Tuesday 24 June 2014

Coineys Plodding Along (Their) Track

My text discussing Wayne's World ideas where coins in context have allegedly "no archaeological significance" prompted a whole load of Wayne-supporters to crowd onto the Biblical Archaeology Society's "Bible History Daily" blog (the post 'Ancient Coins and Looting Preserving the context' 06/18/2014).

First to come along to succour the hapless Wayne is a "Peter" (sounds awfully like that disruptive PNG/IAPN lobboblogger from DC) and he tries also to argue (on the Biblical Archaeology Society's blog) that archaeologists know nothing about interpreting stratigraphical sequences, and what everybody needs is a PAS everywhere. Then comes a "John" who claims likewise to be an expert in everything in the entire world, and he says nobody understands coin finds as well as he, personally, does, even having an uncharitable go at Professor Elkins ("Having a Ph.D on a numismatic topic does not make one an expert in ancient numismatics" - not of the calibre "John" claims to be). Neither does having a big head: "John" considers we all need a lecture in 'numismatics 101' ("a beginner might think...") with tempus post quem thrown in. Collector Rasiel thinks that there are a lot more coin collectors than archaeologists and - UK metal detectorist-like - darkly warns of the effects of "antagonizing them". He is one of those who says that instead of focussing upon what smugglers and dealers do, we should employ looters as .. (well, as what exactly?) ... and "then they'll stop looting". Just like that. He insists we should all be friends as no-questions-asking coin collectors are... well, you can guess the 'My Little Pony' rest, we've heard all this trite idealistic nonsense before. Here's my reply to that little lot. The crux is what all the rest are simply trying to prevent being said by their time-wasting anti-archaeological deflections:
Surely, instead of this, all it needs is for the buyers in the rich countries to just tidy up their act and stop irresponsibly buying freshly-surfaced artefacts ‘blind’ (just say ‘no’). That, as has been pointed out many times, is where the help of “collectors as allies” is sought. If all responsible collectors took a conscious decision to switch to buying only that which they can personally verify is 100% of licit provenance, that is precisely a programme of action that would “legitimize the acquisition of antiquities like coins” and immediately resolve the conflict over clandestine excavation and artefact smuggling. Without it, eliminating illicit dealings in antiquities will be impossible, and surely eliminating illicit artefacts from the market is not against the interests of responsible collectors. And if in addition in the promotion of transparency, collectors would like to set up some kind of register (as William Pearlstein of the US Committee for Cultural Policy has recently suggested) along the lines of the PAS, that would be a great idea too.
The tone of the discussion is well- illustrated by this from coin collectors' BFF, one "John" who correctly guess my identity, claims some privileged knowledge of my personal history, calls what I wrote on stratigraphy and market transparency "near-lunatic and radical views" and assumes (June 24, 2014, 3:54 pm) the mantle of my exegist:
Where he writes “Secondly in stratified contexts, coins and coin assemblages are extremely useful as chronological markers and in reality few other artefact types have such a precise chronology (terra sigillata is one example),” is a sly dig at those archaeologists and excavators tempted to supplement their incomes the only ones with access to these contextual coins.
In reality, as anyone who has got an 'O level' or two can see, I was answering "Wayne", and talking about archaeological value, the ability to be used in post-excavation analyses for deducing chronology of a stratigraphic unit or block of stratigraphic units. The only person having a "sly (and slanderous) dig" at archaeologists on the Biblical Archaeology blog is "John" who seems to be more intent on causing trouble than adding anything substantive to any serious discussion between the collecting and academic milieus on "on ancient coins and looting". But - despite their declarations -  stalling such a debate is precisely what all the other commentators from the coiney milieu want anyway.

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