Monday 13 April 2020

UK Public using 'PAS Database' to Market Norfolk-dug Artefacts

EBay seller wildie91 (1435 ) from Newtownards, UK (a town in County Down, Northern Ireland) is a great fan of the PAS database, not for finding out about the archaeology of his region or any of that malarkey, but as a source of information about what he can sell artefacts for. So he's got a 'Viking Stirrup Terminal Boar Zoomorphic Rare AD 1050-1100 Metal Detecting Find' (Price: GBP 29.99 Buy It Now)..
Item specifics
Provenance: Private Collection[sic!], Type: Stirrup Terminal, Colour: Green, Material: Copper Alloy, Featured Refinements: Metal Detector Finds.
Beautiful and very rare viking stirrup terminal circa AD 1050-1100. Open work crested type. Zoomorphic in shape of a boar with long snout. This is uncleaned aside from excess earth so will still have some earth deposits and patina. Stunning artefact.
Approx 42x21mm.
Condition as seen, so please see photos.
Last 3 photos are for reference purposes only to give more info and positive id of artefact [these are from the PAS database SF-105C2, PMB]. From a private collection. Found Middleton, Norfolk, England approx 35 years ago, excavated by a metal detectorist near Kings Lynn. Please check out my other items as I have many more to list :)
I bet! Ninety-nine percent of all metal detectorists and most antiquities dealers give as their 'condition report' some such lazyass crap as: "Condition as seen so please see photos". Well, actually, in the case of corroded earthdug artefacts, condition is not something that is only visual. In fact it more than likely simply hides a lack of articulacy on the part of the seller.

So, some guy 35 years ago dug up "many more" artefacts 35 years ago (so 1985-ish) in and around Middleton, Norfolk (Tony Gregory country) and eventually (on his death maybe) it was apparently sold off as a job lot to a bloke in a small town in Northern Ireland. This bloke did not know all that much about archaeological artefacts, so used the database put up at public expense to know what he can sell this artefact for.

No findspot is given, no mention of any signed protocol from the landowner assigning title and rights to the finder... There are 27000 artefact hunters now accumulating many more personal collections which will all, when they die, end up either thrown out or being sold on eBay by, for example, a bloke in Northern Ireland who does not know what he's got.


Brian Mattick said...

Of course, it's not just a case of the public using the PAS database to market artefacts. There's also the reality that the public is likely to use it to launder artefacts.

Paul Barford said...

Indeed, and one really wonders about the reported findspot... but that curiosity is something that you or I apparently do not share with the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

I was interested that a database set up with public money to instil archaeological principles is instead being used to bolster the antiquities trade. They even offer "advice' to those who want to buy antiquities !!

Unknown said...

I think that all artefacts, unless unrecognizable or detoriated, should be reported to the PAS. If they ALL should be in a museum, often hidden away from any public... Of course not. I have a private collection which will go to a museum/musea after my descending. It is key that the knowledge accompanying an artefact is preserved and given through to future generations. Some artefacts have a good provenance, others do not. One may ask if in 1985 a finder was aware of if he found an artefact of the Viking Age, and what type of artefact it was. It is known that even as late as the beginning of the nineties, the British Museum bought a fake Thors hammer. Our knowledge of artefacts of the Viking Age enlarged enormously just over the last 25 years. There was no PAS whatsoever in the eighties and nineties, so criticism is a bit cheap when someone consults the PAS in the 21th century, Paul. And not everyone has evil meanings.

Paul Barford said...

Funnily enough, Mr "Unknown", there was literature, you know books, journal articles before the 1990s. There still is. I think we knew quite a lot about "Viking artefacts" in 1985, from, you know, excavations and suchlike.

Would appreciate more information on that embarrassing BM purchase. Who authorised that? Where was it from?

I'll answer the museums bit of your comment in a post at the top of the blog...

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