Saturday 30 March 2019

Something wrong surely? Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (III)

The standards of the 'information' on the PAS database keep throwing up problems when you try to use it for research. Trying to look up what gold coins are found in the UK between 1066 and 1344 to answer a question in a public consultation document finds the PAS claiming a non-existent gold coinage of Edward II
Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Find awaiting validation
Gold quarter noble of Edward II (1327-77) minted in London
Somehow I think this is a find that might not survive 'validation', if ever anyone gets around to looking at these old records. 

Meanwhile, we are waiting for the FLO to do a lurid "On this day" 21st September tweet involving anal rape with a red hot poker... that's about the level of most of their "outreach" these days.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Managing Lithic Scatters - but Ignoring Artefact Hunters

Here is another reason why archaeological support of an "Institute of Detectorists" in the UK is bonkers. The archaeological record is not being collected away just by people screeching across the fields of the UK with metal detectors. Yet the effects of artefact hunting and collecting (apart from the notion of 'paying attention to legacy collections') is pretty well omitted in this document:
Managing Lithic Scatters
Oxford Archaeology, Oxford Archaeology (2019) Managing Lithic Scatters. Historic England: Archaeological guidance for planning authorities and developers .

Due to their durability stone artefacts are a significant source of archaeological evidence, and are usually found either sealed in their original context as undisturbed sites, or as lithic scatters displaced by natural or agricultural processes. For much of prehistory both types of lithic sites provide the majority, and sometimes the only evidence, of past human activity and subsistence strategies. By studying and understanding their formation, spatial distribution and technological attributes, we can get closer to understanding the activities of the people who created these artefacts. Lithic sites are an important archaeological resource that can provide valuable insights into prehistory. They are an ubiquitous, but often neglected, resource found in different landscape settings and depositional environments; as such, they can inform on the ways people in the past engaged with the world they inhabited. Lithic sites are archaeological sites where people worked with stone. Foremost this involved reducing nodules of raw material into flakes, blades and tools which could be used in a variety of tasks. This type of activity defines many undisturbed sites and scatters, but worked stone can be found in a variety of contexts. In relation to undisturbed sites, these often constitute secondary depositional environments; for example, where worked stone is moved from its primary context into middens or pits. In some instances, this has been taken to imply the use of worked stone as a metaphor, referencing how people interacted with specific places in the landscape. So, in addition to their practicality, lithics may also have accrued symbolic meanings relating to the experiences of those who made, used and discarded worked stone. Lithic scatters are frequently recovered from the ploughzone through fieldwalking, test pitting or evaluations. Undisturbed sites can also be found through trenching and excavations, where lithics have been sealed by alluvial, colluvial or silting deposits and/or deposited in sub-surface features. Detailed recording and analyses of lithic sites can significantly contribute to our understanding of how gatherer-hunters and early farming groups lived from the Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age. This guidance replaces the existing Managing Lithic Scatters. It is intended for everyone involved in working with lithic material, ranging from developers to those involved in community based projects. As such, it considers key themes relating to the definition and significance of lithic sites; the means to identify, assess, evaluate and excavate them; and their mitigation and management. Therefore, it encompasses a broad range of advice and techniques that can be applied to a wide variety of project types and budgets.
Obviously if a survey is examining and documenting a surface site, the degree to which it has been depleted of diagnostic artefacts by rapacious collectors attempting to create an ephemeral personal artefact collection will need to be taken into account in any assessment of its composition. The degree to which such so-called 'citizen archaeology'[= collecting] (when done with metal detectors) has entered archaeological mainstream in the UK is not reflected in this document.

Monday 25 March 2019

Citizen Historians

So if Bloomsbury is terming Collection-driven Exploiters of the Archaeological Record (aka 'metal detectorists') citizen archaeologists, there must be a place for 'Citizen Historians':

An Off Tablet: 'Very Early Form Off Writing' Offered by Dirty-handed Seller

Here's an odd-looking thing (capitalisation as original):
Ace-Antiques/ Britanicus store (Simon Wicks, Hailsham East Sussex, 93% positive feedback on eBay) wants £500,00 / EUR 586 for this.

So this is said to be an ancient Near Eastern clay tablet that left somewhere in the region of Iraq/Syria "circe 1970s". That last bit is problematic, in any area where objects like this could be dug up, partage had stopped by "circa 1970" and there were laws against export of such items. Being from a "1970s" collection makes nothing like this any the more legally obtained. And anyway, can the seller document that collecting history in any way?

Secondly, though, what on earth is this object? 2000BC would place it at the end of Akkadian and at the beginning of Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian. Yet it looks nothing like the general run of clay tablets of those periods. Nothing. The way the characters are placed on the edge of the tablet (as though they were the title on the spine of a codex) is pretty anomalous. As far as I am aware, authentic cuneiform tablets of this period do not have a border round them like this, and generally the script is much closer packed on them. This looks more as if it is trying hard to be a stone tablet (like this one here in a "1970s" private collection and of unknown authenticity). I'd refer readers to a previous text of mine about things like this.

 A quite remarkable feature of the photos of this object is the hand supporting the item. It's amazing how much antiquities like this dirty the hands.

Remember, the dealer says:
The seller has 244 items on eBay at the moment. Most of them have the same sort of issues as this one. I have a lot of questions about them. Let the emptor cave-jolly-well-at.

My CPAC Comment in Support of Jordan MOU

My CPAC Comment in Support of Jordan MOU
Dear CPAC,As an archaeologist with a special interest in the damage done to archaeological sites and assemblages through the collection of and trade in archaeological artefacts, I am writing to express my full support of the request from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for a cultural property agreement and MOU with the United States in order to help in stopping the illicit trade of artefacts from Jordan. 
Jordan has taken many measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony, most notably in the maintenance of a state body, the Jordanian Department of Antiquities tasked with this care. This was established in 1923 and its work includes inventorying, monitoring, and managing Jordan's vast number of archaeological sites. This task is now aided by a comprehensive public geographic information system and database of archaeological sites in the country (developed in cooperation with US specialists - The DoA deserves all the help we can give it to achieve the task of managing and securing the region’s archaeological heritage and ensuring that future generations will also benefit from the wealth of the past. The reported involvement of local communities in the protection of the heritage (again currently supported by US aid - is also indicative of the importance it holds to many citizens.
In recent years, there has been increasing pressure on the cultural patrimony of the country, including from pillage of archaeological material. Clandestine looting has been documented in the field on a number of sites (most notably by the groundbreaking "Follow the Pots" project, headed by Morag Kersel, DePaul University in Chicago - - Material of types known to occur in the Jordanian archaeological record, apparently freshly surfaced, is turning up right now on eBay and in venues such as the US-based V-Coins portal. It is in the unstable situation existing in the Middle East today that the cultural heritage is at most jeopardy and requires care to keep freshly smuggled illicit artefacts off the major markets.
Of those markets, that of the US is undoubtedly among the most voracious. It is telling how many US dealers and collectors of dugup antiquities time and time again attempt to oppose any attempt under the CCPIA to clean up the US trade and keep undocumented examples of such material off the US market. 
In Jordan, there have been initiatives to train local agents of law enforcement in how to counter trafficking of cultural objects, and to raise awareness and of the threats arising from trafficking of cultural objects. An example of this was the five-day National Training on Countering Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage session held in Amman in February 2018 (made possible thanks to the funds received from the Norwegian Government - But to stop it, the chain of supply and demand for illicit antiquities obviously needs to be tackled at both ends, in the market countries as well as the victimized source countries.
Most other countries that are party to the 1970 UNESCO ‘Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property’ apply it to the cultural property of all other member states without discrimination, the Convention is after all intended to foster international collaboration and ‘build peace in the minds of men’. The US is one of the few countries that apply it selectively, on a country-by-country basis, dividing international partners into ‘better’ and ‘worse’. If the US applies restrictions on imports of artefacts exported from Jordan to only those properly documented, it would only be joining the rest of the international community in implementing the Convention. The US, surely, should be a leader in such a concerted effort, not a reluctant tagalong – especially given the size and nature of the no-questions-asked US antiquities market and the appetites and attitudes of those involved in it. Doing all possible to prevent illicit material passing onto any major market is obviously going to be of substantial benefit in deterring the development of a serious situation of pillage in Jordan. There is no need to see anything ‘drastic’ about keeping illicit artefacts (or those not complying with the liberal measures of the CCPIA) off the US market. On the contrary.
Quite clearly, and in particular in the current situation, the restriction of antiquities originating in Jordan through applying the measures of the CCPIA is not only completely consistent with, but also imperative in, the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for cultural, scientific and educational purposes.

A lot of collectors get angry about it: Jordan/US MOU proposal

More coiney bleating
This is quite enlightening, its from Daryl Rhoades II, U.S.A. Ohio 'Collector of Roman Imperial, Roman Provincial, Byzantine, Greek, Judaean, Nabataean, etc. ancient coins' and its about the Jordanian MOU request (last day today to comment, folks)
I have a handful of Nabataean, Judaean and many other type ancient coins found in that region. I really like collecting these coins and have many in my online photo galleries. I like having detailed descriptions so I had to do a lot of research to learn how to read and display the scripts found on coins. Still a work in progress. This is how I study and contribute to the community as many others do with websites.

I am somewhat familiar with UNESCO cultural property law (Sic!) and I have a copy of the Handbook of Cultural Property that I use as a guide, as to what countries I can shop from. The information is very outdated, pre 1986. As it says for Jordan, All movable and immovable objects subject to export control and pre 1700 are antiquities and subject to the control of the department of antiquities and approval by the minister. I believe it means you need a license and approval to export any antiquity before 1700 AD. If you cannot get approval then it will be illegal to export out of Jordan and subject to a penalty of a fine and possible imprisonment for up to two years.

I'm not sure what the point is for this new law because antiquities that are illegal are already filtered at customs points at USPS and other facilities. I've heard of collectors and dealers losing coins but not too often. I do not buy from Jordan because I don't want to lose the coins that I ordered and any other problem. Lots of educated collectors and dealers know where to buy from.

I do understand protecting cultural property, but I think this MOU is overkill, with all due respect. Because ancient coins are found all over and outside of any registered historic site. These laws restrict common items which I think is unreasonable. Some countries have itemization lists which is selective but doesn't restrict all artifacts and coins. I find this to be a much more reasonable approach.

A lot of collectors get angry about it because we ancient coin collectors are not criminals and don't want to share a cell with other convicts or get our coins confiscated.
And so buyers caught with looted and smuggled items should get a spacious cell all on their own? If a buyer is happy acquiring coins and so on 'not from Jordan', why are they protesting about measures to enable tightening up the flow of illicit artefacts from Jordan without the pieces of paper that would legitimate them?

Propaganda (1984)
I wonder whether these collectors, most of them cutting and pasting what Peter Tompa tells them to say rather than thinking things through for themselves, actually take the time to read the other contributions - particularly those that actually take a wider view than that of the greedy collector bleating in unison the same message. Several of the Jordanian MOU public comments refer to the  context of the activity - the smuggling and selling of the coins, but go back to the supply of that market. Then it is not of any relevance whether the dug-up items are "common items" or that were made somewhere else from where they were deposited. the problem is the portableising of these antiquities and the damage that is done to sites by that process. I really do not see what the problem is that is preventing US collectors for seeing that - apart from the fact that many of them are clearly too dumb to actually do the research on more than 'how to read and display the pictures found on coins' to produce the appearance of erudition. How much of that too is cut-and-paste? But to 'contribute to the community', coineys really do need to get to grips with what the wider community is saying. Otherwise they will be left bleating and braying at the edge of the field. 

Would an Institute for Detectorists Serve any Useful Function?

RESCUE asks 'Would an Institute for Detectorists aid revision of the Treasure Act and implementation of the Valletta Convention?'. Apparently this is a major topic at RESCUE's annual open Meeting (Saturday 13th April, 2-4pm, at UCL Institute of Archaeology, Room 612). This group is also in contact with the CIfA.
The question of whether “an Institute for Detectorists” would “aid revision of the Treasure Act and implementation of the Valletta Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (Revised)” surely depends very much on addressing another three questions. The first concerns the type of knowledge and expertise such an “institute” would bring to the discussion, the second the degree of influence it will have in the artefact hunting community and beyond, the third encompasses the scope and functions of such an “Institute” (and whether ‘we’ need one at all).

We already have a Portable Antiquities Scheme which liaises on the basis of a ‘partnership’ between archaeological resource management, the museums sphere and Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record. This defines (has defined) ‘best practice’, which is promulgated by the (Revised) Code of Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales. To what extent has this organization reached an audience of (maybe- according to the latest estimate) 27000 active practitioners of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record? It can easily be documented that the extent of twenty years concentrated effort is disappointingly low – and we need to discuss why that is. Is that really because of the lack of a formal ‘institute’ instead of the voluntary partnership we now offer? Or do the reasons go deeper and lie in the nature of the activity of artefact hunting itself?

Is the fact that the NCMD Code of Practice is the one that is adhered to by most ‘metal detecting’ groups/clubs/rally organizers and ‘independent detectorists’ and that very few even advertise that they adhere to the official ’(Revised) Code....’ due to the fact that it requires more or less ‘responsible’ behaviour and sensitivity to the needs to preserve the information value in the archaeological resource exploited by these collectors? How would having an “Institute” affect that in any degree and with any realistic time frame? Just because it is one group of detectorists saying what the others ‘should’ do? We’ve seen where that’s ended up before.

We may guess that there is a risk that the type of knowledge and expertise an “Institute” made by detectorists for detectorists is largely going to produce will be there to promote the collecting interests of its members (and legitimise collecting), and so runs right in face of the matter the Valletta Convention intends to direct attention of state authorities to. One might address the issue of whether institutionalising Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record is what the Valletta Convention has in mind at all (likewise other conventions on the basis of which it is formulated: "archaeological knowledge is based principally on the scientific investigation of the archaeological heritage" - ICOMOS Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage 1990). You cannot examine the taphonomy of an archaeological deposit or assemblage using a metal detector or as an adjunct to creating a private artefact collection.

Artefact hunting and artefact collecting are not archaeology, at the best they can be artefactology, but at their worst they are highly destructive activities,eroding the information value of the sites and assemblages exploited – which is why RESCUE’s policy for the future is currently phrased in the way it is. That is why many countries place legal sanctions on these activities, it is why the Valletta Convention places so much attention on permits for intervention.

One might ask how much one can expect the interests of the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage would be realised by placing the institutionalisation of its exploitation in the hands of detectorists – no matter how ‘responsible’ they claim to be.

Anyone intending to actually discuss this issue at the AGM might like to familiarise themselves with some of the claims that have already been made in the past on behalf of this non-existent “Institute” and some of the points raised in connection with them on the Portable Antiquities Collecting and Heritage Issues archaeoblog.

As if Britain hadn’t been sufficiently humiliated this week!

Heritage Action: 'As if Britain hadn’t been sufficiently humiliated this week!' point out the rather shocking situation that at the “Archaeology in Wiltshire” conference in Devizes, it is unlikely that on the agenda will be one local event affecting the archaeology:
last year at Wootton Bassett, just 15 miles away, there was a Rotary sponsored Metal Detecting rally, on ridge and furrow pasture (i.e. undisturbed pasture, so in total defiance of archaeological advice)? [...] isn’t the fact that was the twenty second rally in the Wootton Bassett area – yes the twenty second – worth a discussion session? Perhaps it could be titled: “How the hell have we let Britain’s past be hijacked?”
Interestingly, a check on how "responsibly" this is being done if the massive number of eleven finds from the parish in the PAS database. Repeat: eleven. Search the database for the finds from the only rally they have a record of from that place and you'll get 'Your search has produced no results'Well, that's a surprise, isn't it (not)? So, why is that not being discussed then? What kind of archaeological backwater is Wiltshire?

Friday 22 March 2019


Any critic of the PAS must be by definition
a "troll" if you believe in its magic
Following up on Cadburygate (fuss over Freddos Treasure hunt):
 2 godziny temu2 godziny temuAccording to trolls this week: I am a vicious brute and enemy of the UK, who needs to fix national problems of a decade ago (when I was a student... using a time machine?). Fascinating. And truly a guiding hand in my life decisions moving forward. To that I say trollololololol
The good doctor neglects to provide a reference to substantiate her statement asserting multiple trolling but I could not help noting the coincidence between this and something I tweeted. She and mark Horton were congratulating themselves on the archaeologists victory over a chocolate button firm that made a mistake in one of their marketing campaigns.
As archaeologists, it was our duty to take on Cadbury over ads encouraging kids to dig up 'treasure' – and we won
I made the point that it is odd that archaeologists do not see their duty as somewhat wider when it comes to Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record:
23 godziny temu
W odpowiedzi do @IrishAshyT @ConversationUK "the swift response from the heritage community, damage to sites was prevented". Hmm. Collection Driven exploitation of the archaeological record by 27000 (maybe) artefact hunters adding dozens (how many?) items annually to their collection with little or no record is an issue it cannot be said that archaeologists have been at all "swift" to come to terms with. Far from it, cases like this are presented as "victories" ("the archaeologists won") leaving the issue of massive erosion of archaeology in the UK totally unchallenged.
Dr Tierney was politely dismissive of the idea and added "I'm happy about how this issue worked out, and hope that we can collectively mobilise on bigger issues in the future". I pointed out in turn that:
The PAS has been going for 20 years, and it must be good because "it has 3 million photos" (note: only 899,095 records). In all that time of us being "happy how that issue worked out" collectors may have taken 6,884,982 objects already …  so at what stage do we "collectively mobilise on bigger issues in future"? When the estimate reaches 16 million and the public finds out that "responsible detectorists (sic)" have reported just two million to the PAS? Yes? Why dont we "mobilise" now? Why didnt we 10 yrs ago?
Now I happen to think that is a perfectly valid question.

Many years ago, Nigel Swift and I began asking questions of the tired old tropes about 'responsible detecting' and in particular the shortfall between what is pocketed from the archaeological record by collectors and what is pocketed and then reported to the PAS. OK, two blokes asking questions. Easy to ignore (or dismiss as "trolls").

But... If we have 6800 archaeologists in the UK at the moment,  even if only ten percent of them are able to think up some original questions about artefact hunting, that is still 680 archies out there who would be seeking the answers to the same questions as us about the scale and effects of the activity. Say 10% of them have archaeoblogs, that would be 68 archeoblogs asking these questions, publishing what they've found. If those 680 archies write one journal paper every five years on this 9alongside their other stuff), that should be 136 articles a year. Where are they? 

What the blazes is going on?  This is like millions voting for Brexit because they dont share Mr Cameron's taste in ties, but not knowing the first thing about what the EU is and what it is not, and what the effects of the thing they vote for will be - and 'cant be bovvered to read all that project fear guff' written by remoaner 'trolls and traitors' . Likewise we have all those archaeologists in the same country  glibly supporting 'partnering metal detectorists', see nothing very much wrong with collecting archaeological objects and digging them out of otherwise unthreatened sites for collection - without really straining themselves to find out any more about it other than "wottalotta-stuff-we-got" ("coo, look at this pretty brooch/coin/strapend"). Its all OK, as long as the treasure  Act is not violated and artefact hunters stay off scheduled sites. Really?  This is the "we are not nighthawks" argument. Is that really all that 6800 UK archaeologists have to say on artefact collecting?

Dedication of the Proposed 'Institute of Detectorists' to Proper Discussion of Archaeological Issues

In answer to my tweet,
Paul Barford @PortantIssues 21 mar   
Replying to proposed IoD: 'Institute of Detectorists' @Detectorists_
"Archaeologically based education for metal detectorists should be available to all..." But why do we need an "Institute of Detectorists" when the job of the PAS is to liaise with artefact hunters and others and instil 'best practice'? Why? Duplication of effort, surely?
and my suggestion that one cannot do archaeology with a metal detector as part of the Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, I got this:

So I take that as a tacit admission that the wannabe "Institute Director" feels himself unable to say in what ways the UK actually needs another body liaising between 'finders' and archaeologists, and whether typing monkeys style you can turn the average Baz Thugwit into a 'citizen aerchaeologist' just by giving him a membership card to a home-made cardboard cutout "Institute".

Mr Westcott, since you have blocked me from interacting with you through social media, you will understand that while that continues, I will freely exercise my right to decide whether or not I am going to give you or any other representatives of your "Proposed Institute" the right to reply here. Seems fair.

Monday 18 March 2019

How to Make it Look that the 'Partners' Are Reporting Stuff

Don't be conned
Just added to the PAS website:
Ceramics (including the Pottery Guide) Created on 15th March 2019 by Helen Geake
So perhaps now the Artefact Erosion Counter (currently focussed on metal items) should now estimate how many ceramic sherds and Ceramic Building Material fragments are being walked over on the many medieval and Roman sites exploited by artefact hunters in England and Wales and not picked up and reported. Many excavation archives of this sort of material can be measured in the hundreds of kilos. And how many kilos are represented by the nationwide-twenty-year public pickup that the PAS database represents?

Sunday 17 March 2019

Cadbury's Heritage-Destroying Chocolate Frog

Behold the new enemy of the heritage/environment professional.

the wrapper and packaging are plastic, too.

and a comment from the #Batrachomyomachia twitter feed *

Sentient archaeological mammals fighting greed-driven corporate metal detecting reptile fantasies.

Sotheby's Advert

I hate those pop-up antiquities sale adverts I keep getting while trying to keep up with the latest celebrity chat or whippet-racing news. This one annoyed me, and should annoy you too, more knocked off 'Face from the Past' Buddha Heads.... and now look closely. 

The quality of teaching in public schools in the UK must be even worse than we thought.

What do they Put on the Soil in Washington DC?

Acid fertilisers here? 
One born every minute. How many times do we have to hear this "Rescue" argument from collectors? If they are not "rescuing" looted artefacts from ISIL, its modern farming and its chemicals:
Peter Tompa @Aurelius161180 14h14 hours ago Acidic fertilizers are slowly destroying coins buried in the ground so perhaps metal detecting should be viewed as salvage archaeology.
Do they have biology in US schools? The optimal pH range for the growth of most modern crop plants in the temperate zone is between 5.5 and 7.0. I am not sure what crop yield Mr Tompa thinks any farmers would expect irresponsibly placing their soil parameters much beyond that by deliberately adding acid to the soil to reduce their pH lower than they naturally are. In fact the pH of rainfall in Washington DC is currently around 4.8 to 4.9 so deliberately adding extra acid to the soil, especially in the region where he lives, would not really help feed America. 

Perhaps Mr Tompa needs to do some reading on soil science (and corrosion mechanisms) and get out and talk to local farmers about the costs of those artificial fertilisers, how they are applied to get maximum effect and lead to beneficial, rather than damaging consequences. If copper (a toxic metal) is getting into the soil water through 'acidity', that means other metals will be too, if that is the case, then that alone is cause for much more concern than whether a few coins are still in collectable condition when dug up by artefact hunters. Heavy metals in US kids' hamburgers are no laughing matter.

The Bedale Hoard Animation Project

"What ho chaps, I wonder how this lot got there?"
As part of York Museums Trust’s Genesis project a group of young people aged from 14-16 created an animated video on the story of the Bedale Hoard at the Yorkshire Museum. 

 Published on You Tube by YorkMuseumsTrust Published on 9 Jun 2015

 A very good example of the type of empty speculative narrativisation that accompanies a metal detectorist's isolated find of a hoard. "Advancing understanding" or storytelling? How can we go beyond typology to context in situations like this?  I do not think we can. What is significant is that the archaeologists are not going to be able to come up with a story any more reliable than the speculations of these kids.

Seven years on, the Hoard has still not been properly published.

Norfolk: Finding those "Productive sites"

Anglo-Saxon gold pendant found in Norfolk declared treasure
An Anglo-Saxon gold pendant, found near a site where a similar item worth £145,000 was dug up, probably belonged to a woman of "high social status". The Winfarthing Pendant was found in 2014 near Diss in Norfolk. The latest pendant, with a central cross motif, was found in 2017 and it has been declared treasure. [...]  In 2014, a student found Anglo-Saxon jewellery, including a pendant, at Winfarthing, later valued by the governement's Portable Antiquities Scheme at £145,000. The more recently discovered pendant, which features gold bead work and measures 17mm (0.67in) by 13mm (0.5in), is believed to date from the late-6th Century to the mid-7th. [...]   The Winfarthing Pendant, discovered by student-turned-archaeologist Tom Lucking, has recently been on show at The British Library in London. Treasure experts described it as having "national significance" shortly after it was discovered.
How "near"?

Saturday 16 March 2019

What' in a Name? Knowledge Theft and Destruction by any Other Name is still Knowledge Theft and Destruction

UK's theft epidemic
In the wake of me saying on social media (in the wake of the  Cadbury's Freddos marketing campaign) that I am of the opinion that 6800 UK archaeologists should take a harder stand on artefact hunting and collecting, I am being cajoled by a fellow archaeologist on Twitter: 
[...] Can we agree that some metal detecting is not as destructive as other types? Promote that and go from there. [...]
This is a good example of the issue-dodging weasel-wordery used by the supporters of collectors. If by 'metal detecting' we mean the use of these tools to find hidden objects in airports and schools or in food products leaving a factory production line, or by archaeologists in a properly-designed archaeological survey with a specified research agenda and methodology, then the "metal detecting" is not damaging the archaeological record as much as when the tool is used to accumulate random but selected collectables from a site. I do not think the author of those words could legitimately ask me "Can we agree that some Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record is not as destructive as other types?". Yet that is exactly how a metal detector is used by the majority of (perhaps) 27000 active metal detector users in the UK.

If you think about the effects of collecting on the remaining parts of the archaeological record of that site, and is aware just how selective the pickup always is in artefact hunting and collecting and therefore the comparative worthlessness of any "x-marks the spot" 'documentation' compiled in the collecting process, then that is an evident nonsense. Which is why, I guess, the lazier archaeologists will employ the vaguer terminology in favour of naming the process as what it is.

There are a host of reasons why archaeologists, and archaeological bodies, in Britain should not  'promote' ANY kind of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, whether with metal detectors or unaided spades, whether it is called "responsible" or not. I doubt that there is a  way to "responsibly rob" somebody, and likewise I do not think there is any truly responsible way to loot the archaeological record for mere collectables.

Cadbury's Campaign Spawn of PAS Back-patting

Freddo, the lootier sweet from Cadbury
An energy-snack for metal detectorists out in the fields maybe?
"A mix between a McDonalds Happy Meal and the original Freddo, the exciting new addition to the Cadbury* product range comes in a unique purple treasure chest that you need to crack open. Times are changing Inside the chest you’ll find an assortment of treasure alongside a fun toy "to inspire many adventures and a world of play".
Hmm.  Apparently "Freddo's Treasures" are some kind of low-brow plastic collectables sold with milk chocolate buttons in a garish plastic box, so tooth-rotting boxed with brain-rot.

And the distribution of this product is supported by a marketing campaign that really raises eyebrows (though apparently NOT so far in Bloomsbury). All that promoting of Treasure Hunting by the PAS in partnership with artefact hunters was bound to lead to this:

and, incitement to loot:

"grab your metal detector and go hunting for Roman riches"

This is just so outrageous....

Is that the point? Get everybody talking about tooth-rotting plastic toys by provoking scandal?

What I find symptomatic is that over the past few hours I have received a veritable storm of notifications of this by email and social media asking whether I am aware of it, what can we do to stop this (sorry, cannot reply individually), but not a single one of them copied in the PAS. I'd be interested to know how many such mails they received over the whole day from concerned colleagues and members of the public. More to the point, I am equally interested to see how PAS and the BM Press Department will react.

Meanwhile all who value the past and think historical monuments deserve respect should be urging friends and family members to boycott Cadbury's products.

*Cadbury, formerly Cadbury's and Cadbury Schweppes, is a British multinational confectionery company wholly owned by Mondelez International (originally Kraft Foods) since 2010.

TEFAF Wrenched Apart Sarcophagus Fragment

A tiny so-called "mummy mask" on sale at TEFAF ("TEFAF champions the finest art through the ages and from around the world. A section dedicated to ancient art was created in 1993 at TEFAF Maastricht. The section is a veritable treasure trove for collectors".)
@sycomore_ancient_art, stand 438
Sarcophagus mask
Wood, traces of stucco with yellow and blue polychromy
Height 11.7 cm (4.6 in.)
Egyptian - Third intermediate Period, 1085-715 BC
No collecting history at all is given here up-front. Of course, it's not a "mask" at all, but a fragment of anthropomorphic coffin lid (from a grave) that has been portableised by wrenching it off to put it onto the market. Nobody gives a second thought for the inhumation that was desecrated and violated to put this trophy item in a collector's hands. It has got several thumbs ups from other dealers on the website.

Go on, show us some proper views. Show the back.

This dealer/collector fetish for "Faces from the Past" is really rather pathetic and immature. 

Friday 15 March 2019

The UK Archaeological Market Survey Report has just been Published

There are more archaeologists working in 2018 in the UK than ever before. The archaeological market survey report has just been published
6,812 people were employed as professional archaeologists in 2017-18; more than have ever been before, with 13% of them being non-UK EU nationals [...] • The overwhelming majority of income came from private sector clients (83%, a slight increase from 81% in 2016-17) with residential housing as the biggest sector, but infrastructure projects were also important. • Much of this investment is dependent on the planning process having access to expert archaeological advice • Despite this, the sector’s confidence in the future of the market was declining, and had been since 2015 • Brexit and the under-resourcing of local government planning advice were still considered to be major concerns for the sector
Artefact hunters and collectors often claim that archaeologists would not have any work if it were not for them. The logic of that statement is pretty weak. Are 6800 archaeologists all fervent admirers and supporters of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record?  

The Leominster Haul Court Case II. Pre-Trial Review

At the end of November  last year,  four metal detectorists denied illegally dealing in tainted cultural objects after reportedly uncovering a haul (sic) of Anglo-Saxon and Viking treasure in a village to the north of Leominster (Anon, 'Four in court accused of dealing "tainted cultural objects'' Hereford Times 28th November 2018). The case is due to be discussed in court again today. Previously,
[Three of them] pleaded not guilty to dealing in tainted cultural objects [while a detectorist from] Rumney, Cardiff, was not asked to enter a plea after requesting the prosecution to review his case on the basis he handed the coins to police before he was charged. If found guilty they could face a maximum prison sentence of seven years as well as a fine under the Dealing in Cultural Objects Offences Act 2003. [...]  Judge Jim Tindal told the quartet that their trial will last for four weeks and begin on September 30 next year. [...] The group were given unconditional bail and a pre-trial review will take place on March 15 at Worcester Crown Court.  
According to Judge Jim Tindal, trying ít, 'clearly this is a complicated case' and he suggests that the ten months between now and the end of September is a time the four men should 'spend with your lawyers to discuss the case' (I rather think that is what one does with lawyers in such circumstances). West Mercia Police are also stressing the complexity of their investigation. Information released so far does not go much further than what was in the Police press release of 31st October  and so we learn nothing of the background and what is actually alleged to have happened.

Thursday 14 March 2019

'Ideal' Job offer for Non-idealist: Treasure Enforcer Work in Lancashire

Footprints all over Lancashire's
 Past (Photo Russell
Holden Aug 2013
Job offer in Lancashire:
Are you:
- a great communicator
- able to work accurately and to deadlines
- confident and proficient in creating and using digital resources
- keen to capture data that adds (sic) to our knowledge of the past
- ready and able to be flexible in your work pattern
- committed to extending access to the historical record
- experienced in archaeology?
If so we have an ideal opportunity for you!
You have also not to see anything wrong with Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record and have nothing against meeting and working with metal-detectorists and other finders engaged in this activity and additionally (if you are to do the job properly) need an ability to explain basic concepts of decency to the likes of Baz Thugwit and Sheddy. The advert goes on:
The Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) role is key to the effective running of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) which ensures that the Treasure Act is adhered to and fully observed. The FLO's primary objectives are to educate and inform people regarding the Treasure Act; encourage the recognition of the archaeological importance of finds and reponsible (sic) metal detector use; acitvely (sic) collect and upload finds data as part of the national PAS, so adding to our knowledge of the past and making this knowledge readily accessible to the public.
Who wrote this?  The role of the PAS never was primarily  to educate and inform people regarding the Treasure Act, nor was it ensures that the Treasure Act is adhered to and fully observed. The Treasure Act is a legal article and its enforcement is the remit of the police.

Sunday 10 March 2019

Asked for 'Search and Take Permission', Farmer Said No

Charlie Flindt © Kathy Horniblow
A Hampshire farmer was intrigued why so many metal detectorists suddenly became interested in searching his land and requesting he issue them a 'Permission to Search and Take' document (Charlie Flindt, 'Flindt on Friday: Why metal detectorists keep bugging me', Farmers' Weekly 16 March 2018).:
The caller explained that I didn’t know him and he hoped that I didn’t mind the cold call but he was a metal detectorist and was on the hunt for new area to practise his hobby. I had trouble stopping him – he was in full flow reading from his script all about the million billion pound insurance he had and how all finds were shared 50/50 – but finally I managed to get a word in. “Sorry, no can do,” I explained. “This farm is National Trust land and metal detectors aren’t allowed.” He sounded disappointed, hung up [...] A couple of days later, there was hammering on the front door [...] Big lad, he was, with the demeanour of one of our friends from the white van community. “Hello, mate,” he said. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s never a good start. I was expecting a request for scrap or an astonishing deal on Tarmac but instead he too went off on a metal-detecting speech.  Once again, I had to stop him with my National Trust line. He didn’t seem to believe me and had real trouble accepting “no” as an answer. [...]  He then went back to his noisy van, which had been parked round the back, and that had another surly “mate” in it. These two were dodgy enough to warrant a text to our local PC. 
There was a spate of other attempts at the same time (on Facebook, 'and up popped a request from a metal detectorist. There it was again – all the same spiel'). Mr Flindt started to think something was going on 'when a nicely typed letter arrived with the same request, and a stamped addressed envelope ready for my reply'. It was all apparently prompted by an article in the Hampshire Chronicle.
A detectorist had made a significant and valuable find in a “secret” mid-Hants location: a very rare coin from the reign of Emperor Carausius, worth thousands. It all made sense. The calls have stopped now but it wouldn’t surprise me to find a field full of little holes one morning. 

Babylonian stele seized at Heathrow. was claimed to be ‘for home decoration’"

' Stone dating from second millennium
 BC was claimed to be ‘for home decoration"

A fragment of a Babylonian stele will be handed back to Iraq later this month after UK border officers foiled an attempt to smuggle it through Heathrow airport (Smuggled Babylonian relic to be handed back to Iraq The National March 10, 2019 ).
The 30cm-high inscribed stone, dating back more than 3,000 years, was one section of a larger antiquity that is believed to have been looted from southern Iraq. The stone is a rare kudurru, an official document with cuneiform writing drawn up on the instructions of the king to record lands handed to individuals, according to UK newspaper The Guardian. It is believed to date from the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar I (1126-1103 BC). The newspaper reported that a border official became suspicious after the cargo was described as a “carved stone for home decoration” that was made in Turkey. The stone was believed to have been once located at a temple. “Importantly, this kudurru has been neither previously recorded nor published and must therefore come from illicit digging at a site in southern Iraq,” Dr St John Simpson, a senior curator at the British Museum, told the Guardian.
It dates from the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar I (about 1126-1103BC), not to be confused with his famous later namesake Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562BC).
Simpson said: “Importantly, this kudurru has been neither previously recorded nor published and must therefore come from illicit digging at a site in southern Iraq. The text mentions the god Enlil and the goddess Gula and refers several times to the city of Nippur, in southern Iraq, where Enlil was the chief god. This makes it quite likely that this kudurru originates from Nippur or its close vicinity.” He noted that many archaeological sites in southern Iraq were badly looted between 1994 and 2004, during which time he suspects this kudurru was removed. The whereabouts of its lower half are unknown. “Hopefully, it is still in the ground somewhere in Iraq and may one day be found by archaeologists.” The object has been declared crown property after the British importer failed to demonstrate legal title. Investigations are continuing.
No details of the seller or buyer were released, those 'investigations' are presumably fictional, How the buyer got the object and where it has been kept in the fifteen years since it left the ground and how it came onto the market (through whose hands) will not emerge.

Dalya Alberge, 'Babylonian treasure seized at Heathrow to be returned to Iraq’ Guardian Sun 10 Mar 2019

Saturday 9 March 2019

Artefact Hunter to Address RESCUE, Whatever Next?

Belzoni, Collection-Driven
Exploiter of the
Archaeological Record
Rescue AGM and Open Meeting on Saturday 13th April 2019 RESCUE will be holding an open meeting on: 'Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, Practice and Policy'
We will welcome Keith Westcott to our Open Meeting (also in Room 612 at UCL Institute of Archaeology, at 2pm) to present his plans for an Institute of Detectorists. This will be followed by short presentations and a discussion about Rescue’s policy on [Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record] in relation to the proposed new Institute. Rescue recognises that [Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record] can be an emotive subject in archaeology and hopes that we can time a constructive and positive discussion about the ways forward.
Yes you can see it now, can't you? REFUGE the British Trust for Wildlife Conservation  AGM and Open Meeting devoted to the formation of the Proposed Institute of Big Game Hunters, "we will welcome David Baloyi to our open meeting [...] Refuge recognises that Big Game Hunting can be an emotive subject in conservation and hopes that we can time a constructive and positive discussion about the ways forward'.

If you actually look at what this "proposed Institute" has set as its aims (discussed several times in this blog), it can be seen that this is so much pie-in-the-sky which is going to get us nowhere. By scattering efforts and resources and creating yet another body to duplicate what the PAS is doing, it seems to me there is not so much of a step forward, but two steps back.

Friday 8 March 2019

An FLO Does Proper Outreach

PASWiltshire @PasWiltshire · 8 mar
Thinking about taking up #metaldetecting?Remember:
Detect responsibly
Obtain the land owner's permission
Note your finds spots down
Tea, what I'll be drinking when you report treasure

Thursday 7 March 2019

The Partition of Syria 2018-9

Where did you say that antiquity came from?

The division of Syria in December 2018 (Alia Chughtai, 'Syria's war: Who controls what?A map of the Syrian war showing who controls what after seven years of fighting'. Al Jazeera 19 Dec 2018 )

Wednesday 6 March 2019

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