Sunday 29 July 2018

My Reply to the 'Helsinki Gang'

No permission was given to publish their email to me, so here is my reply to them ( Pieterjan Deckers, Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis)  
22nd July 2018
Dear Dr Deckers, writer on behalf of all co-authors of ‘The Complexities…’ (2018),
Thank you for your reply to my message of Sun, 8 Jul 2018. I have a few points 

1) You (plural) belatedly write dismissively: We are not intending to respond to you further on this issue
In academic English, the adjective 'further' would imply that you have already responded, which is inaccurate as in fact you (plural) have not at all.

2) You (plural) claim that you are somehow unable to reply because: we find your approach unprofessional
I think you (plural) will find as we enter the second decade of the 21st century that the use of the specific format of social media to disseminate views on heritage issues will take on an increasing importance in allowing public participation in conservation debates. There is therefore nothing inherently ‘unprofessional, ‘unnecessarily antagonistic’ or ‘unreasonable’ in using such a format for expressing opinions and engaging in polemic with freshly-published texts on heritage issues. On the contrary, it brings the debate into the public domain and allows stakeholder engagement in a way traditional ‘professional’ academic publishing fails to do. Neither are my arguments ‘unreasoned’, as you seem to be claiming.

3) I do, however, feel that it is wholly unreasonable – if not naïve - of you (plural) to assume that six academics professionally -interested (MEDEA, DIME, PAN, SuALT etc.), in the foundations of the PAS-approach not being questioned to ‘respond’ in the way you did will not arouse comment. You seem to have assumed that, by ignoring the fundamental point Dr Hardy made about reporting levels, and trying simply to dismiss it (while avoiding actually discussing it), your text would elicit no response at all. You seem to have expected your authoritarian pronouncements to pass in silent approval, and perhaps that if you do not mention it we would all soon forget that Dr Hardy made a potentially significant point about the level of collection-driven knowledge erosion is going unrecorded in the UK.

4) You claim, If you read our paper carefully, you will find that despite our background as researchers this piece is not intended to further a specific agenda regarding metal detecting.
I have (of course) read it very closely and I wholly disagree. There is a very clear agenda in, and (MEDEA, DIME, PAN, SuALT etc.) context to, what you (plural) wrote. The whole section five is, as I point out, not in fact in any way a ‘response’ to what Hardy wrote. I am not really surprised that you decline to take that point up in any reasoned form of discussion, it seems to me beyond discussion why it is there in black and white.

And it is precisely because of your academic background and employment, that we would expect there to be an objective approach to what Dr Hardy wrote and the conclusions to which he came. I am disappointed that you cannot see that the reader gets, instead, what has every appearance of being a rather incoherent multi-author smokescreen.

5) My blog posts are there for anyone who is at all interested to read. The objective reader, who has what you wrote (and did not write) there in black and white in front of them, and my commentary on it (and those of others), can judge for themselves the value and nature of your (plural) contribution to the wider reasoned debate as academics and heritage professionals. That is the nature of public debate and accountability in heritage management. I would like them also to be able to judge the significance of the way that, in your letter to me just now, you attempt to dodge actually addressing the points I made. May I put your original email verbatim on my blog, so what six academics and heritage professionals wrote to me on this matter is properly in the public domain? It deserves to be.

6) You say the current state of debate calls for an objective, nuanced, broadly comparative analysis, which could inform effective heritage policies adapted to the conditions in each legislative context; The figures Dr Hardy came up with for England/Wales and Scotland do indeed call for objective analysis - and the whole point I am making is that you (plural) in your 'response' totally fail to do that.

I do not see why a 'comparative' approach looking at 'Finland' (p. 327) and (p. 326) 'Poland' would achieve that - but that's what you urge doing, instead of looking at the evidence behind the massive scale (96%) of missing data that Hardy sees in PAS-land. I would say we’d need to look at that before investing public money in any attempts to follow suit in other countries (MEDEA, DIME, PAN, SuALT etc.), wouldn’t you? Also, as I have said, in my opinion, any attempt to do any cross-comparison is hampered by the inadequate vague terminology you use.

7) In your letter you (plural) again criticise Dr Hardy’s paper saying we find it is based on implicit and wrong assumptions, This is what you said in the text that we are discussing, and as I pointed out there is no reason for an objective reader to assess them in those terms, and in the process point out a few of your (plural) own statements that seem to me highly questionable. I would therefore suggest (and the readers of my comments can judge for themselves if I am right) that your ‘response’ has not ‘balanced’ anything, simply attempted to skew the argument away from the very points that Hardy was making.

8) You assert boldly We would welcome a response to our article in a scholarly forum, I take it that here you are being snobbish about reasoned comment in widely-available social media, even though your (plural) own publication is also just an ephemeral internet one.

As far as I know, there are plans in progress for more than one as I write. Let us see how truly 'welcoming' you (plural) and your (plural) metal detecting ‘partners’ will be of the conclusions of two of them. You (plural) are now well and truly in this together. I too look forward to a proper debate on an issue that I have been trying to raise for a decade and a half, and consistently meeting all the time the same sort of condescending response as embodied by your (plural) letter.

Paul Barford 

A Matter of Belief and Faith in Artefact Hunters: The Ixelles Six side with Robin Symes

David Gill wrote in May about 'Symes and a Roman medical set' (May 10, 2018) concerning some loose metal items associated with the fragments of a case:
Schinousa archive photo of loose metal objects
Pierre Bergé and Associés of Paris are offering a rare Roman bronze medical set (16 May 2018, lot 236). Its recorded history is: "Ancienne collection Hishiguro, Tokyo, 1992". [...] . The set appears to be the one that has been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogannis from an image in the Schinousa archive thus linking it to Robin Symes. Given that the catalogue entry suggests that this piece came from a funerary context and that the history of the piece can only be traced back to 1992 (and not to 1970), questions are being raised about the set's origins.
The Ixelles Six (on pp. 323-34 of their recent joint article) step in with an explanation. According to them, there is nothing at all wrong with this. These objects may have been found in a country with permissive (collector-friendly) legislation - such as the UK-  and their undocumented appearance on the market is not information lost through artefact hunting, not at all, it is (they say) simply 'zero gain'.

Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis (2018, p. 323-4) assure us that it is 'fundamentally wrong' (or as they put it 'a simplistic and incorrect basic assumption') to assert that unrecorded removal of metal artefacts like these from wherever they were originally buried or found equals irrevocable damage to the cultural heritage of an area, and that excavating that site would be less damaging. They apparently consider anyone who disagrees with them as simply ignorant and lacking their 'thorough understanding of the background, practices and impacts' of artefact hunting. You see (I guess, ignoring the effects on the actual part of the archaeological record they came from),
in order to be considered ‘cultural damage’, a find and/or its associated information would have to be irretrievably lost. This assumed loss is a two-step process. Firstly, the ‘unscientific extraction’ of archaeological artefacts in itself, occurring whenever a[n artefact hunter] digs down and retrieves an object from the soil, is assumed to be inherently damaging. [...].
They claim that this is not always the case, they claim that ancient artefacts can be found simply 'loose' in nature (in a field for example) and then nothing is gained by not having a record of its associations and relationship with other material. That's what they say (p. 323-4). But then, how can one tell that a particular find was indeed made loose in a field if there is no documentation of its extraction from the ground? Assuming these objects were not found buried together in an archaeological context seems a matter of belief (faith) than an empirical fact. They go on to say that the artefact hunters (who may even have been amateurs, not 'professionals') from whom a middleman obtained these artefacts may have preserved the associated information of its findspot and associations, so they cannot be said to be lost at all (another matter of faith and belief in artefact hunters). Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis write:
It is true that a number of finds go unreported, even under a permissive legislation and with a recording scheme in place. However, this unreported information is not necessarily lost; often [artefact hunters] keep private records of their finds and finds locations [...], many [...] are open to collaboration and willingly give access to this information when asked by professional archaeologists, even if they have not reported on their own initiative, a phenomenon described elsewhere in studies on avocational artefact collecting attitudes as “responsive” (e.g. Shott, 2017, p. 135). One may wonder whether such ‘hoarding’ [artefact hunter]s are more willing to divulge information later on under permissive or restrictive legal regimes!
So I guess what they are saying is that (if we could find out which country this group of items came from) by making the law of that country less restrictive, those artefact hunters would be sharing their information with archaeologists. Like a lot of little Schinousa archives suddenly surfacing. But then, is a mere record of 'finds and finds locations' enough to preserve the data on the associations and relationship with other material in the context of deposition?  We may doubt that, but hey, they are the Ixelles Six. They know.

But more, the Ixelles Six question the postulation of preservation. Preservation for what?
Another aspect that should be considered is the likelihood that an artefact would yield information if it was not recovered by a[n artefact hunter]. [...] development-led archaeological fieldwork in North-West Europe often employs sampling strategies rather than fully excavating the threatened area. Thus [...] artefacts outside the sample areas would still be overlooked, and likely lost forever during the subsequent building work.
So therefore archaeological excavation is made to sound more damaging (in an object-centric view) than total artefact hunting  But, Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis ignore the fact that Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological record makes a selection of artefact assemblages and does not attempt '100% rescue'.  We come back to that  'thorough understanding of the background, practices and impacts' of artefact hunting, I guess.

These Six, four of them the staff of foreign universities, appear to conclude that:
It [...] is too simplistic to equate unreported metal [...] finds with the loss of cultural heritage [...]  unreported finds are not damage, but at worst a zero-gain (as they may not have been picked up by regulated fieldwork, or may have been lost through damaging agricultural activity), at best information that may become available in the future. It is our view that, in countries that liaise with [artefact hunters], these finds data [...] can advance archaeological knowledge, complementing traditional archaeological survey and fieldwork
So is the sale of the undocumented Symes medical instrument assemblage anything to be concerned about, or should we take a lead from the assurances of Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis that  everything is all right in la-la-land partnership between archaeology and antiquities collecting? I'd be interested to hear their development of this idea of theirs, maybe refining it with information about when they feel / know/ opine that artefact hunting without documentation is harmful, and when it is not (and why). Some suggestions of empirical and transnationally-applicable rules please.

 Source text:
Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat,  Natasha Ferguson,Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis and Suzie Thomas,(2018)  The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and practice [...] Open Archaeology 4 322-333. [accessed Jul 27 2018].

Friday 27 July 2018

“Criminogenic collectables” Collectors are the real looters

Dr Donna Yates has just been awarded a €1.5 million European Research Council Starting Grant for the project: "Trafficking transformations: objects as agents in transnational criminal networks"
Donna’s 5 year project will explore the role that objects play within transnational criminal networks, exploring the broad question “can objects cause crimes?” Using methodologies for understanding the relationships between objects and people, and how networks form from these relationships, Yates and her team will follow the pathways of what they’ve termed “criminogenic collectables”: objects of desire and collecting that seem to, at times, inspire crime. Specifically, they will be looking at the movements of cultural objects, fossils, and collectable rare wildlife starting in the Americas, the South Pacific, and Africa. Donna’s team includes Prof Simon Mackenzie of the Trafficking Culture Project and Dr Annette Hübschle of the University of Cape Town.

I like that phrase, 'criminalogenic collectables'. the word 'coins' springs to mind. But is a broader sense the term I promote 'collection-Driven exploitation of the archaeological record' relates as it makes the link between the activity (digging holes in the archaeological record) and the object of desire. Congratulations Donna.

Collectors' Corner: Authentic Arrowhead Art of large Texas all genuine Artifacts Over 200 pieces WoW

Authentic Arrowhead Art of large Texas all genuine Artifacts Over 200 pieces WoW
Over 200 Authentic arrow head pieces many of them can go for 50.00 for just one, one of a kind no other like it .
and artefact collectors claim that they need to take these items from the archaeological record to 'study' them, and 'preserve the history;... here we see them made into a patriotic local-geography themed decorative item and trophy-piece. Naff.

Research 'Fairness' on Display at the Antiqs

There are a whole load of folk out there who see the problem with PAS and the Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record as a simple 'half-full / half-empty glass'  problem (when in fact Sam Hardy's work suggests that in the case of England and Wales, its more like a PAS database only 4% full and sites and assemblages where the archaeological record is as much as 96% empty). One of the blinkered adherents of the PAS-success story tells me that he'll be at the Society of Antiquaries of London  this afternoon:
promoting our work researching medieval markets through PAS data (which the SAL has helped fund, besides the BA etc) and will be joined by a couple of responsible detectorists highlighting what they do. It will be good to discuss the benefits of responsible detecting with open minded individuals...
Individuals like collector John Hooker FSA, no doubt. I sincerely doubt that Fellows will be getting much more of an overview of what 'metal detectorists' do than if they went onto a 'metal detecting forum' and saw at first hand the more candid picture there. 

I think a blinkered researcher of 'productive sites=markets' is trying to kid us all that a few people calling themselves 'responsible detectorists' are representative of all 27 000 'metal detectorists' of Hardy's estimate. I would say that it is more likely that Fellows are having the wool pulled over their eyes by a pars-pro-toto misrepresentation.

It is, Mike Lewis, the real open-minded individuals who are going beyond mere acceptance of glib PAS fluff propaganda-of-success representations of collectors with metal detectors and are going to continue to hold you and your staff accountable for the blatant misrepresentations of the nature and scale of the problem.
Understanding Medieval Fairs - explore and use a specialised database developed to aid our understanding of Medieval commercial activities, as well as archaeological finds and presentations from the research project led by Dr Michael Lewis.
So, is he showing a database or metal detectorists? This seems from this account largely to be a text-driven project. where the archaeological finds are used to 'illustrate' what we know primarily from the documents, rather than being a source in their own right. 

There are several online sources helping collectors to target known sites from the documentary evidence, such as the one started by Dr Samantha Letters here (mirror here). It is also clear from the 'how to go metal detecting' guides in and out of print that such sites have long been a favorite target, if the searcher can get permission to hoik objects from the archaeological record there (even if they do not, some detector users still go to 'productive' sites like these). Here's a fair site targeted by metal detector using collectors. What 'data' are these? 

Heritage Action also detail several artefact grabfests at Weyhill  Fair (such as this post). Maybe Fellows might like to check what 'advances to knowledge' have emerged from the records of metal artefacts hoiked from this findspot...   Here's the 32 medieval objects reported from this parish, with coins making up about a third - but only from the end of 2015. So where are the rest? This is telling, because in 2014 we read of one field that was very productive and everyone agreed had a lot more to offer”. Yet not to the PAS database which seems a very deficient basis for any kind of 'research' if the 'data' it contains are not in any way representative of the actual contents of that fair site - and in any case, since all the objects are decontextualised by the collectors who selectively took away the objects that piqued their interest, there is no way to differentiate finds from activities connected with the fair, and those connected with activities on the site between fairs. I would say that an 'open mind' would conclude that the SAL is wasting its money on a research project based on incomplete data taken out of the context of discovery.

UPDATE 27.07.2018
From my informant in SAL, I heard that nobody asked any difficult questions about sources. I guess Mr Lewis confused :"open minds" with "receptive minds". 

Thursday 26 July 2018

Professor Gill urges the Ixelles Six to 'Revise their Confrontational Response'

Professor David Gill weighs in on the reaction by certain academics from the universities of Helsinki, Brussels, Aarhus,  and Amsterdam to Dr Sam Hardy's findings in his text 'Quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: Estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods'. He writes ('Metal-detecting in context and open-source analysis' Looting Matters July 26, 2018) rather scathingly of the response of Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Natasha Ferguson, Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis, and Suzie Thomas that has aroused such enthusiasm in metal detecting circles:
Their unconvincing paper made an attempt to dismiss Hardy's careful research. Sam Hardy has now written an extended response, 'a response to a response on metal-detecting and open-source analysis', Conflict Archaeology (26 July 2018). Deckers et al. will need to revise their confrontational response.

Dr Hardy Responds to his Critics on Quantification of Damage through Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record

Dr Sam Hardy has responded to the Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang with a constructive article ('A response to a response on metal-detecting and open-source analysis' Conflict Antiquities [section on Illicit Antiquities, Research] posted on July 26, 2018). He points out some serious flaws in the logic of Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis when discussing his original text (including that curious claim that artefact hunting is not really all that damaging). In his text he also draws attention to some aspects of his research that the six of them, apparently so eager to intimate that his approach was amateurish, biased and ignorant, had obviously missed. 

Dr Hardy is one of those that thinks the debate needs proper terminology, and in his latest text he criticizes the use by the Six of the woolly term 'non-professional metal detecting' as inadequate to the actual problem being discussed, which is not 'collectors rights' or 'ownership of the past', but how much evidence of the past is being stripped from sites and archaeological assemblages through Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological Record. In other words the exact question which the Ixelles Six attempt to dodge by claiming it is 'complex'. No, it's not at all complex, looting damages sites, damages the archaeological resource. 

Dr Hardy also contrasts the problems he has had with British and foreign supporters of 'metal detecting' with some of his other work in a passage that makes interesting reading for somebody whose experiences are very similar:
In fact, I had actively avoided the subject of metal-detecting in my work because of the bitter divide between “pro-detecting” and “anti-detecting” factions; I only started addressing it because international institutions wanted data. Still, I am aware that, in this rancorous debate, I am categorised as anti-detecting [...] Since I started working on detecting in 2015, academics have accused me of being a propagandist, academics have implied that I need an apologist (because Paul Barford responded on Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues, while I was working on a piece about a colleague who is unjustly imprisoned in Turkey, a piece which I paused to get this post out of the way) and detectorists have intimated that I am going to get a knock on the door. So, I have to say (publicly, as I have said privately) that, although I believe that the study of metal-detecting can be insightful and I enjoy academic discussion (and although a sideline of work on metal-detecting is inevitable), I would like to devote my time and energy to (and enjoy the collegial atmosphere of) research into organised crime and political violence.
Which says it all really.  But it is the support of academics like Deckers et al. for collectors and collecting that empowers collectors to behave in this way towards others who are less compliant and complicit. These six heritage professionals are currently being feted in 'metal detecting' circles for the service they have done the 'detecting' community. 

We await, with bated breath, the response of the Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang, as well as the metal detectorists to Hardy's reply to their article. The latter milieu will have problems because it's 'too many words' and the former... well, it seems that they all consider reading a blog where the general public have access is apparently beneath the dignity of a scholar. 

Let it be on record though, when assessing the 'contribution' of Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis  to the debate on Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, that Dr Hardy wrote a constructive reasoned article to develop discussion based on the points they raised. Will they now develop that discussion they promised? Like on those shocking figures deduced for England and Wales and concurrent the shortfall in PAS 'outreach' suggested massive non-compliance of the 'partners'? Don't bate your breath too long, waiting. 

Vignette: The Ixelles Six/Helsinki gang dug themselves into a hole (from HJ: 'Metal detecting and a mess born of professional arrogance')

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Rotary Looting: Rotary Club Organize Metal Detecting Rally 'in Hadrian's Wall Country'.

A Rotary Club think it will attract history-hungry artefact grabbers if they advertise that a commercial rally is to take place 'in Hadrian's Wall Country'. I would have thought that would precisely be the reason that any (truly) responsible detectorist would stay away
Annual Metal Detecting Rally 2018
Metals (sic) Detecting in Hadrian's Wall Country.
Approx 80 acres not previously detected! Little Corby Hall Farm, Little Corby, Warwick Bridge, Nr Carlisle. CA4 8QS. £13 pre-entry by cheque or £15 on the day. Arable land around 80 acres not previously detected. Approx 2.5 miles south of Hadrians Wall. Further details Derek Wallace
It's not previously detected they say twice, so the archaeological record has so far not been emptied of anything collectable/diagnostic. Mind you, after this rally, another part of Britain's finite and fragile archaeological record will be corrupted and damaged with inadequate records made.

I wonder if the PAS will be contacting them about the idea and informing them that the Code of Practice dissuades artefact hunting on pasture as in the photo.


Monday 23 July 2018

Ixelles Six Exhibit 'Trumpist' Attitudes to Buried Heritage

The Ixelles Six (fair use, from public domain)
Trump administration officials dismissed benefits of national monuments (Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post July 23 2018)  In the US, senior Interior Department officials dismissed evidence of the benefits of preserving national monuments and the value of archaeological discoveries, according to documents the department released this month and retracted a day later.
The thousands of pages of email correspondence chart how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides instead tailored their survey of protected sites to emphasize the value of logging, ranching and energy development that would be unlocked if they were not designated national monuments. Comments the department’s Freedom of Information Act officers made in the documents show that they sought to keep some of the references out of the public eye because they were “revealing [the] strategy” behind the review.
So that is rather like Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis stating categorically that it is 'fundamentally wrong' and a 'simplistic and incorrect basic assumption' to say that artefacts removed from the archaeological record by collection-driven artefact hunting and not recorded represents 'irrevocable damage to the cultural heritage of an area' and more destructive than if the sites that are looted had been archaeologically excavated and documented properly (here, p. 323, two-thirds down). They too represent a 'cut it all down, dig it all up for use now' standpoint exemplifying the benefits of not bothering to try and preserve sites from such exploitation (pp. 328-30).

UNESCO: Illicit Trafficking of cultural goods fuels terrorism

Sunday 22 July 2018

[Not going to be] Debating Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record with the Ixelles Six

Helsinki pissing
I have just had a condescending letter from a person claiming to speak on behalf of the Ixelles Six who attempted to trash Sam Hardy's research on the scale of non-recording by 'metal detectorists'. On their behalf he says they all refuse to discuss the issues I raise in my comments. I have asked for permission to post their letter to me online as a matter of public record. They should allow that and you can see what they wrote.

Instead of replying to the issues I raise with the tactics they use to Hardy's conclusions are wrong, and agenda-driven 'never mind the damage look at the benefits', they say in their letter to me:
We would welcome a response to our article in a scholarly forum, and we hope Sam Hardy, or someone else, writes a reasoned article to develop discussion.
I would suggest that one may perfectly reasonably conclude that developing the discussion in the direction Sam Hardy and myself were going is the last thing wanted by these representatives of projects such as MEDEA, DIME, PAN, SuALT etc. I think they are expecting a different kind of incestuous academic back-slapping response from other SuAlt project members perhaps. I am not sure whether they really will 'welcome' the conclusions of other writers with whom I have already discussed their efforts. Adjectives such as 'lazy', 'shoddy', 'patronising' tended to dominate. We can only find other adjectives in the dark side of the blogosphere belonging to the collectors who are delighted that they have 
impressively demolished [Dr] Sam Hardy’s anti-metal detecting Research Paper. 
It seems that the Ixelles Six, the PAS and the collection-driven exploiters of the archaeological record are more deeply in this together than they ever have been before.
They have now all firmly pinned their colours to the notion that Dr Hardy cannot possibly be right. And if the scholarly forum agrees that it is they who are wrong...? What then for the further funding of the PAS and the future of 'responsible' artefact hunting in the UK?

What the Ixelles Six (aka Helsinki Gang) Would Prefer not to Address

The Ixelles Six, professionals all (public domain, fair use)

The authors of ‘The complexities of MD policy and practice’, were invited to comment on the four texts I wrote addressing the issues raised by their text. There are four main parts, with an introduction:
Sunday, 8 July 2018
'The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and Practice' (Summary) 
'The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and Practice' (1) The Ixelles Three and their Problem 
'The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and Practice' (2): The Ixelles Six and their Viewpoint 
'The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and Practice' (3): The Ixelles Six - Unreasonably Opiniated 
'The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and Practice' (4): Summing up the 'Contribution' of the Ixelles Six

I cannot really see what stood in the way of them addressing the main point Hardy made, which seems to me to be a fundamental issue to highlight and resolve before suggesting that any PAS, TTU   or whatever is achieving anything in the way of archaeological mitigation of knowledge theft due to Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record.

As a result, it also seems to me that public investment in projects in other countries (MEDEA, DIME, PAN, SuALT to which - though they do not declare it in the footer to the first page of their text - the authors of this 'response' belong) which are premised on the alleged 'benefits' of collaborating with 'non-professional metal detectorists' on the model of the PAS is highly premature. 

Some of the points made in their text are also already mentioned in several other posts I have blogged on earlier. These include:
Monday, 25 June 2018 To One of the Authors of the Text-With-an-Overlong-Title
Monday, 25 June 2018 Ixelles Six: "Discouraging 'the Ignorant' from Forming an Opinion Opposite to Ours"
Tuesday, 26 June 2018 Ixelles scores an own goal? 
These two go together:Tuesday, 3 July 2018 Surface Sites Out of Sight of 'Transnational' Academics? Monday, 2 July 2018 Could of Come From king Richerd's Horse ... Bosworth pillaged (bad grammar here of course ironic)
just for completeness’ sake, Heritage Action also mentioned their efforts Conservation shame. 07/07/2018 and here is my take on that:  Saturday, 7 July 2018 Heritage Action Clearing the Fog..
More recently there has been  

Monday, 9 July 2018  'Metal Detecting' (sic) 'Policy' (sic) in Bonkers Britain, not 'Complex' (sic) at all
Tuesday, 10 July 2018   'Ixelles Six' or 'Helsinki Gang': love-child of SuALT and Addressing Finnish Academic Funding Body?  (I should have spotted this before)
Sunday, 15 July 2018,   'How Many 'Metal Detectorists' are there in England and Wales? ' and   'A Revised Artefact Erosion Counter' (and I will be developing these ideas in future posts)

The Ixelles Six (presumably after weighing up the pros and cons), have of course, just announced two weeks on that they will ignore the points I made, . Since that is what they'd already done to Hardy’s uncomfortable main substantive conclusion, there were no surprises there. It is my experience that supporters of collecting never can sustain a discussion when they are challenged by somebody who has been looking into the topic for two decades and who knows what's-what and also heard before and formed an opinion on all the weak glib arguments. 

I do however maintain my invitation to any of these six authors willing to break ranks with their fellow gang-members (quote: 'We write articles together, but usually not e-mails', perhaps that applies to other social media), that, should they feel able to answer with some substantive arguments or points, all and any of you are perfectly welcome to send a public comment that I will publish on this blog. 

But I think it is now clear what they cannot face discussing in its wider context, and to what degree in wanting a free, honest, open and objective discussion of the wider issues and context of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, we are actually on the same side.

Airport Rhino Statue Stolen

An investigation has been launched in New South Wales, recover a fibreglass rhino statue that was stolen from the turn-off to the Dubbo City Regional Airport  (Jennifer Hoar, 'Dubbo airport rhino statue stolen, $2500 reward for information' Daily Liberal July 20th 2018)
“The audacity of someone to be able to get away and steal a rhino that size … poachers!” Mayor Ben Shields said. [...] “It sounds funny but it’s actually serious … the rhinos are there to promote Dubbo and we’re starting to build a real reputation for being a vibrant city and a lot of that has been on the back of the work of the Taronga Western Plains Zoo. “Now we’ve got this idiot out there that thinks they deserve to have this community asset more than the entire community.
and I wonder whether, when they find him, it'll turn out he has a metal detector too.

Saturday 21 July 2018

The Detector Lie

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” —Winston Churchill

Metal detecting on arable land

Stark results from MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines: False information retweeted by more people than the true stuff, and faster to boot. True stories take, on average, six times longer than falsehoods to reach at least 1,500 people. via
Or, as someone put it: “It’s a lot easier to get people to repeat a lie they like than to repeat a truth they have to think about".

Collecting as 'Citizen Science'

'Citizen entomologists' are being recruited by the British Museum of Natural History and other organizations to take part in the Big Butterfly Count. The idea is to find 'productive' sites and get the butterflies, and using special killing jars turn them into collectable items, which (when they are stuck on pins and stored in cabinets) can be identified and arranged in an ephemeral personal collection. Any that are surplus will find a ready market among collectors through, for example, eBay. The more rare the species is, the more interesting, some finders are willing to donate specimens to museum collections.

Oh? They don't? They do not collect the butterflies, only look where they are and record their presence? So how would that be 'citizen science' then? Bonkers, no?

Vignette: A British collection

Friday 20 July 2018

Libya recovers antiquities from the United States

At a ceremony at Libya's embassy in Washington was a ceremony in which several pots 'antiquities of Germanic Civilization'(Vandals?) from Libya were returned (AbdulkaderAssad, 'Libya recovers antiquities from the UnitedStates  Libya Obsewrver July 19, 2018)
The Libyan ambassador Wafaa Bugaages said on the embassy's website that the recovery of the antiquities was very significant as they are a vital part of the history of Libya and humankind as a whole. The ambassador thanked the US government and State Department as well as the Department of the Interior for their cooperation with Libyan authorities. The antiquities were returned by a US citizen who has been keeping them since the 1960s. Libya signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US last February in order to cooperate in returning smuggled and stolen antiquities to Libya. 

Nepal: Time to STOP the 'Great Plunder'

Al Jazeera Investigating how antiquities stolen from the Himalayas end up in museums and private collections around the world ('Nepal: The Great Plunder' 19 Jul 2018)
On the global art market, Himalayan statues of religious deities fetch millions of dollars. But to the Nepalese, they are living gods who have been stolen from their communities. In this exclusive Al Jazeera investigation, 101 East senior presenter and reporter Steve Chao takes viewers on a breathtaking journey across the Himalayas, to reveal how the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. As he seeks to expose the international black market in religious treasures, Chao travels across Nepal from its capital Kathmandu to remote and ancient Buddhist temples in Mustang. Since the 1980s, authorities estimate thieves have plundered tens of thousands of Nepalese antiquities. About 80 percent of the countries religious artefacts have been stolen and sold into the $8bn-a-year illegal black market in art. But as 101 East discovers, the Nepalese are now taking a stand and demanding a stop to the plunder of their greatest treasures. Local guide Tashi Bista says the thefts are hurting communities and their ability to worship. "When thieves look at our centuries-old statues and deities, they see millions of dollars of profit. To us, they are living, breathing gods," he says. "The thieves are destroying an ancient way of life for us." Posing as a prospective buyer, Steve Chao goes undercover to meet black market art dealers and learn how they bribe officials to falsify papers so that they can export antiques from Nepal. After showing his undercover filming to Nepalese police, Chao helps authorities conduct a sting on some of the country's most prominent antique dealers, leading to their arrests. Set against a stunning natural backdrop, this is the story of how treasures from an ancient time are being stolen and sold to the highest bidder, leaving a culture in peril.
And here are some of them right now on sale on eBay, when will it STOP?

Detectorists 'Ask an Archaeologist'

On 'Ask and Archaeologist day' in the UK, after twenty years of archaeological outreach to artefact hunters, an 'association' of  metal detector users had a question:
@AskAnArchDay The Detectorist Code of Practice states: 'If detecting takes place on pasture, be careful to ensure that no damage is done to the archaeological value of the land, including earthworks. Avoid damaging stratified archaeological deposits'... Could you expand on this?
The name of the Code is misquoted. The PAS attempted to resolve their doubts:
Portable Antiquities ‏ @findsorguk 18 July in answer to @Detectorists_ @AskAnArchDay
Objects found on land other than ploughsoil (like pasture) may still be in their original context. This means the soils surrounding them may hold important info about that object's life. [...] This is why it's important to disturb the context as little as possible so the information can be retrieved. It is always best to stop digging and seek archaeological advice. Our recent article in @TheSearcherMag goes into more detail about this.
No, the reason that 'responsible' artefact hunters are asked not to dig down blindly into archaeological deposits is NOT to preserve the 'important info about that object's life' contained in 'the soils surrounding them', it is because the artefacts hoiked out are part of the information contained within those 'soils'. Duh. It seems somebody should be explaining archaeology to the PAS with their stubbornly artefact-centric tunnel vision.

The PAS was set up to inform the general public about the archaeological issues surrounding finds made by the general public. Why then is this outreach material (paid for wit public money) placed in niche interest collectors magazines? To find out about archaeology, is the PAS expecting the man in the street to go out and buy a publication promoting Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological record for personal entertainment and profit?

Collectors' Corner: "They used to brake off the heads..."

Items for sale fromany-antiques  

Collection of four rare ancient gandhara statue and sculptures heads figurine dating pre Islam 1ste 2nd 3de century i guess. They origin from the current Pakistan Afghanistan area. This area converted to Islam after the 6th century and they destroyed all the god statues that people were worshiping which were not Islam related. The most comment practice was to brake off the heads. Nice lot for a starter of will enhance any ancient collection.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Stijn Heeran (Portable Antiquities of the Netherlands) says...

Stijn Heeren says ‘findspots are often more important than the finds’ in terms of enabling archaeologists to understand the past.

But one would have hoped that in a department of Archaeology a the Vrije Universitet Amsterdam ('free' or not) , they'd be teaching that in the interpretation of archaeological evidence it is not just the findspot, but especially the context and associations that are important. If the objects are 'unimportant', why are they collected? Why do we protect sites, if all we need to know to reach an 'understanding of the past' is a dot on a map representing the findspot of this or that coin, or diagnostic potsherd or brooch? Analysis of dot distribution maps of selected collectables is not any way to reach an understanding of the past that goes beyond that which Kossinna proposed.

Monday 16 July 2018

Metal Detectors on Sale in the UK Right Now

for sale
eBay, right now, 'item location, UK only': 986 results (New 836, Used 141, For parts or not working 9). Of these 38 are kiddies detector toys.

Brands available today: New
Garrett (82 items)  Minelab (37 items) XP (33 items) Bounty Hunter (20 items) C.Scope (19 items)   Tesoro (12 items)  Viewee (11 items) Seben (11 items) White's Electronics (10 items) Makro (10 items) Nokta (9 items) Wildgame Innovations (9 items) Treasure Hunter (8 items) Golden Mask (8 items) Homcom (5 items) Fisher (1 item) Unbranded (88 items)   Not specified (460 items)

Brands available today Used:
 Garrett (32 items) C.Scope (13 items) Minelab (12 items) Tesoro (10 items) White's Electronics (8 items) XP (5 items)  Bounty Hunter (4 items)  Teknetics (4 items) OKM (3 items) Fisher (1 item) Makro (1 item) Nokta (1 item) Seben (1 item)  Treasure Hunter (1 item) Viking (1 item) Unbranded (5 items) Not specified (48 items) 

The fact that UK dealers alone are offering (so have the expectation of selling) 930 metal detectors in one week/month suggests that there are a fair number of potential customers in the UK - bearing in mind that many metal detectors are also sold in brick-and-mortar venues (as well as at rallies etc).  How many?

What is interesting is that in British antiquities, sold from the UK alone, there are only 367 'metal detecting finds' auctions, some bulk lots. Many of them however do not look like actual metal detecting finds from fields (as opposed to finds from 'antique-tat'  and charity shops).  

Sunday 15 July 2018

A Revised Artefact Erosion Counter

The Counter should be treated 
seriously. The depletion and information
loss due to legal artefact hunting appears to be
on a far g
reater scale than the public is being told.

Heritage Action 2006

The implications of Sam Hardy's published figures for the Heritage Action artefact Erosion Counter: using the finds rate determined on the base of our own 'netnographic' study over a decade ago (an average 30.5 recordable finds a year), multiplied by Hardy's total number of 'licit' artefact hunters in England and Wales, that comes to one recordable artefact pocketed every 30.01 seconds by 'licit' detecting alone since the beginning of the PAS (the number taken by illegal searchers is on top of that).
And 'how many' of them did the PAS say they've recorded?  This is the elephant in the room ignored by the Ixelles Six /Helsinki Gang of academic apologists for artefact hunting and collecting.

Six academics distracted from what is important (Mark Bryan)

Now we have new and as yet unfalsified published figures available, let us see just how much of a deliberate underestimate the much-maligned (by artefact collectors and their supporters) Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter  actually represented. I started this counter at midnight of 15th July 2018. The 'since the start of the Portable Antiquities Scheme' starting figure then was 6,260,328.

free counter and adverts by POWr editor

UPDATE 6th Dec 2020
Just for the record, because this free counter mysteriously keeps vanishing and reappearing.... at the time of writing (15:00 Polish time, 6th December 2020), the number of counts is now 8, 687, 768.  There were 119.5 'ticks' per hour since then. 

UPDATE 31st December 2020
Just for the record, the Revised Artefact Erosion Counter  ticked over artefact  8,760,847 at midnight on 31st December 2020, at the end of the second decade of the 21st century and the opening of the third. PAS database records "971,530 records containing 1,516,359 objects".

UPDATE 31st December 2021
A year later, the Revised Artefact Erosion Counter  ticked over artefact  9,812,057 at midnight on 31st December 2021. At the same time the PAS database records "1,003,971 records concerning 1,565,539 objects". That means that at the end of 2021, the ratio between responsibly reported and irresponsibly hoiked and trashed pieces of archaeological evidence ripped out of the archaeological record was "one million in 8.8 million" (so roughly "one in nine").
  [note to author: something odd going on here, 8760847 + (27000x 30 =)810000 is 9570847... check this out, why is it miscounting?]
UPDATE 31st December 2022 
A year later, the Revised Artefact Erosion Counter ticked over artefact 10,863,139 at midnight on 31st December 2022. .

[Today (28th August 2023, 1632). Its appearance is getting erratic, so just for safety, we are up to 11,553,432]. 

How Many 'Metal Detectorists' are there in England and Wales?

The Ixelles Six /Helsinki Gang debacle got me thinking about the data they were trying to ignore. For the past two years I had been struggling with the implications of some of Sam Hardy's recent research and the numbers he came up with. I have long asked the question concerning the scale of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record as the only true background against which to measure the incessant 'propaganda of success' of the PAS and its supporters. They saw 'x000' more metal detectorists than a few years ago, and got 'y000' more artefacts in their database, all well and good, but to what degree are these figures representing any true mitigation of the information loss?

Back then (first years of the 21st century), there were some wild estimates of overall 'metal detectorist numbers', but nothing concrete. So I began to look into it. The figure I came up with in 2003 was quite a low one, 10000, with just over a thousand in Scotland. That was the basis for the figures used in the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter. About 2010, I was forced to reassess that original estimate, it seemed to me that by that time the number had probably gone up to 16000 (Thomas 2012, 58-9 has a similar estimate), and I ascribed this to the PAS popularising the hobby through their support and promotion. That's when I really began to see the PAS as having a totally negative influence on the very problem that they had been set up to solve.

In 2011, the NCMD was claiming there were around 20000 metal detectorists in the UK. By 2015 the NCMD estimate appears to have risen to 25000 (see here and here), which I was inclined to dismiss at the time. But then in 2017 Sam Hardy produced his figures of 27000 'metal detectorists' (in England and Wales) and another 1000+ in Scotland. I must admit, though I thought his methods were sound and the figures he was using were the best available at the time, I really was a bit sceptical of such high numbers. Until I sketched a graph out. The two lower-left points are my own estimate, the three on the right are the NCMD's and Dr Hardy's. They seem to work together quite convincingly to tell a story of expansion of this damaging hobby on the PAS's watch. What however has not increased by the same degree is the proportion of the finds they are currently making being recorded in the public domain.

The implications of these figures would seem to be that the increase may have been of the order of 17000 more detectorists' in 17 years. That is that while PAS has been legitimising and promoting Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record, numbers of metal detector-using artefact hunters have been quite steadily rising by 1000 a year.  We have no statistics on the number of scattered ephemeral private artefact collections formed in the UK at the same time.

At what stage are Britain's heritage professionals going to get up off their complacent jobsworth backsides and stop shoulder-shrugging and do something about this other than just smile and pat the collectors on the head?

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