Saturday 15 May 2021

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.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.