an amateur would discover a 5th century Roman silver curule seat, then destroy it by trying to pull it from a burial spot, boggles the mind. As the History Blog tartly observes: “The site itself was deliberately damaged. Boy, would I love to see this thief prosecuted just for doing that.” Would anyone disagree?

Meanwhile, the search for artifacts and relics in German forests and fields by clandestine metal detectorists continues. More than 21,400 videos of these activities can be viewed on YouTube. Soon, the number of videos will equal the number of Vandals who died at the Battle of Mainz on the last day of December in the year 406 AD.
It is interesting to note the concurrent almost complete absence of any informed comment on this find by those "passinitly intrestid in the 'istry" on UK metal detecting blogs and discussion lists.

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