Tuesday 30 June 2015

Green Collection: "We have one of the largest cuneiform collections in the country"

What Makes the Green Collection Unique? "We have one of the largest cuneiform collections in the country" (over 10,000 pieces, "dating from the time of Abraham") Well, let us hope that what does not makes it unique is that nobody knows where the pieces came from and how they "surfaced" on the market - unlike its rivals in size in the US - all from known excavations. The collection was assembled beginning in November 2009 by its original director, ancient/medieval manuscript specialist Dr. Scott Carroll, in cooperation with its owner, Steve Green. So where did 10000 cunies suddenly surface from after 2009? Who knows? Dr Carroll? Dr. Marcel Sigrist, Director of the Ecole Biblique (Jerusalem), GSI Senior Scholar for Cuneiform Texts?

US Visitors Ignorant about Slavery in their Country's Past

Slave ships
For more than six years, Margaret Biser gave educational tours and presentations at an historical site in the South of the USA which included an old house and a nearby plantation (I used to lead tours at a plantation. You won’t believe the questions I got about slavery. by Margaret Biser Vox.com June 29, 2015 ).

Hawass on Future of Egypt Museum

four years after the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak and nearly ended his own career, Zahi Hawass can be found in a cramped Cairo office, lamenting the state of the antiquities bureaucracy he once ruled like a pharaoh and dreaming of a new museum whose fate lies in limbo. His trademark wide-brimmed hat and safari vest may be hung up for now, but he is brimming with ideas on how to revive Egypt's antiquities and bring back tourists after years of unrest.
'Fallen Egypt archaeologist wants international Grand Museum' NewsOK June 30, 2015

Monday 29 June 2015

Museums and Looted Art

Kanishk Tharoor ('Museums and looted art: the ethical dilemma of preserving world cultures' Guardian Monday 29 June 2015) asks "how can western ‘universal’ museums acquire and display artefacts without stoking the illegal arts trade and reproducing colonialist narratives?"
The ongoing destruction of ancient sites in the Middle East by the Islamic State has galvanised the case for the universal museum, with advocates like Gary Vikan, the former director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, arguing that only institutions in the west can preserve the world’s cultural heritage. Isis’s cultural atrocities “will put an end to the excess piety in favour of the repatriation model”, he told the New York Times. From another perspective, that defence smacks of western privilege. “Colonialism is alive and well in the art world,” Davis said. “So-called leaders in the field still justify retaining plunder in order to fill their ‘universal museums’ where patrons can view encyclopaedic collections from all over the world. A noble idea, in theory, but in practice, a western luxury. The citizens of New York, London, and Paris may benefit, but those of Phnom Penh? Never.” 
But what, preecisely do commentators such as Vikan mean by "the repatriation model"? This is the effect of a mental shortcut which sees the end result as the whole. Objects which are repatriated (sent back to the source country where this can be identified) are seized because there is evidence, or a presumption that is not challenged, that it is in some way where it is illicitly (looted, smuggled etc). This is why "repatriation" happens, but before that is a whole series of investigations, and maybe a court case. Is Vikan saying we should from now on waive all concerns about how an object comes onto the market?Mr Vikan, the world's heritage are the mosques, tombstones - some of them not particularly old, and all of which would not be particularly welcome in or around the Museum of Baltimore if magically transported there intact by some culture-loving dzjinn. Museum curators using such arguments are ignoring what is actually being destroyed and simply rubbing their metaphorical hands in glee that they can have an 'excuse' (note it is a Two Wrongs argument) to get their hands on some nice statues, manuscripts, carved stones, a few coins maybe to beef up the range of their display. And of course hang onto it, avoiding it getting back in the hands of all the 'Ignorant Brown Folk Abroad'. Indeed, colonialism of the worst kind.

Not Bolted Down, a Buyer will be Found

It was not bolted down, so an artefact hunter 'procured' it for collection or sale. .
Thieves have stolen unique stone artefact, dating back 1,200 years, from a church in Hovingham, near Malton, North Yorkshire.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Who IS behind Antiquities Lobbying?

Sangwon Yoon ('ISIS Is Selling Looted Art Online for Needed Cash' Blomberg Business June 29, 2015) has a mixture of the same old tropes with some new information/reflections. Fresh from another brush on another blog with the lobbyists' nastiness intended to discourage discussion, I was struck by this bit:
Islamic State acts as a supplier for a complex chain involving at least five brokers and dealers, said Michael Danti, an adviser to the U.S. State Department on plundered antiquities from Iraq and Syria. The extremists are closely linked to Turkish crime networks in the border towns of Gaziantep or Akcakale, he said. Once the artifacts are smuggled into Turkey, a broker will cash them for resale to dealers who have pockets deep enough to pay for storage and wait up to 15 years to sell, when law enforcement is less focused on them.
The thought struck me that over on this side of the fence, there are folk working away trying to get changes in the manner in which the antiquities trade is regulated to make this sort of thing impossible in the near future (well before 15 years). I which case those deep pocketed individuals are not going to be able to realise those investments. In such a situation they certainly would use their influence and money to place obstacles in the way of any widespread discussion of the issues surrounding the lucrative no-questions-asked and 'ooops-I-lost-the-paperwork' market in portable antiquities. Like encourage lobbyists to disrupt discussions of portable antiquities collecting issues. What would a lobbyist supporting the trade in illicit antiquities look like, what would he do and how? We must keep our eyes open for them.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Cleaning up the Image of Artefact Hunting

"Lets get the bad eggs out of 
our hobby, before they spoil it for the rest of us".
Pommy down Under June 17, 2015

As the PAS begins to fade into history, metal detectorists are beginning to show more interest in their public image. One expression of this is a webpage recently created: 'Help Snuff out illegal detecting and videos' posted on June 23, 2015 by "Lancelot".
We at Global Detection Adventures strive to show and promote only legal and ethical metal detecting practices. However on video sites, such as YouTube, there are so many videos where even the most popular metal detectors are out there practicing illegal detecting methods and immoral detecting. We reach out to all our readers in helping our great hobby get the attention it deserves and not through supporting certain detectorists who use these unjustifiable metal detecting practices. We ask all of our readers to look out for any of the following, in any video, and then report them to the appropriate authorities and YouTube, or whatever video site it may be, to have the video in question removed
The list of activities which are felt to be of concern is quite wide:
Digging of explosive devices, and playing with or tampering with these dangerous items. [...] 
Digging in what is possibly a grave or mass grave site from a war or other event and taking items from it, or not reporting the location to authorities. 
Metal detecting where it is illegal. IE: protected sites such as Castles, Battle fields under historic or conservation protection acts. 
Metal detecting in areas where permits are needed, and not used. IE: Sweden, Parts of Germany 
Metal detecting in countries where it is illegal. IE: Russia, Poland 
Destroying land to retrieve items. IE: Cutting or removing trees or bushes to dig under them. 
Destroying buildings, abandoned or occupied. 
Digging, with or without a metal detector in known battlefield areas, which are protected by government laws or considered areas that should be treated as memorials to the fallen regardless what side they fought on [...]  
Holes [should] always [be] filled in correctly in order to remove danger to members of the public and wildlife. 
Respect the rules of the countryside. IE. if the farm you are detecting on has livestock always make sure you shut gates behind you and respect the landowners property. 
Above all each and every detectorist is a an ambassador to this great hobby when out detecting and as such should behave in a way that shows the public and authorities that we are to be trusted with our respective nations heritage.
A good start, it will be interesting to see what effects this has. It seems to me that the focus on battlefields is missing the issue of other known sites which are targeted because likely to be productive. I think an important point is to ask what kind of 'outreach' did all those millions of pounds spent on the PAS obtain that - eighteen years on - these things are still appearing in videos and one group of metal detectorists has to point out to another that they are wrong. Where has the PAS been all these years? And all those other 'partner' archaeologists?

I suggest though that it is not just videos that are a problem, while much bad behaviour of detectorists on the forums is kept behind closed doors, there are blogs and bloggers who create the worst possible image of the hobby and hobbyists. I am thinking of individuals such as Dick Stout, John Howland, Steve Taylor whose online and very public antics discredit the image of responsible artefact hunting. Is any responsible artefact hunter going to take responsibility for the hobby and confront these fifth columnists in their midst who are taking pleasure in deliberately making life unpleasant for everyone? 

Why are people joining the 'Islamic State'?

ISIL fighters
Nafeez Ahmed, 'Why are people joining the 'Islamic State'?', Middle East Eye Thursday 18 June 2015 by 'people' he means foreign fighters moving to the area. Worth a read and thinking about.

Focus on Metal Detecting Gatekeeper Rodgers

Kris Rodgers ("Addicted to Bleeps") started a thread about using the organic acids and decomposition products of olive oil to strip corrosion off delicate dugup artefacts. Several people tried to tell him this was a bad idea and they had been warned against such methods by heritage professionals, including one trained conservator. He was having none of this (Wed Jun 24, 2015 11:59 am):
I see 'he who shall not be named' has piped in on the topic. Again, I'll [sic] much prefer to take the advice of those that have been doing this for 30 years + and have god knows how much experience between them. I listen to them. A lot. I've contacted one RE the Olive oil test to make sure his coins are still ok 20-30 years on. I'm sure he wouldn't have advised me if they weren't. 
Note the enforced anonymity. He attempts to prevent anyone checking for themselves what that deliberately-not-named person wrote and prevents this readers from contacting directly those unnamed 'elders' whom he treats as some kind of gurus but to which he wants to retain sole access. Mr Rodgers wants to make himself the gatekeeper and arbiter here. But look what happens when he starts to feel he is losing control.  "JamieMP" (Thu Jun 25, 2015 5:52 pm) points out the pitfalls he has experienced using this traditional method which led him to eschew it and adds:  
Really, old boys (and girls) say many things and experience isn't always right, nor does it always translate correctly. When they look at their coins, for example, do they even remember what they looked like all those years ago? Aren't they looking with eyes thirty years older? If they looked under a microscope, would they then perhaps see a difference (assuming they can remember what it originally looked like)?
Mr Rodgers' reaction is way over the top ("Addicted to bleeps" Thu Jun 25, 2015 6:29 pm)
Actually, they're people I respect a great deal. And for that reason, I'm out of this thread.
The guy started the thread, and was happy as long as he had everyone's attention, the moment that somebody started debating the issues, he walks off in a huff. I think this puts some of his earlier behaviour in context (including his baseless accusations of me associated with his involvement with "Nazi War Diggers")  where he has several times thrown out an accusation, and when somebody attempts to pin him down and get facts, simply refuses to talk further.

The Coineys and Their FOIs

The Washington lawyer who works for the IAPN and ACCG and latterly the PNG has a snide post that he's "glad" that I know what an FOI request is and then infers "hypocrisy" because I'd been critical of the ACCG, IAPN and PNG trying to use one in the struggle to get no-questions-asked passage of dug up antiquities through US borders. Let us remind ourselves of the texts to which he is referring. Warning, some of this is stomach-turning in its crassness:
'What is "the Truth About ACCG Test Case"?' PACHI Saturday, 20 February 2010.
'Writing Gobbldygook at the Collectors' Expense' PACHI Monday, 19 July 2010.
'Coiney "Guilds" Want Access to Deceased Archaeologist's EMails' PACHI Wednesday, 20 April 2011.
'How Many Ways Can You Flog A Dead Horse? Ask the ACCG' PACHI Thursday, 14 June 2012.
'US Court Does not Buy Coin Collectors' Conspiracy Theory: Disallows Intrusive Snooping' PACHI Friday, 15 June 2012. (the comment is particularly relevant).
'FOI Lawyer Wades into Controversy' PACHI Tuesday, 19 June 2012.
IAPN you should be ashamed of yourselves, as for the PNG... ble!

Attn LavaPAS: Do You Propagate the Ten Truths of Knowledge Theft?

The new PAS (Lava PAS) has a head start on its predecessor, it can build on the latter's negative experience with artefact hunters. Heritage Action has published 'Ten truths the new PAS must make public' and there seems no scope for argument about them. Or at least if the Lava-PAS disagree, their audience", the stakeholder (and paying) public deserve to hear from them why.
70% of detectorists not complying with Best Practice after 17 years of “education and persuasion” speaks for itself and the tipping point may well have been PAS’s recent acknowledgement of that reality. We’ve always maintained PAS hasn’t been frank enough – with detectorists, landowners, stakeholders and the Government and that a more muscular outreach would definitely have yielded better results. Our simple thesis has been that praise for those who behave doesn’t encourage those who don’t, they simply quote the praise to landowners. Who can possibly deny it? Now there’s a chance for the new management to break that cycle. 
The ten truths are short and to the point, even the most severely literacy-challenged metal detector should be able to understand them.

Friday 26 June 2015

The Consensus is Growing, Pap Dodge a Fake

A wife?
The consensus is growing, Mark Goodacre informs that the latest issue of New Testament Studies includes a series of critical discussions on the authenticity of the newly-surfaced so-called "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" fragment. Well, not so much authenticity, its inauthenticity.

Thursday 25 June 2015

Finding Out (or Not) What They are up to in the UK With Portable Antiquities and Heritage Policy: FOI Requests

A clear and comprehensive how-to guide to Freedom of Information requests - useful for heritage advocacy campaigns:

No Transparency: British Museum Fluffs Another FOI

The British Museum claims the amounts paid to them for its art loans and professional consultations were “commercially sensitive”, exempting them from the disclosure requirements for public bodies under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act (CultureGrrl, 'Cash-Cow Art Loans in Abu Dhabi: What "Commercial Interests" of British Museum Would Be Harmed by Disclosure?', June 24, 2015). An evasive reply from Olivia Rickman, acting head of the British Museum’s press office is quoted.

One now wonders about that loan of a knocked-off Parthenon piece to the Hermitage when the rest of the world was in solidarity treating Mr Putin like a pariah over Donbas. How much did Russia pay the BM for that loan, and where did the money go? 

Just out of interest, is there anywhere at all a record of anyone getting a straight answer to a straight question from the BM which goes beyond "are you open next Bank Holiday Monday"?

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Lava-PAS: Outreach from Under a Bushel

Bushel Hiding - the new style of
archaeological 'Outreach' and transparency
My tracking software reveals that Susan Raikes spent a few moments on my blog last night, but she only looked at two posts to see what was being said about her Lava-PAS (or perhaps to see if anyone else from the BM had commented). There is still no official statement from the British Museum about what it has done to our Portable Antiquities Scheme.

I use this blog to put up my personal thoughts concerning the collecting of antiquities and what I think that means for the heritage. Ms Raikes however blocks her Twitter account where she writes "about museums, education, swimming and rhinoceroses. Not necessarily in that order...". You cannot read what the BM's head of "Learning Volunteers and Audiences" she thinks about museums and private collecting unless she invites you. She is apparently afraid of an audience. It is the same with her Scheme's Outreach Officer, Clemency Cooper blocks her Twitter account to certain parts of the Scheme's "audience" - perhaps just the bits that are not passive recipients like the metal detecting "partners" and answer back. We have seen earlier (as a result of my FOI) the extent to which the PAS go to avoid engagement in any public discussion of the heritage issues centred on themselves. That is odd in an institution which has a 'Department of [...] Audiences'. It is obviously a passive one they want to play the gatekeeper to.

That's how the staff of the BM uses social media to 'inform public opinion'. Meanwhile this blog will continue to keep its audience informed about what this observer thinks is going on - despite attempts by other players in the antiquities 'partnership' (metal detectorists, artefact smugglers, dugup dealers, their lobbyists and museum staff) to keep it as secret as possible.

UPDATE 27th June 2015
Nope, Ms Raikes keeps trying, but still can't get past the first two in the six-part series about the Lava-PAS before getting sidetracked by the posts about FOIs. She seems quite a quick reader though, skimmed through one of my texts in 26 seconds flat.


"The French theorist Jean Baudrillard once noted that collecting mania is found most often in “pre-pubescent boys and males over the age of 40”; the things we hoard, he wrote, tend to reveal deeper truths".
Alex Preston, 'The man who sleeps in Hitler’s bed', The Guardian Wednesday 24 June 2015
The reference is to p. 9 of his oft-quoted article 'The System of Collecting' (1994) published in John Elsner, Roger Cardinal (eds) 'Cultures of Collecting', published by Harvard.

Vignette: part of the Wheatcroft collection (David Sillitoe for the Guardian)

Didn't we do well?

'Top Secret Clemency', the
public face of the Lava-PAS
"Now, after we've done the training bunnies, aunty Clemency wants you all to fill in this form, it's not difficult, just tick all the boxes, can you?".

"Oh, we did do well didn't we? Excellent".

That's it then ('PASt Explorers Training Programme Commences'  posted on ), "Eleven of the Scheme’s West Midlands self-recorders and in-house volunteers attended the training session to learn how to record finds onto the PAS database with the two PASt Explorers Project Officers, Helen Geake and Rob Webley" and "15 finders and volunteers, most of whom were new to recording archaeological finds with the PAS" in Taunton, Somerset. They all had "great fun" and are ready to substitute for the FLOs in all but the Liaison and Finds work.

And I see that before I've even looked at it, Clemency Cooper (Outreach Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme's PASt Explorers project) has blocked me from her Twitter account. That's the public face of the PAS for you, an Outreach Officer in Hiding.

Now this is how they propose creating a karaoke FLO, just five short training modules:
Module 1: general introduction to the work of the PAS and the Treasure Act.
Module 2: database recording
Module 3: the basics of digital finds photography
Module 4: finds image manipulation (sic)
Module 5: finds identification (just one?)
.... and nothing else, five modules. 
What academic value has a database containing data entered by somebody whose sole qualifications are having done this five-module course? Note that the one field where the Lava-PAS scored less than brilliant feedback in  the opinion survey above was "lack of time" [to cover the topic properly]. Bonkers.

Hague Convention: Putting the Government to the test

SIR – We welcome the Government’s announcement that it is to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict and that it intends to create a fund for “the protection of cultural heritage and recovery from acts of destruction”.
However, we are concerned that there appears to be no timescale attached to the commitment to ratify – a commitment that successive governments have made, and failed to deliver on, since 2004. There is also no mention of the important second protocol to the 1954 convention.
Ratification is not going to stop the appalling human tragedy that is unfolding in Syria and northern Iraq, nor is it going to stop ISIL destroying our common cultural inheritance. But it will, finally, bring Britain into line with the international community by clearly recognising international law that identifies such acts as war crimes.
We hope that the Government’s commitment will lead to swift action. 
Professor Peter G Stone
Chairman, UK National Committee of the Blue Shield
Sir Barry Cunliffe
Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology, Oxford University
Professor Eleanor Robson
Chairman of Council, British Institute for the Study of Iraq
Dr Mike Heyworth
Director, Council for British Archaeology
Julian Radcliffe
Chairman, International Art and Antique Loss Register

Tuesday 23 June 2015

UK Metal Detecting: Olive Oil Again

Without a proper PAS to guide them, we'll be seeing from now on more and more of this sort of thing from UK metal detectors: 'Does Olive oil work? THE TEST' (by Addicted to bleeps » Sun Jun 21, 2015)
So, I was intrigued by the idea of using Olive oil to 'clean' coins. I got myself a small tub, and literally just poured Olive oil into it. I then plonked the coins in, and waited for 6 months. The results are pretty good, I'd say. I think it could be even better if you left them in there for a year or two? (sic)
Daniel o' Beirnes (Mon Jun 22, 2015 10:40 am) adds the remark:
the coins do look good but after 4-5 years it eats in to the coins you should never use olive oil on good coins [...]  i was told by the museum you should never use olive oil .so i will not take the chance .
The aptly named 'Scratcher' (Sun Jun 21, 2015 7:15 pm) volunteers:
I bought a table top grinder but fitted polishing cloth wheels works a lot faster but with better results. Newer coinage goes in the tumbler!
'Looking' after the heritidge good'. 'Koala' has the observation (Tue Jun 23, 2015 12:16 pm):
Olive oil is very hit and miss. Think it depends on the oil. One brand/batch of oil is not the same acidity as another.
And Mr Becchina's how good is it at stripping coins? Is it as good at getting those organic acids deep down into the object's unstable corrosion layers as the one Estuary English uses to 'look after England's heritidge'. Ms Raikes: Your Learning Department, how much learning can you give the metal detectorists who are now 'partners' (volnteers/ audience) of your department and hell-bent on mistreating much of what they get their hands on?  How much un-learning can the BM tolerate?

Previous PACHI  posts on olive oil and suchlike dubious homegrown 'conservation' methods:
30th September 2012: 'Metal Detecting Under the Microscope: "Preserving" finds in Olive Oil - Don't'

6th February 2013 'Portable Antiquity "Conservation" and Curation: UK Tekkie Style', 

29th January 2013 'Of Oil and Antiquities: Gianfranco Becchina'.

Dodge's Antiquities Emporium Brags About a Doggie

Colima laundering?

Bob Dodge, the Colorado antiquities dealer ('Artemis', Erie, CO 80516 USA) persists in advertising his wares by sending emails to me boasting about what he's got. Today its an over-shiny Colima doggie figurine, a favourite for antiquity collectors who want a cute animal figure to brag about, This one, Dodge the Dealer wheedles, is "special"
Why is the above Colima dog so expensive? [...] let's start by comparing it to your 'average' pup (see photo). Now please do not think I am speaking despairingly of this average dog. It is a fine example and quite handsome. And a dog like this usually sells at auction in the range between $2,000 and $3,000. But there are obvious differences, and some of these differences affect the value significantly. So without further ado, let's compare.
And so he does, the spout, the teeth, the paws, the nostrils,  the pose.... bla bla. Not a word about this one having a more completely documented acquisition and collecting history than any of the others. No, one of the reasons why this dealer wants more dosh for this one is because:
Notice the natural creases in the body as a result of this rare pose. That is not something the average potter would have been able to create. This could have only been crafted by one of the true artisans of the tribe and not by some mere apprentice. And this was also not some- thing that an average member of the clan could have afforded. This was commissioned by a very high powered lord. He wanted something in his tomb that would stand out from the ordinary. He certainly got it!
Well, now Mr Dodge has got it and wants to flog it to you. It was hoiked out of the grave by a grave robber, the bones tossed aside, carted off to Colorado, via "Ex-Splendors of the World, Haiku, HI, ex-Roy Oswalt, Scottsdale, AZ", whatever that means.* And now it is yours for $6,950. Now, collector, "Would you rather have an average dog, or spend extra to get an extraordinary dog?". Just think how you can BRAG about your very own special grave-robbed doggie if you do. Oh by the way Dodge the Dealer  tells you:
All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.
The main reason this is can't-touch-you-for-it legal under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CCPIA) is not because he has an export licence to show the buyer, but because the US scandalously does not currently "implement" the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property with respect to cultural property from Mexico. There is no State Department MOU and designated list  for Mexico, which I guess means that Mr Dodge and his collector clients think puts all of the cultural property of that country up for grabs by the US no-questions-asked and ooops-I-lost-the-paperwork antiquities market.  In any case, whether an object is on the market legally or not depends, if the object really is an antiquity from the ground in Mexico, on these laws. What can Mr Dodge say about that?

"A Certificate of Authenticity will accompany all purchases" he says, but no mention of a TL date for such an atypical object which surfaced "ungrounded" on the US market without any paperwork being mentioned? I think this one needs a TL date, don't you? And some more paperwork.

* Oddly, according to Mr Google, it seems a lot of Dodge the Dealer's artefacts are said to have passed through this same exhibition, only to go to other collectors scattered across the world, to then end up in Mr Dodge's stockroom. How is this possible? More details are needed to make sense out of these interlocking collecting histories.

"An Odd Post" Some Numismatic Theory for Book-shy NumisFondlers

Hoard that "may have been found in Cyprus"
sold piecemeal by Forum Ancient Coins
. Coin
dealing destroys archaeological context
Washington lawyer Peter Tompa, the IAPN's public representative,  seems not really to have much grounding in numismatic theory. That's what you get for seemingly being shy of libraries:
Cultural Property Observer said... I note [Paul] Barford has an odd post in response to this blog [link omitted]. In it, he seems to claim based on evidence derived from Polish medieval hoards that hoarding does not reflect circulation trends. This is a rather odd statement. Leaving aside the fact that he is comparing apples to oranges, one wonders how the coins got into hoards if not because they also circulated in the area. I suppose they just materialized there somehow.
Wow. First of all when discussing a phenomenon generally, here thesaurisation, it is not in any way "comparing apples with oranges" to look at the issue diachronically, it is called "context" Mr Tompa. Context. The context is that it is a methodological mistake to assume that all deposits of metal (round discs or not) were put in the ground for the same reason and before they were put in the ground all functioned in the same way in direct relation to other systems.

Wayne Sayles claims his red-dot-distribution maps of only hoard finds have something to say about "the circulation of contemporary Cypriot coins of the Pre-Classical, Classical and Hellenistic eras". Monetary circulation is by definition the process of the continuous movement of money as a medium of circulation and payment. Hoarded coins are not in circulation, the term 'currency in circulation' refers to currency that is physically used to conduct transactions (for example between consumers and businesses) or being used for investment, rather than stored in some treasury, banking system or private/ institutional hoard or removed from circulation for other purposes (for example votive deposits, grave goods). Hoarding  (thesaurisation) is therefore a leakage in the income stream, it takes money out of circulation, concentrates it in certain hands and reduces total income. The velocity of money in circulation varies inversely with the rate of hoarding, the more income hoarded in the form of money, the more slowly money turns over. I really would have though that anyone employed by the IAPN to represent them in public would at least have heard of Gresham's law which explicitly relates what types of money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, and which then flood into circulation, thus what is found in hoards is not a picture of what is in circulation. The concept is an old one, the Polish scholar Nicholas Copernicus wrote about it in his 'Monetae cudendae ratio' (1526) probably known to many coineys who actually read books. Perhaps Peter Tompa is not one of their number.

A place where a hoard is found is not necessarily identical to the place where it was accumulated. A hoard can be moved in a strongbox, or on a pack animal. It can be taken out of the region where the coins it contains were in circulation as part of a market economy (a Greek city state and its hinterland for example) to an area where the issues which it contains no longer had that function. The coins could be moved as loot, tribute, a merchant's cashbox, a diplomatic gift, a dowry, personal property of an exile, a cashbox of a recruiter of mercenaries, or whatever. In that exterior region, the hoar could be split and redistributed, perhaps the coins being used as so-called special purpose currency, changing hands by other processes and fulfilling other social needs than in the region where they originally functioned. Familiarity with the literature would inform Tompa that this was, for example, the case with the Greek and Roman coins found in Barbaricum in the Later Iron Age (the period Sayles is discussing). This is not however the same as the coins being in monetary circulation in a market economy. There too metal objects such as coins were hoarded (a whole range of Barbarian silver and gold hoards).

Byzantine coins and their copies occur in seventh century Anglo-Saxon contexts, English pennies in Viking hacksilber hoards. These areas are not extensions of the area of circulation of these coins (the economic systems of Byzantium or Anglo-Saxon England). The coins have a  different function there. The same goes for Greek coins and Alexandrian tetradrachms recorded by the PAS in England. They do not mark areas where the economies of Athens or Alexandria were functioning. Many of them were probably more recent Grand Tour losses anyway ('Alexandrian Tetras and US Coiney Dishonesty' PACHI Monday, 2 June 2014).
It is not "odd" to point out that ancient coin hoards taken by themselves are NOT indicators of the patterns of local circulation of currency. It is a simple fact about the proper interpretation of numismatic finds from the past of which both Mr Sayles and Mr Tompa seem not be be aware. 

UPDATE 22.06.2015
Peter Tompa, the IAPN's "Cultural Property Observer", now redefines the concept of monetary circulation as: "coins travel - and what does it matter if its in a group or singly for that purpose?". He says...
I see [Paul] Barford has now explained himself [link omitted] [...] However, now I get it-- he's suggesting that not all hoards reflect what is in circulation in a given area because they could have been accumulated elsewhere and brought as a group and buried somewhere else.
No, Peter Tompa does not "get it" and probably never will. What a loser. Making an exhibition of himself for the IAPN dollar.

Posted a Comment On "Ancient Coin Collecting"

My comment to Wayne Sayles' blog (23rd June 2015, 5:38 AM):
From this, and addressing just the issues about "ancient coins themselves" (Feb 9th 2015), it would appear that the main conclusion one can draw is that those who buy and sell ancient coins without passing on information about findspots (thus preventing maps like this from being drawn) are thus participating in the destruction of knowledge about the past - such as about ancient coin circulation patterns (http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2015/06/coineys-destroy-knowledge.html). Did any of the coins the findspots of which are shown on these maps pass through your hands as a dealer Mr Sayles? What about many which are not shown on these maps?
"Comment moderation has been enabled. All comments must be approved by the blog author". Let us see if the veteran dealer "approves" a frank discussion of findspots and dealers filling their stockrooms largely with items which have 'somehow lost' any documentation of licit origins as they pass through the no-questions-asked, and ooops-I-lost-the-papers market.

UPDATE 28th June 2015
Well, of course not. I mean actual HONEST discussion of the issues surrounding the current mode of doing business by the antiquity trade is not at all in the interests of those engaged in it, is it? The coins that pass through dealers' hands, both freshly-surfaced and 'orphaned' older material, represent a huge loss of archaeological information about the past and the coin trade is not a bit concerned to even make a pretence of wanting to do anything about it. Mr Sayles may block comments on his blog raising these issues, but that does not mean that the issues go away, or that one day the coin trade will not be held accountable for the cynical and utter destruction of so much information. They will be accountable, but by blithely ignoring this issue since the 1970s when it was first raised, have already well-and-truly alienated themselves from being part of the solution. Selfish bastards.

Monday 22 June 2015

English for UK Metal Detectorists (4)

With reference to a guffawing empty-head making jokes about the Sahara and trifles as a way of deflecting attention from the implications of a post by Heritage Action, they need to go bak to skool and the lesson they had with Mrs Carmichael in third year English about: "Just deserts vs. just desserts". ("Occupation: Semi-retired Feature Writer", works in "Publishing" it says on his profile.) The expression "just deserts" means that which is deserved. It comes from a nowadays little-used meaning of the word desert (" something which is deserved or merited). The term however is still used in moral philosophy. Ignorant metal detectorists who never read any philosophy and at school messed about in English instead of learning will be unfamiliar with that use of the word desert, which is why they think the phrase is spelt as get one's just desserts, but that is an error. Ask your FLO.

LOL, eh? RAOTF M8s.

UPDATE 24th June 2015
As far as I recall John Winter used be an English teacher, so it is remarkable to see him siding with Mr Howland in his assault on the spelling of Nigel Swift ("the Little Whiney one" according to the blogger): "using ‘just desserts’ is much more common than ‘just deserts’ in modern English. John is correct in : what he says and his usage is inline with modern thinking". The fact is that philosophers do a lot more thinking than any metal detectorist and they write "deserts" and not "desserts", and the alternate speling of deserts is not found in any of te many dictionaries in the Barford household. On that account, John Winter is wrong. Furthermore, unlike the metal detectorists which Mr Winter mixes with and patterns his 'modern English' on, philosophers do not use apostrophes to form a plural, or any possessive pronouns, nor do they use "of" as an auxiliary verb, or a question mark to indicate uncertainty in an affirmative statement. Metal detectorists cannot write proper English (and one wonders what the PAS database is going to look like with increasing numbers of tekkie karaoke recorders participating in its compilation).

With regard to his other statement, be it noted that both I and Nigel Swift have been trying to draw attention to the bigger issue (the demise of the PAS from 1st May this year) and it is the metal detectorists who have been the ones to ignore the bigger picture [see update here] in favour of harping over the details of Nigel's spelling - quite falsely. When they grow up, they will realise that they missed the last opportunity to act to save their hobby while they were fooling about calling other people names (Mr Winter, you can treat that as constructive advice).

UPDATE UPDATE 24th June 2015
"LOL, We got a lot of visits today from people following Mr Barford's links" guffaws the attention-seeking old man who runs the blog. The question is, are the people following links from this blog to a tekkie one those who went to school and know that 'just deserts' is spelt with one 's' or two?

Coineys Destroy Knowledge

Coins Bought by ACCG for Baltimore stunt
Coinshop keeper Wayne Sayles in a rather superficial text ('Cypriot coins found outside the Republic of Cyprus') attempts to make some deductions about coin circulation in the past using some dot distribution maps based on information gathered by proper numismatists. Here he attempts to use known coin findspots as a source of knowledge.

I would therefore like to ask him to show us the dot-distribution map on which the atrociously over-stripped coin finds (from Spink's, don't ya know) shown in the figure opposite appear. I doubt he can. These coins were bought in April 2009 by ACCG dealers for use in an illegal-import stunt in Baltimore. The point is that the no-questions-asked, papers-losing market in dugup ancient coins which Mr Sayles and the IAPN support is destroying knowledge.

Sunday 21 June 2015

Cypriot coins found in hoards

Cyprus and the sea
The library-shy numismatist now have an enhanced digital edition of the 1973 Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards (IGCH) edited by Colin Kraay, Margaret Thompson and Otto Morkholm. This has been created and hosted at nomisma.org by Sebastian Heath and Andrew Meadows under a Creative Commons license. So now coin dealer Sayles has hit upon the idea of using it to "prove Elkins wrong" (Nathan T. Elkins "Ancient coins, find spots, and import restrictions: a critique of arguments made in the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild's 'test case'," Journal of Field Archaeology 40, 2 [2015] 236-43). Sayles uses the results from 90 individual hoards and shows the results as dot-distribution maps. "The intention of this summary here is to clarify any misconceptions regarding the circulation of contemporary Cypriot coins of the Pre-Classical, Classical and Hellenistic eras, or lack thereof". Quite what "misconceptions" have been addressed here is not stated, nor has anything been presented apart from red dots on a map. What is the significance of these patterns in terms of ancient activity? How does this address what Elkins wrote about?

In any case it is disappointing to see US numismatics lagging behind central European methodology. Polish numismatists for example, based on the inventorisation of Early Medieval hoards established back in the 1950s (so 65 years ago), that coin deposition in hoards was an expression of hoard deposition behaviour and not circulation. For Mr Sayles to make any sensible statement about coin circulation in the past we need not only the addition of site finds and casual losses, but also a more detailed breakdown of the contents of each of the hoards he discusses compared to the other ones in the region. In proper numismatics, interpreting changing patterns of coin circulation in the past involves much more than crude distribution maps. Pathetic.

Again the question arises of the lack of a textbook setting out the methodology of the 'discipline' of heap-of-coins-on-a-table homegrown numismatics as practiced by US coin fondlers and dealers. If they want what they do to be seen as a 'discipline', let them present the basic assumptions and methods of this approach to the study of the past and let us see what it has to offer.

Sayles, W. 'Cypriot coins recorded in IGCH as found in hoards outside the Republic of Cyprus' Ancient Coin Collecting Sunday, June 21, 2015.

PAS Meltdown (1): LavaPAS

Pillow lava
A week ago the news reached me that there had been massive changes in the manner that the British national scheme or recording archaeological finds made by members of the public (the Portable Antiquities Scheme -  PAS) was organized. Roger Bland, its creator and head had resigned and the Scheme was now being managed by Susan Raikes, head of a museum's schools service. There was much that was unclear about what had happened and the implications were not immediately apparent. Over the past week, people close to events have, on condition of anonymity, kindly made both oral and written information available. A clearer (though still not full) picture is emerging of this affair, and I feel obliged to make a fuller presentation of my thoughts and deductions so far because I think this is something that we should all be concerned about and which as the heritage belongs to and affects us all should be (have been) a subject of public discussion.

I intend in several posts below this (I posted them in reverse order) to run through some of what I know now and its background but also make observations on it. I do not intend to focus on  the personal issues that undoubtedly underlie this sad case, and my focus on PAS is primarily as a means of mitigating knowledge lost to us all through artefact hunting (i.e., in most cases 'metal detecting'). These posts draw in part on information that has been released by the British Museum (BM) and other bodies (not very much) and incorporate information derived from material 'leaked' to me (not as much as I would like - a FOI requests will be in preparation when we know what material and questions to target).

I propose to refer to the current setup as "Lava-PAS", based on the internal (BM) acronym of  the "Learning Volunteers and Audiences" department which has taken over the running of the Scheme. I see this as a meltdown of the Scheme, subverting its core role, thus meriting treating it as a spinoff from the original (Roger Bland's) PAS which ceased operation on 1st May.

These changes took place on May 1st 2015. Note that to date, there has been no official statement from any body, least of all the British Museum, outlining the details of these changes, the current organization, aims and remit of the PAS in its new form, or prognosis for the future. Perhaps the reason for this is that these issues had not been properly thought through by the BM before the decision was taken to put these changes into effect. Please join me in urging that the BM address now these concerns and issue a detailed statement in the next few days explaining to the stakeholders and audience (ie all of us) just what has been done and what they foresee the effects will be.

The presentation will have six parts which I arrange in a specific order which are (in reverse order of posting):
(2) The Background - what the PAS was for
(3) The Prehistory of the PAS
(4) Two Ways - Two Wrong Turns
(5) The BM Steps in
(6) What the Problem is
(7) Self-delusion corner

There is a lot of stuff here. The impatient will find the crux of the matter discussed in the sixth part. As usual personal views, if anyone has anything to add or disagrees with what I write, that's what the comments are for.

PAS Meltdown (2): The Background - what the PAS is For

"The Portable Antiquities Scheme evolved as
a voluntary scheme for recording finds that are
not covered by the provisions of the Treasure Act 1996
Portable Antiquities Scheme Wales | National Museum Wales 
 A long time ago Britain was preparing to ratify the 'European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised)' [Valetta, 16.I.1992] which it did on 19th September 2000. This was important because it was a revision of the document under the same title created in London in 1969.  Article two proved a problem for the UK, it stipulates that states should implement "mandatory reporting to the competent authorities" for a finder of a "chance discovery of elements of the archaeological heritage". In most countries covered by the Convention, artefact hunting is illegal and can end in jail. Britain however not only affords archaeological sites no such protection, leaving them at the mercy of a plundering free-for-all, but artefact hunting with metal detectors by the 1980s and 1990s and therefore private artefact collecting was a very popular hobby.

The stipulation of mandatory reporting made sense when artefacts are found accidentally in the course of dog-walking, fruit-tree planting, hedge-grubbing etc. It means the accidental finder, instead of shrugging their shoulders is coerced into making the effort of letting archaeologists know about it, so more information enters the public record. It is more of a problem though when artefacts are found (as they were/are in the UK) by people actively going out and searching for them in order to keep the artefacts and most of the time the information about them, to themselves.

Another problem was article 3 of the Convention which made any intervention in an archaeological site subject to the issuing of a permit - which could of course be refused (I will skip over for now the issues relating to article 3). 

The mandatory reporting issue was a huge sticking point, not for archaeologists, but artefact hunters (you know, those guys who now bend over backwards pretending they have a "responsible" attitude to what they do and are only interested in it to "save history" and share that information). They did not want compulsory reporting (note the Convention says nothing about surrender of finds), but wanted the freedom to hoik and take elements of the archaeological heritage for themselves without the need to tell anyone about what they are doing to the sites they strip of diagnostic finds.

After a huge amount of friction (from the detectorists' side) over this, UK archaeologists decided to engage on a compromise with them - following on from the pioneering work by Tony Gregory, Sue Margeson, Dave Gurney and other archaeologists in the Norfolk/Fenlands area (and the publication of Denison and Dobinson and Denison's seminal 1995 report commissioned by the CBA). It should be said that the documentation indicates that to a large extent this was a one-sided compromise, many metal self-centred detectorists rejected collaboration with archaeologists to enhance collective knowledge of the past (as some still do).

The creation of the PAS pilot schemes in 1996 was a huge leap of faith (let it be on record that Roger Bland was one of the people very active in the discussions of the regulation of reporting of finds and later in setting up the Scheme). Some metal detectorists, for various reasons began playing along. The early publications of the PAS therefore concentrated on the degree of success the PAS were having in getting collaboration ("wotta lotta stuff we got") - this was to become the leitmotif of future public representations of the Scheme which was to become so annoyingly superficial. It was born of the long process of overcoming resistance in the early years. In the first years the aim was to show that co-operation was possible, and the size of the task ahead was admitted by using Dobinson and Denison's estimate of the number of finds found by metal detectorists that were not being reported (400 000 annually - which was I think a vast overestimate based on faulty information about the number of active detectorists). Three years into the Scheme and this figure was quietly dropped and for nigh-on fifteen years after that, the PAS made absolutely no reference to the notion that there may be large numbers of finds hoiked from the archaeological record which they were not seeing (an explicit admission of this only came last year). The spin was always on what had been 'achieved', not how significant that success was seen in the context of the entire scope of the activity it was intended to mitigate the effects of.

The original Scheme was cast as a means by which "finders" would be encouraged to report finds. This means not only metal detectorists, but members of the public digging in their gardens. The original material relating to those early years has now been 'disappeared' from the Internet, but it is clear from this (a speech by Baroness Blackstone for example) that the Scheme was set up to instil "best practice" among "finders". The interpretation of this is ambiguous, it was later taken to mean that finders of elements of the archaeological heritage would report what they found. Another interpretation of this notion saw it in the context of the preceding public discussion outlining why archaeologists wanted artefact hunters to 'STOP Taking Our Past'. This saw the "deal" as 'OK, carry on taking artefacts for collecting but do so in a way which does not damage knowledge' - which involves issues like keeping off stratified sites, not targeting known sites etc. Those that saw the task of the PAS as to generate that kind of discussion of "best practice" were to be disappointed, in eighteen years it noticeably kept well out of such discussions with its 'partners' (archaeological and artefact hunting).

The PAS therefore was set up to replace the notion of  mandatory reporting of finds made on the basis of a formal search permit. It allowed the UK to ratify the Valletta Convention (a beneficial document and one which the UK had helped to draft) without making artefact hunting subject to a permit system with mandatory reporting. It was a cop-out. Britain could pretend to be "protecting the Archaeological Heritage" while actually doing nothing about the selective pilfering of hundreds of thousands of artefacts by artefact hunters. The argument was that this damage was being mitigated, because although the objects were disappearing, "much of the information" was being recorded and entering the public record. That was the all-too-comfortable argument; that the truth of the matter was always something different concerned very few. it saved further confrontation with the metal detectorist nasties and their pathological hatred of archaeologists and heritage do-gooders.

The Treasure Act came in (1996) and required mandatory reporting of certain categories of artefact finds (Treasure), while the Portable Antiquities Scheme was set up (1996) to lead to the voluntary reporting of as many non-Treasure finds as possible, in order together to produce the same effect as Article 2 of the Valetta Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage. In the first years that was its only aim, further accretions only came later.

The big problem is that when it was instituted as several (eventually six) pilot schemes, it was mostly 'to see what will happen', as I said it was a great leap of faith. This meant not enough thought was given to its situation within the formal structure (I use the term loosely) of heritage management in the UK. In any case, it only applied to England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland went different ways). The PAS was mentioned in no legislation, did not have a statute, was a very ad hoc arrangement with no real set aims, scope or remit, which gave it the ability to shape-shift throughout its eighteen year history (Sept 1997 to 1st May 2015).  These two factors were to lead to its downfall.

PAS Meltdown (3): The Prehistory of the PAS

It is worth taking a quick look at the prehistory of the PAS in order to understand what it is/was and what it is/was not. Two documents in particular are significant, and it is good to see that although they were written when archaeological use of the "World Wide Web" was still in its infancy, they are available online.

They are however preceded by one more. The text written by the CBA 'Portable Antiquities: a Statement of Principles' was published in the International Journal of Cultural Property in 1994 (vol 3[1] pp 187 - 189) made a case for bringing portable antiquities within the law in England and Wales. This postulated that finder of archaeological objects (portable antiquities) should be obliged to report any discovery to allow competent recording of information, and important material should be retained in the public domain with appropriate recompense for the finder/landowner, and that the definition of 'material of archaeological interest' should be undertaken by competent authorities.

Two years later this was followed by the publication (Feb 1996) by the 'Department of national Heritage' of the seminal text 'Portable Antiquities: a Discussion Document'. This draws heavily on the results of the study by Dobinson and Denison  which recommends taking a collaborative line with artefact hunting. Here we have in an official document the claim of 400 000 to 1.5 million hoiked objects a year (24 000 from Norfolk alone)  . It goes on to say these finds are associated with much important archaeological information and that the arrangements for their recording were rather ad hoc. although there were areas of Britain where this was much better developed than others. The document seeks views on how to improve the recording of "all archaeological objects, not just those covered by [the Treasure laws]". To deal with this problem, the government proposed a choice of two options:
a) A statutory duty to report all archaeological objects,
b) a 'voluntary code of practice' for the recording of archaeological objects.
The latter was preferred, though only for the reason that it would be quicker to set up (not requiring a change in primary legislation), though it was recognized that a statutory duty would allow better control of the market in illicit artefacts. A voluntary scheme (note that the word 'Scheme' was not used - it was assumed the work would be carried out within local museums to some extent in the course of their normal duties) to deal with finds from artefact hunting would involve 65-70 staff and cost about 700 000 pounds at 1996 values [the PAS had much fewer staff even at its heyday]. 
"Since it accepts that there is a need to take action as a matter of urgency, the Government believes that it would be right at least initially to go for a voluntary system, while recognizing that there may be a need in the long term to move towards a legal requirement if the voluntary system proves to be ineffective".
How "effective" was one-in-five attained in eighteen years of PAS operation? If there was a need to take urgent action twenty years ago, how much more or less urgent is it to take action now to get higher levels of recording from artefact hunters?

 Suzie Thomas has been through all this material, and she will have seen the NCMD response, which I have not. I assume they went straight for the 'voluntary' approach and almost certainly then will have kicked up a fuss about some side issues. What is more easily accessible is the  response (20 June 1996) of the StandingConference on Portable Antiquities.* By this time Dobinson and Denison's  Metal detecting and archaeology in England had been published, urging improved liaison between archaeologists and the metal detecting community and the increase of understanding of archaeology in the latter that this would bring about.  One of the principle points raised about a voluntary scheme was that:
Formal mechanisms will be required for the coordination of reporting, recording, and data transfer, since provision for these activities will often rest with different bodies and straddles existing divisions of responsibility.[...] Provision should exist for national oversight of the scheme, at least in its initial stages, to:
- set minimum standards in recording, to ensure a sufficient degree of inter-county comparability [...]
- monitor effectiveness
- provide a mechanism for the recognition of best practice and its transfer to other areas
- ensure that results of reporting (eg new historical insights) are placed in the public domain
- coordinate funding of the pilot programme

It was suggested that a consortium be set up under the aegis of "an established organisation with a primary concern in one of the fields which reporting/recording straddles, capable of providing administive support for the pilot programme [...] and, if necessary, acting as a funding applicant and recipient on the consortium's behalf".The discussion document goes on:
We recommend a five-year plan, involving:
- establishment of national coordinating structure
- selection of pilot areas
- formulation (in discussion with pilot areas) of
a) funding arrangements and
b) operating criteria for reporting centres and points
c) an educational campaign, and arrangements for feedback to finders, owners, and the public
- trialling in pilot areas
- analysis of experience gained in trials- guidance as to nationwide extension
Following trials, development could continue on an area by area basis, with reporting centres contracting in as and when they felt ready to do so. This might prove more satisfactory than the immediate creation of a comprehensive national scheme. It would also allow for the transfer of best practice from experienced to less experienced areas. Graduated development should, however, be undertaken within a specified period, and leave no doubt of the intention to see a comprehensive national scheme in place at its end. The national consortium might disband at that point.
This was a proposal in fact to set up what eventually became the Portable Antiquities Scheme. In the light of the number of artefact hunters' finds still not being recorded it is interesting to see this empty hope:
A well-designed and well-run and actively promoted voluntary scheme could be effective, since it would rely on positive advocacy rather than compulsion, public interest and goodwill. It could also be argued that resources which might otherwise be needed for the enforcement of a statutory system could be invested instead in education and encouragement. 8.1.26 Success would require:
(a) A campaign of public education, sufficient to bring about a permanent change in public attitudes
(b) Adequate resourcing (see 10)
(c) Good planning and coordination
(d) Goodwill on the part of all interests concerned
That "permanent change in public attitudes" towards artefact hunting and collecting never developed. On the contrary, the PAS not only produced material which encouraged people to take up the hobby, but also did so in a way which legitimised all artefact collecting and empowered artefact collectors. Another interesting suggestion in the response that was never taken up by the PAS is the issue of credibility:
11.1 Sites and Monuments Records are both planning and research tools, and understandably concerned to ensure that the information they contain is accurate. This concern will increase if these databases are given a greater role within the planning system than they occupy now. An important issue to be addressed in national and county coordination, therefore, is how Sites and Monuments Records are to be sure that reported provenances are dependable.

The StandingConference on Portable Antiquities response also covered the government's other proposed option of a statutory duty to report in line with that of most other countries:
While the case for a statutory system appears to us to be strong, we accept that voluntary arrangements could be introduced more rapidly. It is also the case that if a Voluntary Code of Practice were to be successful, the need for legal reform would be correspondingly reduced. If a voluntary scheme is less than satisfactory, the experience gained, its infrastructure and systems, would assist more rapid transition to a statutory arrangement than could be achieved today.[...] On balance, therefore, we support the Government's view `that it would be right at least initially to go for a voluntary system'. We also agree that the case for a legal requirement would increase `if the voluntary system proved to be ineffective'.
 As indeed it now has. 

* The Standing Conference on Portable Antiquities was formed in May 1995 to achieve the widest possible consensus within the United Kingdom's archaeological and museum communities on future policy relating to portable antiquities

PAS Meltdown: (4) Two Ways, Two Wrong Turns

The ad hoc solution to the problem of vast amounts of artefacts going into the pockets of artefact hunters was set up as pilot schemes in 1997. As I pointed out in the previous post, to a great degree, what was embarked upon was a social experiment. A Scheme was set up to co-ordinate the nationwide voluntary recording of finds which was to be based in recording centres in museums and other institutions such as HERs. One of the early conceptions was that it was not necessarily to be a permanent scheme in itself, just set the mechanism in progress.

At the centre of the whole idea was education, about why recording is important. This means both the social aspect - sharing the information about the bits of the common heritage which artefacts were helping themselves to and taking away, and also what archaeology does with these data. That was the idea, in the event neither of these aims were pursued by the PAS with any consistency.

Two other things happened. Artefact hunters were told that if the reported their finds (and the reporting was the only criterion) they earned the right to call themselves "responsible metal detectorists". The question of whether artefact hunting and collecting is in itself a  "responsible" way to treat the archaeological heritage was never addressed by the PAS. Still less was it ever in any way the subject of critical reflection by those engaged in the activity who were being termed the "partners' of the Scheme. Artefact hunters considered that the PAS meant that they had been given a green light. The PAS empowered artefact hunters, the call-word was "get off our case" (actually the subject of an address at a PAS national conference). What the increased press attention fostered by the PAS and its failure to spread knowledge of the issues led to was an increase in the number of metal detectorists. While in 2003 my estimate was that there were 10000 active artefact hunters with metal detectorists in the UK, by 2013 there was evidence which I felt meant that estimate should be revised to somewhere around 16000. A 60% increase during the PAS' watch. 

The other thing that was happening was that the whole process of stripping diagnostic and collectable pieces out of archaeological sites was being legitimised. All over the world, heritage professionals are working jolly hard to stop artefact hunting. People have been sent to jail for it. Yet over in Bonkers Britain, Roger Bland and his Merry Men were making it not only legitimate, but fashionable, and - worse - presenting it as a beneficial activity. Of course collectors everywhere, probably on six continents (except Antartica) are full of praise for the "British system', though more often than not an imagination of what this fantasy system consists of. All they care about is that collecting goes on with government sanction. They all want a Treasure Act and PAS in the source countries.

All those collectors are going to be disappointed then that the "British System" is now disintegrating. Their fantasies have been frustrated. Still they can always set one up in the USA to show us all "how it should have been done".

PAS Meltdown: (5) The British Museum Steps in

The Portable Antiquities Scheme was headed by Roger Bland of the British Museum, which institution it must in fairness be said invested a lot in the time one of (at first) their numismatic curators spent on developing this scheme and then its later running. From April 2003, the Heritage Lottery Fund funded the Scheme's operation for three years, and as from April 2006 the scheme secured full funding from the DCMS, until March 2008. The project was administered by the   Museums, Libraries and Archives Council which was dissolved in October 2011. By this time, the administration of the scheme passed (in stages?) to the British Museum. In April 2006, the Portable Antiquities Scheme central unit became an official department within the BM, the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure (formerly it had been a subsection of the Depratment of Coins and Medals). At this time, (April 2006) the scheme secured full funding from the DCMS, until March 2008, and this funding has been renewed periodically, administered through the BM. The structure of the organization was as follows.
the Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure, a Deputy Head 
a Resources Manager (formerly administrator)
thirty-six external FLOs - most employed by 'local partners'
six Finds Advisers
an ICT Adviser
[there was also once a part-time illustrator and an education officer]
Everything was coherently organized within the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure, but in July 2012 Roger Bland was appointed Keeper of Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory and was less involved in the day to day running of the Scheme. We have no way of knowing just what was going on behind the scenes in the intervening period, Roger Bland became head of a Leverhulme Trust funded project about the research uses of the PAS database with two assistants to help. The Scheme went on functioning much as before. Since the Scheme in general was always very secretive about what was happening, it was less disturbing than, on hindsight, it should have been that there was fogginess about the mysterious announcements which began to appear in 2014 about a new manner of applying 'volunteers' (which I dubbed 'karaoke recorders'). A public opinion survey was done about the Scheme's "audiences" (note the term) and the PAS was extraordinarily cagey about answering questions about what exactly was in the pipeline. Perhaps now we see why.

Earlier on this year, a number of people outside the Museum - apparently archaeologists and politicians - began getting messages from Dr Bland asking for help opposing  funding problems  and certain moves within the Museum. There was nothing much new in this, as we have seen, when the PAS was set up, there was no fixed system of financing it established, indeed to some extent at the beginning it was experimental. The PAS has been fighting for funds for well over a decade and lurching from one severe financial crisis to the next. Not infrequently this was accompanied by various strenuous attempts to get support from archaeologists and on one infamous occasion metal detectorists.

The announcement of the change which occurred on 1st May 2015 in the British Archaeology Magazine has some strange phrasing, it bears reading between the lines. What is much more interesting is that there was no official announcement by the BM itself, which apparently is treating this as an internal affair. It quite clearly is not. In terse words, the magazine's text informs its readers that Roger Bland has resigned from his post in the Museum (not just the PAS in which he had only a limited role since 2012). 
"The Treasure Team and the Portable antiquities Scheme [...] have been relocated within the management structure of the British Museum. The Museum says the staff changes will be beneficial. Roger Bland who [...] formerly led the Museum's Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure has resigned [...] Jonathan Williams, BM deputy director, told staff that the changes, which came into effect on May 1, will, on balance, be beneficial".
The staff changes are presented succinctly as follows:
The PAS (under its head Michael Lewis) and Treasure teams have moved from the Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory to that of Learning Volunteers and Audiences. From there, it is argued, they will be able to support the BM in its drive to be the "museum of the country", working with partners outside London [...] Dan Pett and Mary Chester-Kadwell, who maintain the critically-important PAS database, have been transferred to the Museum's new Digital and Publishing Department. 
Staff changes are not the only problem:
The BM has cut the PAS budget by 6%. From April, PAS funding is no longer ring-fenced within the museum's government grant, which has been steadily falling [...] Roger Bland [...] "I hope the British Museum continues to ensure that the PAS is adequately funded in the difficult times ahead", he told British Archaeology, "because I know how easily the whole structure could collapse." He leaves in July. 
The BM claims that these changes will not impact on delivery or external relationships other than in a positive way. I think that is self-evidently not the case, and will explain why in the next post (below).
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