Monday 30 November 2020

The Final Act in the "Decline and Fall of the British Empire"

A thread by Simon Fraser:

A short Brexit retrospective as we enter the last month. Four and a half years ago we started down this path with little understanding of the route or the destination, pushed by ideologues who exploited the diverse and often reasonable grievances of many people. Over 4 years Brexit ideologues have driven us inexorably to more extreme forms of separation, losing the good will of European allies, sidelining our globally successful services industries, bringing cost and uncertainty for manufacturers and farmers, putting jobs at risk. With Brexit we have created uncertainty for millions of British and EU citizens, weakened our NHS, overlooked the arguments of our scientists, reduced opportunities for our young people and brought the unity of the UK further into question. Now, with no Brexit trade arrangement in place with our biggest market one month before the deadline, a UK government that aspires to leadership in a high-tech global economy says it is ready to abandon the deal over the sharing of fish stocks. And this at a time when President Biden offers a chance of realignment between Europe and America on the big challenges ahead on climate, health, trade and China, and the EU is preparing to respond. So far we have seen no tangible benefit from Brexit. I hope we make it a success, but we are making huge sacrifices on the altar of a facile notion of sovereignty and independence. Deal or no deal, the Brexit we are getting is not what we were sold in 2016.
An estimated 96% of UK metal detectorists voted to leave the EU in 2016. These are the same people to whom UK "policy" (I use the term loosely) entrusts the dismantling of the archaeological record that belongs to all of us, not just an exploitative minority group of grabby oiks. 

Sunday 29 November 2020

Nine Coins Seized on Egyptian Border

Hooray, eh? 'Archaeological Unit of Rafah Land Port, Custom Authorities succeeded in seizing 9 archaeological coins' Egypt Today, 26 Nov 2020 The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has released photos of some of the nine coins seized by customs authorities at Rafah Land Port, the sole crossing point between Egypt and the Gaza Strip while they were about to be smuggled out of the country.

after the archaeological unit in North Sinai received a notification from Rafah Customs Authority regarding suspicion of the authenticity of some coins in the possession of a traveler, a specialized archaeological committee was formed, headed by Ragab el-Husseiny, director general of the Center for Archeological Units in North Sinai. The committee confirmed the authenticity of these coins. Necessary legal measures were taken and the coins were confiscated in favor of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, in accordance with the Antiquities Protection Law No. 117 of 1983 and its amendments.
It's good we get the name of the head of the Commission, I don't know what his specialisation is, but to my eye, on the really wuzzy photos they've provided of some white metal discs with what looks like black ash on them, it seems that the bottom three are cast in moulds made by the same pattern, Aren't these fakes?
Al-Husseiny indicated that the seized coins are circular in shape and made of metal dating back to the Greco-Roman era from the reign of Alexander the Great. One of the sides of the coins has the God Zues sitting on a throne carrying an eagle in one hand and a sceptre in the other. There are also writings on the coins in latin.
ummm. No.

Thursday 26 November 2020

LGD's Killagranny Weekend Event Goes Ahead

In the sleepy rural backwater Killagranny, next to the medieval town of Selfish in Gloucestershire, a grammatically-challenged commercial dig organiser is irresponsibly trying to get members to pay up (original spelling and punctuation):
Paul Lgd Howard (Admin)
Good evening members, Just a heads up our annual Christmas rally is going to fill fast this year as i know theirs a lot of ppl who was in tier (3) thinking they wouldn’t be allowed to attend but now it’s looking like it might be possible all tiers can attend, we will now more Thursday.

I'll just post this up, note what it says about travel:

I am not sure what the logic is in thinking people from "medium alert" and "high alert" areas can meet in a "very high alert" region without travelling. But then, I'm not a metal detectorist. 

Update 28th November 2020

The NCMD have exerted themselves and read the official document describing the post Dec 2nd arrangements and set out in Simple English what they found out for the befit of the thickoes among them that cannot manage such a task. The result is this: N.C.M.D (CORECTED) [sic] Guidance from 2nd Dec:

[...] In all situations you are advised to restrict your journeys [...] both within and outside your local area. [...] Large outdoor events should not take place.

Again, they felt they had to bother central government to explain to them what they cannot understand (and again it's about private property in high risk zones). Government must be getting sick of this lot. 

Monday 23 November 2020

UK Poszukiwacz "Gutted" to lose "his" Permission

From a metal detecting facebook page near you Adam Kolakowski 24/11/2020:

Researching history of my best giving fields just find proposal from big USA company to turn them in to gravel pits... #Gutted PS. Local council is trying to challenge them... How can I save my permission and save history?? Good advices are much welcome
The question is of course how much of that "best giving" found its way to the SMR when the planning permission was being sought? How much of the archaeology of the site(s) having served for some time as Mr Kolakowski's best pocket-filler survives his depredations in a state sufficiently intact to merit an investigation or protection? Why, anyway, is the site being researched only after he's emptied a lot of it into his pockets and not beforehand to establish some sort of programme for the serching? Saving history, when it is written only in the archaeological record, is more than some random bloke taking a spade to it and pocketing a few loose pieces of it that he fancies for his collection.

[PS: and if Mr Kołakowski decides to leave crumbling Brexitland for the sunnier uplands of what I asssume to be his native fatherland in the free-movement EU, what will happen to all the artefacts dug out of the British archaeological record? "His" permission, but the archaeological heritage is that of the national territory.]

Metal Detectors being Sold in UK Right Now

I am putting together a text for a collected volume on artefact hunting in Poland. Obviously a fundamental question is "how many of them" are there? Estimates of my Polish colleagues seem to me to be wide of the mark and not based on anything much except a "project fear mentality". I cant believe that Poland has a metal detecting population more then three times that of the UK. I wondered how one could tackle the issue and wondered what would happen if you looked at numbers of online sales of metal detecting equipment and estimates of artefact hunting populations in other countries. It could give an "order of magnitude" that must be better than sheer guesswork.

So I had a look at eBay detector sales and I have my Polish answer. But I was worried that doing such survey in lockdown might produce a distorted value, surely when detecting if restricted by health regulations, dealers would not be advertising the equipment. It turns out that this may not be the case if we compare the results with an earlier microsurvey I did two years ago (PACHI Monday, 16 July 2018, 'Metal Detectors on Sale in the UK Right Now'). So here are today's figures in the same format. Compare the two.

for sale
eBay, right now, 'item location, UK only': 4810 results (New 4337, Used 371, For parts or not working 27). Of these 18+ are kiddies detector toys.

Brands available today
Garrett (213 items)  Minelab (103 items) XP (113 items) Macro 72, C.Scope (31 items)   Bounty Hunter (22 items) Mercury 22, Fisher 19, White's Electonics 12, Vida XL 17,  Viewee (10 items), Golden Mask 9, Tesoro (6 items), Nokta (9 items)  Treasure Cove (1 item), Treasure Hunter (2 items) Golden Mask (8 items) Homcom (5 items) Teknetic 2, Cobra 2, Voilamart 1, Compass 1, Detector pro 1, Bosch 1, Viking 1, Viper 1 Unbranded (749 items)   Not specified (1197 items)

The fact that UK dealers alone are offering (so have the expectation of selling) 4800 metal detectors in one week/month suggests that there are a fair number of potential customers in the UK - bearing in mind that many metal detectors are also sold in brick-and-mortar venues (as well as at rallies etc).  How many?

In British antiquities, sold from the UK alone, there are 1313 'metal detecting finds' auctions, some bulk lots. 

Portable Antiquities Scheme: Millions of Pounds "Spaffed up the Wall"?

Over on a metal detecting forum near you, we can find an enlightening post on "PAS recording" by a metal detectorist from Carlisle, Cumbria calling themself "Richelli" (Sun Nov 22, 2020 6:17 pm):

So I have a few items that although won’t make the news, I would like to have recorded. Now some of the items come from areas I would rather not divulge with an exact location of long/lat because not much at all has come out of that area. I don’t mind giving the parish etc but I don’t like the idea of giving the exact location away. I know some will say you should, but I have spoke to some who won’t give that info to the local flow [sic]. I’m just wondering how many people give exact co ordinates and does the flo kick up a hissy[sic] for it you don’t.
MILLIONS of pounds have gone into trying to educate folk ("finders") like this about why we record artefacts. It's gone right over the head of this bloke, I doubt he's done very much reading up about the whys and wherefores of this hobby of his and how it relates to outside concerns. So he'd "like" to have something recorded at public expense (why, he does not say) but he's not going to share with the FLO the findspot beyond parish level. 

He asks the forum members to give him the answer on a plate: how many give the exact coordinates? Like all of them, he wants everything on a plate. Yet, it's easy to check, "Richelli", a mere mouse-click (I know, exhausting) away is the 2018 PAS annual report, the latest available. Table 6 tells us that "over 70% have at least an 8-figure NGR" and a six-figure NGR is the minimum accepted by the PAS (p. 4). But of course since the PAS report tells us (p. 4) that "4,028 individuals offered finds for recording", it means that some 19000 of the 27000 artefact hunters in England and Wales have not recorded anything at all with the PAS. That's your answer "Richelli".

On the other hand, when you think about it, where is a bus driver, or whatever "Richelli" does for a living, to get the information from the PAS output just "why" that findspot is important, and what can be done with it? From the "PAS Bumper Loose Finds Identified" book? Or their equally object-centred "50 best loose finds from..." series? Or from anything, anything at all, on their website? There's a lockdown going on in the UK, some 40 PAS staff members are sitting at home again, and this would be an ideal opportunity to sit down and knock out some online resources that actually inform the public that pays for them about archaeology. Sadly, nobody in PAS head office sees the opportunities this offers.

Sunday 22 November 2020

UK's NCMD Sent "a letter to the Government". Government shows how much it cares about what Metal Detectorists "think"

The UK National Council of Metal Detectorists showing a typical lack of self-awareness sent a Letter To Government on 7th November 2020 about Covid-restrictions (due to end anyway on Wednesday 2nd December):
We have as yesterday sent a letter of complaint to the Government on the singling out of our hobby for restrictions

Vignette: Tumbleweed

Friday 20 November 2020

Pseudoarchaeology and the Racism Behind Ancient Aliens Theories

 While the general outlines of this are now well-known, I found this old text well-argued:

Pseudoarchaeology and the Racism Behind Ancient Aliens Where, exactly, the idea of ancient aliens building the pyramids began — and why some academics think racism lies at the heart of many extraterrestrial theories. by Sarah E. Bond Hyperallergic November 13, 2018

Vignette (from the article, note the implications): "A female Egyptian head with an elongated skull is likely a depiction of the child of Amenophis IV/Akhenaten, (1351-1334 BCE) and is a forgery executed in the style  of the 18th Dynasty, Amarna Period , limestone and red paint, Walters Art Museum (image via the Walters Art Museum creative commons)."

STOP the Trafficking

For Amr Al-Azm, archaeologist and professor of Middle East history and anthropology: “We must punish the looters, but also the buyers.” Read his interview about illicit trafficking of cultural goods in the UNESCO Courier:

Thursday 19 November 2020

Balls to the Law: "Stay at Home" too Difficult a Message for UK Detectorist and Wife [Updated]

David Ball, motorcycle-fancier and metal detectorist, member of Wessex Searchers and Let's Go Digging has just posted a message over on the Facebook page of the latter for all to see:
David Ball
Hi all, my wife and I have just got a permission literally right next to a sunken [sic] medieval settlement, with history of Saxon and Roman pottery finds... However the soil is very red and we both use a nox 800, went we went out yesterday we both suffering from chattering iron signals virtually non stop... Could this be the red soil or something we are doing wrong?
This has been followed by over 30 Comments, none saying what he's doing wrong. Mr Ball feels entitled to go out detecting on a "permission" he's got, he does not see that stay at home is anything that applies to him, nor the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 (still in force), the HM government Guidance on searching for archaeological finds in England during COVID-19, or the NCMD's advice from just two weeks ago to follow these guidelines.  

Basically, from close familiarity with them, it seems to me that a lot of UK metal detectorists have severe cognitive issues, they cannot connect things in the way the rest of us do. So Mr Ball sees absolutely no dissonance in writing what he does from an account that has an "NHS fank you" avatar. He seems not really to be aware of the reason why there is legislation, why people (shock, horror, EVEN  selfish metal detectorists!!!) to stay at home as much as is humanly possible. 

And it does come down to sheer selfishness, coupled with stupidity. 

And if he cannot connect simple things like the word "stay", "home", and "this is why", then what hope have we that this guy will ever be able to document an archaeological context while he's ripping it apart with his noxious Nox  to pocket some artefacts for his collection? Instead of "sunken" he probably means "deserted", can't even get the name right. 

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

Update 20th Nov 2020

It took a bit of time, but at 10AM the next day one (literally one in a group with 13000 members) remarked with some sarcasm:

Ian Winship Bailey
Have the rules for detecting on our own permissions been relaxed? 

There's Digging up the Past and Digging up the PASt

 Unless its the 'archaeology' done with loose portable antiquities hoiked out of context by artefact hunters...

Illustration: Amkreutz@RMO

Welbeck hill

Welbeck hill There's nothing here.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Where is the PAS dishonesty Box?


A number of times it has been pointed out that the British system of second-hand recording of artefact findspots makes it possible for artefact hunters to obscure the origins of the material they hold simply by lying to PAS about findspots. As Heritage Action note:

If they want to nighthawk or to cheat on finds agreements with farmers they can simply launder finds by falsifying the findspot. But some FLOs deny it happens:

If there’s something dodgy it’s usually immediately clear. We’re not amateurs at this. I repeat: we do not launder finds/artefacts” … “Plus there’s even a little info box we can fill in on the database if we’ve any spatial doubts.

Yet the PAS database is a public resource created not with private money, but public money, so why can't the public that pay for it see this box? In fact why can't they and we see the three boxes that should be there?

What percentage of the million or so records would fall into the first group? The second? And the third? 

How many finds on the PAS database have their findspots actually verified by the recorders? 

"A Papyrologist who Worked on this Manuscript, a Man Whose Reputation is Unimpeachable".*

The Sappho stink just will not go away, as more and more details are teased from the scant sources. The publication recently of Michael C. Sampson's article 'Deconstructing the Provenances of P.Sapph.Obbink' in the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists volume 57 (1920 pp, 143-69- I've not seen it yet) has led Theo Nash ('Fleecing a Discipline' in his Mycenaean Miscellany blog November 19, 2020) to a number of conclusions.

Sampson received a pdf copy of a snazzy brochure produced by none other than Christie's for a private treaty sale. Unfortunately for this prestigious auction house, this turned out to be rough edit of an earlier document (of 2013) and the metadata in it reveal a number of fatal discrepancies that shed new light on all the claims and counterclaims that had been made about its origins and collecting history.

Nash's text is well worth a read (several recent posts by Brent Nongbri also refer to the Sampson article and its implications). He has constructed a useful Timeline here. The interpretation of what we know so far is devastating. Nash comes to the conclusion: "I think there is now enough evidence to suggest that Dirk Obbink himself was the papyrus’ owner [and seller PMB], and its public announcement a marketing ploy to raise its prestige and asking price".
The inevitable result of this timeline is that everything Dirk Obbink has said in public about the provenance of the papyrus is a lie. There is simply no value in analysing any of his statements or publications for hints of truth. [...] There was probably enough evidence to take this stance before, but I don’t see how it can be disputed now.
He goes on: "His [Sampson's] central finding is that the reported provenance of P.Sapph.Obbink is a demonstrable fiction [...] While Sampson’s article clarifies some questions arising from the changing and contradictory accounts [...] this approach can only reveal the nature of Obbink’s lies, not what really happened".

We do know, however, that the Green Collection Sappho fragments were acquired in January 2012 from the Turkish dealer Yakup Eksioglu (Mixantik - discussed earlier in this blog). Nash questions the nature of the relationship between Professor Obbink and Eksioglu, perhaps as a go-between for him and the Green Collection. Indeed, he also raises the question whether in c. 2011/2012 the Oxford scholar might have been working with Eksioglu at this point to identify the material he was smuggling out of Egypt, through Turkey and onto the market in London. It will be recalled that this would be about the same time (from January 2010 until February 2013) that documents available at the moment suggest that he was personally selling papryi to the Green Collection. If that is the case, and he knew the material was smuggled, that is pretty damning.

Nash says that the information that we have so far from "from the murk surrounding the antiquities market" allows a plausible narrative to be reconstructed [which is that]:
Obbink was involved with the papyrus from its first ‘discovery’, tried and failed to sell it in 2013, and staged an advertising campaign in 2014 and 2015 using the entire discipline of Classical Studies as patsies to drive up the market value of an artefact he should never have owned, all while acting as the heroic scholar who dared to deal with collectors in the interest of sharing information that would otherwise be lost. A dramatic image, maybe, but one that [hardly?] fits a scholar who had already betrayed the principles of his guild.

* Title quoted from Prof Dan Wallace on the so-called First Century Mark

Sunday 15 November 2020

Metal Detecting, An Old Person's Hobby?

         Autumn of Life
Artefact hunting with metal detectors is a hobby suitable mainly for old people: Peter Turrell,'Six Reasons Why Metal Detecting Is the Perfect Hobby for Seniors', Leisure Promotions Aug 06, 2020

Bored of the bingo hall? Parting ways with puzzles? [...] why getting out with a detector can truly enrich the lives of the elderly [...] marvellous for the mind [...] It makes for excellent exercise[...] gets you out in nature [...] encourages super social interaction [...] learn more locally [...] start a new adventure
Trashes sites, he forgot to mention the trashing. The sheer ability to damage an archaeological context that has survived for centuries, millennia, evidence that nobody has ever touched before and which nobody will ever be able to see again, destroyed in a few instants as the legacy of the artefact hunter's greed. Why don't Leisure Promotions write about that? ... I see... "LP Metal Detecting We have been selling Metal Detectors and Arranging Rallies for over 30 years". The article seems suspiciously similar to Daniel Bernzweig's Why Metal Detecting is the Perfect Hobby for Seniors ( 2012), and the same author's 'Five Reasons Metal Detecting is an Ideal Hobby for Geezers (Guest Post)' on Geezerguff 10th Sept 2013). Neither of these articles mantions the damage the hobby does to the historical record. Then there is KellyCo's 'Metal Detecting as a Hobby for Senior Citizens', Feb 18th 2020 by Maggie Kornahrens. Then there is 'Why Metal Detecting Is The Perfect Hobby for Seniors' (Sept 22nd 2017) by Jamie Olive [ mother and metal detecting hobbyist, regular contributor to the Kellyco Metal Detector Blog] on the Life As A Human magazine website. We can also find a similar article by 'Admin' on the 'Elder One Stop' webpage 'TreasureHunting With Metal Detectors… a Great Activity For Seniors', May 13th 2020. Add to that Senior Lifestyles magazine's article by Elizabeth Anderson, 'Why Metal Detecting is the Perfect Hobby for Senior Citizens' (April 22, 2020) and you start to see a pattern.

Friday 13 November 2020

1970 Convention Turns 50!

In 2020, the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property celebrates its 50th anniversary.  Adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 14 November 1970, this Convention provides an international framework for the prevention of theft and looting and the return and return of stolen cultural property, in parallel with other advances in the fight against illicit trafficking. With ratifications from Bulgaria, Ecuador and Nigeria, the Convention entered into force on 24 April 1972. It was the first instrument of international law for the protection of cultural property during peacetime.

Swiss Action on Stolen Art

VIDEO November 12, 2020 
"Switzerland was once a hot destination for stolen cultural artefacts. But now it’s working closely with the Italian authorities to secure the return of treasures. The latest handover was in October: the Swiss gave the Italian embassy in Bern 27 objects of huge historic and artistic value. These included 26 Etruscan artefacts from a private collection and a 2,000-year-old marble bust, found at the Geneva free port. The illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts is the world’s third-largest illegal market, after drugs and weapons. Countries such as Italy, which has a rich cultural heritage, have been working hard for decades to stop it. As the Lugano lawyer and expert in art law Dario Jucker explains, stolen cultural property represents a vast illegal market". 
Leaving aside that contentious claim about "third-largest", I include a rather primitive draft map from a work-in-progress (it's provisional at the moment). It came to my notice that on collectors' forums several people had pinched my "list of serious dealers" from a decade ago (which in turn was derived and adapted from other sources including an earlier list by Ernie Krumbein) and were presenting it as their own list of "recommended dealers" sometimes without acknowledgement. The joke is on them, because since then several dealers on that list have died or gone out of business (none in jail yet) and at least two of the names inherited from the earlier lists turn out not to have been dealers at all. I also made it clear that these dealers were not listed as having authentic artefacts, as some have IMO some pretty dodgy-looking bits. Anyway, on the margins of another writing project I am doing at the moment under lockdown, I have been updating that list. So that's what this map is about.

What I find intriguing is the distribution. Obviously this may be an artefact of where I gathered the information and criteria of selection, but it's still thought-provoking. Why is it like that? To some (and only some) extent this represents the distribution of wealth, but other - perhaps historical - factors might be involved. Worth looking into. I'd love to know what the map would have looked like in the nineteenth century. 


Thursday 12 November 2020

Archaeology or a Hunt for "Artefacts"?


"Ancient artefacts will be lost when tunnel for A303 is built"
So, it's good to see that all that expensive "archaeological" outreach by PAS pays off and British journalists have some idea concerning what modern archaeology is about ... Somebody tell them that archaeology is much more than merely digging up interesting artefacts. We are not in the 1870s any more.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

How Long Can the PAS Continue Now?

Photo: Bernd Tschakert/Guardian 
Local authorities in Britain are facing increasing serious financial pressures stemming from the Covid pandemic, including the spiralling cost of providing medical support for large numbers of infected people that have developed serious conditions, coupled with an abrupt fall-off in council tax and business rates income (Patrick Butler, 'Tory council leaders warn of severe cuts in England', Guardian 12 Nov 2020) 

The County Councils Network has said that just a fifth of authorities were confident they could meet their legal duty to set a balanced budget next year and avoid effective bankruptcy. In an effort to stave this off, the cash crisis will force them to cut services, from social care to libraries and refuse collection. Over half of its member councils were planning “moderate or severe” service reductions in adult social care, nearly a third were seeking heavy cuts to road repair budgets, and 33% were considering major savings in library services. 

Obviously it is only a matter of time before they reach for further cuts in museums and heritage services, already under pressure. Most of the funding for PAS regional posts (the FLOs) comes from local authorities. Members of the public in their regions are unlikely to be very supportive of taking cuts in the care sector, potholed roads, uncollected binbags all over the cities, while their money goes to some person sitting in a comfy office (or at home with the cat on their lap) recording a few dozen Roman grots a week. The fact that greedy artefact hunters are reluctant to cut back on their activities when PAS is unable to cope with them in real time means the accumulation of a huge backlog that will require consumption of even more resources to clear effectively. 

The PAS has not taken the opportunity of the lockdown period to make its public role more explicit through social media, not produced the outreach/educational material that it could. It has mostly soldiered on trying to supplement the database (its main pre-Covid obsession), rested on the laurels of the old "finds guides" on the website with its dated look and minimal functionality. It has concentrated on its old policy of giving metal detectorists what they want, but there is zero attention paid to the fact that 59.4 million people in its audience [but who pay for the PAS] are NOT metal detectorists (and it would damage the archaeological record even more if they became collectors too under present cionditions). 

So what is PAS's future strategy? In job interviews a frequent question is, "where do you see yourself in five years' time?"... and where does the PAS see itself in five years' time?

But this has interesting knock-on consequences for the collecting community, not just in the UK. This has not only held up the PAS as a shining beacon that could be followed in collaboration with collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record but the PAS has played an enormous (and I would say utterly destructive) role in legitimising artefact hunting and collecting. The PAS has never, in 24 years, taken part in any kind of public discussion of the legitimacy of carelessly and selectively ripping up the archaeological record so people can pocket the artefacts.  Once the PAS is out of the way, it will be easier to examine more objectively and raise social awareness of this issue. 

Tuesday 10 November 2020

“Remove the lockdown BAN on Metal Detecting private land in England”

"Boris listin t'us, plese"
Calling orl English metaldetectrists:
Today: Dawn is counting on you Dawn Chipchase needs your help with “Remove the lockdown BAN on Metal Detecting private land in England”. Join Dawn and 1,334 supporters today.  Updates Dawn Chipchase started this petition 3 days ago, 2 days ago 1,000 supporters. Let’s get to 1,500!
But read the Act (together with the schedule) first and think about what you are signing and why and what your support of the content of this petition and the way it is written says about 1,500 (or however-many) detectorists in England. And what about routine recording, how is that to be done with most of the FLOs locked out of their offices? Why is that not mentioned in this text as a matter of course? What message is this sending to policy-makers about "responsible artefact hunting"? And some "reasons for signing":
Jo Barnes·3 days ago
I actually believe this is a mistake from the person who constructed the guideline . The line should have read .... "You cannot detect on private land 'unless' you have permission from the owner."
No, ms Barnes. What you "actually believe" is neither here nor there, it's what the Act says. Read it. Use a dictionary if some of the words are too big.
David Myers·2 days ago
The advice given is illogical and detrimental to the mental health and well-being of thousands of people who love to do metal detecting with land owners permission on there [sic] private land.
Mr Myers, perhaps you should realise that the guidelines (not "advice") are an interpretation of the law for thickoes [such as those that don't know the difference between "there" and "their" and might find the document difficult to navigate because "too many words"]. To be honest in the midst of a global pandemic, economic crisis on top of a shambolic Brexit, the alleged "mental health" of a few thousand people that want to "metal detect" is possibly not the most urgent priority of the British Parliament.

Whitehall, TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

Switzerland and Looted Art

  Art law expert Dario Jucker talks to tvsvizzera/ about looted art, the black market and the restitution of cultural goods. What is Switzerland doing against this illicit trade in works of art and how successful are organised crime groups in continuing to traffic looted artefacts?

Exporting and importing objects of cultural interest from 1st Jan 2021

  In the UK wake of Britain's bungled Brexit, the DCMS has published new guidance on Exporting and importing objects of cultural interest from 1 Jan 2021. It's jolly colonial, metal detectorists please note, this means you too:

From 1 January 2021 you will need a UK licence to export cultural objects from the UK to any destination. Importing objects of cultural interest from the EU into the UK or a country outside the EU now and from 1 January 2021 

There is no licensing requirements for importing objects of cultural interest into the UK. However, if you are importing items from the EU to the UK or another country outside the EU you’ll need to comply with the EU and individual EU countries’ export licensing regimes.

Which is what you are all doing now isn't it, eh? But there will now be no free movement of cultural property at all from Britain to the EU as there was (except for certain categories such as antiquities). Good.

Monday 9 November 2020

Julie Invites "Sign the Digger Dawn Petition" [Updated]

   Julia - silver (ebay)
On checking back with the petition website to see progress on the "Digger Dawn" petition, a little personalised window opened right in the middle of the page:
Julie Argent needs your help with “Remove the lockdown BAN on Metal Detecting private land in England”. Join Julie and 948 supporters today.

Thanks, but I'd rather not. The Argent family have been mentioned on this blog a number of times, none of them anything to boast about. Julie is the one that apparently rejects the idea of recording artefacts found in metal detecting, unless they are "rarer" or the law dictates it ('Artefact Hoiker on Fudgeworld explains... Responsible Detecting is not LAW, so anyfink goes', PACHI Saturday, 4 January 2020). They were also involved in the trashing of the Holt Hoard findspot (' Metal Detecting Bad Practice Again: Dorset Roman Coin Hoard Hoiked' PACHI Monday, 29 December 2014 and here). Ironically, though she Julie Argent has, without first checking out the contents, put her name under this infantile and uninformed crap, she's one of the detectorists that declares that it is "in the archaeological world" that there is "serious education required". There is quite a revealing interview with her on a metal detecting blog, wouldn't it be (and encourage) good practice if when they show their "best finds", these people would give the PAS database number so you can look them up and find out more about them? I cannot find the North Thames quarter stater that is shown as one of her finds on the PAS database (help, please?) [Update: see comments below, the coin is included, but under a completely different name!] but it looks a bit ominous that she says "I found out from Liz Cottam at Chris Rudd Celtic coins that it was also only the 4th known example of that type. With the reversed ‘S’ it made the coin rarer". So Julie wants us to sign her friend's petition so that she can earn the right to go out trash sites like at Holt, record only the rarer bits and pocket the rest with no record during the remainder of lockdown. So far just under a thousand English metal detectorists have expressed the same desire, 22 hours after the petition was set up. 

Sunday 8 November 2020

Covid-flaunting UK Artefact Hunters Claim 'Victimisation' and Petition Government

"No person may leave or be outside of the place 
where they are living without reasonable excuse [...]
where one of the exceptions set out in regulation 6 applies" 
Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)
(England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

"Digger Dawn"
(Change org)
The NCMD is still confused about how the law should be interpreted. So now, instead of working out by reading the legislation for themselves why their thick-as-planks members cannot be walking willy-nilly all over private land belonging to other households whether they have permissions or not (it's in the Act guys), they decided to play the victim and their chairman, the aptly-named Mr Hacket, has written a complaint to Boris Johnson:

NCMD Letter To Government
7th November 2020
We have as yesterday sent a letter of complaint to the Government on the singling out of our hobby for restrictions
Edited letter Dowden 

Firstly, if they were to read down to the schedule (paragraph 24) they would find that there are a whole range of outdoor and equally "solitary" activities/recreation/forms of "taking exercise" (golf , water sports, shooting and archery ranges etc.) that are also covered by these health regulations. It is patently false to claim that they've been "singled out". But I expect most of them can't read that far. 

Note (apart from the fact they don't know how to write a transactional letter), how they admit that the person that told them "detecting is allowed" is the (joint) Head of Cultural Property. This is not by any means the correct department to answer such a query, and I suspect [if the DCMS is taking these ranting and uncomprehending hoikers seriously, which I doubt]  this person is now having to forward copies of this correspondence they had to their superiors.

Note also that they redacted out this person's name (although it's pretty easy to Google it), why? Because the National Council of Metal Detectorists knows that their own members cannot be trusted not to send this person hate-mail because of their involvement in this matter.  That's the community that the NCMD 'represents'.

Will the government revise their law and their guidelines to suit Mr Hacket? Will the NCMD publish the government reply if they get a poke-in-the-eye? Watch this space. 

And, as an added bonus, the sad bunch have started a petition. Just read this:
Remove the lockdown BAN on Metal Detecting private land in England
Dawn Chipchase started this petition to Oliver Dowden and Boris Johnson Prime Minister

This petition has been started as a last resort and on behalf of the metal detecting community. We believe there has been some error with the guidelines set out on the 5th November by Minister, Oliver Dowden MBE, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It states that metal detecting is not allowed on private land, but is allowed on council land as in parks parks and beaches? [sic] This makes no sense as it is virtually impossible to get permission to detect on council land, such as council parks and beaches are already full of walkers taking exercise, children and other members of the public, whereas private land is usually miles away from anyone and is very solitary and safe? [sic]

Metal detecting for many is linked with mental health. There are large groups of ex veterans with PTSD who use metal detecting as therapy, many who suffer from anxiety and depression, many Autistic people and others such as myself who are teachers and NHS staff, who need to stand in a field alone at weekends to mentally unwind from the stress and anxiety we undergo throughout the week during this very stressful time.

It is especially tough knowing that all other solitary outdoor activities such as fishing, shooting, golf, cycling, walking, horse riding* are still allowed, yet metal detecting is not? [sic] It is hard going to work each day, teaching classrooms full of teenagers knowing I and others like me, are not deemed to be safe to stand in a field on our own at weekends.

I receive letters and messages from people constantly telling me how metal detecting has saved their lives from suicide and depression. To the outside world, we probably appear to be a set of strange loner hobbyists, but to us it’s a source of meditation and mental freedom from the worlds[sic] stresses.

Please could you ask for this guidance on metal detecting be changed to the way I’m assuming it should have been written, No metal detecting on council/public land, but metal detecting allowed on private land as long as you are on your own (with landowners [sic] permission)

And if its not changed, at least tell us why the decision was made to ban metal detecting on private land with permission, because as a community we are completely confused and frustrated by this seemingly strange rule. We are aware this may not be the last time we as a country have to go through a lockdown and would like any changes be made for the future.

Metal detecting is one of the safest and most solitary hobbies there is. It incorporates taking daily exercise and provides mental relief for many of thousands of people across the UK.

547 have signed. Let’s get to 1,000!
Artefact hunting is particularly solitary if you are one of the thousands of metal detector users in the UK that never take any of their finds to the FLO to get them recorded.

What is particularly galling in all of these layers of special pleading is that they not only totally ignore the conservation issues involved in their hobby of site-trashing, but the answer to the question raised at the end of this curious and revealing document is there to read in the Act to which the Guidelines refer and on the basis of which they were compiled so that tekkies would not have to work it out for themselves.

Note also the rather pathetic punctuation here. In this text, "Digger Dawn" says she is a teacher, in fact if you've been following her, you'd know that she's also actually been a college lecturer in the UK. I think that says a lot about the British education system and why many detectorists who have been through British schools can't cope with reading the Act for themselves

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

* Petition author Digger Dawn, and all those signing their names under her text, clearly had not gone to the trouble to read the whole document, schedule paragraph 24 for example. So this episode merely shows up the lack of attention to detail and responsibility of at least part of the metal detecting community in the UK.   Also there is a difference between "taking exercise" (Art 6 (c)) and "continuing to engage regardless in all other outdoor activities". 


More Digging Under Cover of UK Lockdown

 What's the betting that is one of those from the forums who's protesting that the UK's new lockdown regulations "can't" apply to them Has the PAS taken the trouble to explain to these lost souls that, yes, they do and why?

A Swiss Aristocratic Legacy Collection Goes Under Hammer [Updated]

The XX auction of Roma Numismatics (Richard E Beale, Villiers Street, London WC2) has just ended, yielding a lot of bids in some largely-unprovenanced high-end ancient numismatic items. One of them (Lot 463) is now the highest-priced ancient coin in the world. The coin is a a rare gold 'aureus' of the EID MAR type (see Wikipedia for a brief definition). There are currently only three examples in this metal known (there are some 80-100 silver ones known) and of the three, only this one is in private hands. The other two gold examples are in the British Museum (on long-term loan) and one in the collection of the Deutsche Bundesbank collection. Both of the latter have been variously assessed, some saying one or the other is a fake. None of them is grounded in a secure archaeological context.

As for this recently-auctioned one, according to the seller's catalogue it has an intriguing collection history. It is from the collection of the Baron Dominique de Chambrier (who's that?), and before (?) that it was reportedly ("original attestation of provenance included") in the private collection of Bernard de Chambrier (1878-1963) and Marie Alvine Irma von Bonstetten (1893-1968) [of the Sinneringen branch of the family]. Marie appears somehow to have inherited the coin by virtue of being the grand niece of collector and antiquarian Baron Gustave Charles Ferdinand von Bonstetten (1816-1892) [the Valeyres branch of the family], Chamberlain to Ferdinand I, Emperor of Austria. Part of the latter's collection formed the Bernisches Historisches Museum. The dealer's catalogue mentions that "the Musée Romain of Avenches also owns pieces from his collection". But this coin seems to have escaped notice (for example not being mentioned in Herbert A. Cahn’s 1989 study of the issue) until it surfaced in this sale. There is an odd gap in the collection history, if Gustav died in 1892 and Marie was born in 1893, did the collection pass to his (apparently only) daughter Berthe (Berta), 1864 -1930, who in 1882 married Colonel Rudolf, Freiherr (Baron) von Reding-Biberegg (1859-1926)? If so, how did it return to the (and which?) Bonstettens and why?

The coin sold for a record price (Coins Weekly, 'A New Record! The Most Expensive Roman Coin of All Time', Nov 5, 2020)  £2,700,000.

I think these are ugly coins, and really have a lot of questions about them that will hardly be resolved when every time one is found they are deftly whipped onto the market to end up being swallowed by (and hidden away in) an undocumented private collection - as was the case here. 

Interestingly, in the same sale was another coin (Lot 65, Sicily, Naxos AR Tetradrachm, circa 460 BC.) from the same Swiss aristocratic collection, and it also raised a large amount. One wonders whether the rest of the dismembered Bonstetten Collection will be surfacing in a similar manner over the next few years.

Update 5th March 2023

It turns out that the "Bonstetten" collection history was bogus (where is the "attestation"?) and had actually been purchased from someone (see here). 

Saturday 7 November 2020

Commercial Treasure Hunting Means Commercial Treasure Hunting: "We Wants Are Munny Now!"

Commercial pay-to-dig events organiser Paul Howard advises his 13400 members how to squeeze as much money out of the public purse when they ransom the public's cultural heritage, LGD is going to war with PAS/theTreasure system:
Paul Howard Admin 7th Nov 2020
If you find anything and want a real valuation get it valued before it goes to the FLO / Coroner, The reason for this is to value anything it needs to be seen by the person valuing the item and you won’t be able to do this once it’s been given to flo / coroner and then if it’s to be kept by the British Museum it’s too late , You 99.9 % of the time will have to except [sic] their valuation which is always under valued [sic], You will have a chance to show them your valuations but only if you did it before they had it and you can use your valuations as some proof what it’s worth Just a heads up for beginners
Asked (by the same lady that found one of the gold coins on Tuesday), where their leader would recommend going to get a valuation, Paul Howard replies "Theirs [sic] lots of options, coin dealers and auction houses around the U.K. that deal in coins and artefacts, you can google them". This was then followed by a whole series of treasure hunters that had already tried this and the problems they had getting the decent answers they wanted to get as much money out of the public purse as possible as quickly as possible. Mind you, NONE of them is "in it fer the munny", they're "only intrestid in the 'istry" ("passionately"). 
Paul Howard complains: "[...] Most of LGD best gold finds was reported over 3 years ago and heard nothing back",
Andy Green: "I know all about it mate",
Paul Howard: "Shaun Murton, Are you still waiting to hear back from FLO, Nearly 3 years now isn’t it[?]"
Andy Green: " That's out of order!"
Paul Howard: "Tell me about it, Should never take more than 2 Max",
Andy Green: "got anything going through yourself mate?"
Paul Howard : "No mate but loads of LGD finds from 3 years to 4 years ago"
Andy Green: "think I'll be dead before mine pays out"
Paul Howard: "We’ve lost one of our good farms because of this gold ring taking so long , and other farms for the same reason farmers after a few years think your [sic] ripping them off, it’s disgusting".
Paul Howard: "NOTICE REGARDING REPORTED TREASURE As your [sic] probably aware a lot of items reported as treasure can take up to and over 3 years at present that was before covid, It will help me if all those who have reported treasure found on LGD rallies and still awaiting contact from FLO's if you can contact me with updates on the progress of your finds as I am now chasing up all these finds with the authorities for updates [...]
Note the adjective "reported" Treasure. This is followed by a whole series of personal comments on the FLOs including their private lives, such as frequency of pregnancies, who's had an operation (but also which FLO "gives excellent service [sic]" to metal detectorists. 

It seems these greedy half-literate halfwits that we see here have only a very rudimentary knowledge of the workings of the Treasure process. It seems nobody has taken the trouble to explain it to them in a way they understand. They here can be seen placing the whole blame for the delays and difficulties in getting their money quick on the FLOs. So for example that Ms X got pregnant is the "reason" why the Treasure ransom money did not come as fast as the finder wanted. 

I really do think that archaeologists of the Helsinki Ilk that want to paint a rosy-tinted view of "public engagement with the heritage" should spend a couple of weeks solid on the UK tekkie social media, and just see for themselves the reality behind the picture of "responsible and responsive" unicorns they try to paint. Then let them try and test that model of "responsiveness" by writing something on those same media. 

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

Thursday 5 November 2020

Houthi Militias Behind Smuggling of Antiquities and Manuscripts

             source: BBC..........        
The Yemeni government has accused Houthi militias of looting and smuggling more than 14,000 ancient manuscripts and artifacts (Yemen Online, 'Houthis Accused of Smuggling 14,000 Historical Yemeni Manuscripts' 11/05/2020).
During a recent cultural event in Marib, Sanaa Governor Abdul-Ghani Jamil called on Yemenis, including those interested in history and heritage, activists, intellectuals, writers and journalists to act against the group’s systematic targeting of Yemeni identity. Some attendees spoke of the “dreadful” crimes and violations committed by the militias against Yemeni cultural heritage. Employees working in antiquities accused Houthi leaders of being behind the looting and smuggling of many valuable manuscripts in the libraries of historical mosques, as well as carrying out systematic acts of destruction of hundreds of old manuscripts that contradict with their sectarian ideology. They told Asharq Al-Awsat that the militias’ “crimes” included hiding and destroying hundreds of manuscripts under the pretext that they contradict with their ideas, as well as smuggling large numbers of antiquities and manuscripts through mobs they support and supervise. Informed sources also told Asharq al-Awsat that the stolen antiquities are smuggled through illegal networks to be sold abroad.
According to the sources, the acts of vandalism have affected parts of the old mosques and buildings in Old Sanaa and several other cities and provinces.  

Second British Lockdown: UK Artefact Hunters Thick as Planks

Over on the NCMD webpage they've got this notice:  

We have carefully read the guidance and the complete legislation (The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020) on the new national restrictions for England to ensure our advice to you is correct as we enter ‘Lockdown 2’ in England.
As a responsible organisation we had however also sought confirmation that detecting was still legal from the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) earlier this week. They emailed us this afternoon with their view on what is legal, and published metal detecting specific guidance this evening. This guidance confirms our view that detecting is not prohibited during this lockdown. However we were very surprised that the DCMS has specifically excluded detecting on private land, whilst allowing detecting on public land (with permission) such as beaches, parks and other council owned land.
We do not agree with this view of the legislation.
We have challenged the DCMS about why they are excluding detecting on private land. We will update you when we know more. Until then we advise you to read and follow the DCMS guidance. Please stay calm and continue to stay safe.
Here "responsible detecting" is interpreted as getting an email from "somebody" that "detecting is still legal". Pathetic old fools. The relevant update to the text of the guidance first issued in May 2020 is as follows:
You must not leave or be outside of your home except for specific purposes. This can include exercise outdoors or to visit an outdoor public place - with the people you live with, with your support bubble or, when on your own, with 1 person from another household.

This means that:

Metal detecting can take place in an outdoor public place. You must have the permission of the landowner to detect on the land and should contact your local council or district councils to check the local policies regarding detecting on public land in your area as you may need a formal permit. This must be done alone, with the people you live with, with your support bubble or, when on your own, with 1 person from another household.

You cannot detect on private land even if you have permission from the owner.

The NCMD claim to have "read" the relevant act. I have too. It seems pretty clear, that people and their households in England are restricted to their own  properties, they can leave them under certain exceptions (and artefact hunting is not one of them) but only to enter public spaces and publicly accessible places such as shops and churches, but not the property of other households. That's why it's isolation, to restrict the passage of the virus. There are exceptions where an individual or certain designated individuals can enter private properties of other isolating individuals and households, and again artefact hunting is not on the list of exemptions. 

I really don't see where any of this is difficult to understand. Lockdown means lockdown. If the tekkies look, they'll see it's called "health protection", metal detecting is here not the most important issue at the moment. Let them stay away from other people's properties, as the law intends.Whether or not the silly old NCMD "agrees wiv this legislation" or not.  Let them stay away from FLO's homes too

Of course some of their members have the same barely literate fluff-for-brains. You can see a whole range of them on their FB page here and here for example. There are a lot of comments where people have failed to engage brains before flapping tongues. it seems to me that of the first several dozens of the comments I had the stomach to read, not a single ONE of them referred to the law on which the guidelines were based. It's just totally clueless ranting from mouthy blokes unwilling to get clued up and pausing for thought before writing stuff we can all see and judge metal detectorists by. Like this one:

Andrew Fudge
I really think this is a load of shite. I don't know who made these rules. You could end up meeting more people detecting on public land ffs. You won't see anyone on private. Don't make sense [emoticon]
Perhaps Mr Fudge would like to read the actual law, passed in Parliament to protect the public as a whole (rather than just facilitate his hobby) and see whether the wording of these guidlines complies with that law. When he sees it does (because it does), he can just shut up and responsibly comply with the law, whether he or his self-centred mates think it is fair to them personally. If there are a lot of people on public land too, in the interests of reducing the risk of spreading infection, he should give up the idea of metal detecting and - if he "must" - go back when there are fewer people. 

Perhaps the guidance needed pictures to aid comprehension for the hard-of-understanding, but the DCMS could have thought about writing for the particular audience that is the English metal detecting milieu:

"[Lockdown means] [in the interests of public safety] You must not leave or be outside of your [property] [or in somebody else's] except for specific purposes".  Fixed. 

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

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