Tuesday, 13 October 2020

The Kirk Smeaton hoard fiasco

Hoard, roughly-dug
There is an interesting thread on a metal detecting forum near you that illustrates very well that a lot of detectorists have not the foggiest idea about what is happening around their hobby, and even if they are told, still do not pay any attention to it. Thickoes the lot of them. The thread is about a letter that Kevin Gorman of the NCMD is sending out to members about the "threat" allegedly posed to "there freedoms" by the existence of Institute of Detectorists. Read it to see the foggy thinking of a whole group of these hobbyists (the one by Tar Ten Wed Sep 16, 2020 4:47 am is a real cracker). But more interesting is the one by coinhunter2018 (Tue Oct 13, 2020 12:40 am):

The Kirk Smeaton hoard fiasco unfortunately damaged the hobby permanently. For those that don't know about it, I'll explain. One of the biggest Roman hoards ever was found but instead of following the Treasure Act and waiting for archeologists, they ripped the hoard out of the ground smashing the pot to bits while other detectorists were grabbing hands full of coins to examine the hoard. The entire hoard was then thrown across a table in a garage to count them. All of this was filmed and I can't even say on here the words they used concerning the FLO. The whole thing was a fiasco from start to finish and many of us were shocked at the behaviour and I'll tell you now that if the archeologists have got hold of that film and have saved it for bullets to fire later on then we're in a world of horse manure.
Hide it, quick! Of course its not just those nastyologists that detectorists have to hide their doings from, but the general public (whose heritage they are pocketing). There is another reason to be disturbed by this find, as it comes from targeting the same place that produced at least one Treasure item earlier:
amulet 2012,8031.1
Gold inscribed amulet (lamella) comprising a rectangular sheet of gold foil, originally tightly rolled but unrolled by the finder. The top, bottom and right side of the sheet are largely intact, but the left side is broken away. 18 lines of cursive text are inscribed on one side. [...] Treasure  number: 2009T325  PAS number: SWYOR-8F0C84  

and also there is another well-known, and published, hoard in the immediate vicinity (Little Smeaton Hoard bought for the nation in 1998; published -   pp 313-6) and there are more coins from this find that had not been handed over by "[names redacted]" SWYOR-309C12 found by targeting the site.    

So there was all the more reason for the treasure hunters to have a protocol in place for dealing with other treasure finds from this place. 

 So, it is interesting to note that this shocking behaviour by UK metal detectorists might go beyond the treatment of the archaeological site on discovery, because there is no Kirk Smeaton hoard included on the PAS database. 

Maybe as the UK public purse is put under such strain as it is now by the pandemic, there is a case for ostentatiously cutting Treasure rewards when best practice has been flaunted- as reportedly was the case here. Or are the PAS and their partners afraid that all those "law abiding" tekkies will cease to be so conscientious if there are no huge free cash handouts involved?   

UPDATE 13th October 2020

I contacted the North Yorks FLO, Rebecca Griffiths, and was pleasantly surprised that she promptly replied (she's blocked me on social media). She is of the opinion that the Roman coin hoard that "coinseeker" was referring to is the Severan Norton hoard (1056 coins in a pot, coincidentally found two years ago on this day) that was actually found across the border in South Yorkshire; SWYOR-4B2BFF, and that- as it is still an ongoing Treasure case - she is not at liberty to comment on it any further at present.



David Gill said...

At what depth were these coins found? (More than 0.25m.)

"some are reminding us that finds should only be retrieved from the top 0.30 m of disturbed soil (Deckers et al. 2018, 323–24)"

Paul Barford said...

Can't work out if these are the ones Suzie and Bonnie say are "responsible" ("because no LAW was broken") or if these are the "responsive" ones ("they'd do better if they knew how"). Or maybe -- since we've had 23 years of telling them "how" and "why" -- the detectorists mentioned in the post were just destructive oiks.

From what the FLO surmises, it now looks like this was the group that was involved in that irresponsible cannabis-cake episode last year.

James Slater said...

You failed to mention that this was also posted.
'Many of us reported this incident, it was reported to the NCMD. The British museum actually stated that the hoard had been halved in value due to the destruction of the pot, the site and the coins being mixed up so that the context was lost. We're not talking about a hundred coin hoard here, we're talking about a significant hoard of major importance yet nothing was done about it and the group is still operating.
This is relevant to what we are talking about, if the NCMD won't do anything, the British museum won't do anything then how do we protect the hobby? I'd have had the guy jailed if I had anything to do with it.
The treasure act is clear and precise in what action to take in the event of an hoard of this importance including placing a vehicle over the top and sleeping on site if need be till help arrives. This is a perfectly sensible part of the act.
To allow an individual to do what he did and walk away scot free is sending out mixed messages. You either enforce the law or you don't, if you don't then we're going down the pan because the archies will use it against us in the future.'
Most detectorists are against illegal activity and adhere to the treasure act, we condone the actions of others who were responsible for the Norton hoard.

Paul Barford said...

Thank you for confirming that it was the Norton Hoard. As for this post, I can't quote them all, I can give links so my readers can look on the forums and look over your shoulders. This post you quote really says the same as the others.

Have another look at the actual wording of the Treasure ACT though, it illustrates the point that many detectorists have not the foggiest about some basic issues. Nothing here was "illegal", we are talking about responsibility. And since the repetition, down the decades of this sort of thing show that artefact hunters in the UK will never learn (too thick many of them), and cannot be trusted, other measures will have to be taken so that this activity does not cause the DESTRUCTION that it does.

Because note that the archaeological effects of this grabby hoiking are ignored. There is no indication in either of the posts cited here that the tekkies ("really, really interestid in th' 'istry") are very concerned about this.

For these folk its about "half the value" and "are enemies will use it aginst us!". Note also the "them" and "us" in both texts - the "responsible detecting" idea is based on a notion of a partnership built up after 23 years, but it is a very one-sided one. Detectorists are spitting into the outstretched welcoming hand of my British colleagues.

The UK's STOP campaign was criticised for operating with damaging stereotypes. Forty years on, there is now a mass of hard verifiable evidence of the scale of bad practice among the artefact hunting community in England and Wales. This is just one of them.

Time to call a STOP on this uncontrolled trashing of the past to serve the greedy needs of a minority.

James Slater said...

Most of the hoards in the British museum's have been found by detectorists, some of the best Celtic, Roman, Saxon and medieval artifacts have also been found by detectorists, handed in sometimes free of charge. People can visit those museums and view the many artifacts and hoards of treasure. Can I ask you a question? Lets say there was a Saxon gold hoard in a field and detecting wasn't allowed, how long would it take the farm machinery to smash those artifacts beyond recognition? Many artifacts such as Roman brooches come out of the soil smashed to pieces by power harrows and other farm implements. If we have an opportunity to recover thousands of long lost artifacts and coins and save them from certain destruction then we should take it providing of course it is done in the right way.
Many detectorists including myself have handed many rare coins and artifacts free of charge to local museums and also schools. I myself donated five Roman coins and five medieval coins to my local primary school but I did it under one condition, that the children were allowed to examine the coins and handle them.
I did that because our children are never allowed to feel and touch their own history but that's not how it should be.
I donated five rare medieval coins to my local farmer which I found on his land. Why? Because the farmer should be allowed to hold and touch the coins that his ancestors touched over 800 years ago. History is not about locking artifacts and coins in cupboards and museum basements, it is about allowing others to experience and touch their own history. The history of common people. I've given the vast majority of everything I found away to friends and family who appreciate their heritage. I know many detectorists who do the same and I think you are being unfair to the hobby, it's not full of people who are in it for the money like you think it is, it's full of people that are genuinely interested in recovering history from the ground that otherwise would have been lost forever or destroyed by farm equipment. Would you rather see a ten year old child hold a 2000 year old Roman coin in her hand or would you rather that coin be lost forever? History is under our feet, people need to see it, feel it and touch it because it was their own ancestors who lost it.

Paul Barford said...

Well, this is totally off the topic of what the post to which it is attached was actually about. It looks like you are trying to deflect attention - as artefact hunters always do instead of keeping on topic. So I've answered this in two posts above.

Go on, I challenge you to actually sit down and go through the evidence about the "Roman brooches" test case and present your evidence here. Maybe if you do, you'll think twice about offering this kind of superficial claptrap arguments without thinking them through before you take voice.



James Slater said...

Not only can I prove Roman brooches are damaged by power harrows and other farm implements, I have pictures of such damage which has been confirmed by archeologists after careful examination.
You see, when a detectorist damages anything made of metal the exposed surfaces of the break have no patina.
The brooch itself depending on soil conditions has a deep green patina in most cases. When a brooch is broken perhaps fifty years ago or even thirty years ago, the exposed metal surfaces begin to corrode once more.
The amount of corrosion is again dependent on soil conditions and the amount of ammonium nitrate that gets put into the soil by farming. Ammonium nitrate is highly corrosive.
A broken brooch that has been in the soil thirty years builds a light patina that is visible under the microscope.
An example of this is modern coinage. If you take a 1973 two pence piece and place it in the ground for thirty years and it is exposed to the elements and ammonium nitrate, you end up with a green coin that is badly corroded, sometimes unrecognizable for what it actually is.
If you damage a Roman brooch in 1973 with a farm implement,the exposed metal surfaces will have corroded with a patina that is different from the rest of the brooch. The normal 1800 year old patina protects the brooch from being damaged by further corrosion via fertilizer. The exposed metal surfaces are subject to fertilizer corrosion instantly and a deep crusty pitting is observed.
If I took a brooch to an archeologist where I'd broken it in half recently, do you honestly think the archeologist wouldn't know it was recent damage with shiny bare metal surfaces?? Do you think that if I take a broken brooch to an archeologist that was damaged in 1973 they wouldn't be able to tell? Do you think detectorists soak their finds in corrosive materials to hide their mistakes? You are VERY distrusting of people, you don't like detectorists, you don't like FLO's, museums, in fact I haven't read any of your comments where you like or trust anyone at all. From what I've been told, you are not even qualified or have any expertise in the subjects you chose to talk about. I've been told you are a self proclaimed archeologist without any real education in this field. Are the rumours true? Are you a charlatan? If not then perhaps you could show the readers of your blog evidence that you are a fully qualified archeologist. Until I see evidence that you are qualified to comment on these matters I won't bother with your blog. I will however converse with REAL archeologists over matters because unlike yourself, they know what they are talking about.
Have nice day and try to be nice to people, you'll make yourself ill eventually if you don't. Ta ta .

Paul Barford said...

Mr Slater posted another comment here, this time half of it was on "proving" something about broken brooches and then the other half attacking me (and in fact potentially libellously so).

Unsurprisingly, since neither of them relate to the topic of the post above, I will not be publishing it for him. He may choose to resubmit without the personal comments but put it under the relevant post about backing up the "broken brooches" claptrap with more than anecdote.

It's here: https://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2020/10/the-broken-brooch-fallacy.html

But its about empirical evidence, not what he - a detectorist - "thinks" happens that is the issue.

Paul Barford said...

Two weeks later and Mr Slater has not done either. Once again, artefact hunters come out with crap that they cannot back up with evidence.

Unknown said...

Just one question Paul..
Why are you such a bell end?
Do you have qualifications for this status or has it just come to you naturally?
Thank you for your time..

Paul Barford said...

Well, I rather think that asking one of your fellow metal detectorists to back up for the benefit of other readers of this blog a statement that seems to me to be questionable is not exactly being as you so charmingly put it... It seems like a natural element of normal discourse. I do actually have qualifications relevant to discussing the effects of ploughsoil burial on metals. Have you? Have you anything to say here, at all, that you could put your name under?

Muppet barford said...

You are a complete idiot Barford,the majority of artifacts in all museums are found by responsible Metal Detectorists, yes there are a small and I repeat a small majority that seek fortune from the hobby but it the huge majority that enjoy the days out, finding the history beneath our feet. But your on this crusade from another country to tarnish all detectorist. Its a shame you can't get on maybe help those who aren't knowledgeable in the hobby instead of trying to kill it.

Paul Barford said...

They are artefacts.

And unless we are discussing the Bognor Regis Museum of Metal Detecting and Bottle Digging (run by the Dinsdale Brothers) it is NOT true that "the majority of artifacts in all museums are found by responsible Metal Detectorists".

I bet you can't provide some proper Museums Association-endorsed statistics supporting your claim (don't worry, nobody's holding their breath).

I do not make anything up, I use here only the deeds and words of detectorists themselves (like your very own comment here) - so if detectorists come out looking tarnished, you have to ask yourself why that is.

Why are most detecting forums and facebook groups closed? if you are all so wonderful, squeaky clean, SHOW yourselves, warts and all. Then you'd not have to worry about people using a blog like mine as a source of information, would you.

"help those in the hobby who aren't knowledgeable"
Now it's funny you should mention that. have a look here:
[you might find starting here is easier https://archaeologywassat.blogspot.com/2020/02/contents.html]
That's EXACTLY what that is. Seen it discussed on the forums much? How much more "having handed to you on a plate" do you want it?

Or is that "too many words" for you? But it's there to be used.

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