Monday 30 September 2019

Embrace the Darkness: UK Detecting on the Dark Web

Many detectorists on
 the dark side now
A new secret Facebook page: The Detectorists Metal detecting uk. Remember, the members' credo is
'Respect everyone's privacy; being part of this group requires mutual trust. Authentic [information] may also be sensitive and private. What's shared in the group should stay in the group'.  

Leominster Antiquities Handling Offence Trial Begins

Worcester Crown Court
The trial began yesterday in Worcester Crown Court in the case  (T20180300) of George Dennis Powell, Layton Allan Davies, Paul Wells and Simon David Wicks on an antiquities charge. Details at present are unknown. It seems no journalists deemed this story as at all interesting, and failed to cover the opening of the trial. Or perhaps someone asked them not to. We never heard anything about the Hollingbourne inquest either.

British collector to send antiquities back to Cyprus

David JD Johnson, a British artist has signed over his collection of Cypriot antiquities to the museum of Kykkos Monastery after the intervention of Tasoula Hadjitofi, founder of Walk of Truth charity for the protection of cultural heritage (Gina Agapiou, 'British collector to send antiquities back home' Cyprus Mail September 29, 2019).
Most of the collection dates back to the Bronze Age (3rd century AD) with some pieces from the Early Iron Age (around 10,000BC). The pieces include figurines, vases, amphoras and flasks. The collection is to remain complete and not dispersed and to be used for academic research, in which Johnson himself will contribute. The repatriation will take place in stages over a period of several years to allow Kykkos Monastery the necessary time to create the proper space in its museum. The collector might continue to enlarge the collection during that time. “It will be hard to be parted from my collection. I have lived with it around me for a few years… the leaving of the last of them will be a wrench. This is why I need a few years to get used to the idea,” says the 71-year-old collector. The artist started collecting back in 2013 after purchasing some ancient coins from a museum he visited. “I had always been fascinated by time but I never intended to become a collector.” After a few months he started buying only Cypriot pieces and started studying Cypriot history. [...] In 2015, he came into money after selling his mother’s house, which enabled him to purchase more expensive pieces. “I discovered a dealer online advertising antiquities, and I was lucky that he happened to be honest and very knowledgeable as he had studied archaeology at UCL. I learned a lot from him,” he said. He has also bought pieces from major dealers, especially in the UK and from major auction houses.

Tasoula Hadjitofi, Inviting Collectors to the Walk of Truth

The article about a British collector who has signed over his collection of Cypriot antiquities to a museum (Gina Agapiou, 'British collector to send antiquities back home' Cyprus Mail September 29, 2019) mentions Tasoula Hadjitofi, founder of Walk of Truth charity for the protection of cultural heritage.
Hadjitofi  has been recovering and repatriating antiquities looted from Cyprus for 30 years and in 2017 published a memoir about her quest called “Icon hunter”. Originally from Famagusta, she settled in the Netherlands after 1974. In 2011, Hadjitofi founded “Walk of Truth”, the non-profit organisation which aims to stop the illegal trade in artefacts and to raise awareness of law enforcement authorities of the destruction and illegal trafficking in cultural heritage. [...] [,,,] Throughout the years, Hadjitofi has helped repatriate a number of frescos such as the one of Archangel Michael and Virgin Mary and Child from Antiphonitis Monastery that was in the possession of a Greek art collector.
 Hadjitofi  calls on other collectors to do the same. “If you are a correct human being obeying human rights, you will find that answer within yourself just as David Johnson did,” she said.

All Cannings Site Saved from Commercial Looting: More fallout

Very ancient landscape
Just how devoted are these detectorists to "preserving the past" and what have they been led to understand that means?
Wiltshire Museum @WiltshireMuseum
IMPORTANT UPDATE: We have just heard that the rally has been cancelled. Thanks to all those involved.
Followed by:
Vanguard @vanguard1069 · 3 godz. W odpowiedzi do @WiltshireMuseum i @PasWiltshire
Well overstepped the boundaries this time, driven a wedge between detectorist and PAS, watch the reporting rate drop now, no authority to do this and axt this way
See how artefact hunters feel empowered to be the ones that 'set the boundaries'? Who empowered them? and why? Then there is this:
Nathan price@N4TE_DOG 28 wrz W odpowiedzi do @WiltshireMuseum i @PasWiltshire
You treat this like a victory and yet demand respect of detectorists alike. Shameful

Nobody 'demands' anything, Mr Price. Nobody expects anything, the suggestion has been made that given some slack,  the majority of detectorists will voluntarily decide to behave responsibly and strive to avoid doing damage. This episode is yet another one that leads to the wisdom of that approach being questioned.

Southwest Dudgeon, Go on, get on Wiv it Then!

Well, that's the end of the ten-tweet discussion with Mr Southwest about collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. Did I say something wrong?

It was probably the fact that (with a reference to the text here), I gave him an answer to this:
Southwest@Southwe05603905 2 godz.
How can u say six million unreported find Paul are u deluded? Silly question we all know ur a deluded fool six million unreported finds ? Were do you get this figure from if unreported how can u keep a count lol u are a real deluded anti detectorist fool
and then when I invited him to provide the falsification of the material I presented, we got this:
Southwest @Southwe05603905 41 min
How can I prove you wrong you fool it's not possible as it's not true How about you show me the evedince to prove me wrong ?? and back up you deluded accusations?
Well, actually since that was a reply to my presentation of my grounds and all he has done in response is repeat that I am 'wrong' and a 'fool'  (is it that which he expects me to refute?), I think the reference I made to Karl Popper might have gone right over his head.

Obviously with arguments reasoned as cogently as his, the metal detecting community has lost one of their better spokesmen and 'ambassadors' for public recognition.

Vignette: looking silly in a souwester

PAS Bluffer Found Out!

Martyn Gleaden @martyngleaden 17 godz.
takes umbrage with the archaeologist that helped prevent the commercial looting of a nationally important site at All Cannings that a (secret) metal detecting group he has gone artefact hunting with:
I was out at another, sadly deep-ploughed, site in Wiltshire, recording site locations with in-situ photographs and 10 figure grid references in preparation for submitting finds to the PAS via an FLO, but not Wiltshire's FLO now, he's blotted his copybook.
But "not now" rather suggests that before he was... before he 'blotted his copybook' by doing what an archaeologist is bound to do. But, there is an interesting turn in the story; because the database is anonymous, people can get away with claiming the truth of whatever fantasy they have about their own rectitude:
PASWiltshire@PasWiltshire W odpowiedzi do @martyngleaden @PortantIssues i jeszcze 4 osób
I'm sorry to have turned such a paragon of responsible detecting away before he had chance to record even a single find with the PAS database then.
What, none at all? But, but... see his blog here, boasting of what he's found.  He also claims not only to be 'a member of a detecting club' (hmmm), but also a 'local HERO' 'with a BA and PhD'. Yeah. He also seems from what the FLO tells us to be one of the 25000 or so non-recording, irresponsible, artefact hunters currently estimated to be clandestinely looting the archaeological record of the UK for personal entertainment and gain that are the real problem that British archaeology pretends not to see.

I'd like to see artefact hunters taking a pride in the quality of their contribution to the PAS database, let all of them publish online links to the PAS records of all of the finds they have reported there. Why not? Transparency and honesty on behalf of its practitioners will show the real profile of this UK "responsible detecting". What have they got to hide? That the farmers will find out what they took?

Vignette: tell the truth

Typical Pay-to-Take Erosion

Make no mistake what this is about
Facebook, just a mouse click away for supporters of collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. Just one typical day 'somewhere in Wiltshire', but it's happening up and down the country, week after week, year after year (John Maloney 16 September at 21:51 writes): 
So a farmer from Wiltshire contacted me about organising a dig. He had 85 acres of cultivated mud available to us.
Parking was on headlands.
£20 per person.
Detecting 9.00am till 6.00pm.
Porta Loo on site.
6 scrap buckets across the field.
62 folk turned up, Farmer collected £1240.
Final "finds" score
16 Durotriges units
18 Bronze roman, 2 Denari.
1 Ethelred penny, pierced and gilded (Treasure)
1 1700`s Silver posy ring (Possible Treasure)
32 various Medieval hammered.
Lots of Trade tokens, jettons, Victorian and Edwardian pennys etc.
Horse harness pendant, belt mounts, spur rowel and all kinds of "bits" !
2 x 42 litre buckets full of "rammel" !
All the holes were filled and the scrap put in the bins, must have been a good day had to chase the stragglers off the field!!
For the uninitiated, "rammel" [Origin: Nottingham. "Thats a load of rammel" - "That's a load of crap".] One man's rammel could include another man's archaeological material.

That's 68+ recordable finds - note how it is mostly coins and tokens that notice was taken of, how many artefacts (archaeological material) were discarded by people only wanting to augment their coin collection? That is more than one each (including 2 Treasure) in nine hours detecting, and they cost the artefact hunter a bit less than £20 each one. In other words, each of them was sold for that sum by the farmer. No mention of PAS present.

What is interesting is that the farmer got all the money, the rally organiser is claiming he got none (so he'll not have to pay tax on it, will he?) and did all that organising work for free for the love of the hobby and the loot. So, who paid for the portaloo?

Bad Table Manners and Hypocrisy

Coffee in the trenches
The stereotype of archaeologists is a dumpy bloke in shorts with a tangled and matted beard, and a baggy tasteless jumper. It seems we can add table manners to the list of things missing alongside sartorial elegance. On mentioning 'Profiling the Profession' on social media, followers of one thread learnt:
Jason Massey @jlmassey73 · 19 min
W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues And you are not one of the 4425 professional are you . I mentioned your name to a top Archaeologists and he spat his coffee out and said one word... 'Joke'
Well of course I am not included in that document, it refers to the insular situation. I am grateful that I live and work in the EU. "Top archaeologists" who drink coffee with artefact hunters in the UK? I do not think that is anything to joke about, it is rather sad really.

I asked Mr Massey next time they have a cosy-cuddly tête-à-tête, to "tell him I said that when Poland ratified the 1992 Valetta 'Convention for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage of Europe' (born of the abortive London Convention with the same aim), we meant it when we put our names under articles 3, 9(i) and 10. And archaeologists in the UK, what hypocrisy did they show in following suit 5 years later?" If he does that would no doubt be followed by more unhygienic coffee and spittle spray flying around Brexitdom as the "top arkie" tries to remember what the hell those ignored articles said?

 But no matter, within a few weeks, if 'the British people' have their way, he and the metal detectorists he supports will be well out of Europe and as the nation struggles to put right the mess leaving will create, there will be more pressing needs than such 'European nonsenses' like actually protecting the archaeological heritage in their territory. Britain has gone in a generation or two from a little island that used its influence over a huge number of other lands to loot the heritage of the rest of the world to fill its museums. Now it has declined to one who has lost all that influence, and British looters can only satisfy their lusts by grubbing out what's left of the island's own heritage, and the arkies will stand by and watch as they drink their coffee and chat amiably with the despoilers while deriding  whistleblowers ("Little Greta's got funny eyes and Barford,,, huh!").

Sunday 29 September 2019

Leominster Hoard Trial Should Begin Tomorrow

Policing the past
The trial is scheduled for tomorrow of four men, one of them a dealer, charged with handling tainted artefacts. To recap ('Four in court  accused of dealing "tainted cultural objects"..' Hereford Times 28th November 2018),
Four metal detectorists have denied illegally dealing "tainted cultural objects" after uncovering a haul of Anglo-Saxon and Viking treasure near Leominster. George Powell, 37, Layton Davies, 50, Paul Wells, 59, and Simon Wicks, 56, are accused of digging up the hoard of artefacts in 2015 and failing to declare it as treasure. The relics found near Leominster included gold and silver coins, a gold ring, a gold arm bracelet and a crystal sphere as well as silver ingots. [...] Judge Jim Tindal told the quartet that their trial will last for four weeks and begin on [...] September 30, 2019. 
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.   

South London Dealers Jailed After £145,000 eBay Ivory Sale

Two south London dealers, Guy Buckle and Sik-Hung Or have been sentenced for selling antique ivory fans on eBay to buyers in China and the US. The items were illegally exported without the required export permits (ATG Reporter, ' South London pair jailed after selling £145,000 worth of antique ivory to overseas buyers on eBay', Antiques Trade Gazette 27 Sep 2019). They were each sentenced to 28 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to three counts of illegally exporting ivory goods in breach of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.
A police investigation established that 136 carved ivory fans – most of them 19th century Cantonese – had been exported outside the EU by the pair between January 2014 and November 2017 with the sales totalling £145,259. As antiques, the fans could be lawfully sold in the UK. However Buckle and Or made the majority of their sales to purchasers in China, Hong Kong and the US and dispatched the items without the necessary ‘re-export’ permits issued by the Animal and Plant Health Agency. Permits would not have been issued as import bans on ivory have been in place in the US and China since 2017.
Two items had been seized in November 2017 by UK Border Force at Heathrow when parcels being sent abroad were found to each contain an 'antique' carved ivory fan. Officers quickly identified the sender as an online trader selling identical carved ivory items.
When the pair’s home address was searched in March 2018, a total of 291 carved ivory fans, all from protected or endangered species, and four pieces of unworked elephant ivory was seized.
The men ignored the legal requirements in relation to the sale of specimens derived from protected/endangered species, though whether their arrest and sentencing will act as a deterrent to those involved in the illegal sale and export of such items remains to be seen. Dealers will be dealers, collectors will want to collect, regardless of the legality or ethics. EBay anyway has a self-imposed ivory ban in place for more than 10 years, but nasty dealers still sell it there regardless, under not-so-secret code names (like the illegal trade in wild bird eggs and human remains can from time to time still be seen to be going on there too).

Southwest Metal Detectorists, Gone Overnight: Changes Name to "The Detectorists Metal detecting uk" [UPDATED]

The Southwest Detectorist UK metal detecting club that was intending to target the nationally-important archaeological site at All Cannings in a commercial event apparently became aware of the criticism their activities provoked once people became aware of them (despite their planning them through a closed group on social media). Overnight, they have changed the name of the group and its logo. Saturday, when the decision was taken to call the rally off, there were no new posts on the FB page, but on Sunday morning a few more discussing the alternative arrangements for that rally and how to get the money back.

This however is not a coup, the organizers remain the same guys that were planning to pilfer artefacts from the All Cannings site - Danny Patrick (Also: South-Coast Relics Metal Detecting UK, Hammy Hunter, David Willett (Salisbury), Ryan "Skinny" Clarke (Andover), Shawn Chant (Salisbury "Hi I’m looking for land to get my metal detecting club on we pay handsomely") 

Why did they change the name? Very probably it was concern for their commercial activity. Until now, if a farmer they approached for permission to enter their land and take away any historical collectables they fancy had googled their name, they'd have found very little on the internet, just a 'members-only' Facebook page and a few totally unappealing videos of rally japers that I defy anyone to watch through to the end. It is difficult to avoid coming to the impression now that this is entirely deliberate. A landowner seeing this would have little possibility of determining what that group and its 3800+ members actually represent. Once Twitter, Facebook and some archaeoblogs started drawing attention to what Danny, Hammy, Davey, Ryan and Shawn were prepared to do to get their money, the chances of a landowner finding out what they are up to increases, hence the name change to The Detectorists Metal detecting uk. This group, The Detectorists Metal detecting uk has changed its name to hide its association withe the All Cannings rally. But I think that if they are a group of "responsible metal detectorists", there should be no need to hide their activities, not admit to past mistakes, and show they can be trusted by being transparent and opening their social media to general view,. What have they got to hide? What questions can they not answer? How firm is their commitment to the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales? Show yourselves, 'The Detectorists Metal detecting uk'.  

UPDATE 29th Sept 2019
It is interesting to note that four members have left the group since this morning today. Did they leave  in disgust or were they pushed? 

UPDATE UPDATED 30th Sept 2019
Now the 'closed group' has abandoned all pretence of transparency in favour of isolationist tribalism and become a 'secret group'. UK metal detecting officially becomes part of the Dark Web. 

In UK, artefact hunter to archaeologist: "If it wasn't fer us, you'd be out of a job mate"

In the fallout from the All Cannings commercial rally cancellation, "responsible metal detectorists" are furious that a site-looting has been prevented:
Jason Massey @jlmassey73 W odpowiedzi do @PasWiltshire @findsorguk i jeszcze 2 osób
And yes we follow the code of conduct and everyone is briefed before a dig to report all finds . We have Marshalls out in the fields as well . Stop putting detecting in the bad press . If it wasn't for us you be (sic) out of work .
Oh dear.... those pesky facts, that's the tricky one when discussing with Brexiters and tekkies alike:
Paul Barford@PortantIssues
@jlmassey73 , why do you say that? Tekkie hearsay and loose talk?On what substantive grounds do you base your statement? Which sentence of 'Profiling the Profession' gives grounds for such a statement with regard to 4425 professional archaeologists in the UK? 
as far as I can see, the word "detectorist" does not appear in its 129 pages, not under funding either. What is the basis for this glib assertion?
Actually, none. It's just tekkie folklore, like the '350 million for the NHS' on the side of a bus that the British gullible class fall for. Very few of the findspots reported every year by artefact hunters are even visited by archaeologists, let alone excavated by them, even fewer (like, probably, zero) of those excavations are the basis for permanent employment of any individual. There may be a few (literally a few) contracts specificallty for the study of material like the Staffordshire Hoard (done under the aegis of an institution like a Museum), but many hoards are processed by museum staff in amongst their other duties, in which the additional work created is a hindrance rather than a blessing. Even if that amounts to two dozen project-specific posts, and the fifty PAS staff kept busy with metal detecting finds and Treasure cases amongst their main task of outreach to the general public, that is still less than 2% of the archaeological workforce. So 98% of them are only marginally involved with 'detecting' finds and probably the majority keep well away from loudmouth detectorists like the oiks we see coming out in the threads related to the All Cannings commercial rally and the archaeological response.

Advice for a Climate Change Apocalypse

Chris Begley is an archaeologist and wilderness survival instructor, ("I study collapsed civilizations. Here’s my advice for a climate change apocalypse" Sept 23, 2019). It's the experimental archaeologists who are going to come through (not the artefact hunters) and while I take the point he's making, I think he underestimates the sociopaths. There seem more of them about these days, too. In fact, are they not the cause of many of the problems that we face? Flint knapping or clamp-fire pottery making course, anyone?

I was a stranger...

Pope Francis inaugurates a sculpture in St Peter’s Sq that represents a group of migrants from different cultures and periods of history to remind everyone of the Gospel call to welcome

Matthew 25:34-6

Object-centred Archaeology Flourishes on a Far-Away Atlantic Island

Wendy Scott@exleicflo · 28 wrz
W odpowiedzi do @CrapFinds
The unidentified ones are waiting to be spotted, identified, loved and become important dots on distribution maps. Help spread the word so they will not languish un-noticed!
Gustav Kossinna used to think that the aim of archaeology was making dot distribution maps. It seems that Kossinna вечно жив over there outside Europe. Most of the rest of us think that archaeology is about the bits of the archaeological record being trashed by collection-driven exploitation. Surely the mitigation should be aimed at this: Valetta Convention Arts 3, 9(i) and 10, no?

"Detectorist Investigation Group" (sic) Commercial Rally this Weekend

 The All Cannings commercial event was just one of many when UK metal detectorists target known archaeological features en masse, trashing any archaeological information they come across.

From Digger Dan (not that one)

Saturday 28 September 2019

Less Damaging than "Metal Detecting"

There was a time when 'metal detecting' was being promoted as a healthy outdoor activity that brought people together. The times have changed now and perhaps the BBC should make a heartwarming comedy ("Litterpickers"?) about cuddly everyday folk who find fulfilment in helping fight the environmental crisis our countryside is facing:

Friday 27 September 2019

Friday Retrospect: Wednesday, 27 August 2014 "Focus on Metal Detecting: Simpletons"

This is worth going back to, "the Kevmar survey"

Wednesday, 27 August 2014 Focus on Metal Detecting: Simpletons

Part of a 2012 metal detectorist's 'haul', showing the variety of objects hoiked.
The problem of non-reporting is not purely a figment of the imagination
of "simpletons" (sic). Part of the collection had been sold through
the English antiquities market by the time this photo was taken (BBC)
On a metal detecting forum very near you, "Liamnolan" (Re: Percentage of 'Keepers' - Tue Aug 26, 2014 3:04 pm ) is another one who attempts to explain away the doubts some of us have about the relationship between what metal detectorists in the UK are showing the PAS and what is actually being hoiked out of the archaeological record. He's decided to go for the name-calling tactic:
[...] There is always the chance that a simpleton =)) browsing this topic will not have a clue about metal detecting realities and thus not realise that the 99% of finds that are not coins etc are in fact RUBBISH such as tin foil, blobs of molten lead, shotgun cartridges, fragments of all sorts of domestic appliances, hot rocks ... the list is endless [...]
Simpletons are the people that write such crap, imagining that it will end the debate. Simpletons are the people who listen to them too. Mr Nolan does not name the "simpleton" whom he is addressing, but perhaps should be aware that in some of our cases (my own for example) we've been looking at metal detecting since the 1970s, when it started, have been to club meetings, out with detectorists on a number of occasions in more than one country, and have made a close study of the problem for a decade and a half. Anyone who's ever been involved in fieldwork of any kind (fieldwalking, earthwork surveying, hedgerow dating, excavation) in the heavily-littered English countryside is well aware of what gets into the fields in dirty Britain. I would say the accusation that people like that still "have not a clue about metal detecting realities" is clutching at straws. Certainly, I know enough about metal detecting argumentation to know that this very same argument has been trotted out regularly over the years.

This was the case in March 2005 when on another forum, the tekkies decided to put their money where their mouth is. They actually set out to demonstrate it. Thirty of them did, in different parts of the country. a total of 112 detecting hours, they turned off their discrimination and determined to "dig every target", ostensibly for a three hour session and log the results. They were going to show that - as Liamnolan puts it, "99% of finds are in fact rubbish".

They dug 1521 "hits". Of these only 493 were very modern finds (so to list the categories mentions by Liam Nolan: tin foil 61 pieces, ringpulls and drink can pieces 111, shotgun cartridges 173, fragments of domestic appliances and electrical waste 14). Hot rocks accounted for 14 dug hits.  There were 15 very modern coins (plus '14p in coppers').

The 'blobs of molten lead' may be "rubbish" to a collector, but could equally be archaeological evidence, deriving from reuse of Roman bath house fittings, roof lead flashings, medieval came manufacture, silver refining waste and so on (dating it would depend on the recording of distribution pattern taken with those of other artefact types). The 2005 survey found 262 pieces of lead 'scrap'.

Apart from that there were 456 artefacts falling into the group categorised by Nigel Swift and myself as 'Old Timey' (collectable - and saleable - items between c. 300 and c. 90 years old  but not recordable by the PAS). Among these were 71 coins.

What is significant is that there were 55 PAS-recordable finds found in this exercise (one 'keeper' per two hours' detecting in this case).* Of these 30 were coins.

Those figures break down to
Recordable collectables: 4%,
Old Timey collectables, 30%,
Very Modern 32%,
Unattributed and scrap (by the finders) 34% 
 This is a far cry from the "99%" rubbish claim. If we are talking about modern items, the figure shown by this survey is actually 32%.** I am sure that had the items not attributed by the finders been examined properly more archaeological items would have been recognized among them.  (See also: PACHI  Detecting Under the Microscope 13: Finds or Portable Antiquities? What is Being Thrown Away?).

These are the sort of "metal detecting realities" we are talking about. The ones that induce detecting forum moderators to delete posts or entire threads when they are pointed out.

*Actual rates will be higher, these people had discrimination turned off and were deliberately spending time digging signals they knew were duds. 

**"Oh, what about Green Waste?" you can almost hear them screaming. What's the betting the next such survey will be done only on "Green Waste fields" to boost the "Very modern" category - you know, the fields the detectorists would normally avoid for that very reason

All Cannings Rally Cancelled?

The group that was launching a commercial artefact grabfest on a nationally-important archaeological site at All Cannings SouthwestDetectorists UK have blocked me from their 'members only' Facebook page where responsible detectorists discuss what they are doing to the archaeological heritage of us all. Whicjh makes you wionder why a responsible metal detecting group cannot have a transparent public web -presence. I cannot keep readers up to date on that, maybe another archaeologist would like keep us informed by joining (there are questions to answer first like "how long have you been uninterested in preventing avoidable damage to the archaeological heritage?")*

Anyhow, Wiltshire Museum 11 godz. have posted this on facebook:
IMPORTANT UPDATE: We have just heard that the rally has been cancelled. Thanks to all those involved.
Apparently, the British Museum press office had been involved and probably the prospect of a media circus looking for a good story (another opportunity to use an Andy-and-Lance still from the TV show detectorists) at a commercial rally on a sensitive site made the organisers a bit leery. Having their photos all over the newspapers would not have made good press for the hobby. And the way we are going to curb this destruction is by mobilising public opinion against the evidence-trashers and artefact-pocketers and calling out what they do for what it is.

For future reference, it would be good to know how and why the rally was called off 
- was it the landowner who withdrew permission,- or were the commercial rally organisers swayed by archaeological arguments,- or were they more worried about what would happen if the press started to take an interest in informing public opinion about what they were doing?
It would be good if there was an article in the local press about the rally being cancelled, and why.

* I jest, such a question would most likely just prompt an uncomprehending "eh?" from potential members. 

Twenty Years on Still Going Round in Circles

The cancelling of the Southwest Detectorist UK commercial artefact stripping rally was announced on Facebook at the eleventh hour last night by Wiltshire Museum (11 godz.), the news was followed by a comment by one Alex Bliss (now not visible) and he was answered by another detectorist. I'll answer it here, to save group members there from untidy debate:
Stephenie Hughes As with Alex, I am also a detectorist, and have been for over 35 years. I find that fact that this dig was planned, and even after discussion, was still going ahead, extremely disappointing to say the least. Yes, it is now cancelled, but only after a lot of pressure from many different organisations.
99% of detectorists, are respectful, and have a genuine passion for our heritage, and the preservation of historic sites and artefacts. Things like this give us all a bad name, spoiling it for the rest of us. I am personally, ashamed, and wish I could convey the hobby in a good light, unfortunately bad news travels fast, but the good, very slowly.
We often hear of unscrupulous individuals, breaking the law, and causing damage, but for everyone of them, there are many hundreds of people who add to our knowledge and help to fill in the pieces of our heritage. Information that would otherwise have been lost, or worse, destroyed by modern farming techniques.
I’m not trying to dampen down the severity of risk that these thing can cause, I am merely trying to offer the better, more constructive, and positive side to this hobby. It is only by all of us working together, that we can create an environment that promotes understanding, and total respect. Education is a great place to start.
Sorry for the long post, I really hate hearing of things like this, and I really want to show that not all of us should be tarred with the same brush.
bear in mind this is on an archaeological body's FBpage. The reason why it was going ahead is that it was a commercial event (making money for the organisers and landowner). I do not know how Stefanie reconciles in her mind  the notion of "preserving artefacts [ripped from sites]" and "preserving sites", I really do not. Can PAS explain to somebody who's already been doing it for 35 years, just what it is they are doing? Can they? That is what they are paid for (2003 aim number two).
Stefanie cannot with a straight face, I hope, claim that 99% of detectorists record their finds to a degree that would constitute mitigation of the damage to the archaeological record of the exploited site. Because self-evidently (and whether she sees or admits it) they do not.   

Playing the victim: unfortunately bad news travels fast, but the good, very slowly.
There is no 'good news', collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record irrevocably damages it. Again self-evidently (whether she sees or admits it).

Playing the victim: We often hear of unscrupulous individuals, breaking the law, and causing damage, but for everyone of them, there are many hundreds of people who add to our knowledge and help to fill in the pieces of our heritage. 
It is pretty amazing that she can write that right under the reported remarks of the FLO that I highlighted a few hours ago that the problem is not any law-breaking, but precisely what is acceptable and collection-driven exploitation of a finite and fragile resource is not one of those things that in a civilised country should be happening at the hands of those who (actually, not declaratively) care about our ability to understand the past.

I am not going to even bother about the parroted-mantric 'destroyed by modern farming techniques'. These are, of course, techniques we've had since the modern age of farming began (K-fertilisers 1860s, N-fertilisers 1930s, mechanical ploughing since the 1920s at the latest), and yet those artefacts are still there in collectable condition for these people to invent justifications for greedily filling their pockets and eBay with them.

Stephanie should by now be aware that archaeology generally (leaving aside the backward, insular form of a little island off the coast of Europe) does not see this "better, more constructive, and positive side to [collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record]". We have names (and jails) for it on the continent.

And yes, "it is only by all of us working together, that we can create an environment that promotes understanding, and total respect. Education is a great place to start". When is the PAS (or its successor) going to blooming well start? Twenty years it says it's been doing it, but still Southwest Detectorists UK and all its members (the FB page has 3835 members) saw absolutely nothing at all wrong with what the rally organisers were planning to do. Slow learners, obviously.  

FLO Rightly Observes: "Responsible Detecting Not Just Reporting Cool Old Stuff"

FLO Peter Reavill has been going up a bit in my books lately, not only did he this week politely answer a query of mine without referring it to Bloomsbury like the rest do (if they answer at all), today he writes sensible stuff about ethics addressed to tekkies. Most of the rest of the FLOs are jobsworths that apparently would not dare:
Peter Reavill @PeterReavill If you are attending this #rally at the weekend - please note this urgent #ArchaeologicalAdvice from @PasWiltshire @WiltshireMuseum #ResponsibleMetalDetecting is more than just finding cool old stuff and reporting to @findsorguk
Too right it is, as Nigel Swift, I and a few others have been saying for a long while now, totally unsupported by those 50 PAS folk actually paid from the public purse to do (proper) archaeological outreach on Portable Antiquities issues. Of course, he could have said "if you were going to go.. read this and reconsider".

Responsibility, More Than Just a Word

Southwest detectorists UK in protected zone of even Stonehenge
 PAS seems rather too late to have cottoned on that the 'Not-a-Nighthawk' argument is insufficient justification for promoting (so-called "responsible") artefact hunting as a kosher way to treat the archaeological heritage. Here's Wil Partridge on the subject:
PASWiltshire @PasWiltshire   27th September
A detectorist has made us aware of a Southwest Detectorist UK metal detecting rally at All Cannings, Wilts. this weekend. The rally puts an unscheduled, but nationally important, archaeological site at risk. / Despite a request from myself and the County Archaeologist for Wiltshire to the landowner and organiser, the rally will be going ahead. The landowner has agreed to make a separate field available and we kindly request that those who will attend use this field instead. / In the context of a commercial rally there can be no guarantee that this site will not be damaged and given our discussions, this now amounts to knowingly damaging an archaeological site. However, unless some treasure goes unreported, no laws will have been broken. / Ultimately this highlights that meeting minimum legal obligations does not equate to detecting responsibly.
and what if the site was not a known site of national importance? Unsystematically rooting around in it with spades and detectors and pocketing random artefacts from it is still archaeological destruction. The significance of All Cannings is only known through the fact that it has been excavated - before that it was just a place where a couple of worked stones were turned up. I hope the PAS notifies the local and national press and there are reporters on the site documenting the way Britain treats the archaeological heritage. Let us take the debate on so-called "responsible artefact hunting" out from behind the portland-stone portals of Bloomsbury and out in the informed public forum. 

Cannings Cross Rally

Martyn Gleaden 25 września o 14:47
Another really wet one forecast this weekend for Cannings Cross 😐 I've only just finished clearing away all the mud from last weekend, I've also reviewed my choice of waterproof clothing, with better ones ordered 😁

Thursday 26 September 2019

Southwest Detectorist Metal detecting UK

Southwest Detectorist Metal detecting UK, Facebook page (address says its 'public', but that's not true, it is a closed group): Members: 3835, Administrators: Danny Patrick, Hammy Hunter, David Willett, Ryan Clarke, Shawn Chant. Date of formation of group: 2 July 2017.

 Administrators' Rules:
1 Respect everyone's privacy Being part of this group requires mutual trust. Authentic, expressive discussions make groups great, but may also be sensitive and private. What's shared in the group should stay in the group.
2 Be kind and courteous We're all in this together to create a welcoming environment. Let's treat everyone with respect. Healthy debates are natural, but kindness is required.
3 No promotions or spam Give more to this group than you take. Self-promotion, spam and irrelevant links aren't allowed.
No upfront mention of a Code of Best Practice.

There is not a lot about it on the Internet. A Treasure hunting success story ("Whist on an organized dig with the Southwest Detectorist's Metal detecting U.K. I found this ...") for some reason has been deleted from the Minelab detector producer's page. It is interesting to speculate why. We learn on a forum that 'Most digs [...] cost £20 a pop to attend. Here's a not very attractive video about one of their events at King's Worthy near Winchester, how many of those finds can you spot in the PAS database? 


Cause for "Alarm", except in Blinkers-Bloomsbury?

An archaeologist who's done a lot of work with artefact hunters has said that "there is an alarming rise in illegal and immoral behaviour" among artefact hunters [one assumes that this refers to in England and Wales]. Sam Hardy @conflictantiq picks this up and urges that
it's important to try to work out whether that's due to an alarming change in behaviour (and/)or an alarming increase in numbers v @PortantIssues
Indeed, but is it not disturbing that the BM press department on behalf of the PAS is not keeping the UK public and media informed about this, as she says "alarming" rise in illegal and immoral behaviour among British artefact hunters. One might wonder why not? Should we not be informing the public about this and why it is damaging?PAS, what are the figures and what is the PAS reaction, if any?

Historical-Environmental Moralities Differently

"Nighthawks"?  But this is in broad daylight, illegal metal detecting photographed on a SAM site in Caerwent by ‎Allan Mills‎ to Metal detecting. One wonders what happened after this was captured on film... Meanwhile Leicester's ex-FLO commented on the artefact hunting within the churchyard:
Unbelievably callous and disrespectful. Happy to say not all detectorists are like this, but there is an alarming rise in illegal and immoral behaviour. [emoticon] 
That rather gives the impression that this is another FLO that's swallowed the "not-a nighthawk" blue pill and seems to suggest that she'd be "happy" to say too that collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record is OK as long as its not done by "people like this". That is, one hopes she's been following the discussion, if there might be 27+k people doing it in the UK alone. who else is "happy" about that?

So, if the photographed guy had moved a couple of hundred meters to his left, outside the scheduled area of the walled Roman town, there would be nothing immoral about him filling his pockets?

The Pilfered Archaeology of Hammered Hill "Somewhere in Shropshire"

Posted on You tube by DrTones24k 3 May 2019

In the naff fancy dress intro, we hear this is "day two of our trip to England with the Hoover Boys and Metal Detecting Holidays dotcom", hoovering up the foreign heritage. They are "back on hammered hill, this is where the Shropshire Short Cross Hoard came out...." and they found another one, "that's why we came here, that makes forty silver hammered coins out of this hoard" - was this one handed to the Coroner? And the others ("forty three?" ). Where are those object now? What about the other items they found but did not fit the coin/treasure-hunting profile of the Hoover Boys' video?The documentation, is it still in the UK?

They made a thing of an eroded Roman brooch, but this raises the question of,  after these guys have been hoiking and taking stuff willy nilly, what we now know of the archaeological record of that site where there has clearly been activity in the past . What the finder 'learnt' about the past from finding the brooch is erroneous). That brooch is apparently not in the PAS database, maybe an export licence was issued, and probably now it is in a private collection in the States. The collection of some oik that has no table manners and does not even remove his hat when he goes to a restaurant with his equally oiky mates.

What archaeological gains do we have to compensate for the trashing of the archaeological record of this grassy site? This is how "metal detecting" looks in real life, how can it be sustainably practiced so that the net effect is not wholesale archaeological destruction wherever an artefact collector enters a field? That is a serious, not rhetorical, question. Maybe the supporters of the current laissez faire approach can give an answer to that which does not take as its starting point cuddly wishful thinking.

And this pot, in Sir Braggalot's Man-Cave?

The bloke with the buffon and faux mailcoat at the beginning of the video has a barely-visible footed pot on the shelf of his darkened man-cave. I am intrigued, what is it and where did it come from?

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Push Crime Off Facebook

Caerwent Grave Robbers use Metal Detectors

Probably, most artefact hunters will see no problem with this, it's not banned by the NCMD 'Code' and they "filled in there 'oles" (and "anywayz, howd'ya know it wasn't badgers, eh?"):
Wentwood Ministry Area 16 hrs
We are sad to report that Caerwent Churchyard has been victim to [artefact hunting]. Some time between Friday evening and early Sunday morning people with metal detectors dug up and left approximately 50 dinner plate sized areas of turf disturbed. We have reported this to the police who have informed us that this is both a heritage crime as well as desecration of consecrated ground. If anyone has any information we would be very pleased to hear from you. Please ring Rev'd Sally [...] or PC Mat Andrews [...]. We would be very grateful if our neighbours as well as visitors to the church and village keep alert for any suspicious behaviour. [...] Please feel free to share this post widely.
It's  a heritage crime, because it is right in the middle of the Roman town, the entire area of which is scheduled

and if we ever see these objects again, they'll be reported to the FLO or anyone else as from an entirely different site altogether. 'Went-y-Gaer' anyone?

Artefact Hunters are from Mars

The British archaeological organisation Rescue seem very diffident about discussing their own policies.... at their Annual General meeting was supposed to be discussion about setting up a 'research' (sic) and educational "Institute of Detecting" [artefact hunting] and Keith Westcott, their tame pet artefact hunter who's behind the idea got carried away on their facebook page and engaged in a very long discussion/argument on the idea with Heritage Action and Evelyne Godfrey of Uffington Heritage Watch. Needless to say that the discussion has been deleted because it went beyond the "ooo, nice cuddly-wuddly idea" and got a bit substantive. And then the name-calling started. Artefact hunting is not archaeology, and there is a vast chasm between artefact hunters and archaeologists.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Something Contentious in this Hope?

Evelyne Godfrey udostępniła link. 11 godz.
Looking forward to the post-excavation analysis results and scholarly publication of this assemblage in a mainstream academic journal and presentation at scientific meetings! Such an important archaeological find deserves publication beyond the Shropshire Star

"Evelyne Godfrey wyłączyła możliwość komentowania tego posta."

No comments allowed, apparently publication of archaeological discoveries is a contentious subject these days.

Is there a problem about this 'hoard' and the story that the public was told? One story for us and one for the plebs? Why can the British public not receive proper information from archaeologists about deposits like this through the press? And what prevents us from discussing the public dissemination of archaeological information to the public in this case, Ms Godfryy?

Sunday 22 September 2019

Thomas Cook and 'Heritage Tourism'

One of the world's best known holiday brands, UK travel giant Thomas Cook has collapsed after last-minute negotiations aimed at saving the 178-year-old holiday firm failed (BBC Thomas Cook collapses as last-ditch rescue talks fail 23rd September 2019). The business was founded in 1841 in Leicestershire by cabinet-maker Thomas Cook to carry temperance supporters by railway between the cities of Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham. He organised his first tours to Europe in 1855 and the first trip to Egypt and Palestine in 1869. The firm expanded with the boom in travel in the Edwardian era, though was mainly patronised by the wealthy. This was the beginning of the heritage tourism industry (and also was the context of a restricted number of antiquities leaving places like Egypt and finding a place in British homes and collections).* [UPDATE thread here]

Thomas Cook and Son Ltd benefited from the post-war holiday boom, which saw one million Britons travelling abroad by 1950. In the late 1950s, the company began to more widely promote 'foreign holidays' (particularly France, Italy, Switzerland and Spain) and attract a broader clientele. The company sold "inclusive tours" (package holidays) using scheduled airlines but refused to sell cheap package holidays. Cook's was still the largest and most successful company in the industry, but in the 1960s its pre-eminence was being challenged by new travel firms that were able to undercut Cook's prices and offer cheap package deals that which compromised on quality and service.
Speaking to BBC News from Manchester airport, travel expert Simon Calder said Thomas Cook "wasn't ready for the 21st Century". He said: "It was using a model that was great for the second half of the 20th Century where people would obediently go into their local travel agency and book a package holiday. "Now everybody can pretend they are a travel agent. They've got access to all the airline seats, hotel beds, car rentals in the world and they can put things together themselves. "Thomas Cook simply wasn't differentiating enough."[...] Thomas Cook has blamed a series of issues for its problems including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, last summer's prolonged heatwave and customers delaying booking holidays because of Brexit. But the firm has also faced fierce competition from online travel agents and low-cost airlines. In addition, many holidaymakers are putting together their own holidays and not using travel agents.
* With the advent of the spread of rail travel (between 1825 and 1840), the so-called 'Grand Tour' ceased to be the elite phenomenon it had been a century earlier.

Saturday 21 September 2019

Wem Hoard Excavation

Wem Hoard – the excavation (Copyright:
Dr Roger White – University of Birmingham,
via Shropshire Newsroom)

Shropshire Newsroom, '‘Wem Hoard’ of Roman hacksilver declared treasure at Coroner’s inquest last week09/09/2019 

The site of the discovery of a hoard comprising 336 items of later Roman hacksilver (including 37 coins), deposited at some point in the later 5th century was later excavated by a team from the University of Birmingham. What evidence that was left showed that the hoard had been placed within an organic container in a shallow pit that survived under the ploughsoil. The article then goes on to say that 'funds will be raised by Shropshire Museums', not for further research on the site and the writing of a monographic report describing each piece of hacksilver, but
to acquire it for the people of Shropshire to be displayed at our flagship county museum, Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.” The monies raised will be paid to the finders and the landowners as a reward.
But, since Wroxeter has been mentioned, I'd like us to take a look at the photo of the excavation. Because I wonder just what funds were made available to do that. The eye entering the picture from bottom left sees at once a metal detector thrown onto the ground next to a spade lying sharp edge up. From the photo, health and safety measures in general seem non-existent at this site, machine in the background, no hard hats, no hi-vis clothing.  Raggedy-edged trench, the spoilheap slipping in on one side into the excavation, the excavation of what one presumes was a feature has begun  rather haphazardly (no buckets, no finds trays) with the spoil being scattered on the 'excavated' surface next to the feature, a bloke is seen haphazardly (no grid pegs visible) searching the area behind the diggers with a spade in his hand to hoik out the source of a signal. In fact, there are three metal-detector-and-spade pairs visible in this photo, one of the spades is driven into the 'excavation' surface, and two of the excavators have earphones on. A fourth detector lies thrown on the ground. This is not archaeology, this is hoiking. Hoiking with metal detectors in a bigger hole because the topsoil has been machined off. If this is what the excavation looked like as a whole, a mess (and this photo was taken and published by the director conducting the research, not a vicious rival), then I do not see how any contextual information recorded has much value.

This is not what modern archaeological fieldwork on the findspot of a 'nationally important Treasure' should be looking like in 2019. Using metal detectorists, instead of experienced and trained archaeologists, to dig holes in and record archaeological sites like this is really a blind alley.  Can we do no better? No funding? What do British archaeological codes of ethics say about carrying out second class work on a shoestring? If we allow this and allow it to remain uncommented, then how and when will the opportunity arise to press for more funding?

The hoard has been mentioned a number of times in this blog:
Monday, 16 September 2019 ' Important Site near Wem Trashed, Artefact Hoikers Praised by FLO for "Helping to Unearth Part of Britain's History"..'

Friday, 20 September 2019, 'PAS "Recording" and Dumbing Down the Wem Hoard'.

Friday, 20 September 2019, ' "Cornovii Discoverers" Pay-to-Take Artefact Hunters' Club: Call for landowners to "help uncover Shropshire's history" (aka "fill our pockets")',

This hoard should not be confused with the other Roman Wem Hoard found by illegal metal detecting PACHI Thursday, 27 October 2011, ' Sugar Coating Illegal Metal Detecting, and You are paying for it'. .
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