Saturday 25 February 2023

U.S. Department of State Announces $7 Million for Ukraine Cultural Heritage Response Initiative

The extension of soft power under the umbrella of befefitting a shared cultural heritage, United States Department of State:
With Ukraine’s cultural identity and heritage under continuous threat and attack by Russian forces, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) announced today that its Ukraine Cultural Heritage Response Initiative will invest $7 million to support Ukrainian efforts to protect its cultural heritage.

The Initiative was developed to support Ukraine’s efforts to protect and repair damage to Ukrainian cultural heritage sites and collections, as well as expand and strengthen public-private partnerships with civil society in Ukraine. It is part of the United States’ broader global efforts to preserve and protect cultural heritage.

In cooperation with Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, Ukrainian NGOs, and international partners, the Initiative will give priority to cultural heritage sites and collections directly impacted by Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine. It will support activities such as the documentation of damaged sites and collections for accountability, protection from damage and theft, emergency stabilization of damaged sites, the development and implementation of conservation and restoration plans, cultural heritage response coordination, and specialized training.

The Initiative complements broader efforts coordinated by ECA’s Cultural Heritage Center to support emergency preparedness and response, monitor Russia’s destruction of cultural heritage in Ukraine through the Conflict Observatory, and foster public-private partnerships to preserve and protect cultural heritage.

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Collector's Loot Returns to Cambodia from UK

Over seventy looted pre-Angkorian and Angkorian objects including crowns, necklaces, bracelets, belts, earrings and amulets have been returned to Cambodia from the UK according to a statement from the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts (Lim Nary 77 Cambodian Pieces Of Jewellery Collection Return Home AKP Phnom Penh, February 20, 2023)
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) reached an accord with the family of the late Douglas Latchford in September 2020 wherein all Cambodian artefacts in the possession of the Latchford family will be returned to Cambodia.
The collection, which arrived in Cambodia on Feb. 17, 2023, include gold and other precious metal pieces from the Pre-Angkorian and Angkorian period such as crowns, necklaces, bracelets, belts, earrings and amulets, a number of which have been featured in the book Khmer Gold: Gifts of the Gods, co-authored by Mrs. Emma C. Bunker and Mr. Douglas A.J. Latchford (2008). Many of the objects have never been seen by the public before.
No mention is made of any paperwork accompanying the objects, do we know which sites, even, any of this stuff came from?

What makes a metal artefact an 'object of outstanding historical, archaeological or cultural importance' in UK?

If you want to know what in Brexitland will make a metal artefact an 'object of outstanding historical, archaeological or cultural importance', you can at last see the draft Order The Treasure (Designation) (Amendment) Order 2023.
"This Order amends the Treasure (Designation) Order 2002 (S.I. 2002/2666) to include an additional class of objects within the definition of treasure in section 1(1) of the Treasure Act 1996 (c. 24), and to exclude two classes of objects from that definition [...] A full impact assessment has not been produced for this instrument as no significant impact on the private, voluntary or public sectors is foreseen".
By whom?

anyway, the new "classes of objects which [sic] are excluded from the definition of treasure" are those that are found in and on land that its "subject to the faculty jurisdiction of the Church of England" (but note, not the Catholics) and "any object found in or under a cathedral church or within its precinct". We all remember the story of the Galloway Hoard found on Church of Scotland land.

The draft Order leads to the following reading of the revised The Treasure (Designation) Order 2002 which in turn modifies the contents (and in particular section 1 of The Treasure Act 1996). Here's a reminder of what that currently looks like (a bit of a mess already):

Note the scratchpad-legislation-enabling Section 2 which is supposed to compensate for a lack of joined-up thinking at the beginning.

Now the 2023 Draft Order perpetuating on the muddle, here's what the relevant section of the 2002 document would look like if it were written following the guidelines given in the 2023 document:
3. The following classes of objects are designated pursuant to section 2(1) of the Act.
(a) any object (other than a coin), any part of which is base metal, which, when found is one of at least two base metal objects in the same find which are of prehistoric date;
(b) any object, (other than a coin) which is of prehistoric date, and any part of which is gold or silver. (c) any object, any part of which is metal, which satisfies paragraph (2).
(2) An object satisfies this paragraph if—
(a)it provides an exceptional insight into an aspect of national or regional history, archaeology or culture by virtue of one or more of the following—
(i) its rarity as an example of its type found in the United Kingdom,
(ii) the location, region or part of the United Kingdom in which it was found, or
(iii) its connection with a particular person or event; or
(b) although it does not, on its own, provide such an insight, it is, when found, part of the same find as one or more other objects, and provides such an insight when taken together with those objects.”
1.—(1) This Order may be cited as the Treasure (Designation) (Amendment) Order 2023 and comes into force 4 months after the day on which it is made.
(2) This Order extends to England and Wales, and Northern Ireland.
(3) The amendments made by this Order do not apply in relation to objects found before this Order comes into force.
But what is "interesting" (if that is the right word) is the bit abut moving the cutoff date from 300 years to 200 years:
EXPLANATORY NOTE (This note is not part of the Order)
This Order ...[...] Article 2(4) designates, for the purposes of section 1(1)(b) of the Treasure Act 1996, an additional class of objects which the Secretary of State considers to be of outstanding historical, archaeological or cultural importance. An object which belongs to that class will fall within the definition of treasure if it is at least 200 years old when found.
eh? It is not IN the Draft Order that modifies the definitin. In fact, without it, the tempral scope of this new type of treasure is not defined at all, it is just "any object" that has a bit of metal in it. Having that in the Code of Practice alone is not formulating the law.

Sunday 19 February 2023

Letter to a Journalist [Updated]

After reading and then writing on a freelance journalist's efforts to discuss artefact hunting in the British context, the only reaction possible is, why British archaeologists do not react? Why do journalists keep writing this stuff? I can only draw one of two conclusions: either they read what archaeologists say, and tell them about the damage done by collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record and for some reason are ignoring it (" 'oo needs so-called experts, eh?"), or perhaps British archaeologists simply aren't saying it.  I guess it is easy to complain that "others should do" something. So I set out to do it myself this time. Here's my letter to the journalist concerned below (anyone else care to share in the comments below what they wrote?):

Dear Ms Bosley,

As somebody concerned about the preservation of the historical environment and the values of is unique, irreplaceable, fragile and finite archaeological record, I was puzzled about the tone of your recent Birmingham Mail article about participation in a commercial artefact hunting event (I tried out metal detecting on a local farm and found something more precious than buried treasure). Would you advocate the same activities of a for-profit looting organization if it was enabling removing collectables(‘antiquities’) from ancient sites anywhere else in the world, Egypt, Iraq or Syria, for example? Or a historical shipwreck off the coast of Cornwall? Or stalactites from a cave high up in the Atlas Mountains? There is no difference. Is this a type of commerce that should gain public approval, or should it be called-out for what it is? In particular:

-       There is no mention in your text of the damage commercial rallies like this do, yet the information is out there only a mouse click away: Large scale metal-detecting events (rallies) can result in the loss of archaeological information and possible damage to archaeology. [], See also:

-        you do not mention  the 2017 Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales [  and ], why?

-       still less, there is inexplicably no reference to public-funded Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) that records finds made by artefact hunters in order that the information about them and their findspots is not lost.  [  and ]. Why?-       Neither does your article make reference to you actually determining the co-ordinates of the findspots of your own pocketed finds with a GPS or similar tool to then report them responsibly. Why? You took something away (from all of us, the history of that land is not yours alone), and did not think it important t replace it with even that snippet of information?

What however that article does is give a plug for the breed of irresponsible artefact hunters that make a commercial business of removing elements of the archaeological record for profit. They gain access to land with deposits containing archaeological and historical artefacts and make money by making them accessible to pay-to-dig artefact hunters randomly removing material often with minimal recording, damaging the archaeological record. The information about unwritten aspects of Britain’s past that lost through this activity is irreplaceable.

 In the last two decades or so, the number of metal detectorists pilfering the archaeological record for “cool things” to collect has risen from probably about 10,000 individuals to now 40,000 (figures from PAS). Collectively, figures suggest that they are currently removing over 1.2 million pieces of historical information annually from the archaeological record artefacts. Records exist of only a small proportion of those losses. In addition to being scattered in small personal collections, many tens of thousands of detected artefacts and coins end up annually on eBay and other online market places, fresh ones being sold there week after week, month after month. The archaeological record is clearly finite, and fragile. Many sites have already been all but stripped of anything of interest to collectors (and archaeologists). Huge areas of the historical landscape of the British Isles have been decimated by this activity, just as surely as the wild flowers and fauna have vanished from the same countryside in the same period. Gone.

 Alongside a great dose of official inaction, and lack of public awareness, irresponsible journalism that fails to depict the effects on the historical environment of this erosive and self-centred hobby for what they are and merely uses hobbyists’ “cool discoveries” as an easy source of a story is among the reasons why this problem is snowballing out of control.

 Yours sincerely

Paul Barford

It is not perfect, too long, but at least I tried. I've actually done these before, they are quite difficult to compose so as to get the main idea of a niche area of conservation (for that is what it is) over to a journalist who in real life covers hockey matches, the council not fixing the holes in a local road, why Brexit is bad for the cat food production industry, Suzie-What's-her-face's new "beach body" and woollen goods to gift aunties at Christmas (etc.). Also try and find archaeologist-written sources that a journalist "should have" consulted in researching such an article. Actually, there are three articulate articles on why rallies are a bad thing. One (Mark Bridge, a Times article) has inexplicably disappeared from the Internet, one (CBA magazine, Heyworth and Lewis) is not online, the third is full of Helsinki-hogwash and therefore does not get the point across that I am making. There is bugger all online (or in any public facing source that I can see) from archaeologists that explains the issue. WHY?? The same goes for commercial firms organizing rallies and metal detecting holidays. Find me an online or public-facing source written from an archaeological point of view explaining why they are bad (or even discssing whether or not they are bad). Yes, there's the Barford Blog, but I did not want to cite only my own material, there's a bit in Andy Brockman's Pipeline, Heritage Action blog... and... again, bugger all for the British public to read about the issues. Looking on the PAS blog for anything much about anything like this is simply a waste of time. WHY??

"Oh, we don't have time" is no doubt what they'll all whine. Offer them a spot on TV pandering to metal detectorists and mouthing a few scripted platitudes to halfwit 'celebrity' presenters and they'll find the time to spend three days in a field waiting to go on camera. But writing to an underinformed journalist, or writing public-facing materials to present artefact collecting and the antiquities trade more holistically (or even critically), well, that's something that most of them apparently think "somebody else" can do.

Updated 5th March 2023

For the record, journalist Ms Kirsty Bosley did not bother to even acknowledge receipt, let alone engage with anything I had spent time putting forward for her.  That British media are in the hands of journalists who write about things they know very little about, cannot be bothered to research first for context,  and zero people skills is clear. That does not absolve archaeologists and those concerned about environmental issues simply shrugging their shoulders. 

This is what happens to the "green and pleasant land" they all take for granted when everybody shrugs their shoulders and fail to react. Roadside litter - stuff just thrown out of car windows and left lying there, is now the UK's calling card for visitors. All over rural Britain, the underground heritage is being looted away for the selfish greed of those that live among this overground squalor. 

Kirsty Takes Part in Commercial Looting

    Birmingham Mail/Go Detecting    

Kirsty Bosley, a freelance journalist decided to give commercial artefact hunting events organizers "Go Detecting Midlands" some free advertising, and Birmingham Mail was pleased to oblige ('I tried out metal detecting on a local farm and found something more precious than buried treasure 17 Feb 2023. Spoiler: what she found was "solid gold peace of mind". Now there's not many countries in the world where individuals (called looters if they have brown skins) taking spades to the archaeological record to hoik out something collectable while trashing the site could claim that. But then, not every country has journalists like Ms Bosley writing earnestly and soothingly of it. The Solihul-based company "Go Detecting" is apparently that run by Lawrence von Sorgenfrei and Christine Bloy, who in Companies House services describes their activities as "93290 - Other amusement and recreation activities not elsewhere classified". The artefact hunting rally attended by Ms Bosley was at Evesham. As she said:
I'd had a metal detector in my hand for about 30 seconds when I heard my first bleep, not a full step away from where Simon Hall had been showing me how to master the bit of kit he was so kindly lending me.
Coincidence no doubt. But the company gets a good review from her after that.
There were around 50 of us searching, spread over three peaceful pastures, soaked in February sun. The Go Detecting Midlands guys had set up a table with coffee and tea and detectorists that were taking a break from the search were leaning on the backs of their cars, snaffling sandwiches and wearing wellies. As well as the detector on my arm and the pin pointer detector in my pocket, I was armed with a shovel and my gardening gloves. A simple set-up, but all I needed to make a start.
So no GPS then, to record the findspots. The bit about (as a "responsible detectorist") her first meeting with the FLO did not make it to the final version, shame that.
There's laws to digging, and that's why being out with Simon had been a good decision. You need permissions to dig and insurance. As well as feeling that Go Detecting Midlands could solve any problems I might find myself getting into (say, keeping a horde [sic!] of coins I'd have no right keeping), it was also nice to just be around others who could help identify what I dug up.
So, no need for the FLO then.

CIfA Hopes Antiquities Collecting will "Remain" "Ethical and Sustainable"

            You Tube bunny stars      

Definitely in Archaeo-fluffybunnyland here:
CIfA @InstituteArch 40 min
We welcome Government update of the definition of Treasure, especially the new significance-based approach to valuing finds. A good first step in improving the Act, but more work is needed to ensure the system remains ethical and sustainable. / CIfA would have liked to see the extended definition applied to non-metal objects too. We also support longer term reform to further dissociate the idea of ‘treasure’ with financial value, with a clearer focus on cultural value.
What? Artefact hunting and collecting ("remaining") "ethical" at the expense of the protection of the archaeological record? Because they can't have both. Has the CIfA produced some guidelines on what that "ethical antiquities collecting" consists of that would apply to this phenomenon generally?

There are now probably 40k artefact hunters in UK (PAS figures) all after their little bits of the archaeological record to pocket since 1970s. Many other UK artefact collectors patronising global antiquities market. How does @InstituteArch see that as in any way ("remaining") "sustainable"?

Leaving aside the whole question of the actual mechanism of defining this idea of "significance", what abut the CIfA's notion of "valuing finds" on their "cultural value"? We are back to the shiny baubles and  pretty pendants with kings' initials on them. What about CIfA advocacy for archaeological value (and context)? British archaeology gives out such mixed messages. 

Egyptian Antiquities Dealers Know there's One Born Every Minute

Artefact hunters and collectors are not always the sharpest knives in the drawer, and often are pretty much ignorant about antiquities, so are easy to pass off fakes to them. If you are stupid, gullible, careless and greedy, there is no end of people who want to sell you dodgy "artefacts. Like this case : 'Fugitive suspects create fake ancient cemetery to defraud antiquities dealers' Egypt Independent February 17, 2023. This practice has been going on for some time, I've seen a whole load of videos - on Facebook for example.

The Egyptian security authorities have revealed that fugitive suspects used a clever trick to defraud antiquities dealers. They achieved this by mimicking an ancient cemetery to sell its contents as original artifacts to illegal antiquities dealers. The suspects created an ancient cemetery under the ground, in al-Hiba area in al-Fashn locality, Beni Suef, containing painted and engraved fake relics, a gypsum coffin, hand-made statues, and quantities of gold-plated ingots made of gypsum, to be used in defrauding antiquities traders. The committee, which was formed under the chairmanship of Director of Antiquities of Beni Suef, Omar Zaki, to investigate the fake tomb, said that all the found relics inside the tomb were made of gypsum, or imitated and purchased from the Khan al-Khalili [market] [...] Prosecutors seized the counterfeit artifacts and ordered the arrest of the fugitive suspects..
It is a shame though that the authorities did not catch those responsble for the heavy looting of El-Hibeh (El-Hiba) itself [about which there is a lot on this blog in 2013-4].

Saturday 18 February 2023

Metal Detecting at Hedeby: Hoard Found

A volunteer searching with a metal detector found an early medieval hoard near Haithabu (Hedeby), Schleswig Holstein (Archäologisches Landesamt Schleswig-Holstein, ' Glück beim Suchen Detektorazubi findet Hortfund', 17.02.2023). It contained some golden earrings with filligree and stone settings (not all the stones survived) from the turn of the eleventh/twelfth centuries, a gold-plated pseudo coin fibula (made from an imitation dinar of the Almohads, who ruled the Mahgreb and southern Spain in the period between 1147 and 1269), two gold-plated finger rings set with stones and a ring fragment, a small formerly gold-plated perforated disc, a small ring fibula and around thirty fragmented silver coins from the time of the reign of the Danish king Valdemar II, nicknamed "Sejr" (the victor) (1202-1241). This suggests that the hoard was deposited in the first half of the 13th century.The hoard had aparently been shallowly buried in a cloth bag somewhere on the outskirts of the abandoned site of Haithabu, but only after the settlement had already been finally destroyed in 1066.

What is interesting is that the find was made during a metal detector course run by the State Heritage Management Office of Schleswig-Holstein. This was part of a mandatory training in methodology in order to get a metal detecting permit.
Für die Verwendung in Schleswig-Holstein wird eine Genehmigung vom Archäologischen Landesamt benötigt. Die Erlaubnis zur Suche mit dem Metalldetektor wird erst nach dem Bestehen einer Prüfung beim ALSH ausgestellt. Wichtiger Bestandteil der Ausbildung sind praktische Übungen. Diese finden unter der Anleitung und der Aufsicht von besonders geschulten ehrenamtlichen Metallsondengängerinnen oder -sondengängern statt. Bei den sogenannten Mentoren handelt es sich um amtlich bestellte Vertrauensleute für bewegliche Kulturdenkmale. Kursteilnehmer bekommen jeweils eine Mentorin oder einen Mentor zugewiesen, mit denen sie im Vorfeld der theoretischen Ausbildung und der Praxisprüfung Erfahrungen im Umgang mit der Sonde, Spaten und Vermessungsgerät sammeln können. Dieses ist besonders wichtig, da jeder Sondler oder jede Sondlerin mit diesem Hobby zur archäologischen Forschung beiträgt. Die Regeln archäologischer Feldmethodik müssen von daher erlernt werden. In der Archäologischen Landesaufnahme wird dieses Engagement gewürdigt. Jeder Finder erhält seinen Eintrag in dieses Register. [...] Dank des Engagements der Sondengängerinnen und Sondengänger können so die noch im Boden befindlichen Denkmalstrukturen besser geschützt werden und z. B. durch Erosion oder modernen Ackerbau gefährdete Funde gesichert werden. Allerdings geht es nicht nur um das Finden. Vielmehr zielt der Denkmalschutz auch auf den Erhalt von Denkmalen und ihrer Umgebung.
Why cannot such a system be introduced in Britain? Metal detector users there are always oh-so-eager to point out how much they "help" archaeology by digging up loose artefacts for their own private entertainment and profit, (only) some of which are reported and how this information "could" be used by heritage professionals. Yet a pile of selected loose objects, even with findspots, is evidence ONLY of modern collecting activity. They are self-evidently of highly limited use as archaeological information about the SITES and CONTEXTS they were deliberately and blindly taken from. ONLY if the artefact hunters hoiking them out of those sites and contexts apply those "Regeln archäologischer Feldmethodik" to the observation, recording and presentation of the relevant data on contexts of deposition and discovery do the loose objects becme archaeological data. But you try to teach a British "metal detectrist" anything. Many of them can barely compose an articulate sentence, and just look at the ruckus caused in the "metal detecting" community when there was a suggestion that a (voluntary) Institute of Detectorists be set up to teach these archaeological principles.

Britain Potentially But Inadequately Attempts to Change Definition of "Treasure"

According to a GOV.UK Press release published 18 February 2023:
" Thousands more treasures to be saved for the nation as rules about discoveries are changed Government changes the legal definition of Treasure so that more new discoveries can go on public display"

New definition of what constitutes treasure will mean many more objects of exceptional archaeological, historical and cultural importance are protected:
- Objects of historical importance more than 200 years old and containing metal will now fit the criteria of ‘treasure’
- Move will see more finds on display in museums across the country for the public to see and enjoy in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
- Treasure enthusiasts and museum visitors are to benefit as the Government changes the legal definition of treasure so that more artefacts can be saved for the nation. The change will mean that more new discoveries go on public display and help deepen people’s understanding of the country’s history.
Under the current definition, newly discovered artefacts can only be legally classified as treasure if they are more than 300 years old and made of precious metal or part of a collection of valuable objects or artefacts. But to make sure the most significant future discoveries are acquired by museums for the benefit of the nation, the Government is expanding the definition set out in the Treasure Act. The move has been prompted after a number of recent discoveries fell outside the scope of the Act, including spectacular Roman finds such as the Ryedale Hoard, now at York Museum, and the Birrus Britannicus figurine on display at Chelmsford City Museum. While these artefacts were, thankfully, acquired by museums, this new definition will make it easier for them to do so in the future.

The new criteria will apply to the most exceptional finds over 200 years old – regardless of the type of metal of which they are made – so long as they provide an important insight into the country’s heritage. This includes rare objects, those which provide a special insight into a particular person or event, or those which can shed new light on important regional histories.

Discoveries of treasure meeting these new criteria will be assessed by a coroner and will go through a formal process in which they can be acquired by a museum and go on display to the public.

Arts & Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said:
“There has been a huge surge in the number of detectorists – thanks in part to a range of TV programmes – and we want to ensure that new treasure discoveries are protected so everyone can enjoy them. “Archaeological treasures offer a fascinating window into the history of our nation and the lives of our ancestors. “We are changing the law so that more artefacts uncovered by archaeologists and members of the public can go on display in museums rather than ending up in private hands. This will make sure they can be studied, admired and enjoyed by future generations.”

Alan Tamblyn, National Council for Metal Detecting, General Secretary, said:
“Each year over 96% of all archeological finds reported by the public come from the detecting community resulting in many amazing new finds in our museums. We are very proud of the massive contribution our members make to archaeological knowledge. “The National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD) supports the principle of the new significance category and the increased legal protection it gives to our Nation’s most important new finds. We also welcome the proposed improvements to the smooth running of the Treasure process.”

Ahem... this means the finders and landowners will get their money mre rapidly.

Two things, first the Act goes even further in this modified form than the previous one in shhowing this has nothing to do with any kind of prtection of the archaeological resource, but about getting displayable trphy piecesinto museums. Secondly, despite all the fulsome phrases and pious hopes they express, I really do not see how this is to be implemented, and the press release is devoid of any indications of that little detail.
The statutory instrument to widen the definition is due to be laid in Parliament on Monday 20 February. It will be made under the Treasure Act 1996 which provides the Secretary of State with powers to designate new classes of treasure. This power was last used in 2002 to expand the definition to include prehistoric hoards. The associated codes of practice, which detail the operation of the Treasure Act and its administration, will be laid in Parliament on Thursday 23 February. Both are affirmative and are therefore subject to Parliamentary debate. If Parliament approves the change, it will come into force four months after signing.
Of course this in no way protects the archaeological record from being indiscriminately looted for metal (and other) collectables that are then pocketed, unless (checks notes) they are "over 200 years old, contain some metal, and at the same time "provide an important insight into the country’s heritage", for example being "rare [types of?] objects, those which provide a special insight into a particular person or event, or those which can shed new light on important regional histories".

Define "rare" and "important" (on legal grounds), and is this determination really to be at the sole discretion of the Coroner with no appeal? Also, is it not the case that the "insight into the counry's heritage" given by archaeological finds is NOT the existence of the actual loose object itself, or even findspot, but its context of deposition?

So Baz Thugwit metal detecting on a field behind a sewage works in Darkest Essex finds a celtic leaded bronze chariot fitting. He decides not to report it and not to put it on eBay. It is of a very unuual type, almost unique, and had fallen off the chariot of Queen Boudicca, (but then how do you test and prove it?) so in terms of the proposed law would be Treasure and declarable but Baz will not if he does not know that, and he the finder (backed up by the ignorance of the landowner) does not think it is important - maybe Baz is very ill-read and knows nothing of the typology of these things, and the landownewr has never even heard of the celts. So Baz does not declare Treasure, though under obligation to, within 14 days. How is this new law to be enforced? A law that cannot be enforced, because the terms on which it is based are so vague, might as well not exist. Who wrote this law?

See also: Steven McIntosh ( Entertainment reporter), 'Treasure definition may be broadened to help museums' 18.02.2023

NCMD and The Treasure Redefinition

Over on a metal detecting webpage near you, a tekkie is getting excited by the NCMD press release about a change to the Treasure Act (‘Treasure’ to be re-defined', Posted on February 17, 2023 by John Howland). He reckons this is a good thing and "could hand Detectorists greater influence over which recovered artefacts should be deemed as ‘significant’...". He apparently missed this bit (more than eight sentences in): "We’d hoped you, our members, could have had a greater input to the process too but sadly our offers to facilitate this were not taken up". Tekkies were cut out of the process.

So I reckon it will be about two to three weeks and the NCMD will be announcing yet again that they are withdrawing from the ongoing discussions. They always do, like petulent little kids.

New Idea for "Treasure" in British Heritage Debate and its Likely Consequences

On the proposed changes to the British Treasure ActHelen Geake @HelenGeake · 48 min
responding to a tweet
by the head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (non vidi - for some reason known only to himself, he's blocking me from seeing his public outreach on social media)
This the result of much thought and lots of very careful research and legal drafting. It's going before Parliament on Monday, and will take a little time to implement, but will mean more important archaeological objects will go to museums first, not antiquities dealers
Surely what is more likely is that it will be used to take unreported objects off the market when they are spotted when a dealer puts it up for sale - like the so-called Crosby Garrett Helmet and the Haddenham Horse harness brooch. It cannot impose a requirement to report an "important" (in terms of the Act) object within a statutory period, if it is a subsequent and consequent Coroner's inquest that is to define it as such. Likewise no sanction is possible on non-reporting of such a category of object. Just another fluff law from the UK as unfit for the (any) purpose as the UK's pathetic 'Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003'. Where is the "thought" behind it?

Let us recall that neither the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet, nor the Haddenham harness brooch (two of the finds which I suspect the legislators had in mind proposing these modifications) were repoted to the PAS and were only recorded well after they arrived in the saleroom and in the case of the former had undergone extensive restoration. Had they not been spotted on open sale, one might suspect that neither of them would have been recorded.

Another issue is that if items that are suddenly recognised as potentially important and Treasure-worthy can be pulled off sale to have a Croner decide whether to give them legal status, I suspect we will be seeing a lot more freshly metal detected ("orl wiv the landownerz permissin") artefacts appearing now in auction catalogues as "from an old continental collection, before 1970" in the antiquities market's traditional spirit of "they can't touch you for it".

East of England Commercial Artefact Hunting Rally Organiser

       Adrian standing in hole left by exploded grenade.
Another group exploiting the British archaeological record for personal financial gain is EAST OF ENGLAND RALLIES Metal Detecting Events:
Cheryl and Adrian Dawes at East of England Rallies pride ourselves on organising weekend events specifically aimed at the serious detectorist. The detecting is the main focus and to that end we don't have a beer tent , live music and the proverbial in a brewery. That's not to say that we don't enjoy ourselves. We have been organising digs in Norfolk since 1991 and strive to offer the best detecting land available on the many estates that we use. We aim to have several weekend digs throughout the year that run from Friday lunctime through till Sunday afternoon so if you fancy joining our happy friendly group then please get in touch.
Apparently (why?) the same setup has been operating concurrently under the name of "East Anglian Diggers" which they used for "Small Sunday Digs". It seems they have now stopped using that name ("all future events will go under East Of England Rallies"). The next event of EOE is the 'Merton March Dig 2023':
Our first WEEKEND dig this year is on the weekend 4th - 5th March Comprising mostly fresh stubble fields which we haven't detected previously together with a selection of ploughed land. There will be limited places for this event so as to allow comfortable detecting for involved. Ticket price for the weekend is £60 for each person [...] Adrian can be contacted at: celticgold49@[****] [photo] Adrian standing in hole left by exploded grenade.

Friday 17 February 2023

Lenborough All Over Again: Norfolk Roman Pewter Deposit Shown Being Crudely Dug Up on Tekkie Video

One of the many post-Pandemic rally videos, this one posted by a foreign artefact hunter ("Leigh" aka "Bondi Treasure Hunter") energetically emptying part of the archaeological record at an undisclosed place in Norfolk into his pockets:
Posted on You Tube by Bondi Treasure Hunter 321K subscribers, 'two months ago'
Comments make it clear that among the 10k viewers so far are a lot that approve of this form of private exploitation of the resource and also the damage being done: Kelly S 2 months ago " What an amazing hunt. The owners did their homework to know it was an archaeological site. That would have been amazing to hunt there". A commercial artefact hunting rally in Britain targeting a known site again. 

                screenshots from You Tube
This was posted two months ago. There are no comments under the video by British archaeologists saying to "Leigh"s 321000 subscribers that this is bad. So I'll do it for them. This is bad. This is no way to treat the British archaeological record. 

But it's OK you might think, they have an archaeologist with a tattoo and look-at-me bright crimson hair clashing with apple-green glasses frames on the site overseeing the whole process. So when one of them irresponsibly digs really, really deep following a signal down below ploughgirl depth, said archaeologist (who is this? She's not introduced) is shown sitting calmly beside the narrow, blind-dug hole with the broken bit of pewter plate on its edge explaining that she does not know what the guy has dug right into the middle of but talking to the Treasure hunters about Roman hoards

Now this is the point where archaeological good practice would entail giving the bloke (ir)responsible a good bollocking for digging so deep (against the Code, "voluntry innit?") necessitating taking special and expensive extra measures, infilling the exposed feature and contacting the landowner to get him to park a piece of agricultural machinery over the spot to secure it from unauthorised interference and shut off activity from that part of the field until this (potential) national Treasure findspot can be properly dealt with.

After all, what could this be? There are archaeological precedents for this being a deposit of vessels at one end or other, or in the middle of, an inhumation grave, where probably due to this soil preservation of bones and organics would be poor (like the 'sandmen' of the cemetery at Sutton Hoo nearby). It could be a deposit in the burial chamber of a chamber grave, or even a boat burial where the covering mound has been ploughed away. it could be a single isolated hoard buried well away from other features in an empty landscape, or like the deposits across Northern Europe, one of many groups of material deposited at a particular significant place. Obviously to investigate that context, a larger area will need to be opened and carefully explored, with the appropriate sampling techniques (for example soil phosphates) employed. That is what an archaeologist contracted by a commercial artefact hunting rally organizer should be explaining (as "outreach") to the tubby ageing blokes gathered around that hole, and then professional ethics would bind them to ensuring that this was set in motion. Otherwise, why be there?

But then it turns out from the film that there is a "rally archaeologist" - though it is odd that when you see them in action, there is a group of blokes in Joan Allen teeshirts, and guys with "East of England rallies" logos on their shirts in hi-vis jackets. What kind of archaeologists are these? Ms Crimson Hair has vanished. The blokes use string and nails to lay out a wholly inadequate 1-meter square hole and begin lowering the soil in "20 cm" spits around the central hoik hole. They are shown using pinpointers to make sure no "artefacts" are lost. Hang the stratigraphy eh? Anyway when they get (in how much time?) to the artefact bearing level... (ie an arbitrary horizontal slice through the top of whatever deposit the  targeted artefacts are in and under) we see in the side of the trench the bottom of the, quite shallow, ploughsoil in the side of their sondage. Its more than half way up the trench wall! The excavators have apparently dug through it, even their hole was not big enough to detect the edges of any feature the objects were in and excavate it stratigraphically. I wonder if this was a surprise to them. Then we see that their hurried scraping and levering (yes! see video) has damaged the majority of the rim of the lower vessel, that's apart from the big fragment broken off the top one by the finder. We also see at least four other vessels in the metre-square sondage.. so clearly the deposit is more complex than the detectorists hoik hole had indicated. Quelle surprise, eh?

Screenshots from YouTube. This. is. Not. Archaeology. 
[but I doubt many British archaeologists would dare to say it out loud to the Public]

This is another Lenborough fiasco. The site was not secured, both the context of deposition and the objects themselves were stripped of some (probably much) of their information value by the unprofessional, irresponsible and impatient manner in which an attempt was made to recover them quickly. Once again. This is Euston Estate hoard, apparently from September 2022. There is another vide of its digging shown on the commercial rally organiser's webpage here (and here on You Tube) It is an incredibly uninformative and disjointed presentation of very little documentary value - but why is one of the investigators shown with an obscured (pixelated) face - but not butt crack?  

I hope we hear more about this find in the future. You know, some actual discussion. 

Post scriptum:

Here is my You Tube comment to the Treasure Hunter's video since nobody in the UK seems bothered to pay any attention to the issues raised by the limited scope f the information the viewing public is getting here.   
This was posted two months ago. There are no comments under the video by British archaeologists saying to "Leigh"s 321000 subscribers that this is bad. So I'll do it for them. This is bad. Huge damage is being done to the archaeological record by commercial rallies like this and Treasure hunting in general. This is no way to treat the British archaeological record, totally selfish, disrespectful and irresponsible (that detectorist who dug into the pewter vessel hoard in an untouched archaeological feature was well below plough level - ignoring the established Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales). How much did the subsequent excavation and conservation of the objects the finders damaged cost, and who foots the bill? Did the rally organizers who profited from this "business" cover all the costs consequent on the side effects of the activities they are responsible for? Where are the many non-Treasure finds shown here that were removed from this archaeological site? Scattered in private hands? If the ones Bondi Treasure Hunter displays so proudly at the end of the film left the country, can we see the export licence? (because they need one). How are they being stored?

Cultural Cleansing in Mariupol

It is being reported that university appointees of the Russian occupier are throwing away Ukrainian books from the Pryazovskyi State Technical University in Mariupol. Some are dumped right from the window. Apparently, Russia is systemically destroying all things Ukraine in the occupied towns in an attempt to erase Ukrainian identity in the occupied territories (Photo: P.Andryushchenko). This is part of a wider action:
Occupation troops seize and destroy Ukrainian literature and history textbooks.

The seizure of Ukrainian historical and fiction literature that does not coincide with the postulates of Kremlin propaganda has begun in the libraries of the temporarily occupied territories of Luhansk, Donetsk, Chernihiv and Sumy regions. Russian units of the "military police" were involved in this. At this point, in addition to the repressive, they perform so-called "ideological functions". The police are most interested in books on the history of Ukrainian Maidans, ATO / OOS, and the history of Ukrainian liberation struggles.

"Extremist" literature includes school textbooks on Ukrainian history, scientific and popular historical literature. The occupiers have a whole list of names forbidden to be mentioned. Mazepa, Petliura, Bandera, Shukhevych, Chornovil are among them. In the cities of Kreminna, Rubizhne (Luhansk Oblast), Horodnia (Chernihiv Oblast) there are cases of seizure of the book "The Case of Vasyl Stus" by Vakhtang Kipiani.

Found books are confiscated, destroyed on the spot or taken away in an unknown direction.

Monday 13 February 2023

Citizen Scientists Studying LiDAR Maps Have Found 1,000 Prehistoric Burial Mounds Across the Netherlands

        Archaeological landscapes revealed      
     by EU Citizen science
Min Chen, Thousands of Citizen Scientists Studying LiDAR Maps Have Found 1,000 Prehistoric Burial Mounds Across the Netherlands Art Net News  February 10, 2023
Some 6,500 citizen scientists in the Netherlands have located a trove of archaeological remains across the Veluwe and Utrechtse Heuvelrug regions while working with researchers at Leiden University. Their findings included more than 1,000 burial mounds dating to 2,800–500 B.C.E., in addition to prehistoric field complexes known as Celtic fields, charcoal kilns, cart tracks, and other archaeological objects.

The hunt was spearheaded by Heritage Quest, a collaborative venture between the university and Gelderland Heritage, a cooperative of 30 heritage organizations. From 2020, the project tasked its participants with examining some 600,000 LiDAR maps of the Veluwe and Utrechtse Heuvelrug areas on Zooniverse, a citizen science web portal, to detect new archaeological structures.

“With the help of thousands of citizen scientists, we were able to investigate a much wider region and in much greater detail than professional archaeologists alone could attain,” Eva Kaptijn, an archaeologist with Gelderland Heritage, told Artnet News.

“Without the volunteers, this project would have taken years and not be as reliable,” she said, adding that every map on Zooniverse was inspected by about 15 people.

Following the online discoveries by citizen scientists, archaeologists and archaeology students from the university headed out into the field in the summer of 2021 to verify the remains.

Taking soil samples from more than 300 burial mounds, the team found that 80 of these were previously undiscovered structures—effectively doubling the number of known mounds in the area. Further studies have led them to believe that more than 1,250 of the sites pinpointed by citizen scientists could be prehistoric.
This contrasts with the British Isles where "citizen archaeology" is the label applied by archaeologists (!)  to artefact hunters with metal detectors and spades who will also use LIDAR images and open-source satellite photos to locate features (such as burial mounds) to then go and try to dig out any diagnostic and collectable artefacts that they will pocket and in (only) some cases report having removed. No archaeological surveys, archaeological verification on-the-ground, let alone soil sampling. The British approach is a sledge-hammer one that leads to the devastation of the archaeological landscape rather than revealing it.

"You done well" allegedly said the Kent FLO - really?
They never denied it. 

In the Dutch case:
In addition to reorienting the current view of prehistory in the region, Kaptijn said, the material gathered by Heritage Quest will go toward informing policymaking around archaeological preservation, one of the project’s stated aims. She added that the engagement of the Dutch public has been central to that effort.

“Studies, including our own, have shown that this results in better protection of the heritage,” she said about the participation of citizen scientists. “By engaging the public, awareness of important archaeological heritage is created as is a greater sense of place and a feeling of ownership.”
The only ownership that British detectorists feel is to the artefacts hidden in their pockets that come from "their" jealously-guarded "productive sites".

Thursday 9 February 2023

Illustrating History: Charlie's H and K Pendant

                       A wedding                  
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is moving further and further away from being archaeological outreach in " raising awareness among the public of the educational value of archaeological finds in their CONTEXT" (ie the context and its contents as a source in its own right) and towards becoming a superficial "show and tell" that talks about OBJECTS as illustrations of what we know about history from other sources (e.g., written sources). Yet another example of this was the hoo-haa about a metal detected pendant ( Michelle Butterfield Amateur metal detectorist uncovers incredibly rare 500-year-old royal pendant Global News Posted February 7, 2023). It’s a once-in-a-lifetime find for any metal detectorist. Charlie Clarke found it in 2019 in a Warwickshire field. It has been dated to 1521 because of the initials on it plus the general type. In the account of its finding and then display at a BM Treasure-related event four years later, there are the usual human interest tropes:
After turning up mostly “junk,” Clarke was about to call it quits when his detector started beeping loudly. He dug into the soil, about the depth of his elbow, and pulled out a large heart-shaped pendant attached to a gold chain. The find, Clarke told The Guardian, made him scream “like a little schoolgirl, to be honest. My voice went pretty high-pitched.” The piece of jewelry, he would recently come to learn, dates back more than 500 years and features the initials and symbols of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. The pendant is attached to a chain of 75 links and crafted out of 300 grams of 24-carat gold, reports The Guardian, and is decorated with a bush bearing the Tudor rose and a pomegranate, Katherine’s symbol. On the other side, the initials H and K appear, intertwined by an engraved ribbon and on both sides the inscription of “TOVS+IORS” appears, a pun on the French word “toujours” meaning “always”.
Writing on it, an "addressed source", the kind the PAS and collectors love. The story goes that this was perhaps "worn or handed out as a prize at one of the jousts the king was known for hosting at the time" (written sources). What can one say? H and K and toujours, so it "must" refer to one of England's fattest kings, Henry VIII surely. 100%, no? Not any Humbert and Kryzylda, Harold and Katrina or any other H and K combination. And of course a pomegranate, well obviously this only points to one person and it's not there at all as an attribute of Venus, a symbol of desire (and marriage and/or fertility because of its many seeds). It simply does not appear anywhere else in medieval art... oh except frequently in sacred images of the Virgin and Child. Like a rose bush. And a "Tudor" rose, well, it was used as an emblem in times of Henry VII, Henry VIII but also (and with a pomegranate) by Mary I - but not only by the monarchs. So, these are assumptions, hypotheses. Why was it dropped in a Warwickshire field? Was it a votum in a chapel that was stolen and dropped by the thief-in-the-night, an old hand-me-down worn on a passionate date behind the haystack by a lady several generations removed from the 1520s recipient, who knows? What actually was the context it lay in? What is the archaelgical context? Who knows, but hey, "Henry VII", eh? H-e-n-n-n-ery!! You can almost touch the past, eh? An illustration of history.

The finder of the chain and pendant associated with Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, Charlie Clarke (left) and Arts and Heritage Minister, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (right) look at the pendant on display at the British Museum in London as archaeological discoveries made by members of the public are revealed via the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).View image in full screen The finder of the chain and pendant associated with Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, Charlie Clarke (left) and Arts and Heritage Minister, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (right) look at the pendant on display at the British Museum in London as archaeological discoveries made by members of the public are revealed via the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Tuesday 7 February 2023

"Bondi Treasure Hunter" Hits England


Bondi Treasure Hunter has 321K subscribers on You Tube and is a metal detectorist and magnet fisher who lives in a camper van and apparently makes a living posting videos of his travels around the world Treasure hunting. Several of them involve treasure hunting in the UK, such as these ones:
Buried Roman Jewellery and Coins found Metal Detecting UK 70K views 2 years ago #Treasurehunting #Metaldetecting
Metal Detecting in England with two of the most successful treasure hunters in the country- Adam Staples and Lisa Corieltavi. Part 2 coming next... Subscribe so you don't miss the Treasure!


Metal Detecting Jackpot in the UK! *Treasure Found* 155K views 1 year ago #Treasurehunting #Metaldetecting
Striking it Lucky Metal Detecting in the Uk with two of the most successful treasure hunters in the country- Adam Staples and Lisa Corieltavi.
The couple mentioned are Lisa Grace and Adam Staples Staples has worked /works for Derbyshire auctioneer Hanson's.

This is private commercial exploitation of the British archaeological record. Needless to say, there are no comments under these videos by British heritage professionals discussing the issues raised by these activities. 

Monday 6 February 2023

Issue of London Thames 'Mudlarking' Permits Suspended to "Protect the Integrity and the Archaeology of the Foreshore"

Anon, 'Mudlarking' permits for River Thames halted after historical hobby sees surge in popularity Euronews 29/11/2022 The Port of London Authority has stopped issuing new permits for 'mudlarking' along the River Thames, after experiencing a huge surge in popularity. The hobby involves searching for historical artefacts washed up along the banks of London's famous waterway. Licences began to be issued by the Port of London in 2016. The permits are required for any forms of searching, digging, or for use of metal detectors, and the activities are only permitted in certain areas of the foreshore. Any unearthed treasures are supposed to be reported to the Museum of London. But in reality, many historical items are kept by the finder. "We've gone from about 200 foreshore permits issued four or five years ago, to 5,000 now, and that's a vast increase", said James Trimmer, Director of Planning & Development of the Port of London Authority. "What we're doing is protecting the integrity and the archaeology of the foreshore", he explained. [...] the popular pastime is seen as more of a treasure hunt into the past.

See also: Josh Salisbury, ' Port of London suspends new ‘mudlarking’ permits to protect River Thames’ ‘historical integrity’ Evening Standard 23 November 2022, where Mr Trimmer is further quted, saying: “Basically, there are too many permits in circulation at the moment. “The foreshore’s historic store of treasures, rare and mundane, are in danger of just disappearing. We’ve also seen a large rise in foreshore finds being sold, which isn’t permitted. “We’ve acted, before it’s too late.” A spokesperson for Historic England is also quted, saying:
“ “We all wish to enable safe public access and controlled beach combing to allow people to enjoy the Thames and its rich history. “However, the recent upsurge in interest puts the foreshore and its archaeology at risk, and Historic England fully support the PLA in pausing the issuing of new licences”.
What a shame they can't do the joined-up thinking to see that this relates to artefact hunting in general. So any puns about "the tide is turning for artefact hunters" are rendered premature.


Friday 3 February 2023

Time Travelling or Time Trashing? What does UK's PAS Say?

         Combat-ready Josh Carr and his hole in pasture          
 Back to Jurnlist school for Darren Shield ('Bronze Age axe heads treasure found in Millom by Josh Carr' Mail 2nd February 2023)
A YOUNG metal detectorist is 'over the moon' after discovering one of the most important hoards ever found in the area. Josh Carr, 27, was out indulging in his metal detecting hobby with his brother near Millom on Sunday when he uncovered three Bronze Age axe heads thought to be around 3,000 years old or more. Josh, a labourer for Dean and Ross Builders in Millom, [...] said: "I've been metal detecting for about five years and it’s without doubt the most important thing I’ve ever found. "It could possibly indicate a lost bronze-age settlement or hill-fort [...] "I call myself a time-traveller because it is like time-travelling, being the first one to hold it in thousands of years, it's something so special."
What was special was the archaeological context of the loose objects he's blindly hoiked from a deep narrow hole in pasture. In pasture.

Thursday 2 February 2023

From a UK Reader

A reader comments:
Hi Paul, I wonder if you'd watched the latest series of Digging for Britain. Just I was a bit confused whether I was watching watching "Detectorists or Digging for Britain, especially after dozing off for a few moments. Whilst the content in recent series is much more archaeologically derived, rather from detecting finds, someone appears to have crossed identities. The same musicians (Johnny Flynne and Robert Mcfarlane) are now used throughout Digging for Britain as in Detectorists. With the walk on by Prof Whatsherface in the xmas special, it sort of demonstrates just how cosy the relationship between arkies and the salt-of-the-earth detecting types is getting, even in the face of increasing evidence as to the mere lip service paid to notions of taking resposibility for safeguarding sites and conservation and the relative worthlessness of the current scheme and its failure to address some of the original reasons for its inception.
It's a pity though that archaeologists write these things to me and not anywhere more useful in getting change in public attitudes.

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