Thursday 27 August 2020



Accidentally and independently put on eBay at the same time so they appear on the page next to each other:

Top one eBay seller from Oxford UK (antiquiti 11771)
Bottom one, eBay seller from Thailand (persian.era 189

There is a third one, being sold by ancientantique92 from Aylesbury UK for $184.67 

The "Looting Question" Bibliography

Last time I looked, this very important resource was not available, but just now have discovered that it has moved and is available in all its glory. Make use of it while it is still there...

The "Looting Question" Bibliography: Web and Literary Resources on the Archaeological Politics of Private Collecting, Commercial Treasure Hunting, Looting, and "Professional" Archaeology Compiled by Hugh Jarvis (PhD, MLS) University at Buffalo

Tuesday 25 August 2020

Looters destroy 2000-year-old archaeological site in Sudan in search for gold

The trench and spoil heaps [Getty]
Gold seekers with giant diggers have destroyed the 2,000-year-old historical site of Jabal Maragha deep in the desert of Bayouda, some 270 kilometres north of the capital Khartoum (The New Arab, ' Looters destroy 2000-year-old Sudan archaeological site in search for gold'    25 August, 2020 ). The damage was discovered when a team of archaeologists arrived at the ancient site last month and saw that the site had vanished. They found two mechanical diggers and five men at work in a vast trench 17 metres deep, and 20 metres long. The site, dating from the Meroitic period between 350 BC and 350 AD, is on sandstone in which there are layers of pyrite, which presumably they mistook for gold.
The archaeologists were accompanied by a police escort, who took the treasure-hunters to a police station but were freed within hours. "They should have been put in jail and their machines confiscated. There are laws," said Mahmoud Al-Tayeb, a former expert from Sudan's antiquities department. Instead, the men left without charge and their diggers were released too. "It is the saddest thing," said Tayeb, who is also a professor of archaeology at the University of Warsaw. Tayeb believes that the real culprit is the workers' employer, someone who can pull strings and circumvent justice.
Sudan's archaeologists warn that this was not a unique case, but part of a systematic looting of ancient sites. Now, in hundreds of remote places ranging from cemeteries to temples, diggers are hunting for anything to sell on the antiquities market. At Sai, a 12-kilometre-long river island in the Nile, hundreds of graves have been ransacked and destroyed by looters. Some of them date back to the times of the pharaohs. "Out of a thousand more or less well-known sites in Sudan, at least a hundred have been destroyed or damaged," said Hatem al-Nour, Sudan's director of antiquities and museums. He added that the lack of security at the sites made them easy targets for looters.

Monday 24 August 2020

PAS Dealing with Issues of Trust: A Little Birdy Told Me


Two FLOs are having a go at a commentator that questioned the number of artefacts recorded on the PAS database that might not be from the place the finder claims he found them. That seems to have touched a raw nerve and the two of them have been thrashing around trying to avoid the question of whether they do in fact demand documentation (such as a protocol assigning title from the landowner as recommended by the 2009 Nighthawking Report). I suspect that we all know the answer to that... this would mean that PAS handles antiquities with no proof that they are not stolen.  If they can't do it, why should we expect dealers to? 

Anyway, something emerged from this. Baz Thugwit comes to the FLO, "...'ere mate, found this anchint broach in this field, 'ere" [stabs map with flabby finger]. FLO looks at him, "We trust you to always supply honest information, based on us building relationships of trust, and obviously Baz, old pal, if there was anything dodgy in what you say, I'd immediately see it as clear as day. but I trust you, good fellow, come again soon, bring me more stuff". More stuff I say! Happy Hunting!" And Baz turns on his heel, and off he goes, smiling to himself, "fooled the stuck-up arkie again", he thought. But no. Felix the wily FLO has a little secret... "It's a good job Baz does not know about my secret naughty-box. Now I'll just put this on the database, 42 this week!... There! and now, Baz..THIS is for lying to me!". Baz does not know there's a special box for Baz-finds: "there's a little info box we can fill in on the Db if we've any spatial doubts, and there's plenty of examples where this is used. And even in these few cases, at least there's a record of an object where previously it would be unknown, advancing archaeological knowledge". Make your mind up Felix old boy.. either there's "plenty of examples where this is used" or they are few. Few-plenty, plenty-few? (Oh, I feel a FOI coming on).

Now, forgive me for asking what kind of "data" are decontextualised artefacts that nobody is sure where they are from? What kind of "database" is it that has "grounded" artefacts alongside artefacts of doubtful provenance? I'd like to see the official PAS-exegesis on why an artefact of doubtful provenance (like the Piltdown skull, or Sevso hoard) "advances archaeological knowledge".

FLO Struggles With Decontextualised Thingy [updated]

Photo PAS
Object type certainty: Possibly
Workflow status: Find awaiting validation
A possible fragment of a Roman (Bronze Age?) copper-alloy saw, similar to BM-AF446A.SF 688.The Piercebridge Divers [sic]
The fragment is slightly concave and has a square piercing at one end. The object is 38.47mm long; 18.55mm wide; 1.04mm thick and weighs 3.05g
Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder
Broad period: ROMAN
Period from: ROMAN
Period to: ROMAN 

Submit your error report:
It is not a saw (or a "possible fragment of saw", what does that actually mean?). The object is too small and the teeth too coarse (it would jam) - it could not be used as such with no hafting, and yet there is no way to secure a haft, is there? Depending on "what" copper alloy it is, it could also be too soft and the teeth would bend. Neither does it appear from your photos to be a fragment. One possible use is as a potter's or modeller's tool, for removing excess clay, for example in forming a base ring, or applying grooved or stamped decoration. The hole would allow a cord to be attached to avoid losing it during work. But the fact that the site context of this decontextualised item found by a metal detectorist does not allow you to say whether it is Bronze Age or Roman is a bit of a hindrance in offering any kind of an interpretation. What would it have been found with?   

Now tell us please, if the find has already gone back to the finder, how is that description going to be 'validated'? And the findspot information, how was/will that be validated? 

the name has come back to me, it looks like a potter's rib (images). Of course if it as not now in some private collection, you could perhaps look and see if the original surface is well-enough preserved to exhibit diagnostic use-wear marks.

Sunday 23 August 2020

Americans Shamelessly Loot Europe's Past


Charles Garrett (2009) 'Introduction To EuropeanMetal Detecting', Garland Texas. Quite an eye-opener to see how a US metal detector manufacturer sees Europe as being a free-for-all:  

p. 10:'During my years of testing metal detectors, I have had the pleasure of recovering treasures in England, Scotland, France, Spain, Germany and Italy. Finding my first Roman coin is an experience I shall never forget'.
How were the search permits organised for these trips, if - as the forums attest - locals find getting landowners' permissions so difficult? In particular specific permits are needed for Italy, Spain, some lands of Germany, and the fate of the artefacts is different in each country - how was this dealt with, an agent? 
p.15: I found a coin cache in a plowed field in during one of my European trips. I was scanning near an old embankment [where?] when I dug the first coin. In an area of about an arm’s width, I had soon unearthed another 20 ancient coins. The coins are from the 400 BC period and I figure they had once been in some sort of bag when they were buried.[...] Some of these coins from the cache are on display in the Garrett Museum in Garland, Texas'.
Alongside the export licence I trust. Because without it, this is what we call "looting", whichever 'European country' it was found in.
pp 15-16: 'My son Vaughan accompanied me on a two-week detecting expedition through Spain, France, Italy, Germany, England and Scotland. Among other places, we visited the stone and turf fortification in northern England known as Hadrian’s wall. [...] its remnants are now a popular tourist site [...] Searching along this ancient frontier border [where?] was certainly a highlight of my European hunting experiences.
Apart from being tautology, it is also illegal. How were the permits arranged for Spain, France, Italy and Germany? What happened to the finds from these countries? Were the English finds recorded by the PAS and was an export licence applied for? Why is there no mention of this in the book (though there is a reference to (only) the English/Welsh Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting (pp 58-62). Then he goes on to talk about targeting known sites:  
pp 48-9: 'where a structure is well known to have existed you can search the areas surrounding it. I spent a week one time just to search the area around an early English fort site used in the late 1700s to defend against French troops [where?]. I was by myself and I literally worked from dusk to dawn to make the most of my limited time. By the end of the week I had accumulated some 500 relics. [...] My preferred metal detecting method was in the All-Metal mode with my sensitivity set to detect as deep as possible. Nothing was overlooked. Fortunately, I did not have to fight heavily mineralized ground conditions in this area. Because of this fort’s somewhat remote location, I had little tourist trash (cans, pop tops) to contend with'.
This site was not, actually, 'protected' in some way was it that there was still so much material to be found? Where are these artefacts now stored, and how are they labelled? How did Mr Garrett determine who the landowner was? In the entire book, there is no mention of this (see p. 53 about what he considers to be a "treasure hunting opportunity")
Again, pp. 53-4: 'The caretaker of an old castle in Spain we visited [where?] offered to let me come back sometime and do some thorough searching. Knowing how things often worked out, I decided to at least scan a few minutes before we had to leave. In the end, we did not make it back there but I did make a great recovery during that short time of searching: an ancient crossbow point. For once, I was proud of myself for seizing the moment! Never pass up a chance to scan.
Of course, though it seems the brash Texan is oblivious to that, the 'caretaker' has no legal authority either to allow access to a property, nor allow the removal of artefacts from it. There is no cure for stupidity either:
I made a hunting trip to an area near Koblenz, Germany. Some of our German friends were proud to show us various World War II German Army relics they had discovered with their metal detectors. We returned to one of these areas and I was thrilled with the number of items we were able to detect. In all, our detecting team recovered an estimated 2,000 pounds of relics. We dug up countless bullets and ammunition clips as well as some helmets and even hand grenades. Such military artifacts should be treated with great caution. When in doubt about discovered ordnance, notify your local authorities versus attempting to dig it up. European antiquity laws[sic] have become more stringent regarding exactly how such discoveries must be reported
He shows a photo of an intact clip of Mauser bullets that he'd found. We trust he did not take them on the aeroplane home in that state. And, from a metal detector manufacturer (p. 63):
Take advantage of new metal detector technology. There’s more treasure to be found today than you could find 40 years ago. I know this to be true because the technology of today’s metal detectors is superior to those I used decades ago. Deeper ground penetration and better target discrimination allow European detectorists to find items they simply could not detect years ago.
So more archaeological evidence than ever before is threatened by these carefree people.

For Some, Metal Detectors are "New technology"


Grow Your Own Life ♿ @Shrop_Allotment·51 min

W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues i @Bexx_FLO
It's sad really that a man in your profession has such a closed mind to new techniques and is happy to tar all with the same brush. You are the archaeologist equalivant of a Gammon.

Metal detectors have been around now for coming up to sixty years, so using them to find bits of metal can hardly be considered a "new technique" by anyone aware of teh world around him! As for finding gradation in collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record (think about that a moment), maybe Mr Minton would like to tell us all how he'd see me doing that. 

For non-native speakers:

Studying Broken Bits of Metal


One 'Flipper' (@flipper865: 'Metal detecting, History, Gardening, Photography, being outdoors... finding and studying broken bits of metal since 2010') from the South Wales Valleys does not seem to like the way this archaeologist discusses the trashing of the archaeological record by its collection-driven exploitation:

flipper@flipper865·7 g.
W odpowiedzi do @FLODurhamFLO @PortantIssues i @Bexx_FLO
[...] he's had a run in with almost every detectorist out there. Never a kind word to say! Tars us all with the same brush 
Hmm, basically collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record is collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. A blue spade is still a spade. I don't think we can paint it any other way without bending the truth. Ask an FLO. And then, the Welsh guy gets more abusive:  

flipper@flipper865·27 min
W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues @FLODurhamFLO i @Bexx_FLO
I "reckon" you need to chill the feck out and stop antagonising people that are clearly passionate about what they have studied and are sharing with the rest of the world. Positivity springs to mind, you gotta get some ffs
Actually Mr Flipper, this archaeologist has studied a bit more than "bits of broken metal since 2010", and is in his own little corner of the Internet sharing with those in the world that visit it the reflections that engenders on what a minority of self-centred people with an overdose of entitlement are doing to the archaeological resource. OK?

And here's a thing, Flipper shows us all his idea of a systematic search of a productive site (Painting a picture with the @Minelab #ctx3030 gps over 2 years):

So, the finds distribution in that field will look like... (a line going towards the modern gate)?

Grab a Coin, Sit Down, and Tell us About it


Dr Matthew Ball, Oxford academic:

Matthew Ball@Matt0791·1 g. 
W odpowiedzi do @FLODurhamFLO @PortantIssues i jeszcze 3 osób
Its beyond his ability to be civil. Treat a mention in his vile blog as a badge of honour. The pr*ck called me “coin fondler” — was tempted to stick it in my bio.

are you addressing me, Sir? I do wonder just how it is that the Leverhulme DPhil 'Studying the dissemination of imperial messages through coin circulation in the Roman Empire') considers fondling an unpleasant activity. But anyway, if - instead of harbouring a grudge because I pointed out that a FLO's coin of Theodora was not 'that' Theodora - he'd look, it is not addressed to him personally, but is an engagement with the dealers (incl numismatic ones) spiel about having a "piece of the past in your hand". As for "vile" and "pr*ck", that must be Oxford/Cummings' Brexity academic talk I guess.

And for the record:

1) The term I used on the blog was in fact "coiney".

2) At the end of that nonsense the Durham FLO snorted and said that nobody would be faking cheap bronze coins like that, which shows how little said "specialist" actually knows about what goes on in the numismatic market today. They do. And to show him that was not idle talk, a few days after that, I bought him several very nice fakes of Late Roman Bronzes that a Polish seller had at the time (they are made either in Bulgaria or the Balkans), I put them in a padded envelope and sent them to his office address with a perfectly civil and, I thought, conciliatory letter... and the lack-culture bounder did not even acknowledge receipt. That shows what kind of people the PAS are employing now. 

Monday 17 August 2020

How "Hot" Should the PAS Database be?

A PAS FLO has a go at David Knell for "describing a colleagues work as vacuous because you disagree with the way he has chosen to engage with current debate". It seems to me that the adjective vacuous is perfectly apposite to the described case, which is that article about the Shropshire seal matrix that the British Museum really, really wanted to link with the slave trade.

The problem is that the PAS database is supposed above all to be a repository of permanent record about all the artefacts that have been hoiked by metal detectorists and landed in scattered ephemeral personal collections. That is its primary function. That's a long-term process. To use it in the short term for "engaging in current debates" conflicts with that. If we look back at the early posts of this long-running blog, we can see texts about such engagement. What is very clear is that ten years on, the main reaction is "who cares?". The burning matters of 2008/9 are no longer topical subjects of discussion. The same will be the case with the hot topics of 2020. 

Sunday 16 August 2020

Some Numbers About Metal Detecting


A few months ago supporters of collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record were ridiculing Sam Hardy's estimate of '27000 detectorists'. Perhaps they'd like to take a look at Facebook today. Mr Fudge's 'Metal Detecting' page, 26,102 members. That 27000 does not look at all unlikely does it?  And how many metal detectorists did the PAS say they'd recorded finds from in 2019? Half that, even? 

And what about the doddery old NCMD that has resigned from the forums and wants its members to use its Facebook page? 4,313 total likes,  5,536 total followers. So less than one third of them goes out with third party insurance? (FID has far fewer members than that, it has 154 members). That's not very "responsible is it?

Saturday 15 August 2020

Critical Issues Concerning Using Danish Metal-Detector Finds as Archaeological Evidence


Most accounts of the "use" of "metal detected finds" as archaeological evidence in countries with liberal heritage legislation are gushingly enthusiastic. It is refreshing to see that not everywhere have archaeologists swallowed the blue pill. 

Torben Trier Christiansen 2016, Recreational Metal Detecting and Archaeological Research: Critical Issues Concerning Danish Metal-Detector Finds pp 23-36 in J. Martens, and M. Ravn (Eds.) 2016, Pløyejord som Kontekst: Nye perspektiver for forskning, forvaltning og formidling Oslo


Thirty-five years of private metal detecting have had a profound impact on the field of archaeology in Denmark. In particular, the areas of Iron Age and Early Medieval research have benefited from the extensive new find material. Although the detector finds constitute a genuine revelation in archaeology, the handling and use of Danish detector finds for research purposes is not without obstacles. This article discusses several of the critical issues that limit the research value of the detector finds on the basis of find material recovered in the eastern Limfjord region, northern Jutland.


Screwed Minoan Sherd from Palace of Minos on eBay


EBay seller lantz_industries (81) from Reno, Nevada, United States has a Minoan Archeological Shard from Palace of Minos for sale, yours for US $9,850.00. That is all the description says. On the back of the naff homemade wooden plaque to which it is screwed is a label: "found under mud on actual site of palace in spring, 1954". The 'traditional' date for Thera explosion of c 1500 is referred to here. Somehow the mention of the export licence disappeared from the sales offer... The sherd is nice, should not have left the palace site, but the price - apparently for smuggling it off the island and handling stolen goods, hmm. 

Reader's Contribution


Friday 14 August 2020

British Dumbdown of Egyptian Archaeological Heritage


More colonialism from Britain, an interactive resource to 'learn' about ancient Egypt (creator: Joyce Tyldesley: "Professor, author and archaeologist, teaching Egyptology on-line to students worldwide from the University of Manchester"). Some really inane questions here, they seem less designed to actually teach anything by setting any kind of a challenge, but to give the dullest dullard English kid the chance to "succeed" by answering them all.

I doubt whether we'd see the Egyptians for some reason doing the same ridiculous thing with the British archaeological heritage. 

Different Views of the Same Thing


There are several different versions of this on the internet, all on the same lines, this one is from (by?) Paul Tubb:

Now, readers, where would I put the PAS and its supporters and their attempts to use loose decontextualised objects as 'data'? Where would I put the critics of the PAS? And where would YOU put them (and where would they)? 

Clue, the FLO's recent blog post on 'PAS and the slave trade' and their attempts to explain away the criticism is in pink. 


Thursday 13 August 2020

Penn Cultural Heritage Centre to Help Investigate US-bound Antiquities Trafficking

Press release:
Today, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce and Williams Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Dr. Julian Siggers signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a new public-private partnership. Under this partnership, the Department of State and the Penn Cultural Heritage Center will cooperate to combat international cultural property trafficking. The United States is unwavering in its commitment to protect and preserve cultural heritage around the world and to combat the trafficking in cultural property that funds criminal and terrorist networks. This new partnership will facilitate consultations between U.S. law enforcement officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection and experts in archaeology and art history when expertise is needed during the course of investigations. Experts from the faculty and staff of the University of Pennsylvania and other relevant universities, museums, libraries, archives, and nonprofit organizations will also participate.
Note the maintenance of the "trafficking in cultural property that funds criminal and terrorist networks" story and its presentation as a hard fact. One wonders however why a formal agreement is necessary, and whether it means that from now on, expertise in art history and archaeology will (have to) be exclusively drawn from the University of Pennsylvania?


David Knell on PAS Story-telling [UPDATED]

The discussion of the politicised story-telling of the PAS on a ring from Shropshire goes on. FLO Peter Reavill published a moral tale about a seal matrix with a man's head on it and said it related to slave-owning, PACHI criticised it, David Knell added his comments to my post. That prompted another FLO to come rushing over to attack my adjectives, those of David Knell and generally claim in effect that the FLOs are experts and have British Museum expert advice, and how dare anyone question their interpretation. Wow. I updated my original post, but David Knell has continued the discussion in a way that raises the question of the reliability of the PAS recording (David Knell, 'PAS: Truth be damned, let's just be topical!' Thursday, 13 August 2020)

Apparently in a misguided attempt to be topical, the author gave his article the subtitle "How a single artefact can shed light on the transatlantic slave trade" and tagged it as 'Atlantic Slave Trade, Black Lives Matter, Enslaved Person'. Excited by that theme, the author then went on to make wild assumptions in the text - "... design depicting a Black man – most probably an enslaved person", "the depiction of an enslaved person on this seal" - while desperately trying to link the seal to "the enslavement of African people". [...] I now see Ben Westwood, another FLO, is apparently outraged that anyone dared to challenge the nonsense in the PAS article.
There are some (justifiable) sharp comments in this response ("Perhaps my standard for drawing a line between fact and wild flights of uninformed imagination is somewhat stricter than that of the PAS". "a PAS article that favours sensationalist speculation over sound scholarly objectivity"). Basically it boils down to Knell asserting (and I think correctly) "that any chance of an intelligent "debate" requires the immediate ditching of that "Slave Trade" narrative; it's a false accretion founded on an ignorance of armorial art [...] forcefully foisting topicality onto the artefact". In my original post I suggested that the bust on this seal might have been a classical reference, and while it's still possible, having read Knell's comment to that post and now his enlargement on his blog, I am persuaded that his is the more likely interpretation. 

In a previous generation of archaeologists, there was a much wider knowledge of heraldry than seems to be the case today. So in his blog post, Knell gives a brief account of armorial art - pointing slyly to some examples on the PAS database, including one seal matrix (NLM-0D2C6D) remarkably like the Shropshire one, though better finished. That one is dated by another FLO to  1750-1825 (not "1713") - the significance of that is that slavery was abolished in the UK in 1807. Knell goes on to explain to the FLO ("expert") the significance of the "Moor's Head" emblem, elements the FLO evidently had not considered, and all those experts he consulted (names, please) did not remind him of: 
Although the device is by no means as common as a lion rampant, it is not exactly rare either [...] and it's rather surprising that it threw the PAS team into a shocked wobbly [...] despite Mr Reavill's strenuous effort to make it topical, the device is most unlikely to have even the remotest connection with the "transatlantic slave trade". [...] Despite the misleading subtitle of the Reavill article, the artefact has not shed an iota of light on the transatlantic slave trade (hardly surprising since the artefact has nothing to do with it); the article merely illustrates the validity of Paul Barford's warning about narrativisation. It is a reckless reversal of archaeological practice: instead of dispassionately allowing an artefact to speak for itself and learning from it, a largely irrelevant sermon based on misinformed guesswork and irrational assumption has been clumsily piggybacked onto it. There is already more than enough pseudo-archaeology in the world, please don't add to it.

Update 17th August 2020

The sorry saga goes on and on and the PAS FLOs (particularly the Durham one) are digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole (David Knell, 'Reply to Twitter feedback' Ancient Heritage blog, Monday, 17 August 2020).    

'Context matters: Collating the past’

Declaration of interest, a couple of days ago, I received from the author a complimentary copy of a volume I know he'd been working on for some time and came out recently. I thought I'd write a few words about it here. 
The book is David W.J. Gill, 2020 'Context matters: Collating the past’ ARCA Publications (place of publication: probably Columbia SC, USA) 291 pp index ISBN-13: 978-1734302615.

This handsome volume is a collation of some 30 essays, reviews and articles by Professor David Gill that had been published in ARCA's Journal of Art Crime (JAC) in the past decade, but here set out in thematic blocks with a linking commentary. 

These essays (in a JAC feature called 'context matters') revolve around museum objects and ancient art, mainly from the classical world with a strong focus on issues concerning the relationships between museums (US ones in particular) and source countries. The author points out that the texts that were published in JAC did not cover in much detail the broader aspects of ‘repatriation’ of objects and indeed whole architectural elements taken to foreign museums as Grand Tour trophies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, nor of the degree to which products of modern fakery ‘can be inserted into and corrupt the corpus of knowledge’ (p. 13). 

I have long followed David’s work, and have probably read a fair number of these texts before in one form or another over the last decade or so, and of course consider that each of them is an important contribution to the field. His readers will know that David’s approach is an unassuming one of quiet, logical objectivity, and in his texts many of the touchier issues tend to be formulated as questions, inviting the reader to use the information presented to form their own opinions and ask their own questions. This perhaps can seduce the reader into not seeing their immediate impact. Having these texts collated (see title) in a single volume grouped thematically gives them a new resonance. The intertextualities and pattern of the author’s thought become more visible. Indeed one might say that there could be no better illustration of the concept „context matters” than what these individually meaningful texts say when they are all presented in the context of each other. 

The introduction, pp 9-16, sets out the story of how the author became involved in research on these topics, going back a quarter of a century, but also relating the essays here to wider issues. There are eight sections: I, International agreements; II, The AAMD and its members; III, Returning antiquities; IV, Compliance and due diligence (introducing the concept “collecting histories”); V, Curators; VI, Looting and the market; VII, Perspectives from England; VIII, Debating cultural property (reviews of books by Cuno, Waxman and Jenkins). Some of the sections and essays have separate bibliographies, with the main one at the end of the volume, but it makes sense once you see how the volume is put together. 

Much of the emphasis in the first part of the volume is on the trade in objects from Italy and Greece and the USA as a voracious consumer, and the Sotheby’s and Medici scandal (with its cache of polaroids) as the link between the two. Along the way we are treated to cameos on the Ny Carlesberg Glyptotek, and my two favourite as-yet unresolved cases of the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy fragment and the Leutwitz (“Cleveland”) Apollo, both of which the art market somehow believes to have physically existed in two different places at the same time (like the herm in Chapter 17). This is often a problem when the antiquities trade attempts to produce documents for collecting histories, they so often give the impression of (ahem) having been simply made up. 

Section V introduces the issue of the role and importance of academics in the antiquities trade, a topic raised by Renfrew two decades ago, but a lesson we are still learning (in particular now in the fields of cunies and papyri – the ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’ is a case in point). But it seems that we are slow learners, this is still an area that needs much more discussion and, especially, a much closer formulation of codes of practice /ethics for archaeologists (and not only).

Section VI introduces the issues of conflict antiquities. The first essay goes into looting in the Balkans, the role of Bulgaria (and its mafia) in the supply of the antiquities market in the early 1990s, the second touches on the acquisition of objects from war-torn Syria and Iraq, the third on looting of museums and storerooms in Libya and Egypt as well as Italy and Greece. 

There are not many other authors from whom in the context of portable antiquities I’d be glad to see a section labelled ‘perspectives from England’ (normally, on seeing such a title in English, as we say in Poland “the knife already opens in my pocket”). This is because most British colleagues would just parrot some vacant stuff about the ‘benefits’ of collaboration and partnership and ‘public engagement with the past’, without putting that in any context. Gill is far more astute and takes two cases of recent discoveries where the Portable Antiquities Scheme was involved in notable finds, the so-called Crosby Garrett Helmet and the Lenborough Hoard, both of them tragic fiascos in archaeological terms. Few other archaeologists have had the gumption to have called-out these two finds in this way. My main regret is that David’s pieces on the PAS (2010a and 2010b) were not in JAC but elsewhere so they do not appear here. 

The final section rehearses some of David’s responses to the very curious reasoning of other supporters of portable antiquities collecting (though in the museum context). 

I like very much the way some of the information is presented in the form of tabulation. What is revealing is that in most cases these are not tabulations of known collecting histories, but rather the steps by which we reconstruct what really happened (or what we do not know). We need to come up with a term for this process (because we can't call it "provenance research" really).* 

What I find missing is a comprehensive presentation here of David's thoughts on one puzzling aspect. Since even before we read this book, we'd most of us say yes, "context matters" (and "looting matters"). So why, actually are there all these illustrious people and institutions described here behaving as though it's utterly unimportant, that what is important is some trophy "artwork" to display and brag about. Yet as Elizabeth Marlowe (2013) shows (and should have been well-known before that publication too), context and 'grounding' are by no means a problem relating to legitimacy of ownership, but the very interpretation of the object (even one that is treated as 'art'). It affects the interpretation in research, the manner of representation in display and museum practice - so why was it so gaily ignored in all the cases Gill discusses? 

This book deserves to be on the reading lists of students in a number of fields (archaeology, cultural heritage studies, museology, and criminology come to mind). It provides a useful summary of a series of matters that are difficult to follow from the scattered sources (just look at the size of his bibliography) and is useful in that it focuses attention on a specific set of material that highlight the core issues and can provide the foundations for further discussions. 

 As a booklover, I cannot fail to mention the book’s appealing design (by Urška Charney). This volume entrances, from the subtle restraint of the very tactile cover and the page setup that unites the separate sections, gives them a robust but open character that makes the volume a delightful object in its own right. 


David Gill 2010a The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act: Protecting the Archaeology of England and Wales? Papers from the Institute of Archaeology (PIA) vol 20, 1-11 

Elizabeth Marlowe 2013, Shaky Ground: Context, Connoisseurship and the History of Roman Art. Debates in archaeology. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic

Colin Renfrew, 2000. Loot, legitimacy and ownership: The ethical crisis in archaeology.London. London: Duckworth. 

* [Having said that, in my opinion, the collecting history of the Leutwitz Apollo as presented by Professor Gill p.44 is missing one important sighting, which in fact changes everything, but I may have written about this after his original article went to press].  

UK' National Council for Metal Detecting Abandons Forum Members

Metal detectorists, always running away

On a popular metal detecting forum near you, the NCMD has once again demonstrated its total incompetence and unpreparedness (post by mrix » Wed Aug 12, 2020 6:45 pm):
N.C.M.D Notice 
The NCMD have decided that they no longer wish to have a dedicated forum on MDF. This is primarily because they currently do not have sufficient staff available to respond directly to the questions from the MDF membership. The MDF has always tried to make it clear that responses to our membership are the views of NCMD and not necessarily those of the MDF. This has, sometimes in the past, caused problems for the MDF and therefore this move by the NCMD is welcomed.
Hopefully, when the NCMD have sufficient staffing this situation may change, but in the meantime we would suggest that our members contact the NCMD directly with any queries. Our members are, of course, welcome to discuss any issues regarding their NCMD membership in the 'General Chat' forum, as was previously the case.
Regards MDF Team

Does this mean that an organisation set up to communicate between the hobbyists and the rest of us and act as spokesmen no longer has any kind of a communications team? That's pretty pathetic.

Museums Reassessed Due to Lockdown?

Martha Gill 'Museums’ grip on stolen goods is loosening' (Times August 12 2020) points out that the success of virtual tours shows that institutions are running out of excuses over the restitution of colonial artefacts

It’s perhaps one of the stranger successes of lockdown. Museums are opening up virtual galleries online and visitors are turning up to nip around them. Strange because “virtual museum” would be one way to describe what the internet does already. It certainly seems to defeat the purpose of painstakingly gathering objects together in the same building. Still, it has worked so well that someone has taken the concept to its logical conclusion. Voma, the world’s first “fully interactive virtual museum” opens on Friday. It will cherry-pick the best exhibits from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Moma in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. All without the bore of having to dust them.

So basically all that encyclopedic museum guff that the BM and Cuno and others were once banging on about is being sidestepped.  Then of course is the other issue, museums really are not all that educational any more. That's not the way they are treated by the majority of its audience, and its not the way it is treated by those that run them and try to provide an attractive service for the publ;ic. So, as Ms Gill points out, despite their protestations, no priceless knowledge will be lost if they send all that colonial stuff back.

Heritage Action: 'German eBay protects Germany but Damages Britain'


Heritage Action: 'German eBay protects Germany but damages Britain! (HJ 08/08/2020). Twelve years ago, HA wrote about German eBay's new regulations on the sale of archaeological artefacts that stipulate that anything sold must be accompanied by proper documentation showing the seller’s title and proof that it has been properly reported:
As a result, there are now zero Metalldetektionsfunde (metal detecting finds) directly offered on German eBay. Providing “proper documentation” has turned out to be too difficult, it seems. However, you CAN buy thousands of finds via eBay. They are the ones designated as from international sellers, people who aren’t obliged to provide proper documentation. They’re nearly all based in Großbritannien! . . [2291 Articles found by international eBay sellers] . Makes you proud to be British, does it? Maybe those considering post-PAS options should take note.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

UK Dealer Shows Disrespect for the Dead


While on the topic of colonialism and dehumanisation in the no-questions-asked international antiquities market, take a look at how a UK dealer not only disrespects the cultural patrimony of a modern nation in the Middle East, but callously disrespects the dead, a death-themed "Christmas card to all my customers":

I do not think most of us are really having a very good 2020. I really have issues here with this. Those "mummy masks" are not artefacts in their own rights. They are just part (about 15/20%) of just the front of a more complex timber artefact, somebody's coffin, from which they've been callously levered off to sell (while the rest ends up dumped, together with the disturbed human remains). But these are not just any old coffins, mummy cases have a specific form for a reason, and just as the "mummy mask" (sic) has been "portableised" from the coffin itself, wrecking it, so the coffin was an integral part of the whole human burial. To those that respectfully buried the dead, the coffin and mummy within meant that the corpse was transformed into the 'justified Osiris' that is mentioned on the inscriptions that accompanied it. These ensured that the deceased will have eternal life. But no, Rothwell is flogging off the shattered remnants of the Osiris so he can roleplay being an "Oldschool adventurer and lover of history", but it's also about control, controlling the past and controlling the message that these remnants carry. So what does he do? Puts them on a message celebrating the birth of another figure (one associated with his own culture, not those of the deceased) that also claims to offer eternal life to his followers. That is just downright disrespectful, first to the memory of the four unfortunates that ended up losing their afterlife to Mr Rothwells's profit margins and his greedy customer's acquisitiveness, but also to the beliefs of Christians that Rothwell has just cheapened by this stunt.

Maybe Time for British Archaeologists to Start telling it Like it IS.

UK metal detectorist: "everyone knows artefact hunting is a wholesome, valuable, legitimate, and educational leisure pursuit". IS it? DO they? And whose fault is that @findsorguk ; @archaeologyuk ; @rescue_news ; @InstituteArch ?

LGD's Paul Howard: Detectorists DESERVE "Payment" For The "Time and Effort" Put Into Finding Items of High Value (Landowners Lose Out)

When you ask them, British metal detectorists will say to a man, or woman, that they are "not in it for the money", that the hunt for artefacts to add to their collections out of a "passionate interest in history" (that they want to share with everyone) and that the excitement is "going out and never knowing what you will find". That's what they'll tell you and that's what their archaeologist supporters will tell you too (the Suzies and Bonnies with their fond fantasies about "responsive artefact hunters"). Well, let these academics do some real research, go to the social media of their "partners" and read what they say amongst themselves. I can't think why more archaeologists do not do this, the information is just a mouseclick away (and if you have to find a way round various blocking mechanisms, there might be a reason for their existence, eh?). Anyway, if they did that, they'd find things like this gem from Paul Howard, Let's Go Digging (Admin 11 August 2020):
IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING 50/50 Split with our farmers

As you know we recently upped the limit from £500 to £1000 so anything found over £1000 must be 50/50 with our farmers, As an organiser I know how hard it is to find high value items and hoards and how much time and effort goes into trying to find that something special, I want all LGD members attending our rallies to be able to keep everything you [sic] find, If your [sic] lucky you ll find Gold milled or Gold Hammered, Roman or nice Saxon coins and rare artefacts, a lot of people don’t have the type of money that they would need to pay the farmers half to be able to keep these type of finds and could end up having to let it go to pay the farmers.
This something I and LGD don’t want to see knowing what it takes and the feeling finding that special find we want you all to be able to keep and feel it’s only fair you should be able too, [sic] As of today 11/08/2020 we have raised the limit to £3000 so anything you find under £3000 is yours without having to split with farmers, We pay our farmers large sums of your money to try and find these items most the time drawing a blank so it’s only right you have a better chance of keeping most items,
So you understand this will take affect [sic] as of today on all NEW farms we book from today, we can’t alter our agreements on farms we already have as contracts are already given, it will state on the events the 50/50 limit for that event so your [sic] all fully aware. We will supply our farmers with signed contracts that say this which LGD will have a sighned [sic] farners [sic] copy, If a find is classed as treasure and kept buy [sic] the BM they automatically split and pay the farmers and finders but if our farmers stick to the agreement we make with them they should only keep half of anything over £3000 so if it’s under and they get paid they should pay the finder the money they received. Not sure how that will work with a farmer who breaks the agreement but it will be made clear to them the situation if this happens and we will only take farms that agree to it, We hope this now helps you all to be able to keep most of the finds you find with LGD
Paul and Joanne and Team
Let's just get this straight, "could end up having to let it go to pay the farmers" means actually compensating the landowner for the loss of their property. Signing a contract with somebody who owns a farm does not mean that they are "your" farms, and "your" farmers, to treat how you want. You are a guest on their property, a paying one. If you pay for a hotel room, it does not entitle you to take the TV when you leave. 

As for "we pay our farmers large sums of your money to try and find these items", the most up to date information from farmers' forums I can find is this rather notable thread (if you have time, and the stomach, read it through to the end to see who these metal detectorists are) 
Apr 20, 2016 Hi, I'm Chris and with my business partner Paul, I run Lets Go Digging. We are paying farmers a up to a £1000 plus to metal detect on their land for one day [...] [for] 100 detectorists, which requires a minimum of 70 acres.
Then the same claim was made on a village noticeboard two years later. Perhaps they've put the access fee up now to cover the extended risks and facilities needed during a pandemic, but it seems that accepting the possibility they could lose three thousand quid for a cash payment of just 1000 seems a pretty poor deal to me. Farmers are asked to simply accept that an unknown number of artefact hoikers walking off their land taking an unknown number of items worth an unknown quantity of money, though the finders are claiming they are all under 3000 quid's worth. I would love to see how those contracts are worded, and have the PACHI legal team go over them. Why on earth do landowners sign them? I'd also like the public - whose heritage it is - to see the statistics of what is taken under such arrangements (the PAS database does not show many of them). In particular, I'd be interested to know to what degree the ONLY finds that are deemed to be over 3000 quid are Treasure finds that have to be reported anyway. Now the threshold has been raised a third time, from 500 and 1000 to three times as much in order to ascertain that members "have a better chance of keeping most items", how many finds that the finder would previously have been required to share with the landowner are now clandestinely passing into private hands without the landowner being appraised of this? In fact by how much are landowners now out of pocket as a result of this change? The worth of all the objects valued between 501 and 2999 quid, that's how much. Unless they are Treasure.  

But then, look at the consequences, Let's say the TVC evaluates a hoard to be worth 10000 quid, and a museum raises that money to buy back everybody's heritage from being sold off elsewhere. Normally the split would be hoiker 5K and landowner 5K but then, per contract (as I understand what is written above), the landowner should only keep half of anything over £3000 so the landowner must give the hoiker more, out of his reward... Say it's a £100,000 reward, split 50-50, so £50,000 each. But then according to the terms of the contract as represented here, the landowner and farmer agreed to split half of the reward over 3K, which is half of 97K, i.e 46.5K. So the the landowner ends up with 46.5K and the Treasure hunter 53.5K.

Reminder, this group has 13,400 followers, probably about half the overall number of detectorists in England and Wales.

Tuesday 11 August 2020

UK "Antiquities" Dealer Seems not to Like my Work [Updated]

A dealer whose anonymous website and social media 'contributions' [on antiquities and how wonderful the antiquities trade actually is and how super collectors are]  claims to have read a text of mine on the trade in North African lithics within hours of it going online. That's keenness for you. Here is their anonymous verdict:
 Oh well, you can't please them all. There is no real explanation of why it is "nonsense" to analyse open source data in this way, and I really do not understand the comment "at eBay prices, trade in genuine ancient North African lithics is unviable. Consider the economics!". Is the seller claiming that all the pieces are fake? I discuss this question. I discuss the eBay prices, the economics and scale of the trade, and I attempt to follow how many are sold in what time span. Certainly the material is selling "at eBay prices", so I really don't know what the comment was supposed to mean. Neither is it clear how "obscure" a journal is that not only exists in paper form and present in many European academic libraries (that's what it's published for), but can be accessed free of charge anywhere where there is internet access.

Antiquities Online is a trading arm of Ancient Relics ("Old World Antiquities, Precolumbian Art and Historical Collectables"). And if you want to see what kind of a posh gallery space they display their artefacts in, google their address: Suite 25, 151 High Street, Southampton, Hampshire SO14 2BT, United Kingdom. What a dump. PACHI believes this grumpy old dealer wannabe is Guy Rothwell ("Old school adventurer and lover of history and all the wonderful weird eccentricities of life. Old Caterhamian, Bachelor of Science, Doctor of Philosophy, owner of Antiquities Online Ancient Art Gallery"), but it's  not clear from the website itself who is behind it (so much for "reputable dealers" when you cant even work out who that dealer is). The use of social media is rather typical of antiquities dealers, they all do much the same, a great deal of repetition, mostly reposting other people's stuff, attacking critics of the market, very little original content. It looks like their social media account is just there so the account owner can say they are there... There is also however a rather inactive blog (8 posts all from last year): "Collecting antiquities - a long and honourable tradition", the usual stuff too.

Anyway, don't take a dealer's word for it (don't take an antiquities dealer's word for anything!) read my text on the trade in North African lithics and see for yourselves, comments always welcome, substantive ones even more so. 

Update 12 Aug 2020
The meaning behind "at eBay prices, trade in genuine ancient North African lithics is unviable. Consider the economics" was revealed in a later tweet.
Antiquities Online@AncientRelics · 10 g.   W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues
You note majority of NA 'Neolithic' arrowheads sell at $1-3 each! Consider dealer needs profit, middlemen need profit, finders need recompense and collecting expeditions and international transport needs finance. At eBay prices, trade in GENIUNE ancient NA arrowheads not viable.
Yet, it actually goes on, despite Mr Rothwell's disbelief. So really, since we know it goes on, the question is how? It's not true that, as this dealer apparently wants to tell his clients, only high-priced antiquities are real. He seems to ignore that this really depends on how they are obtained, from whom, how exploitatively, and in what quantities. Also of course one of the appeals of collecting artefacts like these is the affordability. Also, if Guy Rothwell had actually read the article rather than just the title and the bit about prices (money, money, money) some of his doubts might have been answered.

Apples also have a low unit cost, yet commercial orchards thrive.  

And when we look at the gentleman's website and see the prices he's asking for his North African artefacts, we might understand his disquiet that I give teh range of priices most other dealers offer artefacts of certain types for... I'd also draw attention to a certain quartzite Middle Palaeolithic cordi[form] handaxe he has there for the upper price range I identified in my ("nonsense") paper... the dealer says it has "some smoothing due to exposure to the desert winds", I suggest he looks again. The one from Nigeria... Look also at which ones have cited provenances and try and group those that do not. Do you see a pattern here? Look at the ones with dark patinas, why have so few of them got a collecting history at all, when these in particular should?   

Monday 10 August 2020

$15 million to Get Hobby Lobby off the Hook?

Those "clay tiles" turned out to be an additionally expensive purchase for Mr Green. Iraq says it has just agreed to a $15 million settlement with HobbyLobby over thousands of Museum of Bible antiquities believed to have been looted from Iraq. Iraqi government says it has dropped lawsuits in exchange. The Hobby Lobby Antiquities Smuggling Scandal now has its own Wikipedia page.

Douglas Latchford Dies

Douglas Latchford in his London home (export licences?)

 Douglas Latchford, a central character in a long-going case of antiquities smuggling has died, aged 89 in Bangkok. He was a leading dealer in the trade in Cambodian art in the 1970s, but last year was accused of allegedly creating false provenances for antiquities.  The Art Newspaper article covering this story (Vincent Noce, ' 'Adventurer scholar' Douglas Latchford dies in Bangkok, aged 89' The Art Newspaper 10th August 2020 ) shows how embedded colonialism is in today's art market. 

A self-described "adventurer scholar", Douglas Latchford was born in Bombay (now present day Mumbai) to British parents. He settled in Thailand in 1951, where he became successful in the pharmaceutical and property businesses, before running body-building competitions. He was himself a large man, who took pleasure in telling journalists visiting his house full of statues of Buddha and Siamese or Burmese gods, how he became interested in South-Eastern art while travelling dirt roads in Thailand and Cambodia to explore fabulous ruins and local antiquities’ markets. Latchford built a reputation as a world expert in Khmer antiquities, co-writing three reference books with the American academic Emma Bunker. In the 1970s he became one of the most prominent suppliers of Cambodian art to museums and collectors in the US and Europe, notably through Spink’s in London. [...] In 2010, Latchford told the Bangkok Post that “most of the pieces he has come across have been found and dug up by farmers in fields”. He liked to see himself as a rescuer of works of art which were long abandoned and might have been destroyed in Cambodia’s civil wars.
Latchford was mixed up in the sale of a number of statues from the Khmer capital Koh Ker that ended up in US museums like the Metropolitan and the Norton Collection. These have in the past decade now been identified as stolen and been returned to Cambodia. Once attention was on the topic, another item being sold by Sotheby's was withdrawn from sale and returned  to Cambodia. Yet it was only in November last year that a New York District Attorney announced the indictment of Douglas Latchford for alleged the smuggling and trafficking into the US of stolen and looted Cambodian antiquities. If these charges had come to court, it would have shown the degree to which he was a foreign war profiteer who trafficked in "blood antiquities" and capitalized on destabilisation and genocide. The Art newspaper article tries to make the issue merely one of incorrect paperwork.
Latchford always denied any wrongdoing and any involvement in smuggling. “His collection was substantially put together long before cultural heritage laws were introduced. The world was very different in those days, it is wrong to perceive his actions solely through a 2020s’ lens", a close friend of Latchford tells The Art Newspaper, adding that "without the passion and attention of people like him, vital objects would have been lost to the world".
 That's what they all say. we will see what happens to his private collection, whether those objects and the information about their findspots will be saved for the world. There were laws in place, he just ignored them. 

Sunday 9 August 2020

You Wanna Buy Old Scrolls?


Bonhams, Antiquities London, New Bond Street 5 Oct 2011, LOT 379 THREE COMPOSITE PAPYRUS SCROLLS Sold for £8,125   
Three composite papyrus scrolls Ptolemaic - Roman Period, circa 3rd Century B.C. - 3rd Century A.D.
Each composed of scraps of papyrus, now formed into rolls, with some demotic script and some Greek script, the demotic probably administrative lists, 10½in (26.7cm) longest (3)
: Mulligan Collection, USA. Acquired by the owner's grandfather in the 1950s and thence by descent.
 Literature: Such rolls are made up of ancient papyri, old unwanted documents, which were reused as the basic material of cartonnage in antiquity. In modern times they were separated and re-formed into rolls.

 Some might call this fakery... 

Yet, though the auctioneer is quite clear about what this is, still somebody paid 8000 quid for them. Why? Surely not to "study" them. 

'Green Saharas, Grey Markets: Commercial Exploitation of North African Prehistory'

Loose arrowheads for collectors

Here's a new paper on collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record, gets the discussion away from "metal detecting", also points out that collecting damages surface sites as much as it does 'stratified' ones, talks about fakes on the market, addresses some of the nonsenses of the Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang (more in another forthcoming one). There is a tabulation of the state of part of the market (ebay) as it was last year that surprised even me when it came to assessing the scale of the phenomenon and how much it is "worth". This is in a volume that is about Polish archaeological surface surveys in the North African desert, so it shows the damage collecting does to the type of evidence described by other authors in the volume. It's downloadable as a zip file here.
Barford, Paul M. 2020, 'Green Saharas, Grey Markets: Commercial Exploitation of North African Prehistory, an Overview', Archaeologia Polona [Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw] Vol. 58 (2020)  pp 311- 336 . 

The NCMD and Institute of Detectorists : Responsible Metal Detecting a "Potential Threat"?

There is a post on a metal detecting forum near you that encapsulates the whole problem with metal detecting in the UK. It is about the proposal to set up an Institute of Detectorists (IoD) that aims to

"provide training in archaeological principles for detectorists who wish to assist archaeologists on digs and surveys. The proposed Institute is intended to become a new national body for detectorists whose interests are focused around heritage and conservation. It claims that it will build bridges between archaeologists and detectorists and further the use of metal detectors on archaeological projects – promoting best practice based on archaeological principles and values to responsible detectorists. It is intended to develop and promote standards and guidance on the use of metal detectors in an archaeological context, creating a national educational programme for all detectorists to encourage them to adopt best practice in responsible detecting for public benefit".
Geriatric isolationists

And the response of the National Council for Metal Detectorists (Post by The NCMD » Fri Aug 07, 2020 11:37 am)?

Many readers will already be aware of an initiative by Keith Westcott to form an Institute of Detectorists (I o D) which is being seen by some detectorists as a possible rival organisation to the NCMD and a potential threat. [...] The problem is that it is still too early to make a proper assessment on its potential impact on hobby detecting because the current position is that the detailed aims and objectives of the proposed Institute are still somewhat ambiguous. This therefore raises many questions which is why the NCMD has decided to decline an invitation meantime to join an Advisory Group within the I o D. More details are awaited including clarification of the role that the NCMD might be expected to play if it was to participate in the I o D Advisory Group and we are therefore keeping a close watching brief on the situation.
Ha ha. The idea of an organisation joining the Advisory Group is to advise. The NCMD could not advise itself out of a paper bag. 

In what way is promoting "responsible metal detecting" perceived as a "potential threat" to the way the NCMD and the EMD metal detecting forum and its members want to see the hobby being done? 

The NCMD is not going to take part in  an advisory board the aims and objectives of the proposed Institute because the NCMD does not know what the aims and objectives of the proposed Institute are, because they have not yet been collectively determined.

Basically the NCMD is an organisation has always given me the impression of being run by cantankerous geriatric halfwits incapable of logical thought. Basically there has seldom been any initiative since it was set up that its inborn paranoia and suspicions do not cause it to reject participation in. Also of course just sitting outside muttering as others discuss the hobby they claim to represent is much easier. 

If metal detecting in the UK continues to allow these passive-aggressive charlatans to claim to be its representative, then it deserves all the marginalisation that it's going to get in post-Brexit and post-Covid realities of Britain in the 2020s. 

Saturday 8 August 2020

COLEM Filling in During Lockdown

My local museum in England seems to feel the need to make its presence felt
Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing #FindsFriday highlights from Essex FLOs past and present. Starting with Sophie Flynn (@EssexFLO), whose favourite object was the Willingale Treasure.
How odd, and there's us thinking it's all about what members of the public have found, recognised as important and brought to the museum, but here we find the FLOs "past and present' taking all the credit! But then the current local FLO (pictured by Colchester and Essex Museums) seems to have long had a rather odd and personal attitude to discussing the region's heritage ("Another PAS 'Liaison' First" PACHI Saturday, 10 March 2018).

Friday 7 August 2020

'Woke' Narrativisation from PAS Lockdown [Updated]

More PAS gatekeeping, trying to 'make archaeology (artefactology) look relevant':
Peter Reavill @PeterReavill · 3 g.
For #FindsFriday this week I wanted to share my research on a silver seal matrix from #Shropshire and its links with the Atlantic Slave Trade. You can read more about it here on the Shropshire county pages @findsorguk

and here it is in all its glory:

How a single artefact can shed light on the transatlantic slave trade, allegedly. What does the author have in mind "shed light"? What he's doing here is using an object to illustrate what we KNOW about the slave trade, from documents and ... umm, historians actually writing quite a lot about it. What "light" has the FLO "shed" by posting on a blog some reflections on an object recorded in 2013 that shows a negroid bust? First of all the FLO's description in the database. He says elements of the design are "beautifully cut" and "incised" and "engraved". I don't see that in the PAS photo (supposedly a preservation by record, no?) it looks cast to me. But no, the FLO insists: "the design was hand cut rather than cast as the tooling was clearly cut with a wedge shaped tool" (sic - it's called a burin). Despite that, I think the photo does not document that at all, it looks cast to me. The scrollwork of the matrix looks to be more or less in as-cast form, with little tooling, so it's odd that one part of the object would be finished by hand-tooling and not the other.

The FLO's dating is weird, "dates from the late 17th or very early 18th century (pre-1713)", but in fact that is a misreport of what it says in the database record, that it was probably older than 300 years - so it can be treated as Treasure) in 2013 when found... I'm no expert on these things, but can't help feeling this has a later feel to it [update: the comment by David Knell gives a clue as to why it looked later - though I was not able to put my finger on why.... He suggests it is much later]

But then we come on to the narrativisation:
By owning and displaying such a seal the user made very clear statements about who they were and what they wished to be associated with. [...]  What makes this Shropshire piece stand out from the other recorded examples is its deliberately chosen engraved design depicting a Black man – most probably an enslaved person.[...] I / we need to do so much more than we currently do to ensure that our history as a nation is understood in all its facets by all [...] even though I am a privileged white middle-class male museum archaeologist / heritage professional I can make a difference and use my voice to support and make change happen.
So, first of all, we have a story that is based on a "this looks like" and then a "most probably". And who is to say it is not so? But then to build such pathos onto a single decontextualised artefact (and the PAS have already played at the "remember grisly slave trade" gig before), we really do need to be sure that what we are looking at is what the FLO says it is. 
Some other seals of the type

In his blog post, the FLO illustrates several contemporary seal matrices, two caught my eye, they look like a poor man's version of the intaglios that were produced for Grand Tour travellers, with classical style busts in helmets and cuirass. The FLO assumes the negroid head on the Sheriffhales seal matrix  is a depiction of an 18th century personage, but actually does not justify that except saying it is "very probable". I think taking this class of objects as a whole, it is surely no less probable that this is a classical allusion. I recall seeing a coin type like this, an apparently Etruscan issue of the third century BC (Sear Greek Coins and their values Seaby 1978, vol I, p. 56, nr 518 - wildwinds…).

Coin (Wikipedia)

What is interesting about this is that it's got an elephant on the reverse and modern 'black history' websites take this to mean that the coin depicts the famed elephant-using warrior Hannibal Barca and then propagate the idea that Hannibal was black.
It'd be worth doing research into when that started... (I do not have access here to enough antiquarian literature), but did this start in Grand Tour times with a decontextualised coin with an elephant bought in Italy with an elephant on it being identified on 'common sense grounds' as Hannibal? If so, the Sheriffhales Seal-matrix ,may not be intended to represent a servile slave, but the victorious general from North Africa.

Update 8th August 2020
The comment by David Knell below gives another explanation that is also worth considering. So that's three different people and three interpretations. I think that raises a question how the PAS can preserve by record information about finds that more often than not disappear after being documented if that record is limited by the fact that the FLO is often working alone, and may have limited knowledge - here about eighteenth century art styles, and create a false description.

Update 13th August 2020
These people are astounding. It turns out that the mouthy Durham FLO sees it as his duty as some kind of knight on a white charger to come to the aid of his colleagues (I think it's an identity issue). So he's had a go defending Peter Reavill's blog post. To explain why I'm not really going to waste time on this (check it out on his Twitter feed) I'll just say how he started it:
Durham FLO Ben Westwood @FLODurhamFLO 10 sie
Thread: I’ve thought long and hard over whether to reply to this, but seeing comments describing Peter’s article ( as ‘vacuously jumping on the BLM bandwagon, and coupled with the offensive language used by @PortantIssues, I think it’s important to respond
Just check through the text above and see whether your view of "offensive language" is the same as the Durham FLO. True to character, he responds not by actually addressing the points made but by straw man argument and attacking individual words I used and telling his readers that this makes me into some kind of an illiterate fascist (I think these words - curiously all adjectives - are the "offensive" ones). Well, Mr Westwood's word-power leaves a lot to be desired, he can't even tell the difference between an adjective and a noun. He'd never get a job as a translator. Anyway, while most of his waffle is unedifying, this (following a screen shot of my original post) is worth putting on record: 
Durham FLO Ben Westwood @FLODurhamFLO 10 sie
W odpowiedzi do @FLODurhamFLO and @PortantIssues
no , this isn’t ‘3 people, 3 interpretations'. This record is published/green flagged, meaning that it has been written by the FLO, examined by the Treasure Registrar, and at least 1 (poss more) specialist British Museum curators.   
Bully for them, and none of them spotted the logical gaps in the text as published? The ones David Knell has now pointed out too? The British Museum is apparently not what it once was. Yet FLO-fella boasts (as I say, most likely, an identity issue): 
Durham FLO Ben Westwood @FLODurhamFLO 10 sie
Like it or not, we are experts in portable antiquities and artefacts, and see more Treasure than anybody, thus well placed [to] identify archaeological objects. and that’s not to say we don’t/won’t make mistakes, but we have experts on hand to give advice when we need it. 
But NOT the only experts, though. And yes, you do make mistakes, but our experience is that PAS staff are especially graceless when they are picked up on some of them. They should remember that their outreach represents us all, they are (supposed to be) a public face of archaeology, and it is from what they do or say that (if the millions of pounds it's costing us) the public will gain a large part of their knowledge of what archaeology is, how archaeologists do what they do. Therefore I feel that they should consider themselves answerable to the rest of us and not behave like some autonomous, hermetic and inscrutable religious order. 

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.