Thursday 30 April 2020

Taking a Leaf From the Metal Detectorists' Songbook: "Doing Some Good"

Charles Ede's Corona-MASK
Art Trade Gazette:
Coronavirus: Dealers sell antiquities to give NHS and homeless charities a boost When coronavirus first led to a UK lockdown, some dealers reported feeling powerless to help or even to sell. Now traders are launching more and more efforts to transact while doing some good. Recently two antiquity dealerships have had a go at doing their part. London gallery Charles Ede is…
They are taking a leaf from the UK metal detectorists' songbook, Baz Thugwit and Tattooed Harry long ago realised that if you say its a commercial rally, but "organised for charity", people will be lulled into thinking 'aww-decent-guys-with-a-heart-surely-can't-be-involved-in-anything-even-a-little-bit-dodgy'. Look at what Mr Ede is trying to shift... 

Here, appropriately is a theatrical mask. Look at its 'collection history':
PROVENANCE Kenzo collection, Paris, France; acquired early 1980s
In other words so long ago that probably the paper trail has gone cold and they can't touch you for it.

That does NOT show the object was acquired and sold licitly.

Where, when and HOW did this item leave the ground/monument and enter the antiquities trade? What claims were made at the time that this was licit and legal and how were they documented? 

Without that documentation (no special pleading) nobody should feel that they have any kind of a right to be buying or selling that object and any that are like it in terms of discarded or neglected documentation.

This is no better than the metal detectorists
If British antiquities dealers wanted to "do some good", they could use lockdown to reflect on just how many items in their stock have actual documentation of licit origins, and if the answer is "not many", then really should they even contemplate opening up their stores again when this is all over. Let the virus cleanse the antiquities market of the dealers that could not be bothered to buy only identifiably squeaky-clean items for their stockroom. Because they too are an infectious virus.

hat tip: Chasing Aphrodite

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Do Archaeologists Have an Ethical Obligation to Report Looting?

A Special Live Debate: Do Archaeologists Have an Ethical Obligation to Report Looting?

In the UK, they get around the dilemma (means they can sit on their backsides and ignore the problem) by calling it "metal detecting" and "citizen archaeology" and say Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record is a jolly good thing, because "we have a PAS"... It's about as effective a 'policy' (I use the term loosely) as the British government's equally negligent 'response' (I use the term loosely) to the Coronavirus issue.

Register and see what others think about collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Archaeological Principles and the ‘Contextual Detectorist’

proposed IoD: 'Institute of Detectorists'@Detectorists_·3 g.
*New Course* Metal detecting, archaeological principles and the ‘Contextual Detectorist’. With our first course winning the prestigious 2019 Archaeology Training Forum Awards, we are back at the University of Oxford. StopPress: Dr Mike Heyworth MBE and Anni Byard join Keith Westcott, as course tutors .
I am sure we'll all be delighted to learn how one does "contextual" collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record, and why.

I'll just put up this figure from Robbins 2014, p. 72, fig 30. It's a bit fuzzy in the pdf and omitted in the online publication from which it comes, which is a shame as it contains a lot that is relevant here.
There is no scale (or northpoint) but this search area is about a kilometre across EW and NS. Discuss.

Update 28.04.2020
One of the course's tutors has explained what the concept is:
Mike Heyworth @mikeheyworth · 43 min W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues @TomRedmayne1 i jeszcze 4 osób
This training course is about how to use the metal detector as an archaeological tool to contribute knowledge for public benefit - nothing to do with any "collection-driven exploitation"
Oxford University will no doubt be running parallel shovelling classes too then, I guess. What does the noun "Detectorist" mean in the compound "Contextual Detectorist"? If the tool user is part of an archaeological project (as described in Our Portable Past), then why is the detector user a "contextual" one, and is that in any way different from the rest of the members of the team? And why would they need any training beyond learning on site what the individual project director needs them to do and how as part of his team? All a bit odd, and what's the ex-Oxford FLO going to be doing there, demonstrating detector settings and discrimination?

UPDATE 29th April 2020
Then this appeared overnight in reply to Martin Rundkvist saying "Sweden should have courses like this!" while it is still unclear what actually this "course" is about, except in some way involving metal detectors:
proposed IoD: 'Institute of Detectorists'@Detectorists_ · 15 g.
We have all four UK countries and Ireland now involved in the research and educational institute initiative and I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to attend Montpelier. Consistency of best practice could be of interest across Europe and perhaps collaborative approach?
I don't know how it is in Sweden, but in most countries across the continent, the metal detector, along with other geophysical equipment is already in use where needed as a tool aiding archaeological projects to create information for the public benefit...

Ironic isn't it that its in Brexited Britain that there is an urge now to tell Europeans that they need to change their "approach" to the use of metal detectorists as an archaeological tool.

But I have a feeling that this is not what Keith Westcott has in mind.

British Museum Curator Eating from Foreign Antiquities Trade Advocate's Hand (I)

Antiquities trade and
museum scholars?
The American Committee for Cultural Policy was established to "strengthen the public dialogue on art and cultural heritage policy through education" and... [it's pretty obvious when you look at who is in it] help the no-questions-asked antiquities trade go about its business. Over in the US, they seem pretty concerned that in Germany, there was a project looking at the antiquities trade (ILLICID: Transparenz – Provenienz – Verbraucherschutz Fakten und Handlungsempfehlungen zum Handel mit antiken Kulturgütern in Deutschland). In fact, they are very concerned, as it brings to the fore the question of where, in the 21st century, the antiquities market is going. For those who want to stay in the colonial nineteenth century, that's a bit of a problem.

Fortunately for them, in Britain the Guardian's Arts and culture correspondent, Lanre Bakare, found a bloke who had some views on this German report (see my take here, here, here and here), but two weeks later, encouraged by what Bakare had obtained, we find ACCP's Kate Fitz Gibbon interviewing him too. I do not know if the British Museum has an explicit written policy about staff members interacting with antiquities trade influencers, if it does not, it should have by now.

The resultant text is very long, jumps about from subject to subject, all however on the instigation of Ms Fitz Gibbon, who to judge from the published account had the British Museum curator wrapped around her little finger. Where she led, he dutifully followed, apparently he's a bit of a yes-man. Just like the BM's Portable Antiquities Scheme cannot say 'no' to the metal detectorists, the BM's Senior Curator for the Middle East just down the corridor apparently could not say 'no' to the dealers. So we have this: Fitz Gibbon, 'St John Simpson Interview: Afghanistan repatriation, Daesh, remote-archaeology and the ILLICID report' (Cultural Property News April 26, 2020).

And though it's at the end of her title, they started with the ILLCID report.
Antiquities Trade apologist's question: [...]  You stepped forward recently to point out that cultural policies in Germany in particular were being driven by misrepresentations about the illicit circulation of art. Can we talk about that first, and get the unreal picture out of the way, and then talk about the realities, and the way forward?
St John Simpson: Yes, let’s get the ILLICID report out of the way. The key fact about the ILLICID report is that [...]
and you can read the rest in Fitz Gibbon's recounting of it here. Maybe I'll come back to it another day, there are other problems there.

The persuasive(?)
Kate Fitz Gibbon
But to come back to the main point... I don't know why this is happening, perhaps St John Simpson can explain it to us. The report he is discussing is called "Transparenz – Provenienz – Verbraucherschutz Fakten und Handlungsempfehlungen zum Handel mit antiken Kulturgütern in Deutschland" (Ergebnisse des BMBF-Verbundprojekts »Verfahren zur Erhellung des Dunkelfeldes als Grundlage für Kriminalitätsbekämpfungund -prävention am Beispiel antiker Kulturgüter«). The word Syria does not occur in the title at all. It's not a report on Syria. So why is he discussing "Syria, Syria, Syria"? Why, when the report is on what it is on, does he so blithely witter on about the recent trade in stolen and looted items from Iraq? He does it as though they disprove what the report is saying about Syria - when the report is not about Syria but about the illicit trade of items from the whole area - including Iraq (!) Weird.

Mr Simpson seems confused about what this report is on. It is attempting to look at the grey market in antiquities in Germany. How to define that? In Britain (where Mr Simpson is based), it's pretty difficult too. The German researchers note the EU legislation, and there are two specific regulations concerning antiquities from Iraq and Syria. On top of the dates of introduction of export controls in individual countries these form a good benchmark, and that is how they are used in the report.

But Mr Simpson ignores all that as irrelevant to what he wants to say (or what Ms Fitz Gibbon wants him to say) is reported as saying:

Actually,  it is far from 'the key fact', there is a lot Mr Simpson is avoiding saying, but the British Museum scholar gets the numbers completely round his neck. I wonder how he would go about designing and executing a project looking at the grey market in antiquities in the UK. Could he? First of all the number 356,500 is wrong. Look at pages 19-20 where he got this from:
Unter insgesamt 386.500  recherchierten und gesichteten Angeboten wurden in 24 Monaten 3.741 Lose mit 6.133 antiken Kulturgütern aus dem östlichen Mittelmeerraum (AKOM) als projektrelevant erfasst. Darunter befinden sich 2.387 Objekte, die nach wissenschaftlicher Einschätzung mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit aus dem Irak und/oder Syrien stammen (38,9 %). Von den 289 durch die Altertumswissenschaftlerinnen und Altertumswissenschaftler gesichteten und den 197 regelmäßig analysierten Akteuren und Plattformen boten 90 auch AKOM in Deutschland an. Bei mehr als 65 % der Angebote lagen die Standorte in Süddeutschland. Dabei wurde eine kontinuierliche Verlagerung des Handels in das Internet beobachtet.
First of all those 386500 artefacts are all being sold in Germany in the research period. [Note that this is in Germany and not 'available to German buyers' which is another thing - and if they are prepared to pay postage costs a higher figure.] So it will include Pre-columbian artefacts, Saharan prehistoric lithics, items metal detected in Britain and the Balkans, ancient coins from all over the ancient world (Mr Simpson's Afghanistan and adjacent areas of India included). But the project took as a sample area (p. 16) the 'Eastern Mediterranean', so Turkey, Egypt, the Holy Lands right over to Iran (German collectors and dealers love 'Luristan'), but not Mr Simpson's Afghanistan/Turkmenistan main area of expertise.  And as the report makes clear, 3,741 lots with 6,133 ancient cultural goods from the eastern Mediterranan region they were examining were found in the 24 month project. It is this sample that is examined more closely with regard to the relevant national and EU legislation. Not the arrowheads from Mali, the Han cash coins from China, the dolphin token coinage from Olbia, but a specific, concrete group of material from countries with very clear legal situations.

Of the 6133 objects examined, of the 289 actors and platforms identified (197 of whom were regularly analysed), 90 offered antiquities from the area of the Eastern Mediterranean (as in the map above) and locations in southern Germany accounted for more than 65% of the offers. The researchers noted that there was a constant shift of trade to the Internet - so not the kind of thing that tends to be uncovered by UK Customs operations, except by accident. Among the 6133 objects, despite the 'competition' from antiquities from other regions, as many as 2,387 objects were considered highly likely to come from Iraq and / or Syria (38.9%). It does not matter for the (actual, not imagined) purpose of the report that some/many of these items might be fakes fraudulently sold as authentic antiquities.

 Talking about the way forward in dealing with the illicit circulation of art (sic) is not something that Kate Fitz Gibbon and St John Simpson really got around to doing in the end. It's probably not really on the agenda for the ACCP.

Part two: Dismissing the value of remote sensing,

Part three: Getting him to say a few more things.

British Museum Curator Eating from Foreign Antiquities Trade Advocate's Hand (II)

"ad hoc and opportunistic" just pretty massive
and looking like looting on an industrial scale,
but what do we 'know' eh? 
It's probably a bit awkward trying to be an advocate for the US antiquities trade is you are trying to pretend that looting's not really a problem that concerns you or your mates, but there happen to be oodles of satellite photos that show massive hole-digging in precisely the sort of places where potatoes don't grow very well, but antiquities will be found.

BM curator St John Simpson has already gone on record to say that "in Syria there had been “ad-hoc and opportunistic looting”...". I drew attention to the satellite photos that say otherwise (PACHI Friday, 10 April 2020, ' British Museum's Notion of "Ad Hoc and Opportunist . Looting in Syria"..'). Now antiquities trade lobbyist Kate Fitz Gibbon tries to draw her interviewee on this point, and he apparently dutifully plays along (Fitz Gibbon, 'St John Simpson Interview: Afghanistan repatriation, Daesh, remote-archaeology and the ILLICID report' Cultural Property News April 26, 2020):
Trade advocate's Question: Databases and satellite tracking can give you the facts about how many holes there are but that doesn’t tell you what’s driving the digging, or what was found there. You might be familiar with a recent study [...] This is what happens when you don’t do field research. 
St John Simpson: There is a whole generation of archaeologists now that has got PhDs and got jobs based on using remote sensing because they couldn’t get to the countries on the ground. [...] I totally agree it needs to be followed up wherever you possibly can with ground research. You’ve got to look at these sites.
First of all, it is not clear how much ground research in northern and eastern Syria Ms Fitz Gibbon has done since 2011, and interestingly the amount done by BM staff themselves in Assad's Syria since 2011 is not one of the questions addressed. Neither are St John Simpson's own qualifications in remote sensing revealed.

I personally would not like to categorise Oxford University's collaborative EAMENA project (under the direction of Bob Bewley, see here) merely as a bunch of inexperienced frustrated archaeologists unable to take part in fieldwork. Nor would I be so keen to dismiss the very real contribution remote sensing and aerial observation can make to learning about threats to the archaeological heritage and the changing nature of archaeological sites as Mr Simpson.

Aerial observation
not exactly new
Ms Fitz Gibbon might like to try her hand at aerial photography interpretation (you know, what some of those others got PhDs doing - so I guess they know 'a little' about it) and tell us what she thinks is going on. Perhaps she'd have us believe that all those 'oriental brown-skinned guys' are digging all day under a hot sun through the dust and rubble just to have some curious 'oriental brown-skinned guys' game that we westerners cannot understand, it's their idea of having fun and keeping fit perhaps? Or is it what it looks like? It looks like looting to me.

She eggs on: "You might be familiar with a recent study..." Pulling up one (US and quite dotty) project as representing the whole body of remote sensing analyses is just the kind of sneaky tactic you'd expect from the antiquities' dealers lobby. I assume (because she does not say) that what she's thinking of is:  Fiona Greenland, James V. Marrone, Oya Topçuoğlu and Tasha Vorderstrasse (2019) 'A Site-Level Market Model of the Antiquities Trade' International Journal of Cultural Property 26:21–47. I discussed this three years earlier here: ' MANTIS Research Project', PACHI Monday, 11 April 2016. So, I think Kate Fizgibbon quite deliberately chose one of the more dubious products of her own country's education system as her straw man. St John Simpson plays along, and wants to send these scholars to Assad's Syria.

So once again, an opportunity is missed to discuss the place of the antiquities trade in making the digging something the looters, industrial or "ad hoc opportunistic", think could be (or actually) worth doing.

The satellite pictures come back again at the end of this interview:
Trade advocate's Question: "Going back to what you were saying about the lack of utility [sic] of what is being done with satellite imaging, is the most beneficial use of the technology that is available today to document objects, not holes in the ground?St John Simpson: That’s right. I completely agree" [...] 
Chalk and cheese, BM. There is identifying and dealing with collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record, aka looting, and the documentation of objects already above the ground that is/will be helping to get them back if they are stolen. You cannot photograph objects buried in the ground until an artefact hunter digs them up. But, what lies between these two different processes is the antiquities trade. Here again we see Ms Fitz Gibbon manoeuvring St John Simpson into saying - in effect - is that it's the source countries' fault their heritage is looted if they don't document the material before it comes onto the antiquities market.

No, the fault is with an antiquities market that continues to handle objects that they cannot account for or document the legitimate origins of. And no amount of weasel-wording and sham manipulated interviews which should never have been agreed-to will change that.

Part three: In which Ms Fitz Gibbon gets him to say a few more things

British Museum Curator Eating from Foreign Antiquities Trade Advocate's Hand (III)

St John Simpson and his official clutter (Guardian)
The denouement of St John Simpson's cosy interview with an advocate of the international antiquities trade involves some more questions where the British Museum scholar is persuaded to give the answers the trade wants to hear (Fitz Gibbon, 'St John Simpson Interview: Afghanistan repatriation, Daesh, remote-archaeology and the ILLICID report' Cultural Property News April 26, 2020). You can read this sorry stuff yourself, with its fixation  on "repatriation" - Ironic coming from a cluttered office a few doors down from the Duveen Gallery with its own looted and wrenched-off Parthenonic cultural property that should be repatriated right away. Pick out your own highlights, but I'll mention a few.

About half-way through, they get to the 64000 dollar question - the US antiquities and ancient coins being so much hand-in-hand:
Trade advocate's Question: Are there a lot of coins?
St John Simpson: Not very many actually.
Bingo. Mission accomplished. Mr Tompa and all the coin dealers rubbing their hands with glee. Yet the volume of ancient coins on the internet market (and indeed in brick-and-mortar establishments - as well as in the PAS database which reflects what collectors collect) considerably exceeds the number of artefacts. So I really do not see why St John Simpson leaps with such alacrity to provide legitimisation for dealers' protestations of innocence.  The BM has in any case a Coins and Medals (sic) Department, so I wonder why St John Simpson would be engaged to act as a consultant in any seizures involving coins. But actually he reveals the reason is nothing to do with the numbers that are on the market:
Coins have been a little bit more difficult to prove where they are from. You may have the place of minting but coins circulate internationally, whether they are of low denomination or high denomination. Unless they are in a consignment where we are very sure that they all come from one place we’ve had limited success returning coins.
And coins travel in envelopes and small packages, not the trucks that contain the statues and Palmyran busts, one may be stopped by UK Customs, the rest not. Oh and of course St John Simpson then has to add, apparently unprompted, one more point straight from the coiney songbook:
Non-collected coins of any value – for example silver coins simply get melted down.
Ms FitzGibbon smiled as she noted this down, another reason to claim that buying antiquities - even no-questions-asked should be tolerated and praised, they are "saving artefacts". It's a well-established collectors' protective mantra.
Trade advocate asks (trying to deflect attention from the real illicit antiquities): How much of it is fake?St John Simpson: There was some fake material amongst those that we sent back. Because they were mixed consignments, we felt it was appropriate to send it all back and not be the judge as to whether something should stay or not.
I'd like to know by which British law material was confiscated at the border when the experts engaged officially as consultants said (or did they?) were fakes? That is a serious question, to which I'd like to hear the answer. Since so much on the antiquities market is fake, how does that actually work in practice?
Trade advocate's Question (playing the victim): [...] The media only talks about looted treasures. I suppose they don’t want to disappoint.St John Simpson: Exactly. But the facts are not as widely reported or recognized as much as they should be. If we can come up with a different angle, in our experience, we will get the story to the public.
Hmm, and that 'story' is that James Cuno is a great guy and "museums are the best place to really discover an object’s history". Only?
Trade advocate's Observation: [...] Archaeological context is not absolutely required in order to do art history. Some say it’s foolish to close your eyes to this material.St John Simpson: I do agree. It is easy to classify the world in black and white, but the world is polychromatic in multiple shades. We shouldn’t ever exclude the possibility of getting any information we can from objects.
and then starts waffling on about the difference BM scientific analyses have made understanding what he euphemistically calls "orphan objects" (Daubney calls it "floating culture" - I'd say it's more "adrift"). This is a pretty appalling attitude of someone (art historian or not) employed in a major British research institution in the second decade of the 21st century to be articulating in a public forum. Archaeological context of archaeological objects matters. I suggest that since the PAS (based in the BM) is not at the moment able to get out and do outreach about the importance of context and the general uselessness of not recording it when handling portable antiquities should be concentrating on doing some better outreach around their host organisation.

Monday 27 April 2020

What Happens to Old Metal Detecting Finds?

Artefact collectors say they "save" artefacts from "being lost". They've been safe in the soil for centuries and millennia until some bloke with a metal detector comes along and rudely hoiks them out... and puts in his collection (or on eBay). And then what? Where are all those millions of artefacts now? Here's one Tom Redmayne has relocated:
Car boot find from last year, so not for recording on @findsorguk database as no provenance. Silvered iron rowel spur, 13th-14th C with complete 16-point rowel and decorated hook-attachment. Seller found it in a box in the old stables of his new home! Great ref. piece. @Tostig1066
Great reference piece, for what and why? Not only findspot gone, so is context. This is what artefact collecting is doing. Note the file marks.

Friday 24 April 2020

Ely eBay Seller Comes Back with More Cambridgeshire Loot

He's just sold one lot, bought by one bloke with currently a very odd bidding pattern  for 125 quid, now seller 1082_2008 [VintageHunter] (1220 ) from Ely, United Kingdom has another batch of non-PAS-recorded oodles of
'Metal Detecting Finds – Saxon/ Roman/ Medieval/ Post Medieval Artefacts and Coins' Uncleaned and Unresearched - British Found - Cambs.
As you look at all these ("not in it for the money") big-batches of ripped-up archaeological record fragments being sold day after day, week after week, just take a look at the state of them. They are being sold because the finder does not want to add them to his or her own collection, because 'not good enough'.

Fair enough, but let these people not say (as they continually do) that metal detectorists are 'saving'  artefacts from being damaged by agricultural machinery and agricultural chemicals. There are few parts of the UK as intensively farmed as Cambridgeshire, with big farm machines running over the fields probably about a dozen times a year or more, and fertilisers and pesticides sprayed willy nilly all over the fields... so where, in the photo above, do we see traces of those recent (not old) breaks or mechanical damage? Can anyone see a single recent break in any of those objects? Tell us in the comments below. Now what about chemical damage and corrosion? Which of the objects in the photo shows any sign whatsoever of recent chemical damage? Again, comments below.

No actually, the effects described do sometimes happen, but they are not as ubiquitous as the supporters of hoiking-it-all-out-and-into-collectors-pockets (which includes the PAS) would have you believe. Time and time again eBay is replenished with artefacts that do not exhibit the effects claimed. That must tell us something, if not that we are being lied to.

And let's see how much the Cambridgeshire FLO's metal detecting partner sells his black soul for this time.

Metal Detectorists Think Police Will Not See Them

How stupid can you be to get caught nighthawking in broad daylight?

Hope the NCMD is as good as its word. Uh-oh:
we recognise that some people thought the language in our statement last week was too strong [...] we are sorry if the tone of our message offended anyone It certainly wasn’t our intention [...] we promise to keep reviewing the situation and, as soon as it’s safe to do so, we’ll update our advice.
Cute. That, folks, is "the recognised voice of Metal Detecting" talking to a load of kids. "Safe" for whom? The individual or society? Where is this "responsibility" now? And when the soft-spoken advice is repealed, do all the members they suspended for not following it get their NCMD membership back? Or did they not actually cancel any memberships at all to avoid hurting somebody's feelings?

Metal Detecting Videos to Watch

Here's a turnup for the books. I normally link here to metal detecting videos that show something atrocious or that I want to use to illustrate a point. I stumbled across this guy (Future Bleeps) when looking for something else and was impressed. I have not looked through the whole series, so I don't vouch for what they contain, but I was entranced by the visual quality of these, the camerawork and the sound, and above all the clever camera angles. Here its the sounds underfoot, the traffic in the background and of the weather conditions that really give these videos an atmosphere, they speak of the solitary searcher, where we are almost an intruder in a special world. In particular we don't have the inane running commentary with awful accents and sloppy diction that mars the bulk of metal detecting videos, he speaks rarely, nicely and to the point. The sequences are closely-cropped and the fragments where the soundtrack is silent are valuable.

The first one is here:  but this one was the first I watched and was good:

In general, I really like these. I'm obviously not happy about the way some of the finds are being treated on removal from the ground, rubbing, scraping, rough brushing (please don't). It's also a personal thing of mine that I don't like to see pinpointers used as a digging tool. As for the camo get-up... hmmm. We don't see much individual bagging and GPS plotting either. I like that a lot of the things he shows are byegones things (and modern) rather than archaeological artefacts. But some of that soil is... awful. Where in the world is this?  

But as films, these are as good as metal detecting stuff gets. I look forward to seeing more when the lockdown is over, and see what techniques he's been thinking up for telling his story in the meanwhile. 

Thursday 23 April 2020

Wildie Flogs off the UK's Heritage Bit by Bit: "Not in Metal Detecting for the Money", of Course.

Another UK detectorist who's "not in it fer the munny" but actually is flogging off archaeological artefacts ripped out of the ground  wildie91 (1463 Feedback score: 1463)  Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland is flogging off: "Metal Detecting Finds Roman Saxon Medieval Large Job Lot Bundle Nice Artefacts"- yours for £29.99 Buy it now. Now actually Wildie's a bit of a crafty one, knows the punters buying this stuff are as ignorant as a coconut, so he's mixed in a load of crap with a Roman brooch.. But there are archaeological objects. my heart leapt when I saw a polybag with writing, but it just says "Roman pin".
Nice selection of various artefacts from different time periods including medieval, roman, saxon etc. 59 items included. Found in various areas of Norfolk, England including Briston and Kings Lynn, Middleton. Condition as seen, so please see photos. Please check out my other items as I have many more to list :)
Yeah, I bet you have. Now Norfolk is where PAS claims such success, how many of Wildie's artefacts (306 on offer today, found all over UK) been PAS-recorded before he puts "lots of them" on eBay?

And these coin pendants were "found in Surrey", not the Balkans, you know. A metal detectorist says so.

Show and Tell and "Citizen Archaeology": Medieval Counterfeit Coins on a Metal Detecting Forum Near You

On a metal detecting forum near you (MDF) they are trying various measures to boost traffic, to maintain sponsor revenue. So, they are doing quizzes and 'show and tell' at the moment. One of the latter was "show us your counterfeit coins" and one otherwise anonymous "Adam" posted up a picture of "his" Edward I. This was followed by others posting up various coins (some of them demonstrating that they'd not really understood the question). But I thought the fake was highly interesting, for a number of reasons that escaped the short attention span of forum members. I'm not going to put a photo here, but this was a highly illiterate and rough copy, it is a shame that it was being shown on a closed members-only metal detecting forum, but has not yet been responsibly recorded on the PAS database. What was intriguing was that the silver plating had been worn off the copper alloy (? the "owner" did not say) base and the coin had been heavily circulated.  The finder said nothing about context and meaning of its current state, just presented the object and bathed in the kudos of having hoiked it from the ground. Like his fellow artefact hunters he was interested in just the object. The PAS calls such people "citizen archaeologists", and if that were so, the meaning and context would be more important.

Was this coin heavily circulated because the majority of the users were unable to tell that the writing on it was illiterate and just assumed that the coin they had been given by its previous user was an official issue? Or was it heavily circulated because it had passed quickly from hand to hand (for example in transactions conducted with strangers in the dusk) precisely because each user when they took a closer look realised that they'd been cheated and they were landed with a dangerous fake coin?

If this coin had been recorded on the PAS database, it would have added to the information that it might supply on this aspect of medieval life. Most PAS-recorded finds were made by artefact hunters ripping them out of the archaeological record in rural areas.  Can, therefore these 'data' be used to say something about coin circulation in Medieval rural contexts? Since the tekkies were so blindly concerned with "whattyougot?" (yeah) perhaps we can look at the question here.

There are at least three problems with these 'data':
-  first most things hoiked by artefact hunters do not get recorded in the PAS 'database' and what is there is by no means representative.
- the PAS search engine needs to be able to pick them out of the large mass of other stuff, and thirdly,
- the nature of the item needs to be recognised by the recorder.

MDF member metal detecting Adam's coin seems not to be in the database (and he made no effort to give a link to where other members could look it up there). If we look at the Revised Artefact Erosion Counter, we see that the current figure at eight in the morning is: 8,033,032 objects. The PAS boasts at the same time that in their 'database' they have 1,493,237 objects within 954,447 records. So there is a massive shortfall in recording. Massive. That is four in five objects are not recorded (and if we look at it in terms of records, it is seven in eight !). The unrecorded pieces being shown off on the metal detecting forum behind those closed doors are the rule, not an exception.

There are problems that the PAS database is inconsistent in terminology, some are called forgeries (which is the wrong term anyway the term should be fakes) and others call them counterfeits, so anyone wanting to examine this issue has to juggle different groups of inconsistent search results. I wanted to look at the coins from the period of 1185-1307 (the monetisation of the English economy) so these are teh datasets I was looking at: counterfeit, forgeries, fakes.

Thirdly one wonders about numismatic expertise when mapping them shows a notable cluster in just one county (Wiltshire) and a much lighter scatter elsewhere in the south and east. This would be less of a problem than it is if all the coins in question had been photographed and properly described by the recorders before they were handed back to the finder. Not all coins of Henry II and Edward I are however given as much attention as rarer issues to which different standards are applied (and it should not be like that).

Forgeries, 48 items
Ruler/issuer: Henry III of England (18) Edward I of England (8) Henry II of England (3), Henry II - Henry III (1), Richard I of England (2),  John of England (1), Alexander III of Scotland (1), Continental sterling imitation  Guy of Dampierre (1)
Denomination: Penny (30) Cut halfpenny (12) Cut farthing (1) Halfpenny (1) Uncertain (1)
Nominal Mint: Canterbury (7) London (4) York (4) Dublin (1) Exeter (1) Namur (1) Winchester (1)
Material: Silver (31) Copper alloy (12) Base Silver (5).

Fakes (zero examples)

Counterfeits: five examples
Ruler/issuer: Henry III of England (4) Edward I of England (1)
Denomination: Penny (4)
Nominal mint: Canterbury (2) London (1)
Material: Copper alloy (2) Silver (3)
One of them came from a hoard  YORYM-755D34  ('Based on class 3c Nicole Canterbury hENRICVS REX III, pellets by hair 1.3 (17) NIC OLE ON C[A]N - not individually illustrated in the skimpy description), this is the 'Asbourne Area' (Derbyshire Dales)
Most of the entries are unverified by the finds specialists.

It is difficult to see what can be done with these data. Only one coin recorded made it into a hoard - but then nothing is known of the context of deposition of this group of coins, so that does not tell us much. Perhaps the die links would be informative if there were more than seven of the type of Henry II, 22 of Henry III and nine of Edward I (plus the one we know MDF member Adam has secreted away). The mapping search results facility is even crappier than usual, totally inconsistent. Here, above, is what I was able to do manually, singularly uninformative, the general distribution matche that of deposits of coins of the same period in general, so it remains unclear what 'mapping them' (the only analytical tool offered by PAS to its users) will achieve. In short, once again, when you look at the "artefact hunters are supplying useful archaeological information, so leave them alone" paradigm, it turns out to have no real basis in fact. Metal detctorists display their unrecorded trophy finds to each other behind closed doors, some occasionaly find their way to a museum, others onto eBay. Archaeologists look on smiling blithely and tell us that this is a "good thing"... but in fact it is just senseless and unproductive damage.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Christie's, What Kind of Toolmarks are These?

A knowledge of the techniques and effects of ancient technology is a great help in determining the authenticity of something represented on the antiquities market as an ancient object, yet is something dealers pay scant attention to, and obviously expect their clients too to not have any curiosity (knowledge or concern) of. So the big auction houses sell items with the scantiest of descriptions and a single photo, worse than many ebay sellers who provide more than one, but in both cases  it is "sold as seen" with no detailed verbal description (or warranty) of what is being sold.

Christies have: LOT401 ANCIENT ART FROM THE JAMES AND MARILYNN ALSDORF COLLECTION, AN EGYPTIAN BASALT PORTRAIT BUST OF A WOMANMIDDLE KINGDOM, 13TH DYNASTY, 1773-1650 B.C. EstimateUSD 8,000 - USD 12,000.... Collection history going back to a diplomatic bag "acquired while on diplomatic post in Cairo, 1950-1953:. But Christie's a propos the vague description + narrativisation: What kind of oddly smoothly-facetted  toolmarks are visible on the forehead and wig of this? And the left eye and left ear? What is it we are looking at, what actually is it that you are selling? Actually.

The Portable Antiquities Market is Corrosive and Destructive

“The antiquities market is a blight on the field,” Rollston said. “It is corrosive and destructive, and scholars, museums, and the public must have nothing to do with it. Those who do, do so at their peril, as this tragic story demonstrates in spades."
Gordon Govier, 'Scholar Arrested for Allegedly Stealing Ancient Bible Texts from Oxford' Christianity Today April 22nd 2020.

Metal Detecting Finds – Saxon/Roman/Medieval/Post Medieval Artefacts and Coins

More bulk lots of artefacts found by artefact hunters: Metal Detecting Finds – Saxon/Roman/Medieval/Post Medieval Artefacts and Coins Uncleaned and Unresearched - British Found - Cambs Current bid: GBP 125.00 (eBay seller 1082_2008 1218 Ely, United Kingdom). This is probably legal - though no mentions of any documentation of landowner(s) assigning title - but is this really responsible treatment of the archaeological record? I'd say it is not and would be glad to hear from any archaeologist who thinks it is. I'd be even gladder to hear from any archaeologist who'd actually dare to say what they were thinking about this as a way to treat the archaeological record. Anyone?

The Scale of Destruction Visible in One eBay Sale

Another eBay Seller 1976alison (24478 ) from Chard, United Kingdom and who is registered as a Business Seller is doing great business selling job lots of loose metal detected finds - some sold by weight like potatoes such as this one: COLLECTION JOB LOT BRITISH METAL DETECTING FINDS COINS ARTIFACTS 7.5kg - LOT 1. In fact she's got 22 lots like this:
Description This week I have a collection (split in to lots) of uncleaned metal detecting finds. All you see in the gallery picture is what you will get. All ages. As seen in the pictures. This item unlike the other detector finds I have listed was not found by myself, but a now deceased detectorist so I have no provenance on it. Obviously excavated but where and age is unknown.
So, no PAS recording then? Alison - despite being a metal dectetorist it seems -  has no idea about the age of the objects on sale... Note not all of these artefacts are PAS-recordable, but a disturbing quantity are. Also we do not know how many items were taken out for individual sale, such as that expanded terminal armlet. This is the scale of 'metal-detectorist destruction' and knowledge theft rendered visible in one eBay sale. It seems that the bloke who'd dug all this stuff up just died and left a shedfull of unlabelled bits. How many of England and Wales' 27000 detectorists when they give up the hobby or peg it will leave a similar accumulation of totally uselessly dugup historical items and an equal number of holes in the archaeological record? That's not something you'll see being discussed on the forums. 
Only part of ONE detectorist's haul
Digging them up just to throw them loose in buckets without any labels is unacceptable damage and not "responsible metal detecting".

Nationally Important Site at Lenborough Damaged by Farmer After Treasure Reward Paid?

Lenborough Manor Farm
Dec 2009 (top) and April 2017
(Google Earth)
A farmer in Buckinghamshire was paid a lot of money because a metal detectorist found a hoard of coins on his land... That money is paid because the find was deemed a 'national Trasure'. Nigel Swift and I have suggested that when a find is declared Treasure, its findspot should be protected by an arbitrary buffer zone having the status of a Scheduled site to prevent further damage. that is not what the Brits do, they pay out for the find, but the national Treasure findspot is totally neglected. As here. It is not clear from the satellite photos what damage has been one here and why, but it looks bad, there are deep wheelruts, and a road has been bulldozed (?) across the fishponds, The findspot (red square in the top photo - reconstructed as best I can from the photos taken during the 'excavation') in the middle of one of the tofts by the hollow way has been flattened it seems. Scandal. The site is not protected in any way. Farmers in receipt of large Treasure rewards should be asked to look after the sites concerned and their landscape values and not damage them into oblivion.

When will we see the publication of the planigraphy of the metal detected finds across the area during the rally that took place here when the FLO was in attendance?

Earth Day; The Fragility of the Environments, natural and anthropogenic

Image copyright  DAN GIANNOPOULOS
The Coronavirus crisis seems likely to precipitate a whole load of future effects that we can only barely perceive at the moment. It is legitimate to wonder what traces it will leave in material culture, and in the archaeological record. One facet that people in the UK are noticing (satisfyingly, it is not something one sees at all on the streets and public places of Warsaw) are discarded disposable gloves on the street.

Photographer Dan Giannopoulos explains what drew him to start photographing the discarded plastic gloves he found on the street as the coronavirus began to affect the way of life in the UK.
These disposable gloves quickly came to represent the sheer scale of the public health crisis. The artefacts of the paranoia and panic that people are feeling under the immense pressure of this invisible killer.  These discarded gloves also represented, to me, our own virulent impact on the environment. If this small sample is anything to go by then there are hundreds of thousands of these gloves scattered across the empty public spaces of this country. The gloves had gathered in gutters, protruded from bushes and bins, were strewn on doorsteps and forced through wire fences. I couldn't walk more than a few metres without finding one. And over the course of the next four days I continued to go out for my permitted daily exercise and zigzagged through my neighbourhood again and again focusing each time on a different area. Covering a radius of less than a mile, I found in excess of 300 discarded gloves and masks.
At first sight, these plastic objects therefore would form a sort of a 'layer of 2020', an easily identifiable and dateable chronological marker like the Boudican burning in Roman cities, or WW2 rubble layers in modern ones.  But they will not. And this illustrates two things, the effect we are having on the world around us, the pernicious nature of the anthropocene - those gloves will end up blown by the winds, washed into the sea. When they tear and get abraded they will form part of an amorphous mass of microplastic. The other point is that they will not become buried by soil processes en masse where they were dropped. The majority of these gloves - if not cleaned up by urban cleanliness services or volunteers - will be buried in some other form. This illustrates for me how fragile the archaeological record it. Archaeologists of the future will find deposits of gloves and other 2020 waste, but nowhere near the amount that were originally lost or left on the ground surface.   And with time, redevelopment, changes in land use and so on, the number of those deposits that survive will decline. We should look after the precious traces that have survived to our times from the more distant past. They too have a story to tell.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Changes in Management of The UK and European Metal Detecting Forum [UPDATED]

With regard what they claim is a misunderstanding
Some people will jump to conclusions and try and state we are trying to hide our content, this is completely untrue, Quite simply anyone can still register for Free and read all our content [emoticon], If we were trying to hide something surely we would lock the forums from registration?
I looked through the 'Board Rules' as they stand at the moment, seems like I should be safe there, no swearing ("no abuse, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, sexually-orientated or any other material that may violate any laws be it of your country, the country where “MDF Metal Detecting” is hosted or International Law").... no links to other metal detecting forums, no selling finds... fairly standard metal detecting stuff, So... waiting:
Paul Barford 21st April 18:00  Information Your account has been created. However, this board requires account activation by the administrator group. An email has been sent to them and you will be informed when your account has been activated.
And I will let you know how it goes.

UPDATE 21.04.2020
For the record, and to my surprise, my registration application was accepted within minutes. I wrote back and thanked them, and made a comment about the ID function of the forum being inactive to see what would happen and ... received a very cordial personal reply from Mr Rix. So now, with my little yellow metal detector, I am an officially accepted registered UK and European Metal Detecting Forum MDF member. I'll have to watch my step now...

UPDATE 22.04.2020
So, they had second thoughts. I should have called myself "Shazza" or "Mudgrubber" or "CoinsRmine" or something like that.... but I refuse to do that, I expect transparency from them, and I do not expect to have to hide my own identity to sneak around to see behind their closed doors.

In fact what I did to 'earn' this ban was to comment on a member's coin (perfectly sincerely) that it was a "fantastic find" (because it was) and noted that the wear showed how much it had circulated, which was odd as it was an obvious contemporary counterfeit - which is what it was posted as. I was perfectly polite, no swearing, no abuse, just a single and brief constructive comment. It is after all a moderated forum. Obviously a constructive comment from an archaeologist is a banning offence in the eyes of some tekkies. 

Yet if you recall, the excuse offered (above) for slamming those doors in everyone's face in the first place was precisely the perceived need to entice members to register and post on the forum, to keep it going. Forum traffic is connected with advertising revenue from all those metal detecting suppliers I guess. So now they are busy thinking of activities: "post a picture of a Roman emperor" and the suchlike, and hope that the show and tell will keep the forum active and keep that revenue coming in.  Yet it seems that getting people ('anyone' he said - but obviously was not sincere in that) actively using the forum is in fact NOT the real reason...

Anyway, although they do not want any constructive comments on the objects they show from an archaeologist, and apparently will discriminate and will ban 'anyone' from the board for doing so, I cordially invite all and any MDF members over here (no need to register) to read here about one guy's views about responsible metal detecting. If you run out of things to talk about over on the floundering MDF, feel free to comment here (my terms here, certainly far more liberal in many respects than Mr Rix's). Welcome.  

Artefact Hunters, Collectors, Their Helsinki Facilitators and the Ubiquitous Roman Hobnails

Archäologische Illustrationen (a drawing and design agency specialised in every kind of archaeological visualisation based in Berlin) showed a piece of recent work and comments 'Hobnails are very common finds on Roman sites. They rarely appear in museum collections because they were considered mundane and boring - Sorry, we don´t think so!' Archaeologist Mike Bishop adds:  'Hobnails are interesting in their own right, but also because accumulations of them can be one of the best clues to the location of Roman battlefields. Marquita Volken has even demonstrated that they are datable'.

But the PAS database, reliant on collecrtors contains all of 51 records from a VERY restricted geographical range, so what kind of "archaeological data" are artefact hunters in England and Wales providing for archaeological research? How can PAS data "fill the gaps not addressed by archaeological fieldwork", if the PAS
'data' (I use the term loosely) are full of gaps from the outset?

A question I'll wager the European Network of Archaeologists Advocating Collaborating in Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record in loot-central Helsinki is not willing to debate in a civil fashion, because these academics apparently have a lot of grant money dependent on having everyone believe something else.

See also: Dobat, A., Deckers, P., Heeren, S., Lewis, M., Thomas, S., & Wessman, A. (2020). Towards a Cooperative Approach to Hobby Metal Detecting: The European Public Finds Recording Network (EPFRN) Vision Statement. European Journal of Archaeology, 1-21. doi:10.1017/eaa.2020.1

Monday 20 April 2020

"Perfect Spot for an Ancient Burial Mound": Metal detecting Finland

I think detectorist "True Vikings" thinks he is funny and interesting. He looks like a typical metal detectorist to me, but this is what Treasure hunting looks like in Finland, where the Helsinki Gange/Ixelles Six are based. This is one of  a number of You Tube videos of his: Perfect Spot for an Ancient Burial Mound! - metal detecting Finland.
Posted on You Tube by True Vikings 3 Sep 2019
"In this video I am metal detecting in an area where there is high chance of finding ancient burial mounds from stone-, bronze- or iron age. This is a perfect spot for one! If you like metal detecting videos hit that Like button and if you are NEW to the channel hit that Subscribe button and join the treasure hunt! ❤   Metal Detecting Equipment used: Minelab Equinox 800 [...] Garrett Pro-Pointer [...] Silver and Gold Testing Kit [...]  Filming Equipment used: Samsung S8 [...] Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter! If you want to support us, check out our Patreon Page [...]"
I can't think why anyone would want to support that kind of unsystematic removal of random objects
in such a manner from a site targeted specifically because it is a likely to be a sensitive prehistoric site (a human burial, no less). Nor why Helsinki University would be keen on promoting this kind of activity.

If you look at his other videos, you'll see he makes a habit of standing in the middle of an upland  forested areas and declaring as a fact that in the past there were no trees there and that you could see for miles and miles... one wonders which environmental archaeology textbooks he got that from. IT really upsets me to see him attacking the delicate soils of that forest in his search to grub up yet another piece of metal.  Leave it alone. Take photos and leave only footprints.

UK Artefact Hunters Discuss How to Go Nighthawking Behind Closed Doors? [UPDATED]

Forest hunting looking for stuff

There are quite a lot of places, it seems, where UK artefact hunters think you can go Treasure hunting without permission to be on somebody's land, sixteen replies  (but now you have to register and log on to see where - if you are interested):
Where can you metal detect without looking into permission?
Post by Nathan94 » Mon Apr 20, 2020 4:03 pm
Might sound stupid however, Can you metal detect in the woods near say, where you live without permission, or where do YOU metal detect that doesn't require permission?
Permission to dig holes in somebody's land and take away from their property objects that don't belong to you. Well, you could try hiding among the trees in a forest, claim to be a "genuine hobbyist" so no need for any kind of permit, or simply go at night. Now we see why the forum moderators decided to make this a members-only resource.

UPDATE 21.04 2020
It seems when you can register and log on (which I did just now) there are a whole series of posts from metal detectorists who've already looked into the issue and informed the disappointed (?) initial poster that in fact in Britain, all land is owned by someone and there is nowhere that you can go without first getting permission to enter and take away artefacts. So it seems that a members-only policy can give the wrong impression. I feel that when discussing the treatment of items that are everybody's heritage, there should be no behind-doors discussions.

NCMD Nationalists Get Muddled

The NCMD's webpage's current header:

"Are nation's history...". The Viking ships are the same ones as on the front of the little booklet on the Alfredan period Watlington Hoard "shedding new light on the beginnings of English history".

But, there is no cure for stupidity. Look at the background, marching medieval knights. Though the detail is poor, the various styles of helmet and body armour refer to (different parts of, but not only) the 14th century. Yet they are depicted as carrying a flag, but it's the Second Union Flag with the Cross of St Patrick (NCMD? Passinit about 'istry is yer?).*

* for foreign readers, this flag only came into use for the UK in 1801.  

Petulant NCMD Leaders Won't Follow the Code, "Unworkable"

The NCMD ("Shut the Gates") Code of Conduct is not all that much concerned with "Responsible Artefact Hunting", shut the gates, fill your holes and everything is fine with them:
Acquaint yourself with the terms and definitions used in [...] The voluntary Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting 2017 Revision. Note: the NCMD is not an endorsee to this version of the Code. Details of why the NCMD did not endorse the Code can be found in issue 25 of Digging Deep.
This is for members only, but there is a copy here, undated [but about 23rd March 2018]. There is a lot of confused tekkie waffle here. Analytical thinking is not their forte. I've picked out in blue what it seems is the kernel of the problem, all the rest is padding trying to create the impression that the NCMD means something. I do not see it as an issue that the PAS annual report was issued on the assumption that the NCMD who had by its own admission been to all the meetings would not petulantly be removing their endorsement over a single (non) issue:

Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting 2017 revisionIssue 24 of Digging Deep carried a STOP PRESS heading concerning an inaccurate statement contained within the Portable Antiquities Scheme Annual Report 2016 (issued December 2017), implying that the NCMD had endorsed the revised Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting. The NCMD confirms that it has not endorsed the Code of Practice. There were a number of reasons for not doing so and the following article on the background to the revision of the Code and the decision making process aims to clarify the situation as to why the NCMD felt it could not endorse the revised draft at this time.

Review of the Code of Practice For Responsible Metal DetectingThe first Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting was published in 2006 by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) after extensive discussions with stakeholders including the NCMD, the PAS, The Council for British Archaeology and landowner’s organisations. The whole Code was issued as a voluntary document. Its purpose was to replace the various codes and guidance documents produced by a number of local and national organisations on metal detecting.
This new Code aimed to provide guidance on best practice for metal detecting. However it has become clear in recent years that the Code needs updating to take into account changes to agri-environment schemes, finds recording and to add more details of websites and contact points to cover, access, specific types of finds and situations.
The impetus for the Review of the Code came about when the British Museum (BM) carried out its own Review of the PAS and Treasure Department in 2014. This Review identified the need for the PAS to develop a strategy document for the period up to 2020. The strategy document was structured following the responses received from a questionnaire sent out to various parties such as Local Partners and stakeholders including the NCMD which make up the Portable Antiquities Advisory Group (PAAG). The resultant document entitled ‘Treasuring Our Past, Portable Antiquities and Treasure Strategy: 2020’ contained a number of sections each with specific goals and delivered priorities for the PAS to achieve by 2020.
Under Section 3 to ‘Promote Best Practice’ a Best Practice Working Group (BPWG) was established with the following specific aims:
1. Review the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting.2. Suggest ways in which best practice can be better acknowledged.3. Develop a protocol for the emergency excavation of archaeological finds found by members of the public.4. Highlight the value of metal detecting for better understanding the archaeological value of the plough zone.5. Advocate a better system for dealing with finds found on metal detecting rallies.
The NCMD is a member of the BPWG. Work on the review of the Code began in July 2016 involving discussions between all stakeholders represented on the PAAG at a number of meetings at the British Museum.

A final draft of the Code was considered at the PAAG meeting held on the 17 October 2017 where it was also reported that a number of stakeholders had already agreed to endorse the Code. It was also made clear at this meeting by the Chair that no further amendments would be considered and the final draft was ready for endorsement by stakeholders.
However at this meeting Historic England stated that they were not happy that under the Code, permissive metal detecting could take place on Registered Battlefields without it being a part of an organised and structured archaeological survey. Registered Battlefields have no statutory designation that affords legal protection to any material losses other than some physical structural remains which can be given statutory protection as Scheduled Monuments. Battlefield evidence tends to be in the form of random scatters of material often over large areas, the recovery of which is best done through the use of metal detectors. To help overcome this objection, there were suggestions at the meeting that this and other aspects of the Code over which archaeological concerns remained, could be dealt with by the subsequent issue of supplementary guidance notes. Unfortunately the official notes of this meeting are somewhat light on the detail of the discussions and the NCMD considers that they do not accurately reflect what took place. However it was clear that this objection by Historic England had thrown a ‘spanner’ in the works over the endorsement of the Code.
Apparently after the PAAG meeting took place and during subsequent discussions between Historic England and the PAAG Chairman Mike Heyworth, Historic England agreed that “the battlefield issue had been raised late in the day and they did not want it to disrupt moves to ratify the Code.” Historic England had agreed to support the Code. However from the NCMD’s point of view, this issue had not been resolved and no changes had been made to the wording of the Code to address those concerns. The NCMD Executive discussed the final draft of the Code at its meeting on the 26 November 2017. After detailed consideration of the wording of the revised Code and a careful examination of the outstanding issues the NCMD Executive felt it would not be fair to its members if it endorsed the Code at this time. The lack of clarity over metal detecting on Registered Battlefields and how this was dealt with remains of concern.

Additionally, it was demanded by Dr. Heyworth as Chair of the BPWG/PAAG at the meeting on the 17 October, that endorsees take ‘ownership’ of the Code. Precisely what was meant by this undefined term was never made clear and what was expected from the NCMD if it did agree to take “ownership” remains somewhat opaque. The general pressure being applied throughout proceedings and an assumption by third parties that the NCMD would endorse the Code even before it had had the opportunity to discuss the document, made the NCMD Executive feel that the NCMD was being ‘bounced’ into making a decision before the Code was completed to its satisfaction.

After fuller discussions the NCMD considered that the document required further development to make it more workable and above all acceptable to the metal detecting community who would be the main users of the Code. The NCMD is of the opinion that the metal detecting on battlefields aspect could have been dealt with by an additional sentence within the Code pointing out the sensitive nature of battlefield remains. The NCMD whilst not dismissing the work done to develop the wording of the Code, considered that it was as yet an incomplete document which required further work on a number of aspects. It had not rejected the whole wording and considered that the draft discussed provided a basis for good practice blending together statutory requirements and voluntary statements on accepted best practice. It will continue to advise members within Section 8 of the NCMD Code of Conduct, to acquaint themselves with the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting though not as an endorsee.

The NCMD will keep the Code under review until a number of other aspects contained within the PAS Strategy 2020 have been discussed. These include:
1. The review of the Rally Guidance Document.
2. Educating Landowners (now renamed as a revision of the Landowners Leaflet issued in 2010).
3. The forthcoming Review of the Treasure Act Code of Practice.

The intent stated by Dr. Heyworth at the PAAG meeting on the 17 October 2017 that he was not prepared to accept further amendments to the Code meant that the NCMD could not seek further amendments and hence could not endorse it in its current form.

[It is a Conspiracy]The reason for the pressure placed on the hobby representatives became clear at the Ministerial Launch of the Treasure and PAS Annual Reports which took place on the 4 December 2017. The PAS report would have been drafted and printed some time previous to the launch and probably before the PAAG meeting of the 17 October. It was regrettable that the published PAS report distributed on the day contained an erroneous statement on page 9 that the Code had been endorsed by the main metal detecting organisations though the NCMD was not identified by name. So it became clear that an assumption without consultation had been made by both the PAS and the PAAG/BPWG Chairman that the NCMD would endorse the Code even before it had properly discussed and considered the wording of the final draft. The reasons for the pressure placed on stakeholders to endorse the Code at previous meetings now became clearer. It had nothing to do with ensuring the Code and its wording was acceptable and agreed by all stakeholders for the benefit of those who will use it, but it was to meet a political deadline to launch it to the media on the 4 December 2017.

By way of summary it is appreciated that for some members who enjoy the hobby of metal detecting the political dimension may be of little interest. However, it is the politics that governs how the hobby is perceived by the establishment and with it the freedoms currently enjoyed by the hobby as a recognised contributor to the history of the nation. Yet this comes with a price and there are those who seek more to restrict and control rather than encourage the recovery and recording of often vulnerable archaeological material within the plough soil. The NCMD does not have any political affiliations or purpose. As a recognised independent representative body for metal detecting it has to evaluate many potential threat and benefits through its membership of groups such as the PAAG and BPWG. The NCMD Executive made an informed decision, despite pressures to conform, not to endorse the Code of Practice as it currently stands. If members wish to discuss any aspects of the decision making process that led to the taking of this action this can be done initially through your Regional Representatives.
Pity them having to justify this complete load of NCMD bollocks to members. This however is pretty normal from the pathetic little inadequates of the NCMD. It is the people that took this decision that should have to explain themselves and far better than the waffle above.

To be clear, to achieve the recovery and recording of vulnerable archaeological information (for it is not just about the objects!) within the ploughsoil of registered Battlefield sites (and to continue to be recognised as a 'contributor to the history of the nation'), it is already well demonstrated that  the metal detector can be most usefully and less-damagingly used as part of an organised and structured archaeological survey, and not by the wandering-about-anywhere-you -fancy-hoiking methods it seems the NCMD prefers.

What is clear here is that this storm in a teacup has been made because the NDCMD wants to preserve the right of its members to go a hoiking on Registered Battlefields any way they like and without any concern about whether they are doing it in a manner that favours the recording of important information as they pocket all the finds. That's what this is about, and framing it as a conspiracy and claim that they have other 'concerns' is just utterly pathetic. Once again we see clearly that the NCMD quite obviously have no idea how to work together in a committee with other groups.

If you look at what they were saying, their position is quite illogical. At a meeting, HE made a point that it would be useful if the Code was consistent with their own guidelines (Our Portable Past) on the method of treatment of the surface evidence on historic battlefields. Since Code document had already been approved by some organisations quicker off the mark than the NCMD and HE, neither the point on battlefields, nor the guidelines found their way into the current revision of the document. Nevertheless HE endorsed the document. Look how the NCMD is making the absence of these points into the huge issue that prevents them from endorsing it on behalf of its members.

The code however is one that individuals apply to, so what the sad petulant self-important old men of the NCMD think of it is neither here nor there. But what they are doing is driving a wedge between the detectorists that do want to be responsible, and looking for guidance and the world of archaeology represented by the bodies that took part in creating and approve of the revised text.

But if NCMD leaders refuse to apply the only official Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales to their artefact hunting, by what right have they assumed the position of hobby leaders? That very fact undermines the legitimacy of (so-called "Responsible") artefact hunting in the UK.

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