Wednesday 16 December 2020

French detectorist accused of looting on vast scale after haul discovered at home


                       Some of the thousands of objects found                        
when French officials raided Patrice T’s
 house. Photograph: Douane Française

A treasure hunter who claimed to have dug up 14,154 Roman coins in a Belgian field has been accused of being one of the greatest archaeological looters in European history (Daniel Boffey, 'French detectorist accused of looting on vast scale after haul discovered at home', Guardian Wed 16 Dec 2020)

The Frenchman, identified only as Patrice T, told Belgian officials that he found the relics by chance with a metal detector at two sites close to Gingelom, a Flemish town 40 miles east of Brussels, in October last year. In France, metal detectors are only allowed to be used for scientific research, but in Dutch-speaking Flanders they can be used for personal searches. The coins were legally declared as the finder’s property. [...] French officials believe the man, who is awaiting trial, had been exploiting the difference between French law and Flemish regulations to amass his cache of looted goods [...] The offender is liable to imprisonment and hundreds of thousands of euros in customs fines. This is a clear message to those who, for the benefit and selfish pleasure of a few, rob us of our common heritage and erase entire swaths of our history.”

That was from Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy minister, none of that mealy mouthed Brit-nonsense that "the vast majority of these history hoikers are really responsibly hoiking, not like the VERY SMALL MINORITY OF ones that operate illegally" that we meet in every single British news report that even whispers the words "metal detector". In France they see history hoiking for what it is: a group of oiks that "for their own benefit and selfish pleasure, rob us of our common heritage and erase entire swaths of our history”.

One of the Belgian officials first at the scene in Gingelom said the man’s account had not rung true from the start.  Marleen Martens told the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper: “The man said he bought it because he liked to come for a walk in the area and set up a caravan there. He had made the find when he wanted to clean up the ground with a metal detector. I thought he had found some coins, but he took two full buckets from the trunk of his car. “During the site survey we concluded that it was impossible for the coins to come from this site. They were located in an earth layer that was formed after the middle ages. A few coins could exceptionally still toss up. But 14,000?”
Context, you see? 

Some of the hoard found by officials. Photograph: Douane Française

hat tip Dave Coward

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