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.

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