Wednesday 31 August 2022

28th EAA Annual Meeting in Budapest

This year, the 28th EAA Annual Meeting is being held in Budapest, Hungary, 31 August - 3 September 2022. I am really surprised by this, given archaeologists' concern about social and political issues as the modern world context in which the discipline functions. It is symptomatic that the EAA Executive Board has only issued "a response to concerns about the LGBTQA+ policy of the host country" but apparently there is no mention of any of the other policies of this problematic populistic central European regime.

Orban and the Fidesz party are part of the european shift towards illiberalism and indeed are among its more prominent manifestations. For some time now this far-right nationalist regime has been implementing reforms of the judiciary, media ($$$% of which is now under its direct control) and civil society, this has brought Hungary many times into conflicts with the European Union over values (all while pocketing EU money). The "illiberal democracy" agenda of the regime is seen as posing a significant threat to Western democratic norms.

Like several others in the region (Poland, Russia), the authoritarian state casts itself as the protector of traditional — read Christian — European values.

Orban’s government has maintained that Hungary is in great peril from hordes of migrants massing on its borders, and as a result he has been spouting increasingly nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric.
"There is a world in which European peoples are mixed together with those arriving from outside Europe. Now that is a mixed-race world," he told an annual gathering of tens of thousands of admirers at Baile Tusnad in Romania in July. "And there is our world, where people from within Europe mix with one another… in the Carpathian Basin we are not mixed-race: we are simply a mixture of peoples living in our own European homeland."
Since the beginning of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Hungary has repeatedly stated that they will not provide weapons to help Ukraine fight the aggressor nor allow the transit of weapons through its territory in order to not to enter into conflict with Russia. UPDATE 2.09.2022
Anglophone archaeo-social media seem pretty quite about this, one professor from Aarhus notes: " I saw an image of a huge, open air reception on the ?first night and just wondered how this is all being financed and what propaganda uses such images can play in normalizing what is going on there". But then, Denmark is in the EU, while isolationist islanders from off the coast of Europe can so easily treat these issues as unimportant to them.

Tuesday 30 August 2022

Reportedly, Finds-poor Field Becomes Amazingly 'Productive' Overnight

On a metal detecting forum near you, discussion continues about a certain Channel Five programme in which the PAS and CBA were involved. This is what one member had to say:
borogers Mon Aug 29, 2022 8:21 pm
I have been doing that field in Northallerton for 12 year and found the odd bits nothing special and then all of a sudden it starts producing because Michaela Strachan and the tv crew turn up
Interestingly, already two weeks after the filming, neither the gold coin found on camera nor the medieval harness pendant have been recorded by PAS, pour encorager les autres. What is going on, were the PAS involved in discussing the recording of metal detecting planted finds during this programme?The public deserves to be told and shown the truth, if for no other reason than the whole PASdatabase reles on finders telling the truth about where, how and what with finds were made. It is therefore disturbing that it is precisely on metal detecting forums that questions are being raised about the veracity of the information presented by this team of "experts".

Saturday 27 August 2022

Tekkies' Thoughts on Channel Five TV Programme on Their Hobby


       big spade for site-trashing        
It's not only archaeologists who have been having doubts about the treasure hunting programme on the UK's Channel Five. There is an interesting thread Detecting TV : Digging for Treasure on a metal detecting forum near you, they block access from the public, so you have to do some jiggery-pokery to get in these days, so I'll summarise some of the repeating points. But Let's start with Mr Malony (I've tweaked his punctuation a bit):

Post by jcmaloney » Sat Aug 27, 2022 3:09 pm
My thoughts for copying by Messrs Barf and Swift.....

Utter dross - and I`ve done a fair bit of telly so know how it works behind the scenes.
1. Applause and whoop whoop everytime a "star" entered the tent.
2. Chap with "his first gold coin in 20 years" - that must of (sic) been take 15 because his excitement/enthusiasm was l-o-o-o-n-g-g-g gone.
3. Lancaster - known crash site - you need a licence from the MoD? - not a mention. "This might be a buckle from a dead airman" made me feel sick to be fair.
4. Diving - yep - there are rules about that too, the receiver of wreck etc.
5. "Whats your best find?" - really?
6. "Bring us-s you-u-r-r c-o-o-i-i-i--n..... woop, woop, clap, clap".

Andy Agate (FLO) is a top chap - not featured enough nor given enough opportunity to discuss the detail & process of PAS.
I've corresponded with Andy Agate, seems a reasonable bloke as FLOs go, but I though he'd be younger. There was a lot of comment on the unrealistic way metal detecting was portrayed, that the programme gave a picture that finding interesting and valuable stuff was a doddle. Members were adamant that they should have shown what the detectorist usually finds in fields. Otherwise, as they put it, the programme will attract a lot of "get-rich-quick" newbies, who when they find out that following the rules does not producce the results they were expecting, may turn to other ways of satisfying the greed aroused by what they saw on the telly. They commented that in a huge field, all the tekkies were crowded together in a small area rather than following their intuition where in that huge area around them, there would be finds to be found.

Most comments were about the detecting technique. A female presenter was shown (by an 'expert') how to do it... but then proceded to do it differently, waving it around most ineffectively - she'll not find much like that. That's the "guidance" this programme offers - bad advice and a bad example. Interestingly, two members noted the same thing:
[Phil2401] "not only Michaela Strachan but some detectorists also seen doing a 'pendulum' swing - almost as if they were film extras who'd been handed a machine and told to swing it about...".
Is that so? They are not even real metal detectorists? Who were the crowd of noisy and distracting onlookers in the tent?

A topic that attracted even more attention was one of the finds:
[Phil2401] " There does seem to be widespread controversy / scepticism about the gold quarter noble found - (about 09:45 minutes into the programme) - the detectorist said he had been detecting for 20 years and this was his first gold find, but immediately identified it as a 22 carat gold quarter noble ... keeping remarkably calm and certainly not doing a 'gold dance' - think I'd have been a bit more enthusiastic (and less immediately knowledgeable)...
Several people suggested that finding any gold coin of that date in northern England was pretty unusual (from what I know of the distribution of Medieval coinage in England, however, Hallerton is well within the range of finds of this type). In the light of the comments of all these experienced metal detectorists, it does nevertheless seem possible that this find was not actually found as the film showed, the show is called Digging for Treasure Tonight, so treasure needed to be shown. In which case, again why would archaeologists get involved in faked finds?

TheIronMan comments:
"Having watched this programme I'm reminded of the quote - 'All the right notes, just not necessarily played in the right order...' It had all of the right components - good finds, good presenters, a very competent FLO, a representative bunch of detectorists - but somehow didn't come together properly for me. [...] I felt uncomfortable with the style clash between the gushing enthusiasm of the celebrity presenters and the understandably more reserved detectorists.
Mega B:
Watched about 30 mins of it then switched it off,will it improve over time i hardly think so, its is nothing like what detecting is in the real world....will i watch it again not at all. It will increase sales of detectors and equipment for sure, also it will make getting land harder as landowners will be approached by so many more folks thinking the 1st time out they will find the Holy Grail of finds. Alas its not for me along side these massive rallies that keep springing up.
It was very Channel Five. It didn’t know whether it was trying to be a serious historical programme or a dramatic ‘news just in’/live programme or just a hodgepodge of titillating bits and pieces slung together [...].

Take Some Metal Detectors, Put a Tent in a Field and Film. Instant TV.

I could not watch "Digging for Treasure Tonight" and was unable to get it recorded, so I am grateful to British colleague Andy Brockman for his comments and permission to quote it here. Since I see one of the presenters has switched her shirt to a Zelenski-green one with "Learn by Trowel and Error", perhasps his comments might be of interest in developing the further direction of the show:
Hi Paul,

Digging for Treasure is truly bad.

The format is all over the place and the finds were the usual crud, worn hammered, a broken trumpet brooch, and 20th century military badges with no story or context.

Landscape dismissed in a few shots and one liners.

No sense that people live in places.

No attempt to plot the finds across the site. Not enough time in one day?

Take away the inserts about the Lancaster/shipwreck/looking for lost rings etc and there was probably half an hour of nothing.

There was no sense anyone on the production team had any knowledge or insight into the subject, so we got a professionally shot production, with tick box PAS and being told constantly about responsible metal detecting is actually boring.

The whooping and clapping comes across as an effort by a professional presenter to drum up excitement where there is none.

In the end TV is best when it tells stories and there was no story here because apparently they couldn't be bothered to research and frame one.
The Sun review (you know it's bad when you get a bad review from the Sun for being lowbrow) has a video that is a fragment of the programme. It is odd to hear about the lack of finds plotting, given that the extract begins with "our field survey(sic) has been carefully-planned, it's all about the special permission (sic) we got before we actually turned up here". That in the circumstances is a pretty ignorant thing to say, and who got the permission, the detecting company they filmed, or the TV company? 

From the archaeological point of view, from what is said, this was a wasted opportunity, the next wasted opportunity. And I would say the real tragedy is that the CBA and PAS agreed to lend their authority to such ersatz crap. Once again. What actually would be wrong with saying "no, this is not what archaeology looks like, this is not the way we want to be encouraging the archaeological resources of our country to be exploited, we do not support this"? Once again, we have the prevalence in archaeology of the view "any old crap is better than nothing". That should not be what teh Codes of Conduct and Codes of Practice of our major archaeological bodies should be allowing. But then, actually, if you look at them, they have nothing at all about this issue.

"Guidance" for Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record in England and Wales


"Follow us on socials @dfttc5 #DFTT for fact sheets and guidance!" exhorts one of the Digging for Treasure Tonight presenters (the one that actually is an archaeologist) and some of those documents have just gone up. The one for England and Wales was first. It is anonymous, but bears the Channel five logo: 

"we don't blame you" for wanting to treat the archaeological record as an easy source of pocketable collectables, it says. Basically, if British archaeologists cower under rocks to avoid coming out and saying something about collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record, I guess there is no way for a typical member of the British public to know any better.  By hoiking archaeological objects out of their archaeological context and putting them in your pocket, whether or not the PAS knows where (x-marks the spot) it was found, are you really (really?) contributing to "archaeological knowledge" and discovering "hidden history below our feet"? What is archaeological knowledge and how does archaeology write history? What is "history" anyway? Object biographies, maybe? Is that where it begins and ends in modern British archaeology? 

"Avoid damaging archaeology"? What does that mean? Archae-ology is the name of a discipline, they mean avoid damaging the archaeological record. How does a member of the public know what that is, what it looks like, how different kinds can be damaged how they are not damaged? Those three words don't help anyone. The problem with looting (collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record) is that, by definition it erodes and damages the archaeological record. No? That is why most countries legislate to attempt to prevent this happening. The situation in countries like the UK, with the support of the archaeological community, may be said internationally to be actively undermining such measures.  Brexit or no Brexit, what should the British public think about that, Channel Five?
Surely the bagging and labelling of finds is what you do as you collect them by digging them out of the archaeological record, not just when you later decide to report them

There is no mention here of metal detecting clubs, no mention of the increasingly ubiquitous commercial firms (like Northern Detecting Events featured in the programme) that organise rallies, no mention of third party insurance, the sale of artefacts (or the antiquities market in general). What about artefacts the artefact hunter digs up but that are not wanted for their own collection, what should happen to them (before or after reporting)? What happens to privately held archaeological collections when the finder can no longer care for them? How can the heritage profession work with owners and finders to ensure positive futures for archaeological finds and their documentation? There is notably no mention here of not going out after dark, when it is difficult to observe soil colour and character (for example at the base of ploughsoil) or just general safety aspects (though there is film evidence that the programme producers themselves were in the fields after dark). There is also no discussion of the questions of the ethics of getting involved in any activity that blurs the boundary between the "search for knowledge" and commercial activity.

Also there is no "further reading" list. Just referring viewers to "the PAS website" is no use, as over the past few years this site has been nothing but a random mess of unconnected snippets, most of which do zero to even begin to address any of the issues and questions that need to be raised. Their FAQ has not changed in two decades, though their "aims" have. Needs a total revamp by professionals. 

Friday 26 August 2022

Nightime Filming, Inadequate Consultation and Lack of Direction: How not to Make an "Archaeology" Show


Nightime meetings in fields (still from trailer)

I enjoyed the Review: "Digging for Treasure- Tonight Daisybeck Studios for Channel 5" ( by thePipeLine August 27, 2022), in which the tent featured in the show expresses their feelings and doubts about this way archaeology was presented in this weirdly-named show (apparently the first of four episodes). Apparently they were less than enthusiastic about yet another metal detecting show as all of the ones that have been produced over the past few years by "various production companies and networks [attempt] to give metal detecting a gameshow makeover and none of the formats get beyond the “Whoopee we’ve found some stuff” level. And as for Henry Cole blowing his own bloody horn…”... It seems the writer concluded that this one was no different from the rest. More worryingly, "the Portable Antiquities Scheme was involved in designing it, well eventually it was, and as well [...] Raksha Dave, President of the Council for British Archaeology is the third presenter”. The comment was made that, as was already clear from the trailer and the show's actual title, "Digging up Treasure Tonight", a lot of the scenes were shot in twilight or at night ("In fact there is a really good bit where Michaela gets taught to metal detect while an assistant producer points an LED Softlight at her. The shadows and dark blue sky are stunning”. This is pretty disturbing. There are a whole number of people who go metal detecting in such lighting conditions when they cannot see what they are doing as they disturb the archaeological context of the finds they hoik out, but (more importanly for them), they themselves cannot be seen to be on the site taking things. Two generations of artefact hunters have been trying to get public and professional acknowledgement that these "nighthawks" are not bona fide "history hunters/ heritage heroes" like them, but the ones authorities should be going after. The very opposition "nighthawk/ not a nighthawk" is taken in many circles as the basis for any definition of "responsible detecting". Whatever that means, I have yet to see the promised "guidance" (but here are my thoughts on the matter [navigate from here, format a bit bonkers at the end]). I wonder if it mentions not going out at night so you can see what you are doing?

It's worth noting that this same presenter is also depicted wearing a top emblazoned with the slogan "Just Keep Digging" and shows two excavation tools, a barbeque fork and a garden trowel. Pretty pathetic that they can't even get that right. It's not rocket science - especially in a programme that claims they are in close contact with so many "experts" - none of them presumably were shown this shirt in the pre-production meetings (or perhaps they were, British archaeologists are characterised by passivity and an inability to speak out the moment the phrase "metal detector" is involved).

The programme also discusses metal detecting on the site of a crashed WW2 Lancaster bomber with "some nice artefacts from Lancaster E105 for Dan Walker to show the punters, including parts of the parachute from the crewman who was killed”... Er... The writer points out that the obligations of the PAS/CBA to do archaeological outreach and give "guidance" in any such programme on the legalities of artefact hunting and collection would involve mentioning that to be legal the searcher would have to obtain a licence from the Ministry of Defence under the Protection of Military Remains Act to recover artefacts from a crashed military aircraft.

Likewise in the show there is a feature involving tekkies from all over the British Isles ("come and join us, get diggy with it!"), one of them is from Northern Ireland (Ballinamallard metal detectorist to feature on new Channel 5 show Impartial Reporter 25th August):
“I do metal detecting and I have a YouTube channel with it; it’s only a small thing but this person from the production team messaged me and said they were doing a TV show, and wanted to get a couple of people from around the country to do a wee feature for them, and if I would be interested? [...] Noting that he only recorded the clip last week, Daniel explained that he was told that the show has a “pretty quick turnaround”.[...] Inspired by the TV show ‘The Detectorists’ starring Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook, Daniel took up metal detecting four years ago. “I watched The Detectorists and thought, ‘That looks like fun’. I love history, so I thought I’d give it a go and sure enough it stuck,” he said [...] When metal detecting in his local area, Daniel noted that it’s very important that he asks for permission from the land owner [...] – that’s the only way you can do it, legally. You get farmers’ permissions and then you go out in their field, and if you find something worth anything, it’s a 50-50 split, 50 per cent to the farmer and 50 per cent to the detectorist,” explained Daniel.[...] He went on to explain that for the feature in the upcoming TV show, he filmed himself metal detecting in his father-in-law’s field in Ballinamallard. “[In the clip] I had to say who I was, where I’m from, how long I’ve been doing it for, and then a piece of me going into the field and hopefully finding something. “Sure enough, I found a coin when I was doing it,” Daniel told The Impartial Reporter.
This quote is important, as it shows how the production company went about finding participants (ie not going through the archaeological authorities dealing with "responsble artefact hunters") and also the effects of TV programmes like this in encouraging people to go out and dig up archaeological sites and assemblages. Note the very prominent lack in that statement of how to go out and legally search for historical and archaeological objects, no matter who owns the land, the need for a permit under Article 41 of Northern Ireland's established Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (NI) Order, and to surrender the artefacts before discussing any "50:50 split" (thought it was NOT about the money). Showing hole-digging in Ballinamallard would require the programme presenters to present that NI legislation, and point out in detail how the legislation on artefact hunting and collecting varies across the United Kingdom. [UPDATE: Overnight a brief Channel 5 tweet associated with the programme does indeed set out the situation in Northern Ireland. There is a similar set for England and wales. Scotland apparently is too far from London to count].

The reviewer's feeling was that in Digging for Treasure- Tonight 
“the “as live” format is all over the place and that they have thrown every method of discovering historical stuff at the TV wall to see which one’s stick, probably because they haven’t had time to work out if they want the show to be Henry Cole or Alice Roberts".
There are also a few first reactions from social media:
TheGorgeousFluffpot @GorgeousFlufpot · 9 g.
W odpowiedzi do @dfttc5 @mrdanwalker i 2 innych użytkowników
This had the potential to be a really interesting programme but ended up being more like a children's daytime programme with all the clapping. Please keep it serious, there was so much more that could have been said but was lost in the presenters' hysteria
linda nixon @lindanixon2 · 9 g.
Way too much clapping ! Here's Dan .. applause ..stop !!
Isla Keys💙🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 🇺🇦 @KeysIsla · 9 g.
Why sensationalise? No need for all the clapping and cheering. Real turn off.
kenndo nagasaki @NagasakiKenndo · 9 g.
Yeah.... totally agree. Terrible choice of presenters. Over reaction is cringeworthy. In my opinion, Raksha Dave was the only person needed as a presenter, not an ex-news presenter with obviously no interest in detecting. Michaela Strachan pretending to detect.. Terrible
1952Female @1952Female · 10 g.
W odpowiedzi do @dfttc5 @mrdanwalker i 2 innych użytkowników
Detectorist finds a Roman coin but Michaela grabs it and touches it before he does 🙄
Concerning the "detectorists", one would hope that Mr Pickering's Northern Detecting Events were not chosen randomly, but because of their proven track record in "responsible detecting". In which case, why did the programme producers think it was necessary to have a "talking head" from outside the group to lecture them (and the viewer) on the "regulations" and methods they employ?
Marisa @MarisaRanieri3 · 13 g.
W odpowiedzi do @mrdanwalker @channel5_tv i 3 innych użytkowników
I have had a keen interest in Archaeology and Ancient History, my entire life and was so looking forward to Digging for Treasure. The facile content and unnecessary clapping when you entered the tent and the patronising vocabulary directed at the viewer...made me switch off.
sue kempson @StokieSueK · 11 g.
I enjoyed seeing all the finds but the whooping & the clapping not so much.
Time for tea @4pmtimefortea · 11 g.
Completely confused by all the clapping and cheering. Why is that happening? #DiggingForTreasure
myfatherwasatoolmaker @Jimmyja80049358 · 12 g.
W odpowiedzi do @mrdanwalker @channel5_tv i 3 innych użytkowników
Shockingly bad TV. Where is Tony Robinson?
Admittedly there were some positive comments, mostly from what one might call the 'Gor-blimey' crowd ("Brilliant Dan, loved the show.."; "absolutely awesome"; " Really enjoying the show so far @mrdanwalker - the things you get up to!"; "Genuinely gutted you didn’t get your say on the show name. “Getting diggy with it” is genius").
And British archaeologists, asked if they wanted to participate in this extravaganza, and after having asked the right questions to find out how it was structured and what the underlying ideas were, decided to lend their names and those of the institutions they represent, plus their expertise to this venture thinking this would somehow benefit British archaeology and protect the archaeological record from erosion by collectors. Yes? "Getting Diggy With It, Just Keep Digging... JUST AS LONG AS YOU KNOW WHERE TO LOOK".

Members of British Public Exhorted to "Get Diggy!"

The Truth about "Metal detecting"?
 It’s time to, as Dan says, ‘Get Diggy With It’ because Digging For Treasure: Tonight hits your screens TOMORROW at 9pm on @channel5_tv, we can’t wait!!
In tonight’s ep we follow the work of maritime archaeologists, join the search for a lost Lancaster Bomber …and learn about the real Lord of the Rings!!! And follow us on socials @dfttc5 #DFTT for fact sheets and guidance!
"fact sheets and Guidance", eh?

"Army of Experts" Digging for Treasure - Tonight

Thursday 25 August 2022

UK's Channel Five Viewing: "An Army of Experts" and the Archaeologists Will Tag Along

Metal detector dealer Graeme Rushton seems to have an over-active agent. No sooner has he finished appearing in "Henry Coles's Great British Treasure Hunt" (HCA Entertainment Ltd Oxfordshiure), he found a position as a "metal detecting expert" in a new show commissioned by Channel 5 from Yorkshire based independent production company Daisybeck Studios about metal detecting to (Daniel Pye, 'New channel 5 show about metal detecting to feature Unearthed team' NW Mail 25.08.2022)

A new Channel 5 show starting this week will feature a Furness expert showing Michaela Strachan and Dan Walker how to metal detect. Graeme Rushton is from Unearthed, a shop selling metal detecting equipment in Dalton. He has been part of previous shows on ITV and Channel 5. This new show, called Digging For Treasure, airs on Channel 5 at 9pm this Friday. Graeme will feature in the first episode for about five minutes as an expert but the second episode is set in Cumbria and Graeme is more prominent in it. His role in the second episode will not only be to show the presenters how to metal detect but also to introduce the local farmers and landowners to the hobby.
Graeme is reported as saying that he had been metal detecting for over 40 years and has "travelled all over the country doing TV shows". 
He said that the new show is 'massive' and Channel 5 casting stars such as Michaela Strachan and Dan Walker was to give the series some clout. Dan Walker described the series as the 'Top Gear of metal detecting.' The show will also feature Raksha Dave, who is a famous archaeologist. She has previously excavated in London.
She also just happens to be the President of the Council for British Archaeology and it is interesting to speculate on why this is played down here. 

Ms Dave herself responded to some earlier comments by me concerning the trailer of this upcoming programme that she is co-presenting on British TV (see here for my thoughts on what I saw). In connection with this,  I tweeted

"Trailer of this series, and involvement of CBA President @Raksha_Digs, raises series of questions about presentation of archaeology (and need to conserve the archaeological record) to UK's public. Where is "archaeology for all" going? Will there be debate?",

 and within minutes there was a reply.  

1/ Absolutely- the show has been built with the guidance of @findsorguk and we’ve had real editorial control over how we give the necessary guidance throughout the show. We never talk about value - we talk about the value of information in hope that people who think about… 2/Detecting, mudlarking, or whatever plug into the necessary guidance and are introduced to heritage practitioners. At the end of the day people do this as a hobby, my remit is how can we educate people into safe, best practice so we can all benefit from the information..
Unfortunately tv is entertainment- the title is a compromise on the original and the trailer unfortunately doesn’t really show the content of the show which is a mixture of archaeology prof and community, responsible finders and lovely stories about ppl who engage with heritage.
I remember when Time Team first started and there was a huge furore about archaeology as entertainment - this is the first ep of a 4 part series so we are all totally open about how we can make it better… ...and to open debate within our sector - at the end of the day public perception of archaeology comes historically from archaeologists who have equated it to ‘treasure’ so whether we talk about objects or sites content is the key to unpick - that’s what I’m interested in.
I don't know if she actually read what I wrote in the blog post to which I linked before answering. But it is interesting to hear the assertion that this is yet another show built with the guidance of the PAS like the damaging "Britain's Secret Treasures" that I wrote about extensively on this blog (and readers will remember that the CBA was deeply involved in that too). So, the President of the CBA is absolutely sure there will be a debate on artefact hunting. I'm happy to hear that, but doubt she's right. British archaeologists and the CBA  will run a mile from such a debate. 

But the plot thickens, the story gets a bit muddied when you start investigating it - for example as a place from which to start that promised "debate", if that's not to be a joke. 

Not only is the expert "showing Michaela Strachan [and all the viewers out there watching] how to metal detect" a dealer with a vested interest in as many people as possible being encouraged to take up this damaging hobby, Andy Brockman reports that other detectorists featuring in the series are in fact paying clients of a commercial artefact hunting firm, North Detecting Events owned by Mr Anthony Pickering (Sunderland). That's right, the CBA president is presenting a programme showing, and giving publicity to, commercial looting of what she described in the trailer as one of Britain's "most exciting archaeological hotyspots". How is this possible, and why? 

This is not my discovery, it was Andy Brockman at "thePipeline ("where history becomes tomorrow's news") who just made a few enquires more than the CBA ethics committee as part of their series #WeNeedToTalkAboutMetalDetecting ("BM Confirms PAS Not Involved in Design of Ch5 #DIGGING FOR TREASURE-Tonight", thePipeline August 22, 2022). Moreover, despite what Ms Dave asserts, the Portable Antiquities Scheme was not involved in designing the format of the new metal detecting show:
"Asked to explain how the Portable Antiquities Scheme came to be involved at all in a programme which appears to be centred on what was, to all intents and purposes, a metal detecting rally organised for a commercial television production company, the head of the PAS, Professor Michael Lewis, told thePipeLine, “Daisybeck contacted us once they had a commission, so we were not part of the series design. However we have agree[d] to participate to highlight the role of PAS and the importance of best practice and finds recording as best we can (in the context of above)".
Instead of just saying no. As for the presence of other "experts", a question was raised about this: " “As far as we’re aware, the ‘experts’ involved in the programme are not drawn from the trade in antiquities (auctioneers, valuers, etc.) and are being called upon for their archaeological/historic knowledge [NB: in fact, most of the experts are from the PAS]” The phrase “as far as we are aware” suggests that the PAS and the press office at the British Museum, may not be fully aware of quite what it is they have got into" says Mr Brockman. Time and time again this happens, British archaeologists are so eager to get on TV (explaining it gives the discipline "exposure") that they simply walk straight inyto situations like these, where what happens gives archaeology the wrong kind of exposure. And how could any programme on an object-centred collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record do any different? (serious question Ms Dave, Prof Lewis.)

Hat tip, Dave Coward and Andy Brockman for headsups and discussion.

Monday 22 August 2022

Britain "Taking Back Control" of its Own Pollution


Brexit was all about taking back control and not applying the same principles as those continentals. Now this: "WaterSewage monitors faulty at seaside spots in England and Wales, data showsEnvironment Agency figures indicate people could be swimming in human waste this summer without warning" ( Helena Horton Guardian, Mon 22 Aug 2022). British beach detectorists could be pocketing more than they think. Are UK tekkie wives still happy to let hubby wash what he brings home in the kitchen sink, eh? Just imagine it:
Seaside holidays this year have been marred by water companies pumping raw sewage into the ocean [...] However, some holidaymakers could be swimming in it without warning, as new analysis by the Liberal Democrats has found that some monitors that are supposed to measure the amount of sewage being pumped into water at popular seaside spots are broken or not even installed.
Come to Poland's Baltic coast in the middle of Europe, there's not only no plastic on our beaches, but the only poo there comes from the seabirds. We lock up metal detectorists though if they've not got a permit. 

"Antiquities Looted from Crimean Museums"


           A pile of rusty ironwork in a Kyiv office (Babel)         

Several months on from the discovery in a Kyiv office block of some store rooms with a collection of 6000 antiquities ("DPR" Financed by Antiquities? PACHI Friday, 24 June 2022), it is worth placing on record that apart from the initial announcement, I have not come across any further news of this find or the progress of any investigation into the material, which may or may not be significant (admittedly officials in Kyiv have other more important problems to deal with at the current time). The artefacts were reportedly found in the Kyiv office of former Ukrainian MP Valery Horbatov, who headed the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in the early 2000s ['Ex-MP turned collaborator found to store over 6,000 unique artifacts from Crimea worth millions of dollars', Hromadske International 24 June, 2022; see also Anhelina Sheremet, 'Unique antiquities were found in the attic of the former Crimean Prime Minister Valeriy Horbatyʼs house. This is the largest illegal collection in Ukraine' Babel, 24 June 2022] and it was suggested that some of the artefacts might have been stolen from Crimean museums. It is not clear why this was proposed, there is a thriving black market in antiquities in Ukraine, much of it involving material dug up by so-called "black archaeologists" (artefact hunters). There are a number of museums in Crimea, but as far as  I know at the time of writing no reports of any of them having been looted since the Russian invasion in 2014. According to the only reports we have to date, the reason why Ukrainian law enforcement agencies consider it "probable" that somehow Horbatov had material stolen from the museums of Crimea was that: 

During the search, they found, in particular, an ancient book "Sarcophagi of Gaul" — it was an exhibit of the Russian Archaeological Museum of Constantinople, and later part of the library of the Chersonese Museum in the Crimea.
While that may be where the book was at one time, there are a number of ways it could leave that library and end up in somebody else's hands. Also it should be noted that there is no evidence presented that the rest of the artefacts had been acquired in Crimea. While some of the coins explicitly mentioned were from Panticapaeum/Pantikapaion at the extreme east of Crimea (just by the Kerch strait), the source of the other coins mentioned, Olbia, is not. It's on the Dniestr estuary. One of the red figure pots shown looks fake to me (though I'm not a specialist - I'd like to hear the opinion of those that are on the pots shown in the Babel article). The iron weapons shown are a mixed bag, mostly atrociously conserved.

I think that in the absence of better evidence in the public domain, and any details of this case, we should be wary making loose claims of the "Russian (or any other) looting of museums in Crimea".

Sunday 21 August 2022

Are detectorists amateur archaeologists?

            Sachny, Kijowskie: Dwór Edwarda
           Rulikowskiego, 1882

Are detectorists amateur archaeologists? ask NETcher Social Platform for Cultural Heritage (anon., 19 May, 2020). They say no, which is quite true, but their argument is wrong. It however reveals an important truth:

The damages [sic] caused by treasure hunters using metal detectors are well-known and daily cause irreparable loss of cultural heritage. How shall we deal with them? The question has been heavily debated and opinions are varied, from repression to integration. Some specialists even argue that detectorists are instrumental in the progress of archaeological research and that inclusivity encourages engagement towards protection of cultural heritage. But detectorists do not only detect, they dig holes. At a time when archaeology turns towards non-destructive methods, doesn’t detectorism appear as a debased, harmful version of geophysics applied to archaeology?
Their reading list (unrelated to the text, but worth citing, for what it's worth):
I.Rodríguez Temiño, “Rational Grounds for Dialogue between Archaeologists and Metal Detectorists in Spain”, Open Archaeology 2, 2016, 150-159
P. Deckers, A. Dobat, N. Ferguson, St. Heeren, M. Lewis, S. Thomas, “The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy”, Open Archaeology 4, 2018, 322-333
Delestre, “Le détectorisme en France : quelle situation et quelle politique publique ?”, Canadian Journal of Bioethics 2, 2019, 158-165
X. Delestre, Metal detection in France, current situation and policy
 The author of this text is correct to point out that the pale euphemism "metal detecting" avoids explaining the actual nature of the activity, they dig holes (I call it Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record). Their argument is that they cannot be amateur archaeologists because "they dig holes" at a time when (real) "archaeology turns towards non-destructive methods" means that "detectorism appear as a debased, harmful version of geophysics applied to archaeology". This skips over what the proper non-destructive, geophysical methods reveal is the structure of the component layers of a site, not individual loose finds within them, whereas artefact hunting "digs holes" to extract just the objects from an ignored contextual matrix. In the geophysical archaeology, it is the nature of a site being studied that is examined, in metal detecting it is loose artefacts being acquired.

It's rather like doing a "historic building survey" that actually consists of looking only at the pots and pans in the kitchen, the doorknobs and metal fire grates. That is not a historic building survey.

Saturday 20 August 2022

UK Metal Detectorist Responds to Comments on TV Show

 In response to the announcement of a new TV show, "Digging For Treasure", UK metal detectorist "Future Bleeps" tweeted "Looking forward to this 😍 ". On being asked why added (which does not really answer the question): "History, The hobby and the possibility of treasure. Not to mention the folk that go out detecting. Plus it’s the hobby that discovers the most amount of finds / objects". Attached was this piechart.


 FaluumWWAAUPwkh.jpg (Future Bleeps)
Possibly this will be the message of the new Channel Five series, a Trumpish insistence that metal detecting "produces the most finds, the best finds, the PAS has all the best finds"  or something like that. To employ this object-centred argument for continuing ineffective policies on collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record however is completely missing the point about what the PAS is for. The PAS really need to explain it better and more visibly to the general public, millions of pounds of whose money goes on financing this Scheme.

If it comes to numbers, if metal detectorists "produce" 82% of the 80,000 finds recorded by the PAS (ie c. 65600 objects), a single excavation turning a Basildon paddock into a housing estate will produce at least that many artefacts for post-excavation processing (though the place for those records is not the PAS database). 

If it comes to context, every single Basildon paddock artefact will have a better observed and recorded context than any one of the PAS's second-hand records of 66 thousand artefacts reported by metal detectorists and landowners. And of course it is context, not mere presence, that counts. This histogram has no meaning beyond being something unreflexive tekkies bandy about (like the 1995-vintage old chestnut of  "let-me-assure-you, we are not doing it for the money"), to deflect discussion from what matters about the current state of collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. 

The issue is one of a disappearing resource, dismembered for collectable bits that are simply pocketed with loss of information about ground context (which is not just findspot).

That should not be too difficult to understand.

But apparently is.

"Ah, but the majority do it responsibly" goes the other mantra. That "responsible" however, it turns out when you ask them mouthing these empty words turns out not to have anything in common with the underlying issue, which (surely) should be a socially responsible use of a disappearing resource, not merely dismembering it for selfish ends as a source of collectable bits that are simply pocketed with loss of information about ground context (which is not just findspot).

"Responsible" recorders
(purple) and non-reporting
(black) artefact hunters in
England and Wales.

Without discussing that, we could define "responsible" by the lowest common denominator, that which is set down in the superficial voluntary "Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales" from the 1990s. This is the Code that most English and Welsh detectorists do not use (preferring the shut-the-gates NCMD one) precisely because it defines "responsible" in terms of reporting finds to the PAS. As I show elsewhere on this blog, the number of reported finds falls far short of what one may reasonably infer to be the oeverall number of recordable finds annually removed from archaeological contexts and assemblages by artefact hunters with metal detectors alone. So , for good measure, we should offset the first piechart with a histogram that compares the objects recorded by metal detector using artefact hunters in England and Wales that find things and record them, and the number of finds that we think are currently being found by metal detectorists in general and NOT being recorded. (the ratio is one in nine - the model predicts that 72% of finds are being pocketed and are NOT being recorded).

Friday 19 August 2022

Digging For Treasure

Fruit boxes for finds, cringe T-shirt (look at 'archaeological tools') pot of strangely-glowing gold coins in background

A viewing treat, eh? Friday 26th August on Channel 5 TV, a new programme: 'Digging For Treasure' with Dan Walker, TV presenter Michaela Strachan (@michaelastracha) and Raksha Dave ( @Raksha_Digs) Public Archaeologist and Broadcaster, President of the Council for British Archaeology (!).

Join our team of detectorists and experts as they peel back the layers of history. We start in North Yorkshire! It’s like Top Gear with spades😂 #GettingDiggyWithIt

So far there's a frenetic 20-second trailer:

Here's the script:

Scene one: [Interior. gloomy empty marquee, props: fruit boxes, desk, a pot of glowing gold, deer skull with antlers. Two female presenters facing front, one in dig-theme t-shirt, simper and toss their hair as Dan Walker speaks]:

DW: [MS and RD turn towards him beaming, then quickly look back smiling to face viewer]"Join me, Michaela and Raksha , along with...."

Scene two: [Exterior. Mid afternoon. Drone shot pulling up of three men with detectors walking purposefully across a sunlit field strewn with straw bales]: 

DW: " army of experts ..." 

Scene three: [Exterior. Mid afternoon. Low-level camera shot along the ground looking up at six middle-aged men crouching in a stubble field, one with a pinpointer attached to his waist by a thin coiled cable] 

DW: "as we go digging..."

Scene four: [Exterior. Closeup shot looking down into a hole dug in stubble, a man in blue silicone gloves uses an orange pinpointer and takes something from the hole]:

DW: "...for treasure!"

Scene five: [Exterior, sunny field. Close up of woman's hand with jewellery, holding an out-of-focus battered golden-coloured coin or token, presumably hammered]:

RD: "In the UK's most..."

Scene six (07 secs): [Interior. Gloomy marquee, presenters looking pleased with themselves as RD waves hands in excitement]

RD: "... exciting..."

Scene seven (08 secs): [Exterior, Mid afternoon. sunny stubble field. Drone shot from a distance, zooms in on tight group of 12 men some with detectors standing in the middle of a stubble field, some ae walking in different directions]

RD: "... archaeological..."

Scene eight (09 secs): [Interior. Dusk. Props two trestle tables [green-topped], chopping board, photographic station. The sides of the marquee are now rolled up to reveal landscape of stubble field and hedgeline behind. Presenter RD stands left at a respectful distance holding script as a man smugly places object on the photographic station watched by an audience of three middle-aged males and two females] 

RD: " spots".

Scene nine (10 secs): [interior. Close up vertical view of very dry looking medieval harness mount filling screen. No label]

MS: "Who knows what ..."

Scene ten (11 secs): [Exterior. Mid afternoon. Stubble field, looking towards parked car and marquee by hedge, the same group as in scene three from the other side. Six middle aged men in detecting kit and with spades walk randomly in foreground, one crouched over digging something up. No surveying equipment].

MS: "...we'll find..." 

Scene eleven (12 secs): [Exterior. Mid afternoon. Stubble field. Bare-legged presenter in shorts and clumpy outdoor boots moves towards camera holding script, crouches down to see what man with blue silicone gloves and orange pinpointer is doing, handheld camera wobbles as it follows her in]

MS "...beneath our feet".

Scene twelve (13 secs): Interior. Late evening. Gloomy marquee with sides still up, dark sky behind. Presenters DW (left) and RD (right) in foreground by green trestle tables and chopping board look away from the camera expectantly towards somebody off screen, beyond a small crowd of onlookers of different ages and genders. The atmosphere is that of a prize-giving event]

DW [dramatically and excitedly, waving invitingly]: "bring  your coin!" [cheering and clapping]

Scene thirteen (14 secs): Interior. Late evening. Gloomy marquee with sides still up, dark sky behind. View of  small crowd of onlookers of different ages and genders clapping manically and cheering loudly]

Sound track: [Clapping and highly enthusiastic cheering "yay!" "hooray!"]. 

Scene fourteen (15 secs): Graphic screen. Brief programme details.

DW: "Digging for Treasure Tonight, starts next Friday at nine on channel five and my five" (ends. 20 secs). 

I do not know, or care who Channel 5 'celebrities' Dan Walker and Michaela Strachan are or what they represent. The public archaeologist and President of the Council for British Archaeology however I think we should all care about. It is she that in this trailer for the series excitedly announces that the theme of the programme that she signed a contract to take part in, representing archaeology and the CBA, targets "the UK's most exciting archaeological hotspots" as places to look for "what we may find beneath our feet" with metal detectors. What is the aim of this programme? To commercially exploit, for cheap easy excitement, the "mystery" of the past and "what we could find". To promote "archaeology for all" as some form of object-centric Treasure hunt? As some male-centred "outdoor" hobby in which "discovery" and the "hunt" for something worthwhile is the aim? There is not a single means of recording anything in the shots of the fieldwork. Perhaps a female (?) FLO will appear in one or more episodes as a talking head - hopefully not to "judge the best find" and simper at Mr Walker's shirt. 

Evidence (the best we have anyway, in default of bodies like PAS and CBA not doing any actual sophisticated study of the topic in 25 years of 'liaison') suggests that not long ago we may have had 27000 active tekkies artefact hunting and collecting away the archaeological heritage all over England and Wales. Some say numbers went up over lockdown - perhaps we have 30000 now (?). Yet the PAS quite obviously cannot cope with the amount of finds that actually are reported by a few thousand of them (plus non-detecting members of the public). My own figures that remain unchallenged in any substantive way (though of course often simply ignored) are that the ratio between responsibly reported and irresponsibly hoiked and trashed pieces of archaeological evidence ripped out of the archaeological record is "one million in 8.8 million" (so roughly "one in nine"). 

In what way is the President of the CBA appearing on a programme that can only encourage more people to take up "detecting"/Treasure hunting (and thinking it is the same as "doing archaeology") in any way archaeologically responsible?

And yes, when it is on, I will certainly try to get to see the full programme to see whether the actual content is in any way different from what the trailer seems to suggest. Particularly, too, the way women are portrayed in it in 2022. 

In a Parallel Universe, Buy A Cylinder Seal from London Dealer, Get a Fuzzy Photo of a 'Lambert Note' for Free.

"The seller guarantees and can prove that the object was
obtained legally. The seller was informed by Catawiki that they
had to provide the documentation required by the
laws and regulations in their country of residence. The seller
guarantees and is entitled to sell/export this object. The seller will  provide
all provenance information known about the object to the buyer".

Sold by dealer PaxRomana 'Ancient Art, Antiquities and Coins', Bury Place, Bloomsbury, London (Dr. Ivan Bonchev). Sale overseen by auction provider's "Expert", Peter Reynaers":
No. 61156833 Neo-Assyrian Cylinder Seal. with document of Prof. Lambert.

Circa 800-650 BC. Upper portion of a cylinder seal formed of black stone. The design, which was put between upper and lower bands of chevron, shows in the middle of a winged solar disc above a stylised sacred tree, and to each side a worshipping divine figure of human form with wings. They are kneeling and extending one hand while holding out the other with palm cupped. A rosette serves as a terminal. This is a seal in the Neo-Assyrian tradition, but from North Syria or Anatolia. 27 x 13.5mm. The seal is accompanied by a copy of a scientific note typed and signed by Professor WG Lambert, Professor of Assyriology at the University of Birmingham, 1970-1993.

Size: L:27mm / W:15mm ; 14.2g

Provenance: From the important collection of a London doctor A.R; passed by descent to his son; formerly acquired between 1970-2000. Big parts of the collection were studied/published by Professor Lambert in the early 1990s.

All Items sold by Pax Romana Auctions come with a professional Certificate of Authenticity.
estimate € 550 - € 750 - sold for € 600

This 'copy' of "a scientific note typed and signed by Professor WG Lambert" is precisely that, a fuzzy photocopy of a photo of a carbon copy of a text about a cylinder seal labelled in pencil "U-165". Where is the original note, and why is the buyer of an object that it "accompanies" not getting the original? What use is - on the one hand - an object with a fuzzy unnotarised copy of a photo of some note, or (on the other hand), the original note to the seller without the object? Why have they been separated? 

Things get even more bonkers, however, when you put together this "note" and the cylinder seal being sold:

As David Knell observes, this "a note" in the sales offer is a random photo of a Lambert note of another cylinder seal (compare signature with handwriting here). In other words, this random photo of a random carbon copy is absolutely no guarantee for the buyer (or the person who will later be considering acquiring it from their collection) that this object was out of the ground and out of the source country (Syria, you say?) before "the early 1990s". To be fair, the sales offer does say " a copy of a scientific note typed and signed by Professor WG Lambert" and not "the scientific note about this object typed and signed by Professor WG Lambert" so there is no falsehood there. And it is caveat emptor, any fool can compare what they read and what they see, and when it comes to antiquities more fool them that don't. Obviously, the 600 euro-spender here does not care that much about any discrepancy they noted. 

My question however is, if Dr Bonchev's people mixed up this documentation, what other documentation do PaxRomana actually have that can be firmly associated with the excavation and export of this item (and why don't they tell the prospective buyers)? Or do they just have poorly-done copies of photographs of copies of documents?

But then, it goes further... the description of the object being sold by Pax Romana is copied off the Lambert note and does not correspond with the actual object being sold in any respect (the item is not broken, its not linear style, its not between chevrons, there is no winged solar disc above a sacred tree in the middle, flanked by kneeling divine figures of human form with wings extending their hands, nor any rosette. The description, in general, is a false one. Which bits are true? Any of them? Will the buyer get the object in the picture or the one in the verbal description, because they cannot receive both (it's an either/or situation), unless we are entangled in a parallel-universe situation, one of them is a false representation of the object of sale. Which one of them will be on the "Pax Romana Auctions  professional Certificate of Authenticity"? 

What is going on, Mr Bonchev, Mr Reynaers? What role does an in-house "expert" fulfil who fails to spot the difference between the object shown and the accompanying note (to be fair, "a note") and the seller's description?

Tuesday 9 August 2022

More on Catawiki Due Diligence

A seller of antiquities on a collectors' forum near you has a complaint about Catawiki (Jun 22 #96875):
¡Hola! I'm from Spain and yes, I've started the process of selling in Catawiki and they are asking for boring paperwork.
Member prometeus2 says (Jun 22 #96877), "Ya....they do that since a while..". And it is interesting to note what that onerous paperwork consists of: "They ask you to fill this..."

... a form with some of the boxes already ticked. This is presumably sent to Catawiki for their files so they can claim they are covered if an artefact is challenged. Note there is no field to fill in for the actual documentation that is/wll be made available. It is difficult to avoid getting the impression that this form is purely for show.

Saturday 6 August 2022

Nimrud Material in Museums

Museums worldwide holding archaeological material from Nimrud (the ancient Assyrian city of Kalhu), as of 2013.

Map created by Ruth A. Horry in January 2014 for the Nimrud Project: funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Published on 3 June 2015

Friday 5 August 2022

Catawiki Seller Changes his Tune: The Seven Points of Licit Antiquities and Responsible Collecting


     Austro-Dutch Smoke and Mirrors        

The Dutch company Catawiki profits from selling off collectables, including artefacts ripped from the archaeological record. The way this is done has been commented a number of times on this blog. The sales go on... like this oddly-labelled item sold yesterday: "No. 60730115 Ancient Roman Silver Extremely Rare Massive Legionary ''Knee'' Fibula- 29,5g. or 10 Silver Denarii-Legions Monthly Salary" ( "Purchased by the current owner in 2015 in Austria, Wien. Collected Since: 1970's. Previous owners history: Old Austrian Private Collection. The Seller can prove that the lot was obtained legally, provenance statement seen by Catawiki"). But look at the sidebar where it says:
The seller guarantees and can prove that the object was obtained legally. The seller was informed by Catawiki that they had to provide the documentation required by the laws and regulations in their country of residence. The seller guarantees and is entitled to sell/export this object. The seller will provide all provenance information known about the object to the buyer. The seller ensures that any necessary permits are/will be arranged. The seller will inform the buyer immediately about any delays in obtaining such permits".
Now look at the photos. They avoid actually showing the structure of the spring mechanism of this brooch, but enough of the tooling to show it has been very inexpertly cleaned... the fourth photo is of an official "certificate" of some kind. This very clearly shows what complete morons this seller takes his clients for. Look at it more carefully.

The questions involved in buying licit antiquities are:
1) In which country (ie under which legislation) was this object dug up (how is that documented) or is that information being suppressed?

2) Was this object legally excavated, when, where and under what circumstances (how is that documented) or was it looted?

3) Did the person who put it on the market in the source country acquire legal title that was passed to the first buyer (how is that documented) or was it placed on the market without any process to establish legality?

4) Is there a paper trail confirming legal origins and legal transfer of ownership and its date (what does it consist of)?

5) If the object is now being sold outside the source country (see point one) can the seller show when and how that took place and that proper export procedure for that source country was followed (how is that documented) or was the object smuggled?

6) Can the person handling the object in the market country demonstrate (with what documentation) that they are not handling illicitly-obtained objects stolen from the source country [where such country mandates state ownership of resources such as archaeological material] and not the product of trafficking/smuggling?

7) Can the destination of the funds generated by commerce in this artefact be demonstrated and established (not merely assumed) not to be an organized criminal gang, extremist political group etc ?
Now look at the nonsense of a declaration Catawiki supplies. The first group of fields establish nothing. The second ("Provenance (sic) Informatioon") that this artefact was bought in Vienna in 2015 from a "private". Private could mean anything. Mafia men, drug dealers and human traffickers are very private too - as are right-wing politicians that sell antiquities, no doubt. In 2014 and 2015 there was a lot of looting of Roman sites going on in several countries of central Europe and the Balkans, probably very many antiquities coming onto the market from these, so how does this declaration help show that Mr (or Ms) Private was not in Vienna trafficking them?

The third block of fields... ("Previous ownership history"). Woah. Having been told that the provenance (origin) of the object is dated to "2015 in Vienna" we now learn that since then it has been in a private collection ("Old Austrian private collection D") since the 1970s (!). Eh? It seems the seller is muddled. What they want to say is that the object has no known provenance (uh-oh) but that it was in a collection "in the 1970s". What does that mean? 1970/71? 1978/9/80? And it was in that "Old Austrian private collection D" (what does that even mean?) for at least 36 years before it was sold by a "private" (so is that "D" or somebody else?) to "somebody" who had it another seven years, somewhere before the catawiki seller gets it. Or is the catawiki seller that anonymous hidden someone? I think this seller has simply not grasped the basic concept of "ownership history" and "paper trail". Nothing in their declaration makes any sense and certainly contributes zero information to work out whether that piece can be shown as licit. But look at the next bit: "documents that corroborate this ownership OR provenance" (should be AND)... a Cerificate of Authenticity that will be supplied "on request". Just think about that a second, they acquired somehow somewhere an antiquity that has one of these famous "Antiquities dealer's Certificate of Authenticity".. and though they sell the artefact, they'd prefer to hang on to the COA. Why? A souvenir? Surely this should pass automatically (no?) to the new owner as part of the corroborating documentation THEY will need when they in turn try to sell the antiquity. It is difficuult not to suspect that this COA in fact is one that does not yet exist, and will be created (like this pathetically inadequate declaration) by the Catawiki dealer. Is that the case? Note they do not say anything about whose COA that is and when it was issued (1970s? 2015? Another time?).

Note the three "seller ensures" tickboxes. Weasel wording alert. Seller ensures any necessary permits are arranged. Necesary is an export licence if that item was exported from specific countries (the UK to Vienna for example). Has the seller got that? If they have why is it not listed? And look at the first one, the seller ensures the "seller has familiarised himself that (sic) in line with the laws and regulations in his own country it is allowed to export this object". Regardless of whether or not it got theere by trafficking, he means.

It seems to me that both Catawiki and this Catawiki seller have got themselves in a right mess. Basically, the latter seems to have acquired an artefact that cannot be documented in any way to answer the seven criteria of considering an artefact licit. In fact, not a single one of them. I am sure if confronted they'd start whining how difficult they find it with the business contacts they have at the moment to get artefacts with paperwork. That of course raises questions (point seven) who those business contacts are in fact in contact with? I would say that a dealer that connot establish the contacts with suppliers who can provide demonstrably kosher artefacts with the proper paper trail and verifiable back stories, they should not be in the antiquities business. All they are doing is bringing the whole trade into DISrepute.

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