Saturday 29 October 2022

Z-Arrest in Barcelona

The Spanish police has arrested a man in Barcelona who has been painting “Z-symbols” and messages threatening Ukrainians on cultural heritage sites across the city in recent weeks. Specifically, he had painted graffiti on the facades of the Barcelona Cathedral, the Palau de la Generalitat, the Archbishopric, the Casa de la Ardiaca, Llotja de Mar and on a building where the Ukrainian association Djerelo is located. The alleged author of the graffiti is a Ukrainian of Russian origin who has been released after going to court.

Monday 24 October 2022

North Macedonia: 4 Ukrainians arrested at archeological site

North Macedonia: 4 Ukrainians arrested at archeological site SKOPJE, North Macedonia --
Four Ukrainians have been arrested on suspicion of illegal digging for artifacts at one of North Macedonia's richest archeological sites, police said Saturday. A police statement said the suspects were arrested Friday when officers caught them digging at the protected Isar site near the village of Marvinci, in the southern part of the country. Two metal detectors, shovels and several excavated objects were found with them, it said. The suspects' names were not released. The statement said all four had temporary residence permits. If tried and found guilty of unauthorized excavation, the suspects face up to ten years in jail. Isar is about 19 kilometers (12 miles) from North Macedonia's border with Greece. Archeologists examined more than 200 graves there in 1977-1986. They say the findings date from the Bronze Age until late antiquity. The site contains remnants of a temple and a stadium designed in the ancient Roman style.

One wonders what these four (men?) were doing there, refugees, or immigrants from before the War? Were they metal detectorists when they lived in Ukraine?  

Sunday 16 October 2022

Bulla With A Hole


                 Portable Antiquities Scheme        

This is an interesting metal detecting find, the latest to be recorded by HESH, coming from near Bringsty. 

A spindle whorl made from a circular cast lead medieval papal bulla of Pope Urban V (AD 1362-1370). The bulla has been deliberately defaced or reused by piercing/cutting a large circular perforation through the centre. The hole is irregular and positioned off centre, respecting the heads of Peter and Paul and the inscription above. The bulla measures 33.29mm in diameter, the central hole has a diameter of 8.82mm, 5.81mm in thickness, and weighs 35.88g. [correction: the hole weighs nothing - PMB] The front of the bulla shows the name of the pope, written in the nominative, with his abbreviated title: PP: Pastor Pastorum - Shepherd of Shepherds - and ordinal number V. This is distributed over three lines: URB / AN[V]S / PP V. The central pierced hole removes only a small part of the inscription. The reverse depicts the faces of Saints Peter and Paul. Over the images appears the abbreviation of St Paul and St Peter 'SPA SPE'. St Paul is depicted with a long beard and a balding scalp with little hair, and St Peter has a crimped beard with curly hair formed from small sub oval pellets. Both heads are enclosed within a border of pellets. The area between the two heads is lost due to the pierced hole. The papal bulla is a mid-grey-cream colour with an even and well formed patina which covers all surfaces. There are several small chips in the patina which have exposed the grey metal beneath. This damage is likely to have been due to movement in the plough soil.
Or not. Could have happened in a finds pouch too. There are a number of assumptions here, that the off-centre hole does not preclude it being a spindle whorl the photo shows a grey blob with little visible detail, the description describes detail, if the photo crap as archaeological documentation or is the description fudged from analogy?

Why does the data field in the public database not say who created this record and when? In the description page it is anonymised, yet from the statistics, we find it was (reportedly) created by Ian Bass on Monday 10th October 2022. Why can this information not be available in one place rather than having to chase around for it? Are the authors of these texts somehow ashamed of their work that they are loathe to put their names under these descriptions?


Saturday 15 October 2022

The 'P' Word [Updated]

 Following on a discussion of some portable antiquities on the market, David Gill recommends:

David Gill @davidwjgill 4 g.
W odpowiedzi do @mokersel @Victoria_S_Reed i 3 innych użytkowników
We have often seen the term "good provenance" used to mean that the object moved through a "distinguished" private collection - even if it had been looted. Provenance is obsolete: jettison it.
The term is so deeply entrenched in the art-history world that it may be difficult for the "art market" to abandon it. The term is ambiguous, and therefore creates a stumbling block in clear expression. In terms of dugup antiquities, 'provenance' of objects is where they come from in the archaeological record, i.e., bone pin fragment from the lower fill of Feature 14 at Site 52 in Otley, Suffolk. The provenance of a fake would be something like "garage in Empire Road, Dibley, Oxforshire".

So if all we know about where something came from is "formerly in collection of Col. Algernon Farquart MBE, acquired from Grebkesh and Runn Auctions Nov 14th 1969, Lot 055 (property of a Middlesex Gentleman)", that's not full provenance, it is only a fragment of the Collection History. It is missing the all important how-it-got-on-the-market-and-left-unknown-source-country bit, which is a vital part of the legitimising part of any object's biography. Of course the route by which a fake object sold off the workbench of a manufacturer's garage in Dibley came to the present vendor gives information of another sort.

Update 17.10.2022

The discussion continued and it was suggested that a cumbersome double terminology be accepted:
Patty Gerstenblith @PGerstenblith · 16 paź
Complete provenance for an archaeological object is its history of ownership (time and place) back to its find spot (its provenience). The quality of the provenance information (whether it is objectively verifiable) is important in assessing the reliability of a stated provenance
I think that neatly encapsulates the confusion here, the final word of that tweet, we may assume, was probably meant to be "provenience". As I said, ambiguous. "Provenience" is primarily US usage. Having two confusingly similar terms that mean different but overlapping things in different parts of an international debate invites attempts to clarify conceptual issues by restricting use of both as Gill proposes ((NB, in Gill's usage "Collection", NOT "Collecting History"). Nevertheless those based in the art and museum world seem to stick to their guns:  Victoria Reed (@Victoria_S_Reed) is still anxious not to jettison traditional usage and suggests
People misuse words all the time, but that doesn't mean that the word itself isn't useful. Provenance is clearly defined in art reference works -- and is much more commonly used than "provenience".

 and: Julie K. Harris @Eronay001 22 g.

[..] Provenance seems to be a broad terminology establishing history of object since creation and/or found whereas provenience is the precise intact archaeological context of said object(s). That was my understanding of it.
The problem is that not everybody, and every discipline, sees the term in the same way. Provenience is a mainly US usage anyway. A Google search for "provenance+archaeology" gets 2,38 million hits, "provenience+archaeology" gets 228k and "provenience+archeology" 320k. 

So far, nobody has really said what's wrong with separating it from Collection History in object biography. Lumping everything under the P-word allows obfuscation of the archaeological origins of an "antiquity"/ "ancient artwork" and the mechanism how an object got into the trade ("legally and ethically" - i.e., not trashing archaeological sites without record).

We might also reflect on how the term "provenance" would be treated in other spheres of collecting: entomology, palaeontology, fine wines, Chippendale commodes, postage stamps, rare coins, pedigree dogs and horses, and celebrity memorabilia. It seems clear that there cannot be a one-fits-all-sizes definition of "provenance" (deriving from the one used for old paintings on the wall of a drawing room in a house off Berkley Square) that covers all of these areas where "where tis comes from" is important. So why should we continue to accept that dugup antiquities (as so-called "ancient art") are "basically the same as a painting"?

Combatting Heritage Crime in East Anglia: How it Was Going

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: FOI 000481-18 received by Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies on crimes involving metal detector use and theft from archaeological or heritage sites. Between April 2015 and October 2017 (31 months) in these two counties (arguably a region of the UK with one of the highest numbers and densities of metal detector use) just 19 cases were detected. 12 of them were in Suffolk (some sites Icklingham, Otley, Brandon were affected more than once), eight were in Norfolk (of which Thetford was affected three times). Only in ten of them were any people involved identified (in six cases working in pairs or a threesome) Only in three cases was any of the items removed identified: "Flint arrowheads", "Heritage bricks and copping (sic) stones", "Unknown quantity of 12th - 14th Century pottery"... In two cases there were "Evidential Difficulties", both of them in cases "Named Suspect Identified". Only in four cases were there any charges, in two No Further Action and a further six "[crime] undetected". That's not a very good showing. Though it is worthy of note that the entries from May 2016 onwards look as if more effort is being put into the search for heritage criminals.

Hat tip Nigel Swift for the link.

A few words for Foreign Archaeo-Looter

Roman Dushka 10 h
Hi guys. Asking for my friend to help identify his find from Ukraine. In case anyone have any idea with age, and probably price in case he decides to sell it. Looks like vikings as for Me. Thanks
Yes I know exactly what that is, but I'll be arsed if I am going to tell him. металошукач иди на хуй.

UK Metal Detectorists Arrested Near Martlesham, Suffolk [Updated]

British police: Four individuals were caught red handed engaging in illegal artefact hunting on a scheduled monument. (Johnny Amos, ' Four arrested after being caught metal detecting at historic monument', East Anglian Daily Times October 14, 2022)
The men, aged 23, 24, 25 and 37-years-old were spotted at about 10.15pm on Wednesday and subsequently arrested on suspicion of using a metal detector on a site scheduled as an ancient monument, contrary to Section 42 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act. They were also found in possession of items that were suspected to have been from the site and arrested on suspicion of removing objects of archaeological and historical interest from a scheduled monument. The men were also arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and going equipped for theft. Officers took the men to Martlesham Police Investigation Centre for questioning. hey were subsequently released under investigation while enquiries continue, a spokesman for Suffolk police said. [...] Anyone with any information is asked to contact Suffolk police quoting the reference number 37/65490/22.
Name of men they are seeking information about... not given. Name of site they are asking for information about... not given. So how "serious" are Suffolk Constabulary in getting metal detectorists behind bars when they break the law? Not very it seems to me. The unnamed site is near Martlesham, were these guys targeting Sutton Hoo or Rendlesham? If not, where and how were they spotted? Quite young for metal detectorists, 23,24,25 the oldest 37. Meanwhile in the same county this week, many of the estimated 345 of artefact hunters with metal detectors in the county** are out there going over their "permissions" and other sites and assemblagges hoiking out artefacts, what, how many and what? Anyone's guess. The PAS only recorded 97 (93 records) of all public finds of artefacts last week (according to their 'stats' page, all handed in by just eight finders). That signals a massive amount of knowledge theft going on - much of it totally legal, but damaging just the same.

Usual flaccid junk from the arkies
Paul Jeffery@HeritageMedic·21 g.
W odpowiedzi do @RuralPolicingSC @NSRAPT i 3 innych użytkowników
Excellent work by @SuffolkPolice @HeritageCrime @HistoricEngland @InstituteArch our Heritage belongs to all of us and illegal detecting damages the image of the law abiding majority as well as stealing our past
Paul Barford@PortantIssues·7 min
W odpowiedzi do @HeritageMedic @RuralPolicingSC i 7 innych użytkowników
Archaeologist: "illegal detecting damages image of the law abiding majority" what damages the image is the gaps left in the UK archaeological record by 27000 people digging random objects out week after week and only a MINORITY of them reporting what they've taken and from where.
"Conversation Kenge" @fen_ken
Jargon translator: night hawker - thief.
Night hawking - theft.
W odpowiedzi do @fen_ken
Jargon translator: "metal detecting" = collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological resource by artefact hunters. When not reported (and even when it is) = knowledge theft from the rest of us.

**Extrapolating from a national estimate of 27000 and taking the overall population of the county.

Wednesday 12 October 2022

New Book Promises "Global Perspectives" on Cultural Property Crime in seventeen chunks

New book: Global Perspectives on Cultural Property Crime Edited By Michelle D. Fabiani, Kate Melody Burmon, Saskia Hufnagel 2022/ 2023 ISBN 9780367823801 272 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
Available on Taylor & Francis eBooks
Book Description
This book provides transnational insight into cultural property crimes and the cutting-edge work tackling issues ranging from currency crimes to innovative research methods.

The volume brings together authors from a number of fields to address contemporary issues and advances in the fight against cultural property crime. It combines the perspectives of law enforcement officials, researchers, journalists, lawyers, and scholars, with specialities in the disciplines of criminology, law, archaeology, museum studies, political science, and economics, from countries all around the globe. This allows for a more comprehensive examination of issues facing these professionals and highlights similarities between the challenges encountered in different disciplines as well as in diverse locations. It seeks to disseminate the most current work in this field from a broad array of viewpoints in order to further facilitate an exchange of ideas and lay the groundwork to inspire future collaborations. Most significantly, it provides more specific suggestions for moving forward that could help assist stakeholders to connect and work directly with each other, despite international borders and discipline-related boundaries.

The book will be a valuable resource for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers working in the area of cultural property crime.

Table of Contents

Introduction Michelle D. Fabiani

Different strokes for different folks: A re-evaluation of the ontology of provenance research towards a more responsive research discipline Gareth Fletcher

Whose Duty is it Anyway? On the Burden of Proof in Applying Due Diligence Standards When Dealing with Cultural Property Paul Fabel, Louisa Kimmig

The Cycle of Good Faith: Evaluating the Status of Due Diligence in the Art Market Aubrey Catrone

What Auction Catalogue Analysis Cannot Tell Us About the Market: Sotheby’s 2013 Sale of Pre-Columbian Objects from the Barbier-Mueller Collection Donna Yates


Money Laundering and Art – Correlations of Crime Financing and Money Laundering Cost to Criminal Decision Making Katharina Stoll

Protection of Cultural Objects Against Money Laundering: Contributions of Rational Choice Theory Diogo Machado, Leila Ollaik

More than Antiquities Trafficking: The Issue is Antiquities Laundering Anna Mosna


Radiocarbon Dating Method and the Protection of Cultural Heritage Irka Hajdas

The Space Between: Spatial Patterns of Archaeological Looting Attempts and Conflict in Lower Egypt Michelle D. Fabiani

"Do you expect us to throw it all away?" - Thirty Years of Looted Iraqi Cuneiform Archives Luise Loges

Challenges to Study: Difficulties Arising in Studying Fine Art Theft Kate Melody Burmon


Offences Relating to ‘Dealing’ in Cultural Property: The UK Approach Emily Gould

Metal Detecting in England and Wales: A Transatlantic Problem Adam Daubney

Countering Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property in Ukraine Volodymyr Hulkevych

Connecting the Dots: Models of Public-Private Cooperation in Cultural Property Crime Policing Richard van Herzeele

ISIS, Blood Antiquities, and the International Fight against Terrorism Financing Costanza Musu

Conclusion Kate Melody Burmon
The definition of "cultural property crime" here seems very narrow (and is the US-concocted one). It concentrates on objects, and largely revolves around the issue of provenance and related issues (due diligence, handling of undocumented objects, the antiquities market, financing crime and violence through selling antiquities - I bet "repatriation" is in there too).* 

The major issue that concerns me, the destruction of the archaeological evidence by collection-driven activities seems not to be given all that much prominence (though see Fabiani, Daubney) (Herzeele?). Because in most countries all digging up of archaeological artefacts and pocketing them is a cultural property crime. In those countries that do not have blanket legislation, there are still circumstances where to do so is against the law... and that lies at the basis of all the due diligence and collection histories issues that seem to be this book's main focus, but there seems to be nothing devoted to setting out the fundamental 'from the ground' issues in anything like a global perspective.  

As for the archaeology, it is a shame that somebody has first to leave the UK's public-funded Portable Antiquities Scheme to make a real contribution to discussions on collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record as a "problem". The PAS is doing us all a disfavour that it is not taking and writing on the wider view and informing the public on the whole range of issues involved in what it calls (after its partnering collectors) "metal detecting", rather than their facadist wishy-washiness about "citizen archaeologists".**

Unless Herzeele covers it, there seems to be no discrete text here devoted to the issue given prominence in several international documents (themselves in need of updating) of actively informing the public about the damaging effects of collection-driven exploitation (artefact hunting and collecting as a whole, not just 'the trade') and why this should be a matter of concern. Some of these are set out in this book, but will Roger's mum down the shop, or Trader Joe the heating engineer be reading that alongside the sports news in his paper?  

One wonders looking at books like these how global are the "perspectives" they gather and where does all this scattergun writing lead? I will try asnd get the book to see what the editors say. 

* Why are the chapters by prosecutor Hulkevych and Costanza Musu not in Part two?

** There is also little chance that UK's "dirt archaeologists" are going to take problem more seriously when discussion fragmented as single enlightened articles (as I am sure Adam Daubney's text is) setting UK "metal detecting" in a wider context published in collected vols each costing £100.

Tuesday 11 October 2022

Historians in Qatar stop the sale of stolen Afghan manuscripts

VIDEO Al Jazeera English Historians in Qatar stop the sale of stolen Afghan manuscripts October 9, 2022

Historians in Qatar working for the Himaya programme say they have intervened to stop the sale of nearly a dozen stolen manuscripts from Afghanistan. The manuscripts were being sold in prestigious auction houses, as their theft was never reported. The group of experts works with Interpol and the World Customs Organization to preserve Afghanistan’s heritage and history.

Ukraine: "Russian troops have stolen artefacts from nearly 40 museums"

                         Missing from Melitopol?                        

Ukrainian officials say Russian troops have stolen artefacts from nearly 40 museums. They estimate that the looting and destruction of cultural sites has caused losses in the hundreds of millions of euros (Hanna Arhirova, ‘War crime’: Industrial-scale destruction of Ukraine culture' APNews October 9, 2022). A Hunnic golden tiara, inlaid with precious stones
is now vanished from the museum in Ukraine that housed it — perhaps, historians fear, forever. Russian troops carted away the priceless crown and a hoard of other treasures after capturing the Ukrainian city of Melitopol in February, museum authorities say. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, now in its eighth month, is being accompanied by the destruction and pillaging of historical sites and treasures on an industrial scale, Ukrainian authorities say. In an interview with The Associated Press, Ukraine’s culture minister alleged that Russian soldiers helped themselves to artifacts in almost 40 Ukrainian museums. The looting and destruction of cultural sites has caused losses estimated in the hundreds of millions of euros (dollars), the minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, added. “The attitude of Russians toward Ukrainian culture heritage is a war crime,” he said. For the moment, Ukraine’s government and its Western backers supplying weapons are mostly focused on defeating Russia on the battlefield. But if and when peace returns, the preservation of Ukrainian collections of art, history and culture also will be vital, so survivors of the war can begin the next fight: rebuilding their lives.
To be honest, I had not taken note that this item had been in the Melitopol Museum of Local Lore and was missing. Earlier reports only dealt with the 198 Scythian gold items from the 1954 excavations in the Melitopol kurhan, only part of the assemblage, the rest being in Kyiv. The Hunnic diadem was discovered in March 1948 in a burial complex of the Hunnic period (1st half of 5th century AD), consisting of more than 90 items, in Kyziyarska Balka near Melitopol. It is made of gold plates decorated with amber, garnet, carnelian, granulation (gold balls) on a the bronze base.* It is one of the textbook examples of this class of object) [the diadem in this photo in this article is not the right one].

The article tries to argue for the model of 'targeted looting to destroy cultural identity' - which is certainly what Hitler's Nazis did in Poland in WW2. What is happening in Ukraine since Feb 24th looks more like simple trophy hunting - like what the Red Army took part in as they invaded Europe in 1944-5 filling the Hermitage and other Soviet museums with loot (some of which is still there).

I presume there is somewhere a list, though I have not found it, of those "forty museums" and the approximate nature of the objects taken. (Does this include areas occupied in 2014-Jan 2022 alongside items stolen since the present phase of the invasion?). The reason I ask is that Damaged cultural sites in Ukraine verified by UNESCO
As of 10 October, UNESCO has verified damage to 201 sites since 24 February – 86 religious sites, 13 museums, 37 historic buildings, 37 buildings dedicated to cultural activities, 18 monuments, 10 libraries.

* note to self: is it really amber? That would be quite significant, given what we know of the amber trade in the migration period...

Monday 10 October 2022

Kyiv This Morning and Russians and Their Archaeology

Two museums, a pedestrian bridge, a philharmonic, an office building, a children's playground, a university building and a statue – these are just some of the “important military targets” that Russia has struck with missiles in Kyiv this morning. They are also hitting civilian targets in other towns in the country with rockets, including those in which friends still have family. They seem to be callously using these crude attacks on random civilian targets to stretch the resources of the Ukrainian anti-air defences in the hope that by forcing them to attack multiple civilian targets, more of their (more expensive) guided missiles reach their targets of the energy grid, hoping to cripple it before winter to freeze Ukraine out, a repeat of Stalin's Hołodomor tactic. 

As far as we can see, television audiences all over the RF are delighted that "Russia is showing its might" in such a way. It seems many Russians share their leaders' regret that the "glories" of the good-old-Soviet-days are over and thus actually tacitly or openly support this attack on those who declined the invitation to stay part of it with a grim cruel  satisfaction. The overall message in the Russian public media seems to be: "serves them [insert mindlessly dehumanising label] right". There are no street protests. massive or otherwise, in big cities of "Good Russians"  denouncing their government and the "culture" of death and destruction it has inculcated in the nation. The picture one gets is one of near-total passivity. The passivity and disinterest, surrender of agency to the state, is today an inherent part of being Russian it seems. It has of course historical roots going back to the Romanovs and Bolsheviks who aped them. 

This is for me and my family, who took active part in it back-then, a huge contrast to the way countries such as Poland, the Baltic states and others reacted to Soviet repression in the 1980s and 1990s. My own family knows the cost of standing up for freedom and opposing the regime in those days. I took part in street demonstrations that faced and struggled with echelons of baton wielding 'milicja' in riot gear.  So for me weak Russian shoulder-shrugging bleating of "what can we do?" cuts little ice. Daily, in a free Poland, I rub shoulders with people that did stand up among the thousands that refused to be cowed. Just like the Ukrainians of the 2004/5 Orange Revolution and February 2014 Revolution of Dignity. 

Now Russia wants to turn the clock back and engulf a sovereign nation like Ukraine into a revived Russian hegemony, not recognising that the model of the Soviet Union is long past its sell-by date. And the majority of the population of the Russian Federation stands idly by. Unless, that is, they themselves  feel they might get called up to fight in this nasty war. It is only then they try to kick against the system. But by running away to save their own skins. "Good Russians"? 

My specialism is officially Slavic archaeology, I have collaborated, sometimes closely, in the past with Soviet and Russian archaeologists, even invited some of them to my home (one even to my parents in England), I've used their literature, even wrote on the beginnings of this Russian state. I am totally at a loss to know how I should see that now. While is is true that I see some of them are vaguely reported in secondary sources in our Polish archaeological circles to be "against" this war, not a single one of the academics I know has come out with any direct protest. [I would overjoyed to find put that I had missed something]. Academics no longer function anywhere as opinion-formers of course. Nevertheless, it will be a long time before I even speak to a Russian colleague while memory of this attack and their compliance are still fresh.* We can do without them. 

In my own field (but I see it in others) I have long been conscious of the way that Soviet approaches to the past has influenced the interpretation of archaeological material over a wide area of central and eastern Europe. I wrote a paper in 1992 about Marxist influences in Polish archaeology that did not go down too well among colleagues cited there (and was one of the reasons sited when I as kicked out of the University). This goes deeper however as it seems to me that the whole approach to identity/ ethnicity and ethnic qualification used in large swathes of archaeology relates to ideas produced in the crucible of cultures that was the Soviet Union that were then disseminated in the Soviet Bloc to become the conceptual legacy of the way these issues are still approached today. Maybe it is time to attack this issue again with renewed vigour and try and unpick the Sovietisation and Russification of our archaeological models.

As Russia tries to gobble up artefacts that reflect a mythical proto-Russian past for all the territories it is trying to lay claim to, and make Russia and its lands the centre of their own narrative, maybe it is time to see what benefits might come from creating an Archaeology Without Russia, in the same way as in the 1920s-1950s they tried to create an archaeology free of the ideology of the despised "Western Bourgeoisie" (after all, in the 1992 article I actually said this attempt could have led to some good things for Polish archaeology, but did not).      

* I think also we need to look through the light of these events at the activities of Justinian ("the Great")  and all the rest (including the East Roman equivalent of Putin's patronage networks of oligarchs) involved in the short-lived Renovatio  Imperii that led to the fall of the Justinian Dynasty and the rise in power and influence of the Slavs (hooray!) and Avars leading to the creation of a new world order in that part of Europe. 

Sunday 9 October 2022

Karaoke PAStfinders in UK


Jennifer Harby, 'BBC The Lost King: Legal action 'likely' against Richard III film' BBC News 9th October 2022.

A university academic has said he is likely to take legal action against the makers of a new film about Richard III, which he said was "littered with inaccuracies". Richard Taylor was part of the University of Leicester team that found and identified the king 10 years ago. A character bearing his name features in the film The Lost King, starring Steve Coogan and Sally Hawkins. [...] The film, released on Friday - which was also co-written by Mr Coogan - stars Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winning Ms Hawkins in the lead role of Philippa Langley, an ordinary woman who - it says - "took on the country's most eminent historians, forcing them to think again".[...] In its promotional material, it said it was the "remarkable, true story" of the find.
The university - which said it funded the bulk of the excavations and subsequent research to identify the king's remains - said they were never consulted over their depiction by the film-makers.
Mr Coogan has told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he believed the university had "played this quite badly". "Had they at the start been generous towards Philippa, and elevated her to the front and centre position, which is where she deserves to be, this film wouldn't have been necessary. "But at every turn they marginalised her, edged her out, because she wasn't cut from the right cloth." Dan Winch, the film's producer, said the filmmakers had had contact with the university, despite the institution claiming otherwise.[...] "We were very courteous and respectful but we explained if we were to engage too far over the line then it wouldn't be the story we wanted to tell - that's Philippa's story. "It wouldn't be the film we wanted to make [...]."
What? What they mean was that archaeology is done by archaeologists, and if you are reporting archaeology, you write about what archaeologists do. 


Thursday 6 October 2022

New Book Promoting Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record in UK [Updated]

A British archaeologist is enchanted by a new book on "metal detecting" by travel writer Nigel Richardson (The Accidental Detectorist: Uncovering an Underground Obsession Octopus Publishing Group ):
I’ve just finished this beautiful book by . Its warm, quietly hopeful prose uses the medium of the British countryside to weave together personal reflection and rich historical detail. A love story to responsible detecting, and to the past under all our feet.
I was curious to see the other reviews, the Amazon ones are full of the predictable pop-culture references to the comedy series "Detectorists". As for hom much it contributes to the readers' understanding of what the british archaeologist calls "responsible metal detecting? (which in fact would be "responsible collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record") is shown by such gems as " Anyways, I’m now off to Silchester Roman Wall to bury this book in a nice metal box for some lucky nighthawker to find". One wonders what kind of archaeology (or pseudo archaeology) this book is promoting reading the reviewer write: "Each time Richardson finds something his imagination goes crazy and he creates a story about the item and how it came to be buried in the field he was searching, I loved these little stories, his energy is contagious and I could find no fault in his stories". And archsaeological contexts? My grandson makes up stories about things he pulls out of cupboards that he's playing with too. That is not archaeology. After I tweeted that, the archaeologist retorts that they were "not talking about archaeology". That may be, but as an archaeologist when I read about archaeological evidence becoming loose decontextualised items for someone's private collection by being ripped out of archaeological contexts for personal entertainment and profit, I ask why we would NOT be "talking about the archaeology"?

There is also a review by metal detectorist Kerrie Fuller in something called The Archaeology and Metal Detecting Magazine (really about MD with a bit af "archaeology" thrown in to make it look good). This contains a telling passage:
But the most interesting thing for me, was the discussion around museums, archaeology and detecting. I love going to museums and feel particular joy when the item has been labelled as having been found by a detectorist but it’s rare! And yet, museums get some of their most popular and valuable exhibits from detectorists and over 90% of all new archaeological finds in any year are discovered by detectorists, so why don’t they get the recognition they deserve? The issue (as covered in the book) is the us vs them nature of archaeologists (degree educated professionals) vs detectorists (uneducated hobbyists). Although as one archaeologist Jenny says, the role of the FLO wouldn’t exist without detecting, and it has revolutionised our understanding of history. There is a perception that archaeologists want everything done a certain way, that is, by a trained archaeologist BUT I can tell you two things that might help here:
I’m not a trained archaeologist and yet I’ve volunteered on several digs (including one in Pompeii) and they have not at ALL been bothered by my lack of training or experience. In fact, most digs DEPEND on volunteers to get all the work done.
Also, please don’t confuse intelligence with academia. Intelligence means the ability to learn something, like metal detecting. Academia means the ability to write essays, pass exams and get qualifications. The world needs both. And just because you don’t have a degree, does not mean you are not intelligent. In fact, most FLOs will admit that the detectorists who come to them with their finds are more clued up than they are.
The writer misses the whole point of the archaeological concerns about the damage done by collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. In fact completely, 100% misses the point - reducing it to some kind of paper tiger classist "them and us" dialectic (a 'common man/academia' issue). Whose fault is it that the resource conservation issue is completely ignored? To some degree that a professional archaeologist would say "(in discussing this book) I was not talking about the archaeology" is a symptom of the wider problem that British archaeologists may be happy to chatter on about "artefacts" ("finds") ... and "the stories they tell"... they are less keen to address archaeological issues in public discourse. Why? Anyone's guess. Whatever else "archaeologist Jenny" said about this, it seems not to have impinged on the consciousness of the reviewers. 

[Update] On my commenting on the contents of the customer reviews and referencing the online review, instead of engaging with the points they raise about this "love story to responsible detecting", and "the [exploitation of the] past under all our feet", the original poster has just deleted their tweet (and thus all the tweets made by other users responding to it). This is typical of the UK's "metal detector debate", where anything not fitting the cardborad cutout positive picture is ignored and suppressed in order to maintain the pretty façade. What is the matter with people there? No wonder the country has gone to the dogs.

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