Monday, 23 December 2019

PAS Will Probably Ignore This Problematic Pendant Too

I've reported a number of dodgy-looking items being sold online to the PAS and Treasure Registrar over the past few months, and despite their claims to have the monitoring of EBay well in hand, their only reaction in each case was to tell me to deal with it myself as a private person living abroad. Most recently was the freshly surfaced Anglo-Saxon goldwork. There are one or two items like this almost every week, but statistics say the problem of illicit artefact sales does not happen 'much' and detectorists engaging in illicit activity are a "minority" - but that is only because sales like this are routinely ignored by the archaeological establishment in Britain. So, here is one of this week's that I spotted on EBay in my research on the antiquities market. PASt experience tells me that I'd just get fobbed off reporting it to the portable antiquities folk again, so I feel rather demotivated and don't think I'll bother.  Somebody else can tell the PAS jobsworths if they want, but it's a waste of time, I reckon. But I am 100% certain that if we were metal detectorists wanting to alert them to a find that we'd hoiked, they'd be falling over themselves fawning and wanting to find out all about it and get their hands on it.

So, here, for now, soon to be lost to a private collection is a 'Roman Silver Denarius Coin Pendant – Possibly an Anglo-Saxon Creation Post Roman' being sold by Business Seller ancientpasts (211 ) Simon Brown, Yaxley near Peterborough, United Kingdom [seller's full address is in sales offer]. He has (don't they all?) 100% Positive feedback. The price is GBP 285.00 - Approximately US $371.88 [Shipping:GBP 6.50 (approx. US $8.48) Royal Mail International Standard. No mention of an export licence.]
Description Date: Circa: 5th – 6th Century AD:
Size: diametre [sic] at 1.6 cm: height to retention loop 2.2 cm: weight at 3.34 grams:
An interesting ancient Roman Denarius coin pendant, which I suspect may be post Roman and perhaps, Anglo-Saxon in creation date: The migration tribes [sic] of Northern Europe were fond of using old Roman coins in this way and the retention loop is similar in design style to others of this period: The item was detected in North-Norfolk in the early 2000’s [sic]: It is thought that some Romano / Iceni may have moved west into the Fens to avoid the Angles, who were migrating across the North Sea from Angeln [modern Schleswig] and settling what would become East Anglia:
Condition: Very fine: unrecognizable Emperor bust facing left – possible soldier advancing to the reverse: Dark grey to silver patination oxide tones: Clasp and retention complete - could be worn today:
Note the Victorian 'settlement of the English' narrativisation, so typical of the antiquities market. There are 29 silver pendants from Norfolk in the PAS database, and this is not among them. A silver object, even if part of it was a coin, found by an artefact hunter in Norfolk in the early 2000s should have been reported under the 1996 Treasure Act. If it was not reported (and what about the landowner?), then the finder and first holder had acquired it illegally and did not have legal title to it. In that case, that title cannot have been legally obtained by successive holders, nor by the dealer who currently has it in their stock. As a silver artefact more than 300 years old, found after the implementation of the Treasure Act, this item is (potential) Treasure, and illegally appropriated. Unless he can provide documentation to the contrary, Simon Brown would have a hard time explaining how he has legal title to an undeclared piece of Treasure found on British soil. But then, nobody is going to ask him, are they? To do so would risk spoiling the statistics.

That is, of course if it is a real antiquity. Have a look at that loop and the toolmarks on it. Those grooves on it for example, and the way the silver strip is bent. What do those marks come from? Then look at the rough edges of the rivets, why are they like that (and not worn)? Where is there any trace of wear on the loop from use? From the photos offered, this object looks as it would if freshly-made and never worn. The coin is badly worn on both sides, the reverse particularly, and the die axis of the obverse and reverse are at an angle to each other. But the coin is mounted in such a way that neither side is 'up' - which is not how the majority of antique coin pendants look. What evidence is there that this object actually was dug up in the form we see now?  The coin is a piece of numismatic scrap, poorly legible, hardly collectable. But who is to say that some metal detectorist bloke in a shed adding some grooves and two holes to a bit of scrap silver strip (about an hour and a half work at most) could not transform an unsaleable numismat into a 'pendant' that some dealer or collector will buy?  Is that what Simon Brown has in his stock? The BM would probably be able to tell him what they think, but will they? But here we have a piece of material that is either one thing or another, and as such contaminating the archaeological record with information that may be entirely false. This is the problem with all forms of 'bazaar archaeology'.

As always, caveat emptor.

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