Sunday 31 March 2024

How to use Metal Detectors on You Tube?

A group of YouTubers with metal detectors and spades calling themselves LOST CIVILIZATION apparently consider themselves to be
an educational channel interested in showing some methods of detecting treasures using metal detectors. If you are interested in discovering treasures and how to use metal detectors, this channel will serve as a school to learn some basics in the field.
The methods depicted being used however by this group of self-taught "citizen archaeologists" are pretty questionable. what is so shocking are the number of comments underneath that reveal that many people on You Tube thinks this is the way that such sites should be treated. Here is an example of them disseminating bad technique:

Posted on You Tube by LOST CIVILIZATION Dec 3, 2023
They have quite a lot of subscribers. This video has had 960,565 views - nearly a million. No wonder public perceptions of archaeology are the mess they are.  Where are the archaobloggers? Where is archaeology's public outreach? Too busy patting "responsible metal detectorists" on the head. How many of this video's viewers know the difference (and why should they)? 

Hat tip to Dave Coward for the timely heads up.

Saturday 30 March 2024

Stolen Fragments


         Erased and reordered past       

Due out 17 September, Roberta Mazza's book 'Stolen Fragments: Black Markets, Bad Faith, and the Illicit Trade in Ancient Artefacts' promises to be a good read. It covers a decade of investigations on big evangelical Christian money, academia and the antiquity trade. Just what is needed in the field.
In 2012, Steve Green, billionaire and president of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, announced a recent purchase of a Biblical artefact―a fragment of papyrus, just discovered, carrying lines from Paul's letter to the Romans, and dated to the second century CE. Noted scholar Roberta Mazza was stunned. When was this piece discovered, and how could Green acquire such a rare item? The answers, which Mazza spent the next ten years uncovering, came as a shock: the fragment had come from a famous collection held at Oxford University, and its rightful owners had no idea it had been sold. The letter to the Romans was not the only extraordinary piece in the Green collection. They soon announced newly recovered fragments from the Gospels and writings of Sappho. Mazza's quest to confirm the provenance of these priceless fragments revealed shadowy global networks that make big business of ancient manuscripts, from the Greens' Museum of the Bible and world-famous auction houses like Sotheby's and Christie's, to antique shops in Jerusalem and Istanbul, dealers on eBay, and into the collections of renowned museums and universities. Mazza's investigation forces us to ask what happens when the supposed custodians of our ancient heritage act in ways that threaten to destroy it. Stolen Fragments illuminates how these recent dealings are not isolated events, but the inevitable result of longstanding colonial practices and the outcome of generations of scholars who have profited from extracting the cultural heritage of places they claim they wish to preserve. Where is the boundary between protection and exploitation, between scholarship and larceny?

Have a look at and a little bit of a think about the cover, it's brilliant, as I am sure the book itself will be.

Norfolk Beach-Find Handaxes for Sale (UPDATED - Good News for Norfolk Nighthawks)


In the artefact-hunter-filled United Kingdom, seller " fishes-of-the-world" (2830) located in Bacton, Norfolk, UK [Private Registered as private seller, so consumer rights stemming from EU consumer protection law do not apply] has "UK Found 4 Neanderthal Handaxe's Biface Stone Tools Magazine Featured" for sale in a frame, with some pages from TH magazine, only £3,500.00 or Best Offer

eBay item number:196316671407 Item description from the seller:
I have 4 extremely Rare! Neanderthal handaxes for sale from the dredged materials during the sandscaping project at Walcott Norfolk, all discovered by myself with hundreds of hours of avid hunting these artifacts. Dredged from offshore materials from the historic doggerbank. Top left is a stunning black Neanderthal handaxe. Top right is a yellow boute coupe Neanderthal handaxe. Next lower left is a orange Neanderthal handaxe. And finally to the lower right a brown-orange Neanderthal handaxe this one has the classic frost pop damage to the back from the freezing climate during that relentless ice age period. I hope they will be displayed and appreciated by someone who is looking to own a piece of incredible history. These were amongst four of the best artifacts recovered. They are framed with a copy of the magazine taped to the background and are all featured figure 15, figure 8&9 and figure 20. They will be removed and individually wrapped for protection from the frame and sent along side the display frame, you will be able to display them back again once you've received them. The frame was homemade by myself. They will be sent special recorded delivery to anywhere in the UK. Abroad will need to contact me first as extra postage costs will be incurred.

It's incredible to think these tools were made by a race of early man thats bloodline eventually died out. Photos never do these pieces justice. Contact me for any further information. They have all been certified by a top expert in the British museum.
Which BM specialist has contributed to this process? Has the sale and division of the proceeds been cleared by the owners of Walcott beach? Is artefact hunting permitted there at all, as it seems to be forbidden without a permit around most of the North Norfolk coast.

Update 6th Aperil 2024
I tried to contact North Norfolk District Council about this asale, asking if it was authoriesed. After they ignored my mail most of the week, I contacted the clerk of Walcott Parish Council in case they, or a local landowner owned the beach. From there I got an ammost immediate reply (at the weekend too). Thanks to Mrs Denise Revell parish clerk for the information:
" The beach is owned by North Norfolk District Council. I believe you can metal detect on the beach at Walcott but any finds have to be reported to the coastguard
And the coastguard will do what about it? Here whether or mnot it was reported to them, the bloke took them home, got an article in Treasure Hunter magazine and then stuck them on a board and is flogging them off for £3,500. And if somebody reports it to the landowner ... the landowner simply ignores it. That is information every Norfolk Nighthawk will find useful.

Raubgrabung on the Eastern Front on Video


Metal Detecting WWII Battlegrounds 573K subscribers
My name is Chris, I’m 29 years old and I have a passion for WW2 history. The silent WW2 reminders in and around my home in Europe nourished my passion for WW2 history while growing up. In 2010, I decided to pick up a metal detector and set out on a journey to recover lost artifacts and their untold stories, that I could share with the world. Follow me during these educational metal detecting documentaries where we share these WW2 stories! I’ve been a Youtuber for about 13 years now. By now I have exceeded the staggering number of 500.000 subscribers
He loves his exclamation marks. Here is his latest offering" !

US Army just gave up this place to the Soviets! 5,192 views Premiered 11 hours ago
In a special patch of woods near a bridgehead we discover WW2 relics from three different armies. First the Americans captured this place and defeated the Wehrmacht. Eventually they gave it up to the Soviets. History is all mixed up in this area!
I'm guessing from the manner of speech that this guy is Dutch. Note how they avoid showing their faces, or vehicle numberplates or say exactly where they are. The effect is a bit comical, as whenever the lady in the team comes on, avoiding showing her face involves the cameraman focussing on her bust or butt. Note how many times squeaky-voice-tekkie draws attention to the fact that they've "filled their holes" - even though this is done extremely perfuctorally.

They seem a bit confused about what they are digging, they are desperate to show that it is a "Wehmacht" camp or "barracks", while it looks from where the finds are and what they are that most of the digging is in and around a RAD latrine trench. Idiots. The area where the first US advances would contact Red Army troops would be northern Saxony - where there are laws about such things. An aluminium hool is found with the markings of  RAD Arbeitsgau XV which was indeed Sachsen.

Look at the devastation, they dug a socking big hole in the forest floor, eviscerated an achaeological feature, then when the'd filled their pockets, dumped a whole lot of extraneous material in it (can't even be bothered to put back all of what they took out) and generally left an almighty mess. No idea here of nature conservation ("take only photos, leave only footprints"). I could not leave such irresponsible artefact hunting unchallenged, here's my comment:

Comment by Portantmatters (30.03.2024) :  But of course this "special patch of woods" is an archaeological site containing fresh information about the unwritten past isn't it? Is that why you are not showing your faces while you dig holes into it and take away artefacts? What kind of documentation are you doing of the findspots (GPS location, photographic recording?). This site is not ploughland, the relatively undisturbed archaeological deposits are just below the leaf-litter, so why are you destroying it to get collectables out? What do you do with them, and what happensd to the artefacts you remove from their context but do not want to collect, are they documented too? Is this "responsible matal detecting" worthy of emulation in your eyes? If not, why are you making videos of you doing it and putting them online? Are you tourist diggers, or actually citizens of the country whose buried past you are trashing like this? Just asking.

Lets see what their response is.

Thursday 28 March 2024

Ukraine: Seized Romanesque Slab Deposited in Museum While Investigations Continue

              The seized slab (UNN)              

On March 27th, Andriy Kostin, Prosecutor General of Ukraine, together with Rostyslav Karandeiev (the acting Minister of Culture of Ukraine) transferred a rescued archaeological artefact to the National Museum of History of Ukraine. This was a unique stone sculpted relief of the Kyivan Rus period depicting the Holy Warrior that had been offered for sale at an online auction for UAH 210000 (approx 5350 USD). The object was seized by law enforcement agents two years ago and the investigations into the seller are still underway.
According to the museum's director, Fedir Androshchuk, the rescued slab is, without exaggeration, a unique object of art and architecture. The sculptural relief in Romanesque style decorated a large monumental church. The facade of the church, which is still unknown to us, probably depicted a number of holy warriors. Unfortunately, there are almost no churches with ornamented facades of this time, and this is the uniqueness of this slab, he said.
The name nor location of the online auctioneer were not revealed. 

Over the past three years, the National Police and the Security Service of Ukraine have investigated more than 300 crimes of theft, illegal trade, and smuggling of such objects. These include attempts to illegally export ancient coins, jewelry, weapons, and even prehistoric fossils. These offences are discovered and the perpetrators are brought to justice.

British Museum Initiates Proceedings Against Ex-Curator Over Alleged Thefts

Artnet reports: 'The British Museum Initiates Proceedings Against Ex-Curator Over Alleged Thefts' (Eileen Kinsella March 26, 2024).
The British Museum is hitting back against a former longtime employee who allegedly stole and often sold some 1,800 objects from its collection. Attorneys for trustees of the museum made a 24-page filing in the High Court of Justice King’s Bench Division against Peter Higgs, who was employed in the museum’s department of Greece and Rome for 30 years, from 1993 until 2023, when  he was fired for “gross misconduct.” At the time of his dismissal, he was a senior curator of ancient Greek collections and the acting head of the department. According to the filing [...] the museum has “compelling evidence” that between 2009 and 2018, Higgs “abused his position of trust” by stealing gems, jewelry, gold, silver, and other items from its collection[...] the museum estimates that more than 1,800 items were stolen or damaged, and that hundreds were sold or offered by Higgs, who used eBay and PayPal to transact the sales and receive payment. London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) informed the museum that Higgs made 96 sales of objects similar to those held in the museum’s collection from his eBay account between May 2014 and December 2017. Those sales were made to some 45 different buyers for relatively small amounts of money—double-digit or low triple-digit sums—the court papers stated. As part of the claim, the museum is asking eBay and PayPal to turn over related documents [...].

There is also a coin collection, found in Mr Higgs' home that is in dispute. He says he had received it from "a deceased relative named Mary Patricia Bellamy".

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Trying to Get Poland's New Metal Detecting Legislation Reversed.

Petycja: Protestujemy przeciw zmianie prawa dla poszukiwaczy zabytków

The amendment to the Act on the Protection and Care of Historical Monuments of June 5, 2023, adopted by the Sejm of the Republic of Poland on July 13, 2023, removes state control over the search for monuments under the pretext of introducing facilitations for the so-called treasure hunters. Permits issued by the provincial conservator of monuments are waived in favor of applications to be handled by an automatic application. The application does not exist yet and it is not known what functions it will have, apart from automatically accepting applications requiring only two things: registration and sending the application.

Preferential rules are introduced for treasure hunters, different from the rules applicable to people who discovered a monument accidentally or during earthworks or construction (who must stop after each discovery), not to mention scientists, who are still obliged to submit their plans in writing for analysis conservation services.

The project equates the search for small metal elements in forests and fields with the search for deposits and hidden treasures inside buildings, crypts and other historical objects, which will also only require notification, without the possibility of the provincial conservator of monuments establishing operating rules.

The element of the permit system that caused the most problems for searchers, the written consent of the land owner to search, was replaced by a statement that such consent had been obtained, without the need to indicate that contact had been made with the owner at all.

The proposed regulations do not in any way protect [...]
Nowelizacja Ustawy o ochronie zabytków i opiece nad zabytkami z 5 czerwca 2023 roku, uchwalona przez Sejm RP 13 lipca 2023 roku, usuwa kontrolę Państwa nad poszukiwaniem zabytków pod pretekstem wprowadzenia ułatwień dla tzw. poszukiwaczy skarbów. Rezygnuje się z pozwoleń wydawanych przez wojewódzkiego konserwatora zabytków na rzecz zgłoszeń, które obsługiwać ma automatyczna aplikacja. Aplikacja jeszcze nie istnieje i nie wiadomo, jakie będzie miała funkcje, poza automatycznym przyjmowaniem zgłoszeń wymagających jedynie dwóch rzeczy: rejestracji i wysłania zgłoszenia.

Wprowadza się dla poszukiwaczy skarbów preferencyjne zasady, różniące się od przepisów dotyczących osób, które odkryły zabytek przypadkowo bądź w trakcie robót ziemnych lub budowlanych (które muszą zatrzymać się po każdym odkryciu), nie wspominając o naukowcach, wciąż zobowiązanych do pisemnego przedstawienia swoich planów do analizy służbom konserwatorskim.

Projekt zrównuje poszukiwanie drobnych elementów metalowych w lasach i polach z poszukiwaniem depozytów i ukrytych skarbów wewnątrz budynków, krypt i innych obiektów historycznych, które też będą wymagały jedynie zgłoszenia, bez możliwości ustalenia przez wojewódzkiego konserwatora zabytków reguł działania.

Element systemu pozwoleń, który przysparzał poszukiwaczom najwięcej problemów, czyli pisemną zgodę właściciela terenu na poszukiwania, zamieniono na oświadczenie, że taką zgodę uzyskano, bez konieczności wskazania, że w ogóle nawiązano kontakt z właścicielem.

Projektowane przepisy w żaden sposób nie chronią [...] Read More

My Comment:

Używanie wykrywaczy metali do wyciągania ze stanowisk archeologicznych i historycznych artefaktów kolekcjonerskich W ŻADEN SPOSÓB nie jest metodą akceptowalną jako „ochrona” zakopanego dziedzictwa archeologicznego Polski. Powinniśmy powiedzieć „nie” rabusiom, ale zamiast tego ustawa uchwalona przez poprzedni rząd daje im wolną rękę! To krok wstecz do sytuacji w Polsce sprzed 1918 roku. Ta znowelizowana ustawa, przyjęta wbrew poważnym zastrzeżeniom polskich uczonych i prawników, stanowi zagrożenie dla dziedzictwa archeologicznego naszego kraju. Nowelizowana ustawa poprzez błędne sformułowanie (oraz niezgodność zmian z pozostałymi częściami ustawy) spowoduje chaos legislacyjny. Zdaniem specjalistów zajmujących się dziedzictwem, które będzie musiało wdrożyć ustawę w nowym brzmieniu, jest to niewykonalne przy obecnym i tak już niedoinwestowanym stanie polskich służb konserwacji archeologicznej. Ustawa w swoim obecnym kształcie stoi w sprzeczności z zasadami przyjętymi w całej UE („Konwencja o ochronie dziedzictwa archeologicznego Europy (zmieniona)” Valletta, 1992). Zagraniczni specjaliści z niepokojem przyglądają się temu rozwojowi wydarzeń w Polsce (por. np. „oświadczenie Europejskiego Stowarzyszenia Archeologów w sprawie ochrony dziedzictwa kulturowego w Polsce – 10 sierpnia 2023 r.). Pośpieszne uchwalenie tej nieprzemyślanej ustawy (bez wątpienia desperackiej i cynicznej próby zdobycia głosów społeczności poszukiwaczy-złodzieji dziedzictwa w ostatnich wyborach) było szkodliwym i kosztownym błędem ostatnich tygodni poprzedniego rządu. Moim zdaniem należy uchylić tę decyzję.
The use of metal detectors to hoik collectable archaeological and historical artefacts from sites is is NO WAY a method acceptable as "protecting" the buried archaeological heritage of Poland. We should say "no" to the looters, but insteasd the law passed by the former government gives them a free hand! This is a step back to the situation in Poland before 1918.

This revised Act was approved against the severe reservations of Polish scholars and legal specialist, it is a threat to the archaeological heritage of our country. The novelised act, through its faulty formulation (and inconsistence of the changes with other parts of the Act), will cause legislative chaos. In the opinion of the heritage professionals that will have to implement the Act in its new form, is unworkable in the present already under-invested state of the Polish archaeological conservation services.

In its current form, the Act goes against the principles adopted throughout the EU ("Convention for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage of Europe (revised)" Valletta, 1992). Foreign specialists are looking with concern at these developments in Poland (see for example the 'statement of teh European Association of Archaeologists on the Protection of the Heritage in Poland - 10 August 2023).

Hastily passing this ill-conceived law (without doubt a desparate and cynical attempt to garner the votes of the commiunity of searchers-heritage stealers in the last election) was a damaging and costly mistake in the last weeks of the former governnment. In my opinion, the decision must be reversed.

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Mariupol, Developer Levels Mound


Reports from Ukraine are suggesting that the Russian occupier has destroyed a 5th millennium BC mound in Mariupol. According to the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, the mound (known as the Did mound курган  Дід - Grandfather [Burial] Mound), was destroyed by an excavator, in advance it seems of planned construction on its site. Activists raising the alarm ware noting that apart from anything else, such an action would be a violation of the HagueConvention for the Protection of Cultural Property. Photos from the site seem to show the digging away of the mound in progress.

The problem is, these claims have bneen made before, on 1 September 2022, here on PACHI I wrote of this 'Mariupol: Alleged Redevelopment of Prehistoric Site'. To my eye, there is nothing in the shape of the mound, its location or any other feature to suggest that it is manmade any more than any of the other hillocks of similar size and character dotted around this part of the town. Dating it to the "fifth millennium BC" (on the basis of what?) is simply bonkers. Two yeas ago I concluded that "everything I can see so far suggests this is a fake-news story, trying to exploit the current conflict and capitalise on concern for cultural property to discredit somebody". Nothing in the new news story in any way changes that. If you want to take a look, the place is on the NW fringe of the city at 47° 7'21.58"N 37°31'25.85"E. The Google time slice photos are a bit vague and difficult to interpret, there has been some digging around the base since at least 2019, a levelled area on the NW side ditto. Something was built on the NW flank in April 2022.

I would like to stress though I do not think this is anything but a prominent natural hill rather than  being an artificuial construction, I do not know about the antiquarian literature (which could be from  the 1770s onward), and the locam toponym suggests that locals thought the hill was an important ancient landmark. This means it could have been incorporated at some stage into a list of protected sites and if so, damage to it is still illegal. 

Scholar Did not Have His Day in Court

The wheels of justice turn slowly, on November 30, 2021 a document was submitted to Oklahoma Western District Court concerning the issue of a judgement in the case of default in the civil process for breach of contract in "Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. v. Obbink" ("It appearing from the docket maintained in this action that defendant Dirk D. Obbink has failed to appear or otherwise defend this action, the default of defendant Dirk D. Obbink is hereby noted"). There is now a judgement:
DEFAULT JUDGMENT : Judgment is hereby entered in favor of Plaintiff Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and against Defendant Dirk D. Obbink, in the amount of $7,085,100.00, together with prejudgment interest from February 5, 2013, at the rate of 6% per annum, as specified in 15 Okla. Stat.§ 266, postjudgment interest at the rate provided in 28 U.S.C § 1961 until the judgment is satisfied, and attorneys fees and costs. Signed by Judge David L. Russell on 03/11/2024.
Ouch. Note to self, academics really should not get mixed up in the antiquities trade, they should steer well away from it.

I believe this comment from autumn 2019 is the last statement by the scholar on the matter:
"“The allegations made against me that I have stolen, removed or sold items owned by the Egyptian Exploration Society collection at the University of Oxford are entirely false,” he stated. “I would never betray the trust of my colleagues and the values which I have sought to protect and uphold throughout my academic career in the way that has been alleged.
“I am aware that there are documents being used against me which I believe have been fabricated in a malicious attempt to harm my reputation and career. I am working with my legal team in this regard.”
I'd say not turning up in court to refute/falsify the allegations would in itself be an pretty big blow to his reputation, and let us see what it does to his career.

Monday 25 March 2024

Dealers Kicking up a Fuss Over EU Regulation for Importing Cultural Goods (2019/880)

The new import licensing regulation for cultural goods (2019/880) comes into force in the EU on June 28, 2025, The art and antiques trade associations have stepped up their campaign to “dilute the worst effects”.

For those not up to date, here is a summary of the Regulation (EU) 2019/880 on the introduction and the import of cultural goods
The regulation sets out the conditions for the introduction of cultural goods, and the conditions and procedures for the import of cultural goods, in order to safeguard humanity’s cultural heritage and prevent the illicit trade in cultural goods, in particular where such trade could contribute to terrorist financing.
It provides for a system of import licences for the most endangered cultural goods and importer statements for other categories of cultural goods. It does not apply to cultural goods which were either created or discovered in the customs territory of the European Union (EU) which are covered by Directive 2014/60/EU (see summary).

Cultural goods are defined as any item which is of importance for archaeology, prehistory, history, literature, art or science and belongs to the categories listed in the regulation’s Annex, Part A.
Meanwhile, instead of kicking up an unseemly and revealing fuss, the ADA explains : 'How will the EUs new import licensing for art and antiques affect you? Here's a brief guide' (Jun 19, 2023):
According to the law, relevant items – all of which must have originated from outside the EU – will be split into two types: those that need a full import licence, and those that can be brought in on the basis of an importer statement. What those items are is set out in a series of three tables in the Annex to the legislation, Parts A, B and C. Any attempt to import an item covered by Part A will be prohibited if it is deemed to have been exported illegally from its country of origin, whenever that was.
So who's kicking up a fuss about that? As the summary iterates:
Prohibited goods
The regulation prohibits the introduction into the EU of cultural goods listed in Part A of the Annex, if these have been illicitly removed from the countries where they were created or discovered (the general prohibition rule).
Seems pretty simple and non-controversial to me. What responsible dealer would want to be involved in handling illegally-removed material, itn other words culture crime? ADA then goes on to explain [so, now we are talking about Import licences and importer statements for the import of cultural goods (i.e. their release for free circulation in the internal market other than transit)]:
Items included under Part B are more than 250 years old and seen as being at greater risk of looting and trafficking than those covered by Part C, and so are subject to tighter rules – in other words these are the pieces that need an import licence rather than an importer statement, and no minimum value threshold applies. This means that unless customs tell the importer otherwise, a licence will be required for every individual item, even where they might be identical, low-priced pieces imported together in large groups.
I guess that's an argument for not trying to take part in mass export of antiquities from anywhere. Part B refers to archaeological objects or parts of monuments at least 250 years old, regardless of the value of these objects. "Applicants for a licence will have to demonstrate that the item in question was exported from the country where it was created or discovered in accordance with the laws and regulations of that country at the time (whenever that was – and it could be centuries ago)" and there is the rub. Cowboy dealers in the past could not have cared less about those laws, or working out whether they can show - or be shown by the seller - that any individual item they want to handle (profit from) has been acquired or moved in accordance with those laws.
Because many of these items will have left those countries decades or more beforehand, that proof may no longer survive, if it was ever there in the first place. So, the law provides a third way of qualifying for a licence: evidence that the item in question has been exported in accordance with the laws and regulations of the last country where it was located for an unbroken period of more than five years [...] [but] wasn’t there for temporary use, or was just there in transit, for re-export or transhipment. You must also show that it was exported from the country where it was created or discovered before 24 April 1972 – when the 1970 UNESCO Convention on trafficking of cultural goods first came into effect.

Items covered by Part C needing an importer statement are all individually valued at €18,000 or more per item and are more than 200 years old.
To clarify, Part C of the Annex covers items like zoological or botanical collections, coins, ethnographic objects, paintings, sculptures, manuscripts and books that are older than 200 years and have a value above €18,000. Which, apart from the odd dinosaur skeleton or two and incunabula /Gutemberg Bible or suchlike, is not going to be that many.

The regulation has applied in general since 27 June 2019. The general prohibition rule has applied since 28 December 2020. The obligation to obtain an import licence or submit an importer statement will become applicable when the centralised electronic system for the storage and the exchange of information between EU authorities becomes operational, or from 28 June 2025 at the latest.

The 1970 UNESCO Convention however was written in 1969 and many dealers have been ignoring its implications for them ever since. Time for that to STOP. Stop Taking Our Past. 


Sunday 17 March 2024

Dumbest Journalist Award 2024 Goes to Tracy

 Tracy is a Liz Truss lookalike and fancies herself as a journalist. So she wrote this: "How detectorists thrashed archaeologists at their own game" (Telegraph 16.03.2024)*. Dumb reporters in the UK are now unable to distinguish between archaeology and metal detecting. They seem to consider both are about finding things, not understanding things. So she talked to two tekkies, Julian and Sophie, did not bother with the archaeologists and wrote... a load of crap.  Of course she starts off with the fictional "Detectorists" series...

On a wider cultural level, TV shows such as BBC’s Detectorists; the Michaela Strachan-fronted Digging for Treasure and new Channel 5 drama Finders Keepers (starring Neil Morrissey, James Buckley and Fay Ripley), are driving the trend.
So it is not about greed at all, its "British kulcha" you see. But once she gets away from "wots on the telly", she flounders:
So popular has public metal-detecting become that every year 96 per cent of all metallic archaeological objects are found by a detectorist compared to 2 per cent from archaeological digs.
Tell that to any collections manager in a county museum. Where did she get that idea from, well, the metal detectrists of course. Innit, Trace? Then its the bit about how much money you too could make if youget a detector and "have-a-go". Cue: so-called Crosby Garrett helmet, Staffordshire Hoard ... but then a novelty, fake-find-Jonesy, the site-seeding tekkie from Wales who "just wanted to grab some glory and tried to pull some mild perception” (sic).
Then the de rigeur "it's better for mental health than walking the countrydide with: your wife/kids/ Suzie from the off-licence/ her sister/ birdwatching binoculars/ or dog" which is what they all say now... totally omitting the fact that digging holes into the archaeoogical record and pocketing bits of it, reported or not, is NOT good for the health of the archaeological record or cultural landscape. And THIS is what PAS should be telling them and every journalist in hearing distance.

Another tripup:
Last year, a law change meant that seeking lucrative bragging rights to a find (one coin or artefact) or a hoard (multiple finds in one concentrated area) is becoming more difficult for rogue detectorists. Previously, the UK definition of Treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act was any metallic object with at least 10% of its weight being gold or silver, that is at least 300 years old when found. In 2023, the definition was updated and now any object found after July 30 2023 that doesn’t meet that criteria but is made at least partially of metal, is at least 200 years old and provides insight into an aspect of national or regional history, archaeology or culture by its rarity, the location in which it was found or its connection with a particular person or event.
Where is the end of that sentence? And what does it have to do with "lucrative bragging rights"? And it just gets worse:
"Etiquette dictates that public detectorists should always seek the landowners’ permission before setting off [...]
That brings us to PC Plod's "nighthawking down". Duh. It's the law, Tracy, the law. 
anything found of possible historical or regional interest should be reported immediately to your local council’s Find Liaison Officer for verification and cataloguing. Depending on rarity and condition, most finds [...] will be passed on to museums.
Ummm- NO.

In my view, this is the DAMAGE the activity of PAS and the head-in-the-sand lethargic inactivity of other British archaeological bodeies are doing. A lot of people have got it into their heads that archaelogy is just about digging up old stuff, its nothing verey difficult, anyone can do it, there is no secret to doing it, just having a nack, archaeology is not really a discipline that you need to actually study to get to grips with. That's why you get some blonde "brand consultant/ event and content producer" who imagies she can just dash off an ill-researched text full of basic gaffes and it'll be just what the Torygraph and the Great British Public need. What was she thinking?

Read it here.


Thursday 14 March 2024

"Illegal Artefact Hunting Down", What are the facts?

The PAS estimates that there are 40000 metal detectorists in the UK, and Statista estimates the number of farmers in the UK 2021-2023 as approximately 104,700 (in the third quarter of 2023, compared with  103,900 in the previous quarter). Of these, in England the latest figures show that 54% of farms are owner occupied, but 31% mixed tenure and 14% wholly tenanted. Only the landowner can give metal detecting permissions. 

The metal detectorist can approach the landowner for a search-and-take permssion for a particular property - this may be a company or a member of Britain's nobility, but whoever they are, they will probably not be as easy to convince to let a stranger on the land however well they say they will behave there.

Here are some issues for them to sort out:

Crombie Wilkinson 'Permission for metal detecting on your land'
Farmers' World: 'Metal detectorists on your land – what farmers need to know'

Apart from property rights, there are insurance and liability issues, the possiblity that unknown intruders will cause unforseen damage etc. 

There are other landowners. Apart from private ownership, every single other piece of land is owned either by the Crown, Local Authorities, City Councils, or Town Councils. There is no such thing as public land in the UK there’s public access but that does not mean that it is public land. Many local authorities etc, and bodies such as the National Trust refuse to issue metal detecting permits for hobbyists. There is no list of such bodies. 

Most metal detectorists will want three or four 'permissions' in order to give their searching some elsticity and variety. For 40k detectorists that is between 120k to 160k search sites with permissions. 

If however there are only 100k farmers, and only 54k of them can issue ther own search-and-take permissions, and an unknown number of them will refuse outright, where is a metal detectorist to search legally?

The forums are full of people bemoaning the fact that they can't get 'permissions', there are webpages (here and here, for example)  and You Tube videos devoted to helping tekkies sort this out, there is also at least one book: David Villanueva, 'Permission Impossible: Metal Detecting Search Permission Made Easy' 2007.  The frequency this issue comes up shows it is a real problem in the UK.

Added to this is the fact that there are now commercial firms that offer landowners hundreds of pounds for a weekend's access to organize pay-to-dig events from which the organizers make a living. This is great for the many metal detectorist members who do not have to learn "how to get permissions" as they just pay the admission fee and get access to the land for a fixed period of time. As more and more landowners hear of this "business opportunity", even fewer wiill be willing to let individual hobbyists on their land for free. 

Also how many of these former participants, having scouted out the land, and its potential, cannot resist the temptation privately and clandestinely to revisit the site again in conditions of lesser visibility to have another go at an area they found 'productive' during the rally? This should not happen of course, but can anyone say that it does not? 

Likewise, the hobbyist who travels with a detector in his car boot out on a drive through the countryside and finding himself in a layby by a tall hedge on a quiet road with no traffic... and right by the road sign "Silver End", or "Old Hall Road", or "Viking Howe"... how many are not going to go through the hedge with their machine "just to see"?
I simply do not believe that real life actual circumstances support the glib assertion that "only a minimum of metal detectorists use their machine in situations that are not in accord with the law". It beggars belief. 

Where is the report? 


"Nighthawking Down", Right to Roam ?

     One approach to the problem    
Highflyer Sunday 24th January 2016quotequote all
Caught two guys walking around my field today early afternoon with metal detectors, when I asked them if they had found anything the reply was no. I politely asked them who had given permission to just enter my field and walk around with metal detectors, the reply was, "we have the right to roam", at this point I completely lost the plot and basically made a few suggestions that if they didn't leave immediately I would take matters into my own hands[...]

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Artefact Smugglers Arrested (Coins Involved too)

 The French Customs Intelligence Service (DNRED) announced the recovery of 8,597 ancient coins of Anatolian origin following a sting operation resulting from a three-year investigation. The coins are set to be repatriated to Türkiye.

The coins were found hidden in boxes, television cabinets and refrigerator bags in a house raided in 2022. The organizers of a smuggling network were arrested in Türkiye and the authorities are preparing to try the individuals who resided in the house where the smuggled artifacts were found. The residents are accused of illegally selling more than 7,000 of the 15,000 recovered antiquities.

It's not just Metal Detecting, Britain Failing to Protect Heritage from Theft and Vandalism

       .You don't know what          
you had till you lose it

Britain really is going to the dogs, it seems as thefts of historic stone and metal across England are increasing:
Thefts of historic stone and metal are on the rise, according to a new report by Historic England and the National Police Chiefs' Council. It sets out how walls and paving slabs were stolen in Yorkshire and Cheshire, while granite troughs and fountains were taken in Kent and London. Meanwhile, metal thefts from church roofs were particularly common during the Covid lockdowns, the report added.

BBC News, Thefts of historic stone and metal on the up across England - report   

The Guardian, Vandalism on rise at historic English sites amid cost of living crisis – report.

I am Calling this BS

 In the UK, the police are as useless at stopping archaeological looting as everywhere else, except they won't admit it. Seen by a reader in the "Police professional" magazine (" More accurate police recording of heritage crime needed, says research " 13 March 2024) is this little gem:

A reduction in unlawful metal detecting (also known as nighthawking) has been achieved with the support of landowners and the metal detecting community, with offenders being identified and brought to justice;

Last thing I heard, in Britain landowners were advised, by the police no less, to avoid approaching illegal metal detectorists because there was a danger of physical harm. So what does "support of landowners" mean in actual terms? That landownersd phone them up and report any illegal activity spotted? If that is increasing, it only means they are being spotted more frequently. 

More to the point, what does it mean saying illegal artefact hunting has been reduced because of the "support of the metal detecting community"? What is meant by that, that metal detectorists are "shopping" other members of the community? Certainly if you look at the metal detecting forums, you will see that until now, there has been the opposite tendency - of detectoriusts sticking together and refusing to speak out directly about individusals they know are involved. There was only one circumstance when they would - in revenge for something. So what has changed? 

What we do know is that the number of artefact hunters with metal detectors has risen in teh past few years, quite massively. Yet the number of accessible sites has not increased. As for frequency of "permissions", this too is unlikely to have gone up as more and more commercial metal detecting firms offer increasing numbers of landowners cash-for-access to undetected land. What farmer would let some blokes on his land for free when he could et a pocketful of money by saving it for those who pay? So is this not a reason why some will go to secluded parts of such land in the failing light of evening without asking first? Is the number of people that do this the same as it was a decade ago, smaller or bigger? 

It'd be interesting to see the methodology of assessing the number of episodes of illegal artefact hunting in Britain, and how they've established this factoid that there has been a reduction. "It has a familiar smell of the countryside about it" as a correspondent wrote.


Tuesday 12 March 2024

Sword "Pulled" but What is the Context?


Alexander Butler, "Rare 1,100-year-old Viking sword pulled from Oxfordshire river" Independent 12.032024.
A 1,100-year-old Viking sword has been pulled from an Oxfordshire river in a rare discovery unearthed by a magnet fisherman. The weapon was found in the River Cherwell last year and has now been confirmed to date back to between AD 850 and 975. Despite the nearby landowner not allowing magnet fishing, he agreed no legal action would be taken and it is now in the care of the Oxford Museum.
More fool him. Apparently the findspot was by a bridge, possibly itself on an earlier crossing. But instead of talking about lost context by the brutal blind amateur hoiking, the dozy journalist who knows no better (and probably forgot the bit he had at school about magnetism) tried to link it with a lead sling bullet from Spain. 

Note for journalists lost for a story about magnet fishing for artefacts:

Craig Simpson, 'Don’t use magnets to seek treasure, experts warn after technique damages Viking sword found in river' (Telegraph 23 January 2024)
The British Museum has urged detectorists not to go “magnet fishing” to retrieve treasure after a Viking sword was damaged while being dredged from a river.[...] experts are determined to persuade those seeking treasure to stop using the increasingly popular technique of “fishing” for artefacts in waterways using powerful magnets. [...] The warning from the PAS comes after a Viking sword was damaged while being pulled out of the River Wallers Haven in Suffolk. The remains of the hilt fell off and were lost in the river.[...] “There is also the risk of damage to the object and its archaeological context, particularly at sites of ritual deposition. The PAS advises against this activity, which is banned by the Canal and River Trust on its waterways.”
This is a quote from the 2022 PAS annual report (p. 13), fully abvailable online. In the case of the damaged sword, the artefact hunter stood there gawping helplessly as the preserved organic remains of the hilt - an extremely rare survival - were washed off, disintegrated and dropped back into the river due to the method used to remove it from the undisturbed context in which it had lain more than a millennium.

It really could not be clearer. 

Hat tip Dave Coward

UK Metal detectorist Acted "Dishonestly", but Why?

Jones (Treasure hunting
ThePipeline blog has a heritage crime story about the results of a hearing at Hereford Justice Centre that reveals more aboutBritish metal detectorists than they appear to recognise (ThePipeLine, 'Metal Deetectorist Cleared of Fraud but did Act Dishonestly' March 12, 2024 [see also  Saul Hudson in Treasure Hunting World]). The blog's author Andy Brockman notes that this case "appears to have offered proof of a practice long rumoured to be the case on metal detecting forums, that is that some metal detectorists salt fields and rally sites with coins and artefacts from elsewhere and then dishonestly report them as being found at the location". [I would say that is more than a rumour, there is a lot of evidence that it is what has been happening]. But it also reveals something else too. But first, here is what had happened:
The case relates to sixty four year old Michael Jones of Rees Street, Port Talbot who appeared before Hereford Magistrates on March 11 accused on a single count of fraud by false representation. Mr Jones entered a plea of not guilty at an earlier hearing. The magistrates heard that Mr Jones had purchased silver denier coins, minted by the Crusader kingdom of Antioch between 1163 and 1201, from auction site E-bay for £200. He was then alleged to have buried the coins in a field at Oatcroft Farm in Titley, Herefordshire where one of the many un-regulated and unmonitored metal detecting rallies which take place almost daily in the UK was due to take place. Mr Jones is then alleged to have “discovered” the coins during the rally which was held by the K C Rallys club in July 2021. The find was then reported as possible “treasure” to the Portable Antiquities Scheme [...]
Hmmm. I do not know how many readers have in their heads a picture of what these coins of Bohemond III of Antioch look like, they are relatively common on the global antiquities market and quite eagerly collected (and so also faked). There are 25 real and fake ones on eBay at the time, of writing, astoundingly 24 of them listed under "British" finds with the eappropriate misspellings to accompany the affirmation. Well, actually they were not in circulation in Briatain at the time (the reigns of Henry II and Richard I) and with the loopy design of the commonest form enountered on the market (vignette), probably would not have passed for British coin at the time. We ae not told how many coins he got for 200 quid, but looking at the prices they go for, there were either in very bad condition, or he was lucky.

Here however is another aspect. The (recte) Principality of Antioch was where now is most of Hatay province of Turkey and bits of the Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Latakia governates of Syria. The latter are partly still rebel-held territories in teh (still) ongoing civil war and looting is going on there (and in Hatay as is shown by the constant flow onto the market of fresh coins from the economic hinterland of the four Greek cities of the Syrian tetrapolis, Antioch, Seleucia Pieria, Apamea, and Laodicea). Yet, this aspect of whether Mr Jones could show that the coins he was handling had been excavated and legally removed from the source country seems not to have come up in court. But then British law preventing smuggled coins coming into the UK are complete crap. To get back to the story:
Mr Jones told the court he undertook the dishonest activity “for the fame and bravado that goes with it”.[eh? Does Mr Jones understand the meaning of that word? PMB] Mr Jones added, “It was stupid, I know. It was a feel-good thing, I just wanted to make myself look good,” “It was a moment of insanity, I just didn’t think.”
Possibly he was saying what his lawyers told him to testify. He got off from the potential charge of fraud because the Crown was not able to prove that Mr Jones had made the false report for financial gain for himself and the landowner.

I am more intrigued by teh connections between this discovery and the plans to build a solar farm here, in connection with the third series of the popular British TV show "Detectorists' series.

Former FLO Peter Reavill also testified that
“Such coins have never been found in the region before"[not surprisingly -PMB] ”they would have potentially altered the history of Herefordshire [...] “They are very rare and very important, especially if they could be linked to the Knight’s Templar”
Uh-oh. And why would somebody be doing that? this is the usual PAS dumbdown claptrap inventing trite narratives and finding "connections" instead of working within the bounds of the archaeological evidence.These coins are not "very rare"| pr - as loose objects off the no-questions-asked anytiquities market now of any "importance". Brockman adds: "While there is no evidence that Mr Jones himself has far right views or connections, the mention of the Knights Templar is interesting as the mythology surrounding the famous order of military monks is a popular theme among Far Right activists" as indeed it is.

Brockman also adds, tongue-in-cheek, I ssuspct: "officials of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and the numerous researchers who use its data, will also be concerned, wondering how many other dishonest reports of finds have found their way into the archaeological record without being discovered". The answer to that is obvious. The PAS do not in fact carefully vety the find circumstances of more than a handful of the items they include in their database, they just trust their "partners' to tell the truth. Personally, my earliests dealings with a metal detectorist involved him not telling me the truth about a findspot, which has somewhat affected my trust in these people from the beginning. The PAS is less sceptical. So I am engaged in a project of listing out-of-place artefacts in the PAS database. There are a disturbing number of them.

For me however this whole affair illustrates something else. How thick do you have to be to imagine that buying Middle Eastern artefacts online and trying to pass them off, not to equally thick collectors and dealers, but professional archaeologists fully familiar with thousands of British finds assemblageds, as British finds? Mega-thick I would day. But also how "responsible" is this? What is the purpose, do detectorists think, of "reporting objects to the Portale Antiquities Scheme"? If it was not for financial gain, what was Mr Jones' intent reporting these finds to teh PAS? “For the fame and bravado that goes with it, a feel-good thing, I just wanted to make myself look good”, in whose eyes and why did that involve the PAS? What actually is the real social role of the PAS in the British detecting community? He wasn't actually trying to pull a fast one over on the PAS was he? "Confound the experts, make them look like fools"? How many more? 

Sunday 3 March 2024

Metal Detecting Gang of Four Sentenced

BBC Gang of metal detectorists sentenced for nighthawking in Hayton Four men from near Sunderland, were found at night scouring private farmland near Hayton in East Yorkshire using metal detectors without permission on 18 March 2022. They been sentenced for nighthawking.

Scott Turton, 43, Andrew Richardson, 43, Marc Scantlebury, 40, and Robert Armstrong, 42, were all given depravation orders for their metal detecting equipment when they were sentenced on 23 February. Armstrong, of Hedworth Terrace, Houghton-Le-Spring, was also handed a 21-week jail term, while Richardson, 43, of Blind Lane, Houghton-Le-Spring, was fined £120. Both Turton, of Bernard Street, Houghton Le Spring, and Scantlebury, of Railway Terrace, Houghton-Le-Spring, were each given a 17-week custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months and fined £350. They all pleaded guilty to criminal damage and going equipped for theft during a court hearing on 21 January.
But, dear oh dear, the BBC forgot to ask an archaeologists to come along and say the ritual "most mewtal detectorists ... and it is only a miniscule minority... and they're all good blokes really", you know, like all archaeologists think.

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