Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Grave Looting in Darkest England. Hanson's Will Take the Haul off yer Hands (No Need Responsibly to Record it First)


Photomontage using material from Hanson's auction catalogue*

Hanson's Historica Auction  in a few days, lots 98 to 110 looks like somebody's emptied grave goods from an Anglo-Saxon cemetery straight onto the market ("not in the grave-robbing fer th' munny"). Not a single one of these items visited the FLO's office in the rush to flog them off. There is no mention in the "descriptions" of where these items are from or what each of them was found with, the only references cited are a metal detectorist's "Noddy Book of British Artefacts" (not even the PAS finds guide published a few years back).

There is also (Lot 103) a matching pair of saucer brooches, which almost certainly were hoiked out of a female burial, no PAS involvement here either:

A pair of Anglo-Saxon saucer brooches. A very fine matching pair of chip-carved and gilded saucer brooches found together near Evesham, Worcestershire c.1992. The front faces have extensive geometric pseudo-basketwork decoration and much of the original gilding survives. 5th - 6th century AD. Cf. Hammond 'British Artefacts (vol. 1) fig. 41mm, 28.3g and 42mm, 21.8g.
Where is Derby Museum's Michelle Ray when you need her, eh?

Hanson's of course not been averse to making money from products of grave robbery and desecration of human remains in the past http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2019/02/profiting-from-disturbing-dead-uk-grave.html

* Image © Hanson' Limited, fair use for purposes of comment or criticism for non-profit educational purposes.

Two "Scummy Snakes" Found Among the UK's Grabby Treasure Hunters


With its usual lack of grammar, the commercial artefact hunting company "Let's go Digging" is telling its members that they "caught" ("the") two members of stakeholder organisations who were  looking over their shoulders in the public interest. They are congratulating themselves. Guys, you may try to do all your "not in it fer th' munny" "responsibule detectink" behind closed doors on a dark web of your own manufacture. But be sure, you are being watched. Oh yes. 

LGD your "success" is everybody else's loss, and one day you will be called to account. 

'Getting you lot out on the treasure'.....

Oh, so not the history then?

And who would willingly belong to a group that is so aware of the wrong it is doing that they cannot show their face in public?

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Gold and Silver Found in Darkest Essex: All-out War With Conservationists Mooted

              Neil Barlow (left, landowner             
absent) presents something.

Detectorist's attitude to conservationists:
Paul Lgd Howard Lets Go Digging Nationwide Metal Detecting Events 54 m.
Smashing it at Essex new permission, 2 gold and loads of silver LGD

Julian Evan-Hart 20 m
BRILLIANT STUFF -Well done for organising and GOOD LUCK to all attending
Best Jules. 

Neil Barlow 11 m
Julian Evan-Hart[,] your [sic] mentioned in dispatches today on Heritage Action [sic - he means "Heritage Journal"]. I think you need to use your publication to fight back at these grandiose and over entitled plebs once and for all.
So do we all, look forward to the response by "Treasure Hunter Magazine" to the points grassroots (pleb) heritage organisation Heritage Action make about artefact hunting. 

Bring it on hoiker mastermind, start an all-out war with conservationists, show the British public (in a tekkie  publication on many newsstands) exactly who you are and what you stand for. 

Pandora V

A large part of the no-questions-asked antiquities trade is in the hands of organised criminal groups. Authorities seized in 2020 nearly 60,000 illegally trafficked cultural artefacts at European border checkpoints, arrested 67 suspects and opened more than 300 investigations in the fifth edition of Operation Pandora ( David Klein, 'European Authorities Crack Down on Illegal Antiquities Trafficking Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project 15 May 2021).
Running between 1 June and 31 October 2020, “Pandora V” saw the involvement of customs and law enforcement authorities from 31 countries. Officers carried out tens of thousands of checks and controls in various airports, ports, border crossing points, as well as in auction houses, museums and private houses, Europol revealed in a statement. The operation was launched in 2016 with the aim to dismantle criminal networks involved in cultural theft and exploitation, and identify potential links to other criminal activities. In the 2020 operation, over 27,000 artifacts were seized thanks to a single investigation by French customs. Spanish authorities also seized nearly 8,000 cultural goods, including archaeological artefacts, coins, sculptures, statues, weapons, paintings and sound, film and photography archives worth over US$10 million. Another 12,000 artifacts which were headed towards the black market were intercepted in Greece.
The goods seized as part of operation Pandora V represented a range of different cultures across centuries, but as usual, authorities werre more concerned with trumpeting their 'success' than actually informing us about the origins of the goods and how they came to be sold on the black market and by whom specifically. The culprits were often discovered by (they say) "online monitoring of dark web marketplaces", yet most of this trade goes on entirely in the open.
Althoug seizures were significant, according to Sam Hardy, a Rome-based criminologist who researches the Illegal antiquities trade, they only show what more needs to be done to combat the crime. “Cultural property crime is an exceptionally difficult crime to police.” Hardy told OCCRP on Friday. “Yet these international collaborations, now under the leadership of Spain's Civil Guard and with the support of Europol, Interpol and the WCO, show that it is possible to police this crime.” “Each of these operations has been a success that should be congratulated, but each has also been a reminder that much more success could be achieved if every country took it as seriously,” he said. The illegal antiquities trade is a multi-billion dollar global industry, according to a 2018 report by Standard Chartered Bank, and it’s beneficiaries are not just high society art aficionados. Often on the supply side, the trade is a major funding source for criminal and militant groups. The looting of cultural property from active war zones is considered a war crime under the 1954 Hague Convention. Combatting antiquities trafficking “isn't ‘only’ a matter of recovering the cultural assets of victimised societies,” Hardy added. “This trafficking connects with other crimes and contributes to the economic and political insecurity of those societies.”

For Brexited Metal Detectorists Now Visiting France

For metal detectorists that voted for Brexit (and those few who did not) if you want to go to France, this is what non EU citizens have to do now. Oh and leave your metal detectors at home, unless you are willing to do another documents-run to get the permit to do it legally.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

An Auctioneer's Assurances Hit Reality

Apparently a celebrity in the UK

I was forwarded this correspondence back in July 2016 and use it with the permission of the sender. This was just after a certain auctioneer announcing he was going into the antiquities business and was looking for metal ("not in it fer the munny") detected artefacts to flog off. A heritage activist wrote to him:
From: Charles Hanson [...]>
To: Nigel Swift [...]>
Sent: Fri, 29 Jul 2016 13:44
Subject: From Charles Hanson
Dear Mr Swift
We will certainly be taking due care as you outline below
At present the sale is only in its infancy and will be hopefully inviting consignments in due course
I appreciate your email

Yours sincerely
Charles Hanson
I assume one can't do punctuation on a Blackberry.
From: Nigel Swift 
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2016 14:01
To: Charles Hanson
Subject: Re: From Charles Hanson
Many thanks for your response. Hopefully you won't be offered or accept any metal detecting finds that don't include both PAS documentation and landowners' consents.
Reassurance, quick as a flash:
From: Charles Hanson
To: Nigel Swift [...]
Sent: Fri, 29 Jul 2016 14:02
Subject: Re: From Charles Hanson
I certainly won't Mr Swift
All the best
Charles Hanson
On seeing that, my single-word response to Nigel back then turned out totally prophetic. Of Mr Hanson's 200 lots of metal detected artefacts, and umpteen dugup ancient coins up for sale next week, it is rather the minority that had been reported to PAS before Mr Hanson accepted them for sale, and if somebody sees even one there where the sales offer indicates that a copy of the protocol transferring title by the landowner is available to the buyer, please let me know.

"Describing" the Ampleforth "Hoard"


Hanson's and their metal detectorist cataloguer went to town on this one. The text is more or less that which appeared in 'The searcher'magazine June 2021 issue pp.20-23, so there's a paper copy. Lot 14: The Ryedale Ritual Bronzes. A unique assemblage of Roman ritual artefacts from Yorkshire. My guess is that in metal detector school they do not have lessons in essay writing. Even in Cambridge First Certificate English (level B2), students are expected to be able to prepare a piece of written work in specific formats. One of them is "magazine article". What we see presented as a description of an assemblage of metal objects on sale by a "reputable" (?) English auction house falls far below that standard. Let us take Hanson's "Description" (1148 words) and extract the actual description of what is the object of the sale:

Consisting of a large bust, a horse and rider figurine, a zoomorphic knife handle and a pendulum [...]
Bust The 130mm high bronze bust, with its flamboyant hair and curly, forked beard appears to represent Marcus Aurelius[...] The bust is hollow, cast using the lost wax method and very finely modelled. Although the portrait is somewhat stylised, with large almond-shaped eyes [...] The back of the head has a hinged plate [dimensions?] which opens like a trap door to reveal the interior [dimensions?] [...] [Mars figure has weight given, this has not, shoddy and inconsistent]
Mars statuette. A cast bronze figurine of a rider on horseback, probably representing the God Mars [why?]. The horse and rider are well modelled, the horse harness with attached phalerae and reins clearly visible, though the latter are broken. Mars, wearing a helmet, short-sleeved tunic and pleated skirt, belted at the waist, sits astride the horse with his right arm raised to hold a spear. The left arm is held in front, bent at the elbow and the simple form of the forearm indicates it would have been held behind a shield, hidden from view. No traces of a shield were found in the hoard and it is possible that this was made from organic material. The horse has its right foreleg raised and the other legs have small pegs on the base of the hooves, indicating that the figurine would have been fixed into a plinth.[...] 86.8mm high. 222g.
Knife handle. A solid bronze knife handle in the form of a horse protome (the foreparts of a horse) [duh, but not just of horses, eh?]. The horse is well modelled with its front legs outstretched and head forward, as though leaping. [weightless?]
Pendulum/plumb bob. A large bronze conical plumb bob or pendulum measuring 72mm long, 40mm diameter and weighing 282g. The top is decorated with concentric circles and at the centre is a mushroom-shaped projection, which is pierced both vertically and horizontally for attachment to a line. [...]
That's it. The rest is narrativisation, based on the assumption that this was a single deposit and was ritual in function. The assumption continues: "almost certainly represents a set of ritual equipment, buried as one deposit in the closing decades of the second century AD either at, or very close to, a rural temple or shrine site" Where is the evidence of that? What else has been found on this site to warrant such a leap in the dark? The same way is treated the details of discovery:
In May 2020 [so right in te middle of lockdown, eh? PMB], approximately 20 miles north of York, the Roman city of Eboracum, two friends Mark Didlick and James Spark unearthed an amazing assemblage of Roman bronze-work [...] almost certainly represents a set of ritual equipment, buried as one deposit [...] The find was taken to York museum where it was recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, reference number: YORYM-870B0E. Under current legislation this find did not fulfil the criteria to qualify as ‘Treasure’ so the hoard was returned to the finders [and landowner, eh? PMB].
And that's it. Now read how the PAS wrote it. No "trapdoor" and "flaming lamps to make the eyes come alive" [bust is too small to get one in, innit] No "Mars is on his horse", the knife handle is a key handle. Note how in the Hanson's account the utilitarian plumb bob has been turned into a New2 Agey "pendulum". The PAS account ends: "It may be possible to test these conjectures further if fuller context information becomes available". That's it "conjectures", additional to their description, not "almost certain" where interpretation is hopelessly muddled with description (a typical novice's mistake). And the context, as the PAS say is absolutely totally missing. Missing. The hoard, however, is from Ampleforth, not "Ryedale": Hanson's to Sell Ampleforth Hoard PACHI 23rd April 2021; 'Value of a Discovery' PACHI 28th April 2021. Have the detecting pals stumbled on a real temple site there, with lots of coins and other treasures that they will now proceed to empty onto the market?

* Image © Hanson' Limited, fair use for purposes of comment or criticism for non-profit educational purposes.

No Comment Necessary.

This is about heritage too, people and heritage:
9.3 million people want to squeeze 5.2 million people out of their homeland, basically. What would you do? What is "Holy" about the Holy Land and those who see it as such, but stand idly by watching? 

Asking the Dealer

Thought I'd write to him. Why don't you too?
Lot 3 the “Greek” arrowheads, how do you know they are “Greek”? As your cataloguer should know, very similar items were used right across the Pontic region and deep into the steppes, they are looted from sites in Bulgaria, Ukraine, right into Russia [For example https://www.ebay.com/i/352966359562?chn=ps]. How does a “dealer’s ticket” establish that they were legally obtained (actually a criminal offence in all three countries I mentioned) and legally exported – a “dealer’s ticket” is not an export licence. Where do you get the “date” from? Archaeologically excavated examples come from a much wider date range, were these recovered from a dateable context? And if so, why does your description, such as it is, not state that?
When you started these antiquities sales several years ago, you assured me, and others, that you would be applying the highest standards. Yet what we see in terms of accuracy and fullness of descriptions, and documenting collecting history, at Hanson’s is at a far lower level than even eBay (I am thinking here of the continental eBay portals that have strict standards about these things). Surely, you can do, and afford, better.
Yours sincerely
Paul Barford
Do you reckon I'll get a reply? There are 200 lots of metal antiquities. I think one could ask the same questions of almost any of them, the descriptions are so offhand. I rather think if just 200 of the UK's 6000 archaeologists wrote to him each about just three of these items, perhaps this seller would get the idea that flogging off bits of the record of the past like potatoes is not as "easy" a money-spinner as he thought and start to pay a little more attention to documentation and proper descriptions. Will we find two hundred archies willing to stick their necks out and spend five minutes tapping out a question or two? Actually, from what I see of the jobsworth British archaeological "community", I doubt that. They might write to ask about the one they're interested in publishing. And this is why the antiquities market gets away with acting as if its still the nineteenth century. "All that is needed for evil and injustice (read: "bad practice") to prosper is for good people to remain silent", as they say...

Hanson's Flogs off Harness Mount - Forgets to Say Where from


Corroded harness mount*
Readers may remember that I discussed this story, described by Miguel Ángel Fuster Aparicio the object's stated finder as "unbelievable": Questions About Surfacing of Another Champleve Enamelled Harness Mount at Hanson's (PACHI ***). Now Hanson's has it up on sale,  and the catalogue entry omits any mention at all about its provenance. Why actually is that? LOT 13 Celtic enamelled harness mount. A late Iron Age bronze 'Eared' mount from a horse harness. This object is very similar in style and state of preservation as the one said to be from Buckinghamshire that the FLO there did not see before it was flogged off and Mr Hanson hurriedly got the local Derby PAS office to get it recorded for him at the last minute (in fact she copied out the catalogue description). This one comes with a back story that figured greatly in the pre-sale publicity, but did not make it to the catalogue:

Celtic enamelled harness mount. A late Iron Age bronze 'Eared' mount from a horse harness. The front face of the mount has champleve enamel decoration, the main elements of which are two opposed crescents of red enamel. Each crescent contains a la tene style scrolling foliate motif with terminals in the form of petals and three roundels inlaid with blue glass. There are four further areas of red enamel and two perforations of identical shape. The enamel inlay is complimented by finely engraved curvelinear decoration. On the reverse are a pair of rectangular loops for attachment to the straps. This style of decoration is seen on two other examples from South-East England, from London and from Kent. CF. British Museum object number 1856,0701.998 https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/H_1856-0701-998 The overall form of the mount resembles a facing animal mask, hidden zoomorphic and anthropomorphic elements are often incorporated into late Iron Age art. Condition: glossy patina on the front face with almost all the enamel intact. Some nibbling to the edges around the periphery otherwise vey fine condition. Circa mid 1st century BC - mid 1st century AD. 83mm x 64mm, 60.2g. References: Jope, E M, Early Celtic Art in the British Isles: plate 297 a-e; Megaw, R & V, Celtic Art: Plate I.

I am showing here  the back of this object, drawing attention to the band of different corrosion between the two loops. This means the object was most likely buried still on the harness and the decay of the leather led to the metal corroding differentially at the point of contact. this is evidence that instead of being a loose find of a single object, this item was recovered by somebody (Miguel Ángel Fuster Aparicio not excluded) from either a grave or a hoard. If the latter, the object should have been submitted for consideration as treasure  (group of prehistoric metal objects found together). It's not a lot better if this was hoiked from a horse burial. 

Where is the document from the landowner where this find was made assigning title to the finder? Without it, this object cannot be shown to be the product of legal artefact hunting, and the fact that something like this was not proudly shown to the FLO or entered on a database like UKDFD would incline us to the suspicion that the finder did not have the legal permission to be on that land and disposed of it anonymously (whence, if Mr Hanson's tale is true, it ended up equally anonymously in a car boot sale). I think at the very least Miguel Ángel Fuster Aparicio needs to be questioned about this. 

* Image © Hanson' Limited, fair use for purposes of comment or criticism for non-profit educational purposes.

Hanson's Two-day May 2021 "Historica" Sale: Metal Objects and Crusties

arrowheads, but from where?*
As we leave lockdown, a large number of metal detector finds on sale here by Derby Museums' pal, auctioneer Charles Hanson. Has a tekkie just died and his heirs selling off the objects minus the documentation? That's no way to treat the archaeological record.

Among them are some things sneaked in that have a different origin. Like Lot3: ""Greek Arrow Heads. Circa 1st-3rd century B.C. A selection of tri- finned and socketed ancient bronze arrow-heads. Accompanied by an old dealers ticket". Greek arrowheads are not found in the UK, arrowheads don't have "fins" (that's what you get when you have a metal detectorist writing your catalogue) "Old dealer's ticket" is not a provenance, items like this are found over wider area than "Greece", for example could have been looted on Black Sea coast or on the steppes, this is a totally insecure and negligent provenance. Who cares, eh? This auctioneer apparently has no qualms about flogging them, no-questions-asked.

Fibula, but from where?*
Lot 4 in the same sale is:
 "A one piece penannular type [sic] brooch that originated from what is now Italy [...] Ref: Hattatt, p.285. fig. 199. Accompanied by an old dealers ticket.". Well, quite obviously the picture does not show a penannular brooch, that's what you get when you ask a metal detectorist to write ytour catalogue descriptions. A load of bollocks. An old dealer's ticket that says nothing (on the bit we see) about origins and collecting history means nothing. It's not an Italian export licence is it? And of course everyone looking at this online will know what "Ref: Hattatt, p.285. fig. 199" means, for example which of that author's three volumes of the catalogue of his own collection is actually being used. And by the way, look how that label string "just happens to" obscure the bulk of the spring in the single view presented. Now look at the corrosion of the catchplate and the portion of spin that actually appears to touch it. Now anyone who's dug up real artefacts, and knows a bit about corrosion processes (there are some of us) is immediately going to suspect that the seller here is hiding the information you'd need to ascertain whether that pin is a modern replacement. Of course such suspicions could be allayed by actually presenting an image that shows the whole of the object and the text accompanying it specifically mentioned this point (which at the time of writing the "description" [sic] does not). Most dugup fibulae on the market, even those looted from graves, have had their pins replaced. Mr Hanson's example looks very odd.  I personally would not buy from a dealer that is not up front about such things. Would you? 

After about 200 artefacts, we get to the coins, a lot to question here too. The descriptions are scantier than informative about the things that matter when handling dug-up antiquities. This auctioneer when he started announced he was going to apply the highest standards, and look what we've got. And how many British archaeologists are even bothering to look and comment on this (apart from the ones that see bits they'd like to write up for their own research)? Pathetic.

This one caught my eye. when I started this blog, enormous quantities (quite literally tonnes) of material were coming out of Bulgarian looting - with its suspected mafia ties. In those days, "crusties",  bulk lots of uncleaned ancient coins were coming out of the country by the container load and being sold in by the kilogramme. Today, if you look, those dealers have mostly gone out of business and bulk lots on eBay are more often counted out ("twenty Late Roman bronzes for only ....$"). Because the metal detecting bastards in Bulgaria and Serbia etc have emptied all the accessible sites and equally unscrupulous dealers have sold the lot anonymously and the coins themselves scattered, or ended up in a skip.

Crusties and grots, but from where?

But what's this here on sale by Mr Hanson? Some of these coins are cleaned, others "crusty". Is this material from one English metal detectorist? I can only see one mintmark (Conob) which is no help, the auctioneer and his metal detectorist pal dismissively do not describe what they're handling beyond vaguely saying: "Group of 50 roman bronze coins, mostly 3rd-4th century AD" from God knows where, who cares, eh? But they are in noticeably different states (why?) and for all the world look to me like the rejects from a "zapper's" Balkan looted coins bulk buy would look. Are they? The auctioneer does not give any info about place (or even country) of finding, let alone evidence that the landowner or anyone else gave the finder title to them.  And he should. Mintmarks and provenances please. As for "mostly third ... century", how's that then? Which ones are the third century ones? More dealer's bollocks. 

Come on, we can do better than this. Instead of shoving up a description that took all of twenty seconds to write, these sales should be presenting the full (and true) information about the goods being offered. 

Frozen hamburgers come with more information on what the product consists of and where it comes from, who packaged it than this crap. It's time for the antiquities market to catch up with the trading standards offered by other commodities. The nineteenth century and its colonial attitudes to other people's culture and heritage surely ended a long while ago,

* Image © Hanson' Limited, fair use for purposes of comment or criticism for non-profit educational purposes.

Friday, 14 May 2021

Guyeast Wants to Dig "King's Barrow": Not of Archilogical Intrest


What a difference a bit of knowledge and a bit of humility makes: Thread on a metal detecting forum near every single archaeologists that supports building a "partnership" with artefact hunters but actually can't be bothered to look:

Pros and cons on metal detecting on mounds or hills. Post by Guyeast (Joined: Thu Mar 04, 2021 7:43 pm) Mon May 10, 2021 3:12 pm

I'm looking at metal detecting some mounds and some hills Can any one give me advice on how to tackle these terrains successfully.
A few people suggested keeping their coils low, or avoiding slipping on the slope, etc., then:
guyeast Mon May 10, 2021 6:55 pm
Thanks so much for your informative experience but I'm actually a little interested in what might be in the centre of the mound and wondered how to tackle it from base from side or directly from top.
Still the members had a bit of difficulty understanding what he's getting at: "I find it easier going detecting side to side on the slopes or hills, walking up and down can be hard work". Allectus is a bit sharper than your average tekkie: "There's something not quite right here. What's the 'mound', how big is it?"...
sweepstick47 Mon May 10, 2021 7:20 pm
How high is this mound? Determining what's at the centre of a 'mound' will be beyond the scope of the average metal detector and of course, it's assumed a check has been made to ensure no form of scheduling is in place'?
Guyeast answers (Mon May 10, 2021 7:37 pm):
Seriously the mounds are like burial mounds I'm renting a metal detector with two boxes. This means a depth of 7' is well within reach but I've never use the metal detector before and watching a tutorial on you tube leaves me with a suspicion that they may not go as deep as proclaimed. A man with a two box on you tube lifting the two box metal detector 5' in the air above a metal object on the ground not buried for demonstration purposes the metal detector failed to pic up the object. But we mustn't be put off and if I guess you have a strong huntch to an area we must see if our suspicions are right.
At this stage you start to wonder if this is not a windup. When Fatcat answers (Mon May 10, 2021 8:24 p) "Sounds like a Basil Brown type job [emoticon]", Guyeast pretends he understands: "Yes I think that too". Kingoftheswingers has read a Code of Practice and is worried (Mon May 10, 2021 9:39 pm): "have you checked to make sure you can go in this area. And got the relevant permissions[?]". Haggz points out that burial mounds are "highly illegal to detect". Mmm.
NickD (Tue May 11, 2021 10:16 am)
guyeast, I think the best advice is that you should do nothing anywhere near these mounds until you have done your research thoroughly. If they are burial mounds they will undoubtedly be scheduled ancient monuments and you may find yourself in a whole world of trouble if you are a found detecting and digging on or near them.
Guy east though has looked it up on a map and thinks that it's not a scheduled site:
Guyeast (Tue May 11, 2021 10:29 am)
Thank so much for your link really is a useful map to veiw especially if your a metal detector I've viewed the map and I guess I'm lucky as the area with the mounds is not in red
But I'm still unsure how to tackle the mound drop a shaft from the top base in wards or remove the whole mound obviously if I get a strong hit.
He does not mention putting it back.
Guyeast (Tue May 11, 2021 10:32 am)
There not scheduled I think they're burial mounds and in my town there was a king that died and his his remains ever found how epic is that if I find him a king of England in my small town
Why do I have a strong suspicion that he's quoting Geoffrey of Monmouth here?
Sweepstick47 (Tue May 11, 2021 10:45am): Have you read and understood the implications of the above replies?
Guyeast (Tue May 11, 2021 11:26 am)
My understanding is and correct me if I'm wrong if you've got permission to detect on land that as yet has not archilogical interest no red flags then you can dig any hits you find

And the Portable Antiquities Scheme kept schtum. This is why we need an Institute of detecting to replace that idle bunch, afraid to do a bit of real "archilogical" outreach.

And by the way, how about adding to their rudimentary "Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales" a fifteenth principle:

Do not undertake any work on an archaeological site or assemblage where you have not secured first all the adequate resources to carry out the work properlly and to the highest standards"

The poster above is the same guy who really likes digging deep holes by hand (Post by guyeast » Tue Mar 23, 2021 6:21 pm):
WANTED : looking for a second hand metal detector that goes deep
hi I'm new to this but would like to hire if possible if not buy a second hand metal detector that goes 2, 3 or even 4 metres deep . I know this request is probably not realistic but if any one has one for sale that also does cavity I'd be real interested. thanks and my name's Guy

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Dotty Dot-Dots and Late Roman Grots

Coiney dot-distribution map (Richard Henry)

Richard Henry writes on Twitter:
" I am now starting to compile Roman coin profiles for the 10,500 parishes in England for my PhD. Late Roman coins recorded with @findsorguk and coin hoards (AD 364-378) from the south west here highlight some interesting distributions, particularly around Taunton. [...] Here are the parishes with above average coin loss in the south west. The data includes @findsorguk, the Roman Rural Settlement, the work of Philippa Walton and other sources. In total I have recorded just under 100,000 coins from the south west".
On being asked by Joseph Lewis "what are the soft/hard constraints [on this distribution pattern]?" the researcher replies: "They are constraints to metal detecting either where it is banned (hard constraints) or less likely (soft constraints). It explains some of the major gaps you see in PAS distributions such as Salisbury Plain". In fact what the pattern represents is not only collecting affordances, but also preferences, but above all reporting. With an estimated 27000 detectorists and 10500 parishes (and just 100 000 coins from a group of them), it's not hard to see that for an activity that has been going on now for fifty years (!) if there were consistent records, there should be a super abundance of information on their coin finds in that period. In fact all that is happened is that sites have been emptied into pockets and a sample of unknown representativeness has been recorded. Brodie talks of why archaeologists love the PAS and get "entangled" with it - because it gives them material on a plate for this kind of reseach. So it is interesting to see the next comment:

Cat Lodge @CatLodge1 11 g.
W odpowiedzi do @richardhenryfsa @Durotrigesdig and @findsorguk
Plenty more on the North Somerset HER, if you're interested!
She later explained that these consist of "lots of antiquarian finds rather than detected", but then these too have their own recording biases and distortions.

I have mixed feelings here. First it is great to see a text on coins that treats findspot as information. Most coineys like to study the pictures and writing on a pile of decontextualised coins tipped out on a tabletop and call it "numismatic research" (see the ACCG in the US). Here is quite clear that knowing what is from where (and found in relation to what) is important information.  

Secondly though this seems to be a repeat of patters that were being established for just this region in the 1970s (Peter Fowler comes to mind), hillforts with Late Roman pottery (including African Redslip Ware as I vaguely recall), villas with late occupation (late mosaics too). I wonder whether just studying the coins as a statistical pattern from chance reports is going to add a lot to this pattern? Also readers will know, I am not a great fan of any interpretations that involve merely making a dot distribution map  and talking about the broad pattern (though must admit this one is rather endearing). 

I'll be interested to see what this research produces in the end and whether all that site trashing by artefact hunters and collectors of which this is a minor byproduct can be justified.

Calling a Spade a Spade: No Two Species of Artefact Hoiker


BBC Northwest gets it right with their headline  Detectorists admit taking Beeston Castle and Roche Abbey artefacts BBC Published 11.05.2021 :

A gang of detectorists who took axe heads, coins and artefacts from English Heritage sites to sell to a dealer have been sentenced The five men admitted illegally hunting for finds at Beeston Castle in Cheshire and Roche Abbey in South Yorkshire. Their activities were discovered when holes were found at both sites in December 2019 and police raids of their homes found dozens of items. [...] English Heritage properties curator Win Scutt said illegal metal detecting "robs us of our past, and whilst this prosecution is good news, sadly the damage incidents like these cause can never be repaired". "Unlawful attacks like these can cause insight to be lost forever," he said. "The ground beneath us is a wonderful library of our past. "Holes dug by metal detectorists cut through these unread pages, destroying all the information forever... just to tear out a precious trinket that will usually end up lost in a private collection."
And nobody thought to add that "the majority of detectorists don't [...], only a minority do, but they are a totally different species of person, not bona fide metal detectorists". Are public attitudes to this exploitative hobby changing?

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Ethical Code of Bulgarian National Metal Detecting Federation

Етичен кодекс на Българска Национална Федерация по Металдетектинг

Ethical Code of Bulgarian National Metal Detecting Federation     28th March 2016

Chapter 1
general provisions
Article 1. This code determined the ethical norms and rules of conduct of the members of the Bulgarian National Metal Detecting Federation, and aims to increase public confidence in their morals and to raise the prestige of the Federation.
Article 2. The rules in this Code are voluntary moral and ethical obligation of the members of BNMDF and, in its nature, it is provided essentially as a means of self-discipline and self-improvement.
Article 3. The personal conduct of members of the Federation is realized by:
(1) strictly observing the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Charter of BNMDF.
(2) not harming the prestige and interests of BNMDF in their public and personal life.
(3) showing respect, correctness, tolerance, by not allowing conduct that would harm the dignity and rights of the individual.
(4) In the communication among them, members of the Federation are equal.
(5) not allowing the revelation of vilifying statements and their public announcements should be aimed at objectivity and truth. Professional or personal arguments are not a subject of public polemics.
(6) not allowing the occurrence of a conflict of interest and private gain of material or non-material nature, executing their engagements toward the Federation.
Chapter Two
Conduct and aspect of the members of the Federation during practicing the hobby of metal detecting
Article 4. Members of the Federation agree to observe all laws, regulations and rules that are valid for their countries and have relation to metal detecting.
Article 5. Members of the Federation agree not to harm private property and not to seek on a private site without the permission of its owner.
Article 6. Members of the Federation agree not to seek and excavate the announced monuments of culture in Bulgaria that are of local and national significance, without the necessary permission obtained from the respective bodies.
Article 7. Members of the Federation agree not to pollute the environment and waters and to preserve the natural resources, animals and plants.
Article 8. Members of the Federation agree to fill the holes excavated by them in the ground, as well as to leave the nature and landscape in their initial form.
Article 9. Members of the Federation will not seek and excavate areas in which there are crops.
Article 10. Members of the Federation agree not to tolerate and not to practice the so-called bulldozer-excavator search.
Article 11. Members of the Federation agree to be polite, careful, reasonable and friendly towards other seekers and to local people, agencies and authorities.
Article 12. Members of the Federation agree to promote the search, finding, restoration and protection the artifacts and share their knowledge with other people.
Article 13. Members of the Federation agree not to harm or destroy private, municipal and state property, including equipment, signs, buildings, roads, constructions or remnants of such property.
Article 14. Members of the Federation agree to present, on request, information for the hobby and metal detectors, and they shall cooperate by means of advice and information to novice seekers.
Article 15. Members of the Federation agree to cooperate for finding lost metal objects.
Article 16. Members of the Federation agree to have a conduct by which they will raise the authority of other seekers, and to always remember that they are ambassadors of the metal detecting hobby around the world.
Chapter Three
Sanctions and Responsibility
Article 17. The sanctions as per the present Code are imposed with the aim of warning the violators to observe the ethical norms and keep the authority of the Federation before the society.
Article 18. For non-observance of the Ethical Code, the following sanctions are stipulated and imposed:
(1) warning to the member who does not observe the Ethical Code.
(2) notification of the members of the BNMDF and publicity of the case within the frame of the Federation.
(3) Proposition for exclusion from the Federation.
Chapter Four
Closing Provisions
Article 19. The present Code has been adopted by the Governing Committee of the Bulgarian National Metal Detecting Federation on January 22, 2010 and begins to operate immediately after its adoption.
Article 20. Proposals for changes and additions of the Ethical Code, signed by at least 10 members of the BNMDF, may be submitted directly also to be reviewed by the Governing Committee of the BNMDF.

Public Finds Recording Database of Bulgarian National Federation of Metal Detecting Ignored in Helsinki

The the non-governmental organization Bulgarian National Federation of Metal Detecting Българска Национална Федeрация по Металдетектинг (run by Ilia Iliev) exists to to promote the hobby of metaldetecting, and to change the image of the hobby in the eyes of the public, politicians and journalists. It was a founding member of the European Council for Metal Detecting. In December 2018, it began to implement a new Project titled “Increasing the participation of the civil sector in the processes of formulation, implementation and monitoring of policies and legislation in the field of metal detecting”, for which it received €46,000 of EU money. The aim is to create and submit proposals for the rewriting of the legislation to establish a regulatory framework that will allow responsible metal detecting while at the same time accommodating the interests of the State in protecting the cultural heritage of the country. It openly refers to attempting to mimic and draw from the experience of "the positive British experience (where metal detectorists actively cooperate with archaeologists)".
There will be better information regarding the benefits of responsible metal detecting to the museums and archaeologists and more clarification to all target groups and stakeholders surrounding the rules and policies of metal detecting in Bulgaria. The project will cultivate a better understanding and agreement re the correct processes and rules when excavating finds by non- professional archaeologists such as detectorists. This positive enterprise will initiate proposals to allow clear and transparent metal detecting legislation. There will be research and analysis of good detecting arrangements and legislation within the European Union, the development of effective finds databases and the transfer of “Best Practice” from other areas where identified.
As part of this project, the Federation set up their Информационна база данни на движими културно-исторически ценности и други находки, открити от потребители на металдетектори в България [Information database of movable cultural and historical goods and other finds discovered by users of metal detectors in Bulgaria]
This platform was created as a result of the implementation of Project №BG05SFOP001-2.009-0038 "Increasing citizen participation in the processes of formulation, implementation and monitoring of legislation in the field of metal detection", funded by Contract №BG05SFOP001-2.009-0038-C01 by operational Good Governance Program, 2014-2020, co-financed by the European Union through the European Social Fund.
The database is the first of its kind in Bulgaria. It is based on the example of platforms developed by scientists and fans of metal detection in other European countries. The aim is to offer a portal for reporting, processing and providing information on accidentally discovered archaeological finds through a metal detector or through other activities and related data. The platform is a source of knowledge and is aimed at various user groups, such as museum and research workers, archaeologists, history and archaeology enthusiasts, students, pupils, and the general public. Provides contextual information about the finds and works as a digital museum, thus making the finds and related data (excluding personal and other sensitive data) available to the Bulgarian and international public and research communities.
Despite this project being begun two years ago, and although there is clear evidence of transnational collaboration with the European Council for Metal Detecting, and the organisation of an international conference, there is no evidence that there were attempts (from either side) to establish contact with the European Finds Recording Network based in Helsinki University. The latter exists to: "support research and collaboration between the archaeological profession and metal-detecting communities, develop best practices, and promote international cooperation", but possibly this only applies to countries represented by a narrow group of grant-attracting academic pals rather than actually being a real trans-national effort per se. Certainly, bringing an east-central European state like Bulgaria into the Network would give the Helsinki Gang some experience of testing their ideas outside the bubble they have built around this concept, and the Bulgarians would no doubt have benefitted from contact and exchange of experiences with the other schemes (Denmark: DIME Digitale Metaldetektorfund, England and Wales: PAS The Portable Antiquities Scheme, Finland: FindSampo / Löytösampo / Fyndsampo, Belgium (Flanders): MEDEA, Netherlands: PAN Portable Antiquities of the Netherlands). It seems a huge opportunity to help the Bulgarians develop a useful database of public finds has been missed by both sides. How "European" is European for Helsinki?

Vaccines, Replacing "Antiquities" in International Diplomacy?

Ben Westcott, China and Russia want to vaccinate the developing world before the West CNN May 12, 2021

Perhaps from 2020, deals involving antiquities will not have the "soft power" significance in international politics that they accrued in the fifty years before that.


Monday, 10 May 2021

Balkan Antiquities Manna on US Market: Thirteen years on


I wish I'd updated this earlier, but time passes, and we do not always keep up with it. So I dropped the ball a little here, I see. On Monday 20th Jan 2014 I did a post on this blog 'Balkan Antiquities Manna on US Market: Five years on'. This referred to four previous articles ("Three pounds of Somebody Else’s History in Pieces" 28.09.08,  "Balkan Artefacts like Manna?" 20.01.09; "Bulgarian Antiquities" - The Oddest Thing", 01.04.09; followed by  Antiquity Seller Claims "Bulgarian Bonanza is over" 10.07.09). I want to look at the same issue - bulk lots of Bulgarian artefacts on eBay - from today's perspective.  

First on my original list was Empire Ancients (Danny Harris, Cordova, Tennessee, ebay: empiredanny). He's gone from the 7443 feedback he had seven years ago to 11563 (590 a year). It says: "Positive Feedback (last 12 months): 100% Member since: Nov-25-00 in United States Top-rated seller: One of eBay's most reputable sellers. Consistently delivers outstanding customer service". Seven years on, however, his sales offer has changed quite a lot. First of all, from the 3,147  listed items on sale he had seven years ago ("mostly coins and artefacts - mostly the sort of thing you'd find on archaeological sites in the Balkans", I wrote), he now has 47 (see below). 

Next, on the my list was Ancient Treasures (Plamen Arsoff, Granada Hills CA 91394, eBay ancient_treasures). He had  
55997 feedback seven years ago. Now he seems to have stopped trading. Interestingly when I discussed him last time, he was selling much fewer items than had been the case earlier

Then there was Cameleon Coins (Alex Stanichev, Winettka, also in Los Angeles CA, United States, eBay  cameleoncoins) last time I discussed him, he had 14171 feedback, and again he had fewer items than before and of much more varied nature. I wrote in 2009: "the offering gives the impression of the dregs end of a larger assemblage, mixed in with modern tat". Now he too seems to have gone out of business.  

I also discussed Ancient Caesar (Ilian Lalev, Newton, MA 02458, eBay ancientcaesar) In 2009 his feedback was 18939. He had 567 artefacts on offer, but again a bit of a mixed bag. I also noted: "maybe its the photography, but at first sight not all of his artefacts look all that convincing to me". He also seems not to be trading. Possibly because a lot of people suspected by about 2011 that many of his artefacts were 'not as described'.   

Then we come to Mr Gantcho Zagorski (Diana Coins - Hackensack , NJ ebay dianacoins/ paganecoins0oh6, feedback 2112 + 7617 in 2009). You can look him up in the internet to see what kind of adventures he has been having. In 2009 he'd already stopped trading under his former names.

This is quite an interesting pattern. Four of these guys have eastern European names, all four of them between 1998/9 and 2009 sold extremely large numbers of artefacts of fairly homogeneous composition that look for all the world like artefacts metal detected from sites in the Danube/Balkan region. Some time after 2009 the trade comes to an end. 

That recalls something that I took at the time to be hyperbole. The Californian dealer exclaimed "The Bulgarian Bonanza, as I used to call it, is apparently over". Could it be that the excesses of the US antiquities trade within a decade had virtually emptied the productive sites that fed it? 

Coming back to the inventory of Empire Danny, of his 47 items, 32 are labelled as being "Viking" and from "Lake Ladoga". They are given this collecting history, or a variant of it:

This item is a Lake Ladoga Viking [....], as seen in the photos.
This item is GUARANTEED to be AUTHENTIC Ancient artifact dating from the 8th to the 11th centuries AD.
This item was found while metal detecting in the Lake Ladoga region of Russia. This item was purchased from a collector that lives in Germany. He purchased it from a seller in Russia over 20 years ago. Per Ebay policy, this item was LEGALLY imported into the US. The ruler is in millimeters (mm).

First of all, the German buyer about 2001 can't have bought the item legally from Russia without an export licence. Secondly most of these items are not Viking, but East Baltic (not my area, but I'm going to guess from metal detecting in Latvia - not Soviet Union by 2001, but still needs export licence). That most of these items are female personal ornament suggests to me that this material comes from grave robbing. 


Then there are several "Sarmatian" items with collecting histories going like this:
Rare 3rd to 5th Century Sarmatian [...], as seen in the photos.
This item is of legal provenance per ebay policy. I purchased this item in 2016 in a large lot of metal detector finds from a collector in Germany. This item was brought into this country legally per the laws in place in the US at the time it was imported and laws that are still in place today. This item is guaranteed to be an authentic ancient item that was found with a metal detector in Russia.
If he means Russia and not Ukraine, one wonders whether this was the same German collector, and what their connections were. Then there is a: "Medieval period bronze finger ring as seen in the photos. This item is of legal provenance per ebay policy. I purchased this item in 2015 in a lot of metal detector finds from a collector in Croatia. This item was brought into this country legally per the laws in place in the US at the time it was imported. I have included a scanned image of the shipping document that was approved by Croatia for export to the USA. This ring is guaranteed to be an authentic artifact that was found with a metal detector in Croatia". And metal detecting and pocketing the artefacts is legal in Croatia? The document is dated to just after the end of the 1991-95 Croatian War of Independence.

It would seem that the Bulgarian looted artefacts bonanza is truly over. No longer can you find bags of uncleaned ancient coins sold by the kilogramme, they are now all counted out. Four of the dealers that were handling bulk lots of artefacts have gone out of business, only Empire Danny is still in operation, but his stock comes from somewhere else. And back in bulgaria, the sites that all that stuff came from lie empty and bare.

and where now ARE all those artefacts? In what state are they in? How many of the loose bits have been binned already? And how many have any documentation tying their presence in a box in a collector's Californian home to this episode of destructive and criminal looting of distant European sites?

Sunday, 9 May 2021

"Saving the Artefacts Frum Destrukshun"


Metal detectorists claim they do what they do to "save artefacts from destruction" in the ploughsoil, and we should appreciate what they do as "citizen conservation". Of course this misses the point that they trash the site and its associations and contexts, but focuses on "saving" the loose objects. Sometimes though, they don't even do that (from the LGD forum):

Gino Goodall  Was thinkin on what to do with my scrap silver coins n heres the outcome my nox 800 keyring even the coil was made from a william 111 shilling n even the arm bands are from william 111 coins
mmm. There are so far 17 comments all praising what the semi-literate detectorist did with "his" 200-year old artefacts.   And the PAS? What is their advice? What here is "best practice" for responsible metal detecting in England and Wales? 

Vignette: When is an artefact not an artefact? When, although it is recognisable, it is no longer saleable as a collectable? And who decides? 

Artefact Hoiking as "Conservation"


Heritage Action hit the nail on the head:

"Saying what oughta be about mass metal detecting as a means to stop nighthawking"
by heritageaction
For many years detectorists have reacted to the crimes of their nighthawking colleagues (yes, colleagues: nighthawks couldn't operate without sharing the forums, clubs, rallies, archaeological publications, FLOs, Treasure Registrars and auctions of all detectorists) by suggesting detectorists should be allowed to "clear" scheduled sites so there was nothing for criminals to find. This week, following arrests at Beeston Castle, came the latest such suggestion: "This is why we need permission to survey as many scheduled sites as possible to beat the nighthawkers at their own game/gain!"

And here's Andy Brockman's withering reply: "Why not? Just so long as metal detectorists come up with a sampling strategy, get the resulting project design approved by Historic England, record finds with cm accuracy, arrange and pay for post excavation conservation and publication and don't get to keep anything?"

To which Henery Iggins added: "and don't get to keep anything? That's buggered it!" .
One might add what kind of "site" would be left after all (all, even the nails?) of just the metal artefacts had been stripped from it... and what the metal detectorist thinks the purpose of protecting a site by scheduling is in the first place. 

Twenty four years after the PAS was set up to educate finders about best practice, it seems there is not a single metal detectorist on social media that has even a smidgen of idea what that term means to others. Why not? is the PAS a bad educator or are metal detectorists education-resistant? It's either one or the other - or both. That means the PAS approach is the wrong one for tackling this problem. 

Men Who Trashed Scheduled Sites and Stole Artefacts Sentenced

I have covered this case several times here. The court case has ended: Fines, bans and forfeiture of metal detectors in the case of the five men who stole artefacts from Beeston Castle and Roche Abbey.
Gallery of UK metal detectorists on a bad haircut day

They can always get another metal detector or borrow from a friend. All five of them got to these two sites (not in Tameside) by car. Their cars were equipment necessary to carry out the thefts. The cars should be forfeit too. That'll STOP them doing it again. 

Archaeologists are applauding, going bonkers retweeting the news. As if that means that the 27000 others are not actually doing damage to tens of thousands of sites on a weekly basis. Archaeology has flexed its muscles, feels good that there is some "control" (as Peter Tompa would say of them) and moves on. "Mission Accomplished"? Pathetic.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

UK Archaeologists have NO Idea

Alan Chubb, the PAS and British Archaeology
The 1990s Today ("Detectorists").

I am just going to put this up here. It's a comment to my earlier post 'UK Archaeologists Have an Idea', PACHI Friday, 7 May 2021:

"Brian Mattick said...
Crumbs! Do they read the detecting forums?

And do they know how many efforts there have been apart from PAS to form a responsible metal detecting climate, always without success?

And do they remember this list of resistance to reform:
"Don’t criticise us or we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t tell us what to do or we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t undertake surveys of nighthawking else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t let PAS dominate us else we’ll stop reporting” (and later: “Don’t reduce PAS’s funding else we’ll stop reporting”), “Don’t impose a Code of Responsible Detecting else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t discuss licensing us else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t ban inappropriate rallies else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t impose restrictions under stewardship schemes else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t tighten up EBay else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t ever, ever, ever short change us on the Treasure rewards else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t abate our Treasure rewards for not calling an archie out else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t talk of using some of our Treasure rewards to finance proper excavations of our findspots else we’ll stop reporting”, “Don’t write to farmers without us dictating what is to be said else we’ll stop reporting” …. and now… “Don’t extend the items covered by the Treasure Act beyond exactly what we say else we’ll stop reporting.” Rich, is it not, when the majority of detectorists….. don’t report!
And have they considered why NCMD and FID have refused to sign the official Code and why most detectorists show farmers their OWN code which doesn't require them to act responsibly but fools farmers into thinking otherwise?

For a start, let them persuade NCMD to cancel that pretend responsibility document as a first priority. If they won't, let them deduce it's not a case of "both sides of the same coin" at all, it's two activities entirely impossible to reconcile.

But even before that, I still think they should read the forums for a year or two, or 20, like me. They obviously have no idea what most detectorists are like and are assuming the already-converted minority (who don't need converting) are like the rest. They aren't.
Well, the short answer to that is that they clearly do not make any effort to make use of the opportiunity forums and social media have afforded for looking over the shoulders of metal detector users in the UK (and beyond). Perhaps that's the only way they can keep their rosy-tinted spectacle view of the whole phenomenon. I REALLY do not understand why, after 24 years of expensive archaeological "liaison" with artefact hunters and other finders, British archaeology is still stuck in "1996-mode". This seems so utterly naïve and out-of-touch. Archaeologists support a phenomenon affecting the archaeological record and yet refuse to research it properly.

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