Saturday, 18 September 2021

Treasure Hunter with Magical Machine Finds King John's Treasure - He Says

These Treasure hunters in the UK are a funny lot. Metal detectorist Raymond Kosschuk has found the treasure famously lost by King John in 1216 on a farm in a Lincolnshire village, but is keeping the exact location secret for now (Michael Moran Long-lost English Crown Jewels' found by metal detectorist on Lincolnshire farm Daily Star 18 Sep 2021). King John lost the treasure during an ill fated crossing of The Wash - an estuary that divides Lincolnshire and Norfolk on October 12, 1216. Of course loony loopy treasure hunters have been "almost finding" this treasure for years, every few months it seems. Anyway:
" Raymond Kosschuk, 63, is "100% certain" the 800-year-old artefacts he has uncovered at an undisclosed site belonged to the former King of England. The mechanical engineer has spent the last 12 months conducting tests at the location in Sutton Bridge, Lincs., in a bid to track down the elusive hoard. Raymond is now convinced he has struck gold after his equipment picked up "overwhelming evidence" of the treasure. [...] Raymond and the farmer are hoping to start digging out their findings in the coming weeks before submitting them to archeologists (sic) and Lincolnshire's Finds Officer.
I think it would be better if the archaeologists excavated it properly, we do not have that many 12th century wagons preserved. The story gets loopier, after saying he was on the site on 7th September, we learn that metal detecting produced "a wealth of" metal artefacts in the field:
Using equipment he has designed to pick up anomalies in the readings of magnetic fields, Raymond has received strong signals for high value items. [...] Raymond, of Keighley of West Yorks., said: "I am 100% certain that this it. This is the real thing. "When I gained access, I isolated an area of high value targets and it tested positive for elements of gold, silver, emeralds, sapphires and rubies. "The biggest attraction of this area I detected an is accumulation of silver. "This tells me there is between 60lb-120lb of silver but it could be more. I believe this was the cash box that King John was carrying." Raymond has also had positive tests for gold [...] Finding readings for horse shoes in sets of four, Raymond believes that there 'is no question' that his finds are compelling evidence that this is the treasure. He said: "Those horse shoes are completely damning evidence - there is no question"The field is littered with this kind of find. "I have never seen anything like the field itself. It is phenomenal the amount of readings it is giving off there.
Hmmm. Something tells me that the writer here is not quite clear in his head what this equipment Mr Kosschuk has designed does 'pick up anomalies in the readings of magnetic fields" mans what? This is some kind of a magnetometer? But how is it calibrated to "receive strong signals for high value items"? What does it mean "test positive for emeralds, sapphires and rubies​"? Items like rubies and saphire (red and blue corundum) and emerald (a form of beryl)? What magnetic properties do they have? How can they be teledetected so specifically at all? And "horseshoes in sets of four? I do not believe in this magical black box. As for the finds made by metal detecting... there is this thing called "stratigraphy" that gets in the way of fantasy. The baggage train got not only mired, but sank into the silts of the Welstream estuary (the mouth of - among others - the River Nene). It sank down into it, beyond reach. The estuary silted up (so deposits formed above, and sealing, those containing the lost bits of the baggage train). Then the land was reclaimed and a soil layer formed on top of the marine silts of teh estuary and the finds are in the ploughsoil formed from that later layer. All the finds that Mr Kosschuk has made come from layers much later than the second decade of the 13th century.


Friday, 17 September 2021

More on UK Metal Detecting company "Detecting for Veterans" [Updated]


[Edited] Dave Sadler has produced a useful online video interview with former pest-control officer Jason Massey giving the background to his metal detecting company "Detecting for Veterans" setting out some of the background.... The core of the video starts here:  

Posted on You Tube by Peaky Finders Metal Detecting Shop and Rallies on Nov 26, 2020

There is mention by Mr Massey here of the report he is citing written in collaboration with a Norwegian partner (unidentified) that proves the link between "detecting" and mental health. 

UPDATE 17th September 2021
Within a few hours of this post, that video was deleted. [in the original post I unnecessarily wrote rather uncharitably about the video in which the interview was found, for which I apologise to the author]

Thursday, 16 September 2021

New Questions About "Detecting for Veterans"


The twitter account for Jason Massey, former 1st Battalion Light Infantry Veteran, now CEO of the organisation "Detecting for Veterans" is down. The crowdfunding appeal page announces: 

Detecting For veterans Community Interest Company (CIC) is a tri service to bring Armed forces veterans together to share awareness of PTSD and other issues from serving in the Armed forces by using Metal detecting as therapy. We have over 5500 supporters on our Facebook page and 3500 are civilians who support our aim. We have helped Veterans who do suffer from PTSD and other issues from serving in the Armed forces by suppling Metal Detecting equipment to use as therapy.[...] The fundraising amount will by x10 set ups to run courses for any Armed forces veterans sent to us by Mental health charities, also a vehicle is needed for my self to get around the UK to organise events and to run courses in the local areas. [...] Also I charge for civilian to come to metal detect and so far raised £14,000 for The Veterans Charity and Talking2minds.
The company was formed in 2017 and claims that "metal detecting has been proven to help war veterans deal with the debilitating issues associated with PTSD". It seems they claim to actually have some kind of a report that 'proves' this claim. It should be noted that this is the same group that was claiming that the Head of the PAS had declared that artefact hunting was "good for archaeology", a claim the person involved denies (see Andy Brockman, 'A second metal detecting rally promoter accused of misrepresnting the views of the PAS, The Pipeline July 4th 2021). As for the claim, I really do not see why this one activity (looting the archaeological record for collectable items to keep) is in any way better suited for this purpose than less archaeologically-destructive hobbies in a way that birdwatching, voluntary work on canals, stamp collecting, gravestone recording, bell ringing, home brewing, gardening and hang gliding etc. don't. Some have seen this claim as a 'front' for just running a business involving pay-to-dig artefact hunting rallies for the benefit of metal detectorists the majority of which are not at all suffering any form of PTSD caused by them formerly being or being a member of the Armed Forces.

The genesis of the idea seems to have come from the company 'Beyond the Bleep' set up with the Veterans' mental health charity - Combat Stress in October 2014 by Derek McLennan [possibly with Minelab involvement]. Among its other activities, the company involved veterans in artefact hunting on mental health benefits grounds. The company is now dissolved. In the US KellyCo metal detectors produced a text in April 2020 'Metal Detecting as a Tool for PTSD Recovery' , and it cites a recent paper by a group of authors, including Helsinki Gang member Andres Dobat.* In the US, artefact hunting was being proposed as a PTSD therapy in 2015 (KPLC 'Local wounded veterans use 'Warrior Detecting' as trauma therapy', Sept 15 2015) and similar claims have been made (Jul 7, 2017) for underwater metal detecting (this one sponsored by Garrett detectors). It is still going on Megan Swift, 'Military veterans benefit from 'therapeutic' archaeological fieldwork at Fort Ligonier' Trib Total Media Aug. 7, 2021.

The DFV commercial artefact hunting rally Detecting For Veterans CIC Summer Rally in Lincolnshire was scheduled for 9th -12th September 2021.
This is a full 3 days detecting on 800 Acres of very historical land once belonging to the Knights Templar.
The land is undetected and it will be a mixture of stubble and disc land.
Trade Stands will be on site, Crawford's, NCMD, Treasure Hunting Magazine, Coin Dealers and other stands will be in attendance.
Tickets are £65 each, that includes camping. Under 16s Detecting are £30 and non- detectorists are £10 each.[...]
At the end of August 2021 it was announed:
Sadly it appears Jason Massey has suffered a stroke and is in hospital. Best wishes for his speedy recovery. Sadly it does appear the event has been postponed until a later date. Check out their Facebook page for the last info though in case there are any further developments
This morning, following on from this, certain unsupported allegations were made about "Detecting for Veterans CIC"  concerning financial governance and transparency. They involve a story of "a team of Private Investigators" and a stakeout of Mr Massey's Taunton home.  No doubt this will be This is following on from earlier reports of irregularities in the NCMD and some more allegations concerning a metal detectorist acting as treasurer for an archaeology group a while back. Of course nobody is in metal detecting for the money, are they?

*Dobat A.S., Wood, S.O., Jensen, B.O., Schmidt, S. and Dobat, A.S. (2020), “I now look forward to the future, by finding things from our past…” Exploring the potential of metal detector archaeology as a source of well-being and happiness for British Armed Forces veterans with mental health impairments', International Journal of Heritage Studies, 26:4, 370-386 .

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

British Culture Ministry Reshuffle


In Bonkers Brexit Britain, there has been a cabinet reshuffle and Boris Johnson has appointed two different people for issues that will directly affect archaeology and heritage (Andy Brockman, 'Mad Nad and Environment to Gove', The Pipeline 16 Sept 2021) Michael Gove now in charge of the "reforms" of the planning system, "while over at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the new Secretary of State Nadine Dorries will be in charge of reforms of the Treasure Act among other heritage related policy matters, if they can ever be bothered to get around to them".

UK's Portable Antiquities Scheme Say One thing, Do Another

(c) Julian Evan-Hart - The editor of Treausure Hunting magazine.

(c) Julian Evan-Hart - The editor of Treausure Hunting magazine.

PAS in their page about commercial artefact hunting rallies say: "large scale metal-detecting events (rallies) do not provide the ideal circumstances for Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) staff to record finds in the field, and can therefore result in the loss of much archaeological information", so their staff will no longer record finds during rallies. There was that article by Scheme Head Prof. Mike Lewis about how damaging they are... and yet in a Treasure hunting Magazine article by Julian Evan-Hart, among other things we read a fluff piece about "Detectival 2021": "Several fields were releasing a good old spattering of Roman coins too, indicating a good level of occupation in that period. It was as always great to see representatives from PAS in the Finds Tent doing their sterling work identifying the coins and artefacts, perhaps most puzzling of which was an ancient Greek Drachm". One wonders why they were there. Mr Evans-hart's photos show the chaos. this really begs the question of when PAS are there recording the findspots of the finds tekkies bring in to them.. are they actually "saving" much of the archaeological information that is lost by their being randomly and selectively hoiked from their contexts. By the way, have a good liook at Evans-Hart's documentation. How many of the tekkies can you see with a mobile GPS hanging from their belt?

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Psst... Wanna Buy Freshly Surfaced Artefacts From Taliban Afghanistan?



If you have a desperate craving to support the Taliban cause and acquire some freshly-available artefacts of rare and exotic types from Afghanistan, an eBay seller (' ancientroman' (340) 100% Positive feedback) based in Ratchathavee, Thailand will allow you to fulfil your dreams and desire to use them impress your friends and boost your ego, to make your man-cave into a place exuding "eroodishin" and neo-colonial economic power. EBay eroodishin, that is. A few weeks ago they would have been listed in the section of eBay that, if my memory serves me correctly, was called "Illegal Antiquities", but now they are mostly under "other decorative antiques" along the fancy clocks and reproduction maps. Prices start from $25 and go up to $6000. He says: "We are a long time antique dealer based in Thailand, UAE, UK, JAPAN & CHINA, We deal in all sorts of antiques from the Roman Era to The Islamic Era, Sasanian, Bactrian all sort of antiques, Follow us For More Info". He's sold quite a few items, quite a few are explicitly said to be from Balkh in khurasan. A lot of his clients are really satisfied with what they have been sold as antiquities, just one grouch:

Buyer: a***b (160) (Private listing) Past month
The top of the ring is not original.
Reply by ancientroman. Left within past month. Dear Buyer, we wish you would’ve contacted us regarding your concerns, we would’ve sorted out the issue promptly, we feel sorry that you may think that the top of the ring is not original, in that case we would’ve provided the necessary certification proving the authenticity and the origin of the ring, still we are sorry that you may feel this way we sincerely apologize and we hope we can make it up to you, As always customer Satisfaction is our number 1 priority.  
Ah, so they do have documentation of the origin? Even for the ones from Afghanistan? So why not say that in the sales offer? Or is that the sort of lies that many antiquities dealers routinely fob their clients off with? Basically the rest of the feedback tells us more about the people that buy antiquities like that. They are (a) not at all fazed by being faced with a seller that blatantly declares in the wake of the takeover in Kabul that his stock comes from one of the most heavily-looted conflict zones in the Middle East with no attempt to explain away any legal/ethical pather by which he got it and (b), apart from the dugup coins [which seem to me likely to mostly be what he says they are], the rest of the material looks like the crudest most misshapen fakes you'll see this side of Katmandu. Almost every single person who bought one was dead sure they'd bought a real piece of antiquity straght from the Taliban. That shos just hom much they know. Who are these people, what do they want? As for a dealer that not only sells crap for inflated prices but makes a claim that irt's come from Afghanistan to boost its desirability, well, what can one say?

Saturday, 11 September 2021

A Few More Truths About Metal Detecting

New post by heritageaction on The Heritage Journal (11/09/2021)

National Council for Metal Detecting confesses at last!

Revealed in their latest Annual Financial Report:
1.) "At the end of this year, 31st March 2021, we had £338,340 in tangible cash assets". Yes, you read it right, a third of a million pounds. Compare and contrast the PAS fundraising appeal which has raised only £1248 from detectorists since 2015. Detectorists tell farmers they love and support PAS. They clearly don't.
2.) "Our membership at end of year stood at 22929". Yes, you read that right too, nearly 23,000, to which can be added those who are members of the other organisation, FID, and of none. Compare and contrast our Erosion Counter, which assumes there are only 8,000 detectorists. Detectorists claim our estimate of the amount of non-reporting is far too high. It looks like it is massively understated. .
and all over the country archaeologists will continue to "partner" them - for free (or rather at your cost, gentle reader).


Thursday, 9 September 2021

Another Collector Asks Dealer for Money Back on Looted Artefacts

It is a bit disturbing to see that "The Economist" magazine has a section specifically on 'Antiquities and the law', but under that heading we find an article with an enticing title (you need to register to read it): 'A case in Germany has big implications for the antiquities trade' (Sep 11th 2021). But that's really just clickbait, such headlines appear with some frequency, yet in real life nothing changes, the law remains as completely inadequate to deal with looters, smugglers and carefree buyers as it always has been. Anyway this story "involves a hoard of Celtiberian helmets and a conscientious collector". It begins with a well known case of a 2013 raid of the Spanish Civil Guard on the home of a collector (named as Ricardo Granada) in Illueca, a village in north-eastern Spain. They seized Celtiberian coins that the collector had stored chocolate boxes. He had some 4000 other artefacts, sling bolts, brooches, ceramics and breastplates. But there were none of the weapons or helmets that they had been looking for because they may have been sold on. The distinction between collector and dealer is often more fluid than some archaeologists that support collecting claim.

According to prosecutors,
at least 18 bronze Celtiberian helmets in uniquely good condition — and of incalculable historical value — had reached the antiquities market. Seven went to Christian Levett, a British collector. At his Museum of Classical Art in Mougins in southern France, treasures from antiquity are displayed alongside works by modern and contemporary artists including Picasso, Matisse and Damien Hirst.

On September 14th these helmets will be the focus of a court hearing in Munich with far-reaching implications for the often murky trade in antiquities. [...] In his case, after he discovered the helmets were looted, he decided to do what few if any individuals had done before: he gave them back to the Spanish authorities without demanding compensation or mounting a legal battle to keep them. “Culturally, ethically and legally,” Mr Levett says, “I didn’t feel that I had any choice but to give them back to the Spanish people.” Instead, the former hedge-fund manager vowed to recover his money from the sellers.
Good for him on both counts, but really the issue is he should have done his research on tie origins before he bought them, and reported the attempted sales to the authorities before he'd parted with his money. N'est pas? Especially as there had been controversy about the sale of the items in the first place (see below) 
In June last year, Spain’s Supreme Court upheld a lower tribunal’s findings that Granada had dug up the helmets between 1989 and 1990. For more than 30 years, the judges wrote, he had “devoted himself systematically and exclusively” to plundering the necropolis of the Celtiberian settlement of Aratis or Arátikos, which was destroyed by the Romans in the first century BC. Only once, when he brought in a mechanical excavator, did the local authorities interrupt his labours. Granada was sentenced to three years in jail. Not that it mattered—he had died four months earlier. An accomplice got 21 months.
Mr Levett is still badly out of pocket. It seems he bought six of the helmets between 2008 and 2009 for €236,136 from a German auction house, Hermann Historica, which was acting for heirs of a noted collector, Axel Guttmann (died October 2001). Apparently they had previously been offered in 1990 to the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz who declined to acquire them due to lack of evidence of legal provenance. Large numbers of Guttmann objects were sold by Christie's starting in November 2002, but the sale of these Celtiberian objects was handled by Hermann Historica catalogue in 2008. An attempt to stop the sale and have the items seized, but this was frustrated. Now Mr Levett is trying to sue the dealer for the return of the money he paid for them. 
 At the hearing in Munich next week, Mr Levett will be seeking the return of the €236,136 ($280,000) sale price, including commission and shipping. “Hermann Historica have sold me objects that have been proven in a Spanish court to have been stolen,” he argues. [...]  The auction house protests that it acted in as much good faith as Mr Levett. The helmets came from “one of the best-known and extensively published collections in Europe”, says Stefan Schreyer, Hermann Historica’s managing director. “The results of [court proceedings] conducted ten years later could understandably not be taken into account.” Much could depend on who knew what and when. 
And who turned a blind eye to actually ascertaining where and how the objects had appeared on the market before Guttmann had them. Such objects don't just fall from the sky (particularly in multiples) and there is no such thing as artefact elves making them in the bowels of the earth as some dealers seem to want to prefer to believe in. 

Hermann Historica says of the 2008 auction:  
“None of the claims raised at the time could be substantiated, the auction was conducted properly [and] the winning bidders, including the plaintiff, became rightful owners based on German law,” says Mr Schreyer. Many dealers and collectors—and their lawyers—will be extremely keen to see if the court in Munich agrees.
In my view, this case will be thrown out, because the court is very likely to conclude that Mr Levett must have been aware of the attempts to delay the sale in 2008 due to the doubts about the origins of these items. Yet he went ahead with the purchase - I would suggest the court will say 'recklessly'. That defence however may not do much for the dealer's reputation and idea of "good faith". We will see. The case is an interesting parallel to that which Hobby Lobby's Steve Green is conducting with Christie's over the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet. I think slowly "antiquities" is going to be an area that is as much "caveat vendor" as caveat emptor, and that's a good thing. Let them take more care.
Vignette: antiquities should all have money-back guarantees if the seller can't provide title   

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

BBC Interview with Artefact Hunter


            Group Heritage Looting in Essex (Noreen Linale)           

BBC Norfolk has done a puff-piece on collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record (Katy Prickett, Metal detecting: 'I dream of a find that changes history' BBC News, East 5th September 2021). A bloke in Essex has a machine that electronically detects pieces of metal and seems to think that we will find it surprising that wandering around the litter-strewn landscape of Brexit Britain, "the majority of his finds are "rubbish" including broken bits of farm machinery". Surprised? I dont think anyone who has ever have been fieldwalking there in recent decades would think that's a bit puzzling. But the artefact hunter and Ms Prickett are out to convionce us that collecting bits of the archaeological record is an anorakish, and even benign hobby. After all, Morton has had 20 of his finds declared Treasure and the article stresses that as many as two of them "are now in museum collections" - the journalist neglects to say if the finder and landowner waived the rewards, as I am sure they both will have done.

John Morton, 57, from Wymondham in Norfolk, took up the hobby aged 12 when he borrowed a detector and promptly found a Charles II coin. [...] Mr Morton "wouldn't like to think" how many hundreds of artefacts he has unearthed over the decades - the majority "rubbish", such as bits of farm machinery. Others, including tiny bronze Roman coins worn smooth over centuries and silver medieval pennies, have very little value, but he just "loves to think about when they were last in someone's hand". He said the hobby had grown in popularity since he began [...] But for Mr Morton "the dream is to find something that changes history - who knows what is still under the soil waiting to be discovered".
I wonder what that "find that changes history" would look like. What individual decontextualised metal object dug up loose in a muddy field would substantially change history? A coin minted in Atlantis for the Athenian trade in 9600 BC maybe? A coin struck with the name of Coel Rex or any of the other early monarchs mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth? An early Roman period bracelet inscribed for Joseph of Arimathea found at the foot of Glastonbury Tor? Germanic bracteates with a clear representation of a bridled sauropod and the inscription ᚨᛚᛚᚤ ᛏᚺᛖ ᚨᛚᛚᛟᛋᚢᚱᚢᛋ? The mind boggles. But do you see a pattern here? Newspaper hyperbole is full of this or that "delighted expert" proclaiming that a metal detectorist's discovery "rewrites history". Most of the time those who actually know history can see this is just patronisingly head-patting bollocks. Some cases where it "does" (a) are not anything much more than, say, a Roman emperor who declared himself a rival imperator, struck a few coins before being assassinated, and (b) is usually declared on the basis of an addressed source (i.e. an object that was specifically made to convey information by pictures or writing) such as a coin.

Instead though, what those same "delighted experts" are not intellectually honest enough to say (in addition to not admitting the most important: "Oooo, I can get another point-scoring publication out of this") is that the collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record (a.k.a. trashing sites and assemblages) is destroying history much fasted than it can allow rewriting it. The trashing of sites and assemblages by artefact hunters ("metal detectorists") is preventing their use as a source, as evidence, that will allow the study of the history they contain. All of those hundreds of artefacts Mr Morton "would not like to think of" (and where are they now?) came from the archaeological record that he has decimated removing random items from it.

Apart from seeking acclaim as the discoverer of the Find that Changed History Forever, and possibly a five-minutes-of-fame on Discovery Channel, we see another two motivations, personal reflections on non-omnis-moriar transience and mortality ("loves to think about when they were last in someone's hand") and possession of something valuable ("Others, including tiny bronze Roman coins worn smooth over centuries and silver medieval pennies, have very little value").

Britain really does need a public debate about Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record. Are the BBC up to being able to follow it?    

UK Metal Detector User Numbers up 10%


In the UK, the National Council for Metal Detecting's annual financial report (by Treasurer Siobhan Liehne) has recorded a 10% increase in membership in 2020 to 2021, their membership (including those in Clubs and Regions) at end of the financial year stood at 22929 individuals. members. This means that if Hardy's 2017 estimate that there were then 27000 artefact hunters in England and Wales, (going on 2020 figures) as many as 6000 of them did not belong to the NCMD. More to the point, if the overall number in one group has gone up by 10%, we may suspect that they will have gone up in both. This suggests that Hardy's estimate may be suspected to correspond with a figure closer to 30 000 individuals - in the same year that marks a round 25 years of PAS outreach to them. Yet the PAS has not expanded 10% in the same period, indeed, it has effectively contracted with the end of the PASt Explorers programme. 

Two Men in Court in Viking Hoard Case

Two men have appeared before Newton Aycliffe magistrates charged with conspiracy to convert criminal property and possession of criminal property between September 2018 and May 2019. This is in connection with the reported seizure of a large number of coins and a silver ingot from properties in County Durham and Lancashire in 2019. Craig Best, 44, of South View, Bishop Auckland and Roger Pilling, 73, of Goodshaw Avenue North, Loveclough, entered no pleas and will next appear at Durham Crown Court on Tuesday, October 5. Hopefully more information will be made available then.

It has been suggested on the metal detecting forums that this arrest was connected with the illegal dispersal of the Leominster Hoard. That was discovered by Treasure hunters George Powell and Layton Davies in early June 2015. They decided not to report the find and therefore almost immediately afterwards they got coin dealer Paul Wells involved in the affair, and then antiquities dealer Simon Wicks from East Sussex, who two weeks after the find presented himself at upmarket coin auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb in Mayfair, central London. As Steven Morris puts it

"Meanwhile, whispers that Powell and Davies had struck gold had begun to circulate and on 6 July – 33 days after their discovery – the Herefordshire finds liaison officer, Peter Reavill, contacted Powell and Davies and gently asked if they had anything to tell him about. Powell initially replied with a firm denial but they eventually handed over the gold jewellery and an ingot. However, they insisted they had only found a couple of damaged coins that they did not need to declare.  But the net was closing in. Police visited Wells’ house and he showed them five coins from the hoard [...] [so far,] only 30 of the Herefordshire coins out of an estimated 300 have been recovered, the [...] police hunt for these precious pieces of English history goes on".
We will see what emerges in court. 

Sunday, 5 September 2021

"Liked" Tweet of the Week: Rescuing Artefacts from Scrap and Polishing Them

     "When the sun don't shine bury your gold"   
Over on Twitter I retweeted a news item about a Danish metal detectorist finding a gold treasure, and picked out one sentence from it as a byline: "At the end of December 2020, an inexperienced hobby archaeologist dug up 945 grams of gold from the ground in a field near the Jelling stones". To me that flags up all sorts of issues. Unfortunately, the website is set up in a way that prioritises form over context and my attempts to treat the text as a coherent account led to it breaking up into soundbite-size fragments floating around in a sea of pictures of shiny things like in a deranged goldfish bowl. All the pictures showed shiny objects, rather than the excavated context. 
For eight months, the Vejlemuseerne and the Nationalmuseet have kept a golden secret. At the end of December 2020, an inexperienced hobby archaeologist dug up 945 grams of gold from the ground in a field near the Jelling stones. Since then, the museums' specialists in all discretion have closely studied the numerous gold objects [...] After the hobby archaeologist fished the 22 gold pieces out of the ground in December, the archaeologists at Vejlemuseerne have started a major excavation, where they have vacuumed the corn field for several finds. [...] The next step now is that each item must be carefully straightened and polished [sic?]. In February, they will glimpse from the display cases at Vejle Art Museum. They were the ones who were handed the find by Ole Schytz, who chases things from the past in his spare time. And in fact, he was just about to hurl [? kyle] the first bracteates for scrap. [Google translator]
There is also some folksy and attempted topical narrativisation speculating about these ancestors burying a hoard to "make the sun shine again" (related to the extreme weather events of 535–536).

I can't get out of mind the hope that this story has got it wrong about the museum being about to get these artefacts "straightened and polished". No! More to the point, it reports that 22 items were hoiked out of the ground by  an inexperienced searcher who, it is reported, was prevented somehow from selling some of the gold for scrap (some of them what was the reason that he was not scrapping all of them if he did not want them?). There is a whole chunk of the story missing here. The article - as usual concentrates on the "lucky find" aspect, the typical trope of "experts being delighted", and "the experts have an answer to the mystery, and it will surprise and entertain you", and (indirectly) how much nearly a kilogramme of dugup gold is worth (they did not add "but the scientific value is priceless"). Thankfully we did not see a "ancient gold cursed by a vengeful sun-god" either).

Another thing we (thankfully) don't see is any reference to that Danish construct "Metalldetektor Archeologie". If Mr Schytz was, as it says, on the point of melting some of the finds down for scrap, that requires some explanation from all those folk who tell us that all is well in the Kingdom of Denmark as far as metal detector use goes.

My curiosity is piqued, however, by the question why followers of my Twitter account (@PortantIssues) have been "liking" this retweeted post in such numbers. Is it that they read the article to the bottom despite the bobbing pictures of gold objects and share my concern, or are they delighted by the bobbing pictures of all that gold? or is it the idea that an inexperienced guy with a metal detector made a lucky find? None of them bothered to comment on it, so I'm regretfully concluding its probably the bobbing gold. 

"Sensational" Breaking News, Fake Map is shown to be Fake

Newspapers are this week full of the story that scientific analysis proves the so-called Vinland Map" is a forgery.
Yale conservators and conservation scientists have found that the map, once hailed as the earliest depiction of the New World, is awash in 20th-century ink.
"once hailed" that is in 1965 by the American institution that paid a lot of money to buy it, despite its unclear origins somewhere in Europe (no export licence was ever produced I believe). They are very surprised to find that the tests done on the ink in the 1970s by Walter McCrone and again in the 1980s that showed conclusively that it was a fake using modern ink... were correct. The map has again found to have been drawn with modern ink so now, too, it is conclusively a fake. It seems to me that the world's divided here. On this side of the Atlantic we thought the question of its inauthenicity was settled by the mid '80s (excluding Real-Atlantis and Alien Visitations crazies who will continue to believe the map is real because it supports their conspiracy theories about a 'coverup'). On the far side of the Atlantic is a strange land full of people flattered that a squiggly line on that map seems to show their homeland and to whom the revelation that it's not a real ancient map seems "news" in 2021.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Provenance Research Today: Principles, Practice, Problems


A book worth noting, lazy dealers and collectors take note, this means you: Provenance Research Today: Principles, Practice, Problems (edited by Arthur Tompkins)* Paperback :

Covering key aspects of provenance research for the international art market, this accessible publication, co-published with the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR), explores a range of themes including challenges and best practice to considerations specific to Nazi looted art and the trade in illicit antiquities.

Provenance research is a crucial component of any art-market transaction. Without a provenance it is often difficult to establish a work’s authenticity, its true value or who has legal title. Whether buying, selling or simply maintaining an artwork in either a private or a public collection, the days when a blind eye could be turned to the history (or the lack of a known history) of a work have long gone. Proper, thorough and effective provenance research is the minimum required and demanded in today’s art world – a world that is increasingly recognizing the need for greater and more effective self-regulation in the face of fakes, forgeries and challenges to ownership or authenticity that are now commonplace.
Table of contents:
Foreword, Sharon Flescher;
Introduction, Arthur Tompkins;
Part I: Provenance Research: History, ethics and complexities;
1: The history and purposes of provenance research, Arthur Tompkins;
2: The ethics of provenance research and the art market, Gareth Fletcher;
3: The challenges of provenance research, Sharon Flescher;
Part II: Methods and resources;
4: Best-practice guidelines, research methods, tools and resources, Marie Stolberg and Andrea Lehmann;
5: Databases in provenance research, Jason Sousa and Ariane Moser;
6: Forensic science and provenance research: Using forensic science to resolve questions of provenance, identity and false attribution, Jennifer Mass;
Part III: Nazi-era looted art;
7: The current state of Nazi-era provenance research, and access to Nazi-era research resources and archives, Marc Masurovsky;
8: The journey home: provenance research under the spotlight, James Radcliffe and Amelie Ebbinghaus;
Part IV: Antiquities;
9: Researching the structure of the illicit antiquities trade, Simon Mackenzie and Donna Yates;
10: From soil to showroom: tracing illicit antiquities across the world, author to be confirmed;
11: The return of the plundered: case studies in the provenance of illicit antiquities, Tess Davis; V: The Provenance Report; 12: The Provenance Report: using it to resolve disputes, Leila Amineddoleh;
Notes; Bibliography; Index

* "Arthur Tompkins is a District Court Judge based in Wellington, New Zealand. He is author of Plundering Beauty (Lund Humphries, 2018) and editor of Art Crime and Its Prevention: A Handbook for Collectors (Lund Humphries, 2016)".

Friday, 3 September 2021

Pavlou "Redating Atlantis"

        Palermo Stone Pre-dynastic series           
 Behind all the unseemly recent scuffle about the Discovery Channel's "Hunting Atlantis" series, there is apparently a new "theory" of "when Atlantis sank". A novelist and screenwriter Stel Pavlou (born 1970) had in fact published a novel two decades ago (Decipher 2001) focussed around a long-lost Atlantean civilisation (that perished 12000 years  ago) and averting a fresh disaster involving secret forces. It seems the fascination with Atlantis persisted, and he then began to run a (now-defunct) "Atlantipedia" website on the Web.

Although that website now seems to be defunct, he seems to have retained his fascination for Atlantis and "alternative explanations". Aware of the problems of postulating state societies engaged in long-distance trade at the beginning of the Holocene, and apparently still believing in the existence of this place, he now postulates that the dating that he was using earlier was incorrect. He now suspects that he's spotted what hundreds of scholars over two centuries could not. Without being, as far as one can see, an Egyptologist by training, he has come up with the idea that the chronology of Atlantis "must be based" on Egyptian king-lists, and those Egyptian king lists are all wrong - or rather that scholarship has reconstructed the fragmentary and contradictory king lists all wrong. It seems to me from what can be gathered from his website that this is a reworking of the ideas of David Rohl of a few years back (A Test of Time, 1995). 

We will see whether this is the case when Pavlou publishes the full exposition of what he's saying (apparently its going to be a forthcoming paper: "...“Dating Atlantis: How Manetho helps address the Critias problem” to be published in Archaeomythology later this year" . This journal is a Gimbutas fanzine produced by a group of people calling themselves an "Institute of Archaeomythology"). 

From what he's already said in advance of this publication, basically what Pavlou seems to be saying that when "the ancient historians" spoke of an event happening c.9600 BC (the implications of what 'Criteas' said Solon had said as reported in Plato's text), the Egyptians themselves had got the length of the gap between Solon (c.630 – c.560 BC - so contemporary with the Egyptian 26th dynasty) and the "destruction of Atlantis" all wrong and by his reasoning that means that "Atlantis was destroyed" 4,900 BCE +/- 250.

This should be easy to check. Archaeology does not need any Manetho and Palermo Stone, we have a whole series of radiocarbon dates. If the cumulation of calibrated dates tells us that the Egyptian state was founded (let us say) about 3100 BC, that leaves an awful kingless gap between "9000 years ago" where there are no king lists and fiddling about with Manetho is not going to get over that (and postulating as Pavlou does on Twitter that somehow accurate but now lost records in Neolithic tally sticks and oral sources fill the gap are weak arguments). ​ It will be interesting to see what the forthcoming paper says about that. I also wonder how he correlates his version of the chronology with the recorded observations of the heliacal rise of Sirius that need to be incorporated into his postulated scheme. The fact that the actual title of this text concentrates on "Manetho" does not hold out much hope that he will have given due weight to any of the arguments used by real Egyptologists to refine the established chronology that has been in place for at least a century now...

That is omitting totally the problem of the text written down by Plato mentioning Atlantis clearly states it was a rival to the power of "the Athenian state". Neither in 9600BC nor in 4900BC (+/- 250 or not) was there anything like an Athenian state (nor, in fact Athens) to be rival of. Does Pavlou's "paper" take that into account too, or just treat the "evidence" selectively? We shall see in due course (unless somebody chickens out and the "paper" does not get published).  

Surely, a better way to go about "rewriting history" would be first to research and then to write the article, publish it in a proper peer-reviewed publication, see how it is received, and then on that basis decide whether to go ahead and submit a proposal for a TV series using this idea as its basic framework.  Seems logical. Releasing the TV show challenging established knowledge (both on the dynastic chronology of Egypt and whether Plato was not simply making up a story to illustrate a point) without the academic justifications would seem to be just asking for what happened. Nobody, Pavlou and his wife included, should be at all surprised that academics weigh in on the topic of what it shows, and how implausible is what is being presented to a wide public as "archaeology"(and the programme actually features real archaeologists). Playing the victim and weakly saying "ah but you've not read my paper in archaeomythology" is all beside the point, and is an entirely foreseeable consequence of the current situation. 

Iowa Takes Credit for Revealing the Bleeding Obvious

    Sadigh Ancient Art  (Yelp)    

Parker Jones, Arts Reporter for the Daily Iowan claims (September 2, 2021) 'Decades-long scheme exposed: UI professor and grad student uncover forged antiquities'.

A massive forgery scheme has been exposed, and it all began with the discoveries of a University of Iowa art history professor and graduate student when they discovered over 90 fake artifacts in an exhibit at the Hoover museum.*  Innumerable artifacts forged, thousands of dollars defrauded, and countless individuals and businesses deceived — without the discoveries of a University of Iowa professor and graduate student, it all may never have been unearthed. In April 2019 ...
How disappointed he would be to find out that if he'd done some research for his article - precisely on that "arts" market, he'd quickly come across a whole number of resources warning of the alleged problems with items from the stock of a particular dealer. We could start with the thread "Sadigh: king of fake sellers" thread on the Ancientartifakes Forum of August 11, 2012, detailing (with links, many still active) the efforts of collectors to attract attention to this issue. There was a petition in 2013 - here are some of the comments from it. Dealers, mindful of the fact that their profits are reliant on the market ever-expanding and not contracting, were reporting him wherever they could, afraid that if too many people found out later that they'd bought items that could not be considered genuine, the public would lose confidence in the market in its present no-questions-asked form. There's a pinterest page of 2013 raising some issues. From the same year, there is a cautionary TripAdvisor page reporting problems.  Some of the comments on a Yelp page are worth consideration (but look at the positive reviews too). The ICOM International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods website has since 2013 featured prominently the well-made You Tube video made by a group of collector/dealer activists raising these issues (that I'll embed below if you've not seen it). One buyer was a "James" who bought some things from the dealer back in 2007 - the responses he got from the forum shows this problem was recognised well before 2013. He had already found himself right at the top on the forum's April 18, 2005, list of notorious fake sellers. Interestingly, and presciently, one forum member referred back in 2007 to the dealer's "basement-built antiquities". On Worthpoint there are a series of sales offers that provide information about this dealer (I am not clear who posted these items).

There is actually lots more. As can be seen, the 'core' collecting community - especially in the US at least - was already aware that there were problems with this dealer's objects fifteen years ago, and made an effort to alert potential fellow buyers to this issue. I do not know whether the dealer was reported to anyone at this time, but certainly the information was out there to find - if you look. In 2012-2013, there was a concerted effort to get the dealer closed down by raising awareness and by reporting him. There are many fake sellers in the market, but this one particularly provoked the ire of the collecting community and fellow dealers - part of the reason was the way he allegedly responded, with legal threats. 

But this affair shows the inability of the antiquities market to self-regulate itself. The campaign petered out (the petition only got 155 signatures for example) and nobody took any interest, the dealer stayed in business as before, buyers still kept purchasing his stuff, and the Manhattan authorities just let this carry on right under their noses. The same thing happened with Kapoor. The Manhattan authorities turned a blind eye to many years activity right under their noses and only acted when their citizen was arrested in Europe and extradited to India. Then they decided to take their own look into the gallery, and act "surprised" about the scale of what they them (but only then) found. 

In the recent case, what seem to be "basement-built antiquities" were openly flogged for three decades (I think it was) and everybody knew what was going on. Dealers were concerned, the rest of us engaged in schadenfreude, when seeing what people were purchasing as antiquities, laughing at the gullible people that stubbornly and pig-headedly ignored the maxim, "first buy the book, then the antiquity". 

I do not know how many of the people who were disappointed to be told later that what they had bought were not genuine antiquities and got their money back reported the dealer (in the public interest). But however many it was, it would seem indeed to be the case that the Manhattan DA only took an interest when it was a Presidential Museum that fell indirectly a victim to the process. If that is so, that really shows the pitiful extent that the antiquities market in the US is scrutinised and regulated by the authorities. Think of that the next time the DA get out their decorative tablecloth to display some more antiquities they are "repatriating" as the good guys, with all the speeches and canapes. Here's the video. As far as I know, there was never any response from the gallery showing sample (even) documentation of the legitimate sources from which these antiquities had been obtained. Maybe we'll see it in the court case.

Posted on You Tube Mar 3, 2013 by ' sadighgalleryfakes', embedding allowed.
One would like to believe that they picked out the worst from the dealer's stock to make this video. Having seen quite a lot of photos of the items he sells (they are widely posted in collectors' forums and held up for ridicule), I am not so sure. There are obviously a lot of gullible people out there who buy antiquities and are not equipped to understand/interpret/analyse what they have before their eyes, or have in their hands.

* I covered this story here

Momma "Defends" Atlantis Show [warning: cringe alert]


This is pretty priceless. It's not just metal detector users. On "Discovery" Channel, there is some TV show about "Hunting Atlantis", the usual nonsense. Flint Dibble wrote a series of tweets about putting forward in a very lucidly argued, entertaining and memorable way what we all know, Atlantis was not real. some of you will no doubt have seen it; the beginning is here:

This #archaeology thread gives a behind-the-scenes look at the new @discovery show “Hunting Atlantis” hosted by @stelpavlou & @jessphoenix2018 [unrolled here, ]
I think it's a great piece of writing, and the points made seem pretty uncontroversial from where I am standing. I think all this pseudoarchaeologhy is very damaging and we should be calling it out. That's exactly what Flint Dibble did. But look what happens when you do (the woman playing "Mommy" in this unhinged rant is the wife of one of the presenters) [thread unroll]: 

Michelle Pavlou Profile pictureMichelle Pavlou 17h, 18 tweets, 7 min read
There is this guy. We’ll call him @FlintDibble I understand his dad was a famous archeologist [sic]. And, instead of being happy that @Discovery is finally bringing science [sic] back to their channel…. …silly Flint just complains. But @FlintDibble is a scientist. He doesn’t work at a research university. But he takes pride in what he does. However, he is really mad. And he throws really loud and noisy tantrums online. I recognize this because when my daughter was a little toddler, she acted very similar [sic]. But I could always calm her down with a snack [sic], or put her down for a nap. But not Flint. He just keeps getting angrier and angrier like a bubbling caldron. But why? He thinks that my husband’s show #HuntingAtlantis is stealing something from him. But what? He *claims* his life’s work is being misrepresented (though we’ve never met him) and others are angry too. But no one REALLY is. It is just @FlintDibble causing lots of noise to call attention to himself. Flint wants to be noticed. Flint needs praise and attention, And the only way @FlintDibble can get any money to do any kind of research on his own, since he doesn’t work at a research university, is to get a lot of ATTENTION by riding the coattails of someone who is high profile on TELEVISION and on a major cable television channel, …so he can make a name for himself…just like his daddy. And he can get the funding he wants for the things he wants to do. But @FlintDibble has gone about it all wrong. That isn’t how you achieve things in life the right way, (at least not in my book.) This is how we teach our daughter… If you have a goal in mind, you look at the things you want and you see the things that need changing. And you do it constructively, with smarts, kindness, graciousness, and you keep the things that are good and wonderful, and you help and give of yourself in the process. If @FlintDibble doesn’t like the show, he shouldn’t watch it. I’m not sure how his specialty of “Food in Classical Greece” is being so destroyed by @stelpavlou researching Atlantis anyway? [sic] [emoticon]. If there are things he doesn’t like, then he could write [to] the producers and give constructive notes that may be helpful. If he has things he feels may add to the show, hoping he can get something out of it, suggest it privately. It is just too bad. He could have been an adult about it and handled it in a beautiful way where not only the entire science community, the show, the general public, and Flint himself could have won. But what @FlintDibble is completely forgetting in this process is that there are thousands upon thousands of uneducated people who are actual [sic!] learning a lot of really good science from the show. And they are being educated for the first time about things they knew nothing about. Why isn’t THAT exciting to Flint? I am a scientist. And it is exciting to ME. Because people are LEARNING. Why can’t we start that amazing narrative? I have so many friends who have not studied an ounce of science in their lives who are watching, and their heads are spinning with the amount of info being thrown at them. And they love it! Now, to people like @FlintDibblemay basic science may seem boring. But everyone else is soaking up information like sponges. We’ve heard of middle school kids who are watching the show with their parents and loving it. KIDS… girls and boys alike, who may be interested now in archeology [sic], geology, oceonography [sic], etc for the very first time in their lives because of #HuntingAtlantis. And that is EXCITING! If @FlintDibble really stopped yelling and complaining and stood back for a moment, he’d see things from a new perspective and understand that shows like #HuntingAtlantis inspire young minds to seek out the sciences. And they will want to be explorers and researchers and to be the people who are the next generations of discoverers on our planet. Universities in the next few years will have an increase in these academics because of a direct relation to #HuntingAtlantis! And that is an amazing thing! How will Flint feel one day when students come into his classroom and say what brought them there was because @stelpavlou inspired them? And now his show #HuntingAtlantis has escorted that kid and put them in a seat in front of him to teach. Because one day I can assure you it will happen So, @FlintDibble. I’m sending you to your room. Don’t come out until you have thought about what and WHY you are doing this. Don’t come back out until you can play nice [sic] with others. Oh. And stop hanging on to @stelpavlou’s coattails. It’s embarrassing actually, honey [sic]. And quite frankly, doesn’t look good on you. [emoticon] Momma out. • •

That post was followed by a whole series of reactions from members of the academic community calling her out for what she said and the way she said it (and not a few sockpuppets "defending"  Michelle and Stel Pavlou​ over this tirade). The husband waded in too, striking out defensively and equally nastily and inelegantly. After the comments on this embarrassing ad hominem attack, the lady is claiming that in the subsequent comments, she is the victim of "Another misogynistic attack from a male because a woman has a strong opinion". No, it's because you are wrong (and the person that was addressed to is female).

Update 4th September 2021

Then came this:  

Michelle Pavlou @smartnoggin 13hr
I am grateful for this day, for my life and my family and all those who love us. I hate Twitter and that’s why I’m never in here. I came to set the record straight and now I’m out. I said my peace [sic] and everyone can scream all they want.

As far as I can see the only person screaming calls herself "smartnoggin". You can judge for yourself whether her infantilising ad personam attack in any way actually does set the record straight why "Atlantis" existed and why a "hunt" for it is not a waste of time.  I think Gabe Moshenska really nailed it here (better in the original):

Once again, the question arises, how do we communicate archaeological values to the general public? 

Update 5th August 2021

Michelle Pavlou has now hidden or deleted her Twitter account in which she had attempted to "set the record straight" about her husband's amateur "research" on the "mistakes" scholars have allegedly made in ancient Egyptian chronology. 

UK Metal Detectorist Loses sight of What She (Hopefully) Learnt in the MA

Over in the UK, Kirsty Logan, ignoring what was said about the environmental issues, continues to moan that artefact hunters are being unfairly victimised:
Kirsty Logan @RabbleChorus · 33 min
W odpowiedzi do @RabbleChorus @PortantIssues i 3 innych użytkowników
It just appals me that the same DETECTORISTS ARE THIEVES attitude is STILL percolating through archaeology nigh on 20 years after being a hobby detectorist led me to do an Archaeology MA. Never mind the positives, never mind the democratisation of our history, nope, all thieves. 

1) The  'artefact hunters are knowledge thieves' attitude in fact is not "percolating through archaeology" in Bonkers Britain (though it is in most other countries of the world). I hold that this should not be the case. Artefact hunting, the way it is done in the UK is damaging the archaeological record and the public's understanding of archaeology and the aims of studying the past. Hoiking archaeological artefacts out of archaeological contexts and assemblages without adequate record or (in many//most cases even) reporting is trashing the archaeological evidence that the searched site contained.  

2) "positives". If you look at it dispassionately, the overall balance of artefact hunting (everywhere, including the UK) is overwhelmingly negative. That is a view I think is not difficult to defend if you look at all of the evidence.  

3) "the democratisation of our history", what does that even mean? Artefact collecting is no better a way of democratisation of "history" than reading books about it (and if you are going to go semantic about it, then reading books is consuming history, taking artefacts is destroying the information base).

Again, though, this deflects discussion of what is and should be an environmental issue into one on "collectors rights", "access to the past". It is not democratising anything for one generation to squander a resource leaving very little of it intact for those who come after. That's just wasteful consumption, something I would have thought that XR sympathisers like Ms Logan would actually be against. But of course there is always the NIMBY principle to take into account.


UK Artefact Hunting: What is the Source of the Confusion?

Cutting down trees
 means deforestation
I made some comment on the announcement that some archie was involved in a really exciting project ("one of the archaeological discoveries of the CENTURY") that they could not tell us about, adding what they did not say, that the reason for this is that somebody with a metal detector and a spade might attempt to visit the site and see what they can find for themselves. That archaeologists in Britain are so afraid of calling a spade a spade is the reason for what happened next.

Kirsty Logan @RabbleChorus · 17 g.
W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues @theAliceRoberts i @BBCTwo

Um, lots of us who use metal detectors are not criminals thanks, we work WITH archaeologists and the portable antiquities scheme. The people who steal from sites are thieves. Simple as that. The detector is just a tool.[*]
Now, I really don't understand this, if you look at her profile, this Tweeter claims to have been involved in archaeology in the past, is a former teacher, sings in a choir, is an avid environmentalist, climate-concerned, if not an activist (I did not scroll far enough down maybe) - in short, normal decent person all-round. Yet... She seems to be getting confused about what is, after all, an environmental issue.

Her tweet was followed by the usual crop of uncomprehending numpties regurgitating press reports about a load of past Treasure finds by metal detector users to show how 'helpfully' metal detector users are emptying the archaeological record of finds there are no resources to study or publish properly (one of them tried to correct my terminology: "Detector*ists*" - ask him why he thinks it matters and you'll see my point)... 

Fortunately, at least one Twtter user ('Juamei of the Deep Woke @juamei') seems to be a bit more clued up about what the problem is.[**] Juamei engages Ms Logan directly: "Coolcoolcoolcool. reporting rates from legal detection are atrocious. A simple comparison of detection volume vs reporting rate is horrifying". Ms Logan seems not to have been following the discussion, so curtly responds: "Citation needed". Juamei obliges by posting a link to and contrasting that with the PAS database numbers, adding "other estimates of number of metal detector finds are higher and the PAS is not all metal detection" (and also mentions the problem of non-reporting at today's massive commercial rallies). Without reading the introductory text to the Counter itself (it would seem), Ms Logan blurted out " Sorry but what on earth is this ‘counter’ actually measuring?!". Then expanded on that:
Kirsty Logan @RabbleChorus 8 g.
W odpowiedzi do @juamei @PortantIssues i 2 innych użytkowników
But what is the so-called counter actually measuring? This just isn’t evidence, its made-up. I KNOW there are nighthawks/thieves, anyone can see that from what comes up for sale on EBAY, I’ve definitely met one too, but tarring us all with that brush is incredibly insulting./ And yes, actually some rallies are just utterly boring and no-one finds anything but buttons and Victorian stuff which the PAS doesn’t bother recording. The ground isn’t THAT full!
One tree here, another there,
      and a chunk of the forest is gone     
A bit of a giveaway. Yes the archaeological record is not infinite - and that is the whole point, if thousands of British artefact hunters keep pocketing thousands of artefacts, then that archaeological record is being emptied, like every time a tree is cut down in Indonesia, the forest gets smaller, and the cumulative actions of people wanting to cut down "just a few trees more" leads to deforestation, Ms Logan can surely see that. And it does not matter if that logging is done with government permission (or by the government) or the activities of private individuals acting clandestinely, the deforestation is the same.

And all the PAS aficionados will be queuing up to tell us that all we need to do in the case of the rainforest is get an "x-marks the spot" findspot record accurate to one metre of where the tree was and the forest can exist in the database and the logger can have the wood. Yes, it looks like a stupid argument like that doesn't it, now explain the difference between an ecosystem stripped of trees and an archaeological record stripped of selected finds.   

So, actually that is the point that people like her are (wilfully?) ignoring. The argument "we are not nighthawks" is like a logging company waving their permits around and carrying on cutting down the forest to plant palm oil plantations.

And just so it is crystal clear, if Ms Logan had gone to the effort of reading the introductory text to a counter that she dismisses as  "made up" without really finding what it is about, she'd see that it is not an estimate of "nighthawking" activity, but non-reporting including from metal detecting that is otherwise done by the book (and in accordance even with the NCMD shut-the-gates code of practice).

As for it being in some way "insulting" to  actually call collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record "Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record" ("because we're not orl nighthawks") is a lot less insulting than people like Kirsty Logan and her metal detector using pals (who've not read the blurb that precedes it), saying somebody else's research is "made up". For goodness' sake. That's the easy way out, the palm oil producers will say the environmentalists modelling is also "made up", which does not change the rate the rainforest is disappearing.

As for the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter, going strong all these years... and all the time receiving regularly exactly the same kind of insulting dismissal by metal detector users like Kirsty Logan... it is worth noting that, after all those years absolutely NOBODY (ever) has actually produced any alternative figures to show that what the creators of that Counter say is untrue - that speaks volumes. 

 As for more "citations required". I added to that Twitter thread a couple of papers, not that I expect any metal detector user, no matter how "enviroonmentally conscious they claim to be) will ever read them. It's easy to throw out loose accusations "citation required" than actually do the footwork yourself and find out what environmental impact a hobby (your hobby) is having. Just for reference the four papers (just for starters) were:

1) Barford 2020: Some Aspects of the Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record (pp 106-7) in England and Wales,

2) Neil Brodie 2020: What is this thing called the PAS? Metaldetecting entanglements in England and Wales (pp 91-2),

3) Sam Hardy 2018, 'Metal-Detecting for Cultural Objects until ‘There Is Nothing Left’: The Potential and Limits of Digital Data, Netnographic Data and Market Data for Open-Source Analysis',

4 Sam Hardy 2017, Quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: Estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods.


[*] There is some misunderstanding here. If the site where this discovery has been made is not a scheduled site or protected in any way (or there has been no Coroner's inquest on a Treasure find), the archaeologists can ask the farmer not to let people metal detect there, but if the farmer's nephew turns up with his two mates all three with metal detectors and ask to go onto the site - there is no illegal act committed. The landowner is within their rights to let the artefact hunters onto the site and the artefact hunters who have the landowner's permission to search and take are not committing an illegal act. The Treasure Act says nothing about this. British antiquities legislation is basically crap.   

[**] Just to give honour where honour is due, 
Andromedary @Andromedary123 · 16 g.
W odpowiedzi do @RabbleChorus @PortantIssues i 2 innych użytkowników
Oh I thought the issue was the digging and scattering and lack of process.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Norwegian Collector Loses Unpapered Artefacts

Norwegian police have reportedly seized a hundred objects from the Schøyen collection. Iraq demands the return of the items. No one is charged in the case (Anders Firing Lunde and Nikolai Melamed Kleivan , 'Økokrim med stor aksjon mot norsk samler' Morgenbladet 2 August 2021).  Presumably these items had no paperwork showing legal excavation of export, giving the collector title. Collectors: these papers are important, a 'reputable' dealer that stocks unpapered items should have that fact as the only reputation you need to avoid them. Stick to those that can show you (and pass on to you with the object) the proper paperwork tracing its collection history back to legal excavation, transfer of title and export.


Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Mystery objects From Unnamed "Private Collection" at Trimontium

 A new museum that charts the Roman invasion of Scotland has been gifted an “incredible” collection of artefacts from a life-long private collector (Alison Campsie, 'Donor shares 'incredible' collection of artefacts with new museum of Roman invasion of Scotland' The Scotsman Tuesday, 31st August 2021), Alongside local finds, donated by National Museums Scotland (NMS) from John Curle's excavations  between 1905 and 1910, 

Parade masks, weapons and tools are among those items donated to the new Trimontium Museum in Melrose [...] The mystery museum donor, who is German and lives partly in Edinburgh, has been a collector of Roman military ware since childhood and has decided to now share the highlights of his collection with the public. Dr John Reid, chairman of the Trimontium Trust, said: “These are incredible artefacts, they are top-class artefacts. We could never afford to bid for them at a national level. "They are Roman military objects that are as close to the original condition as possible, which just puts them on a completely different level.” 

 The vignette shows "one of the cavalry masks donated to the new Trimontium Museum by a private collector, who is partly based in Edinburgh". Such items are very popular among collectors and several dozen of them, all of them unprovenanced, have passed through online auctions in recent years. Not all of them, I feel are authentic antiquities, not all of them I also feel have been excavated and exported legally. Which is why this "anonymous German collector" and Trimontium Museum should come clean about the precise collection history of all of the items loaned by a "private collector". The days of public institutions openly displaying items of dodgy and unstated origins surely are over. The article contains no hint that this is the case here. The displays (below) seem a bit skimpy on the labelling so the public can ascertain what they are looking at and where it came from.

Trimontium museum showcase

It will be interesting to see what the museum's policy has been here. The manner of dealing with loans or donations of artefacts from private collections is precisely the kind of situation that Renfrew (2000) was talking about twenty years ago. The Code of Ethics of the Museums Association also deals with this kind of situation: 
Museums and those who work in and with them should: [...] acquire, care for, exhibit and loan collections with transparency and competency in order to generate knowledge and engage the public with collections [...] 2.4 Conduct due diligence to verify the ownership of any item prior to purchase or loan, and that the current holder is legitimately able to transfer title or to lend. Apply the same strict criteria to gifts and bequests. 2.5 Reject any item for purchase, loan or donation if there is any suspicion that it was wrongfully taken during a time of conflict, stolen, illicitly exported or illicitly traded, unless explicitly allowed by treaties or other agreements, or where the museum is co-operating with attempts to establish the identity of the rightful owner(s) of an item.
It seems that although the museum has been open a month, its website is not yet completed. Hopefully this information will be available online in due course. 

Reference: Renfrew, C 2000, 'Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership: The Ethical Crisis in Archaeology (Debates in Archaeology)' Duckworth.

Hat tip Rogue Classicist and Donna Yates

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