Thursday, 14 December 2017

Sophie Flynn (Essex FLO) is Invited to Tell me What's What...

☺️Here, Sophie, is a space for you. Send me your comments and I will publish them in full. [emoticon]

Yesterday, Ms Flynn posted on Twitter some fluff about the TV series 'Detectorists' suggesting that the 'star', McKenzie Crook should mention the PAS and how they are there to 'help',

Given that most of the objects they record now come from Collection Driven Exploitation of the finite and fragile archaeological record by artefact hunting metal detectorists, I tweeted her with a perfectly valid question:
19 godzin temu
W odpowiedzi do
"help" who do what Sophie?
Now, I'll give her her dues. Most FLOs would run a mile from such a question from me. They prefer patting tekkies on the head and posting their finds up on Twitter with cutesey texts (any day now we'll have the 'Twelve days of Christmas' finds going up - HOW many "gold rings"?). Anyway, she tried:
19 godzin temu
‘Help’ with the admistration of the Act, ‘help’ people discover more about their local history and heritage, ‘help’ responsible detectorisrs understand the opportunities they can bring to the study of archaeology... the list goes on Paul, but I shan’t bore you [smiley emoticon]
FLOs do not read this blog, which would explain why an otherwise intelligent girl (I trust) gave such a dumbdown answer. So what is she trying to say and does not what she said raise more questions than she answered? I replied in several tweets:
23 minuty temu
Forgive me if I am wrong, but surely the PAS was set up 20 years ago not to deal with Treasure, which the Act establishes goes through other channels, but to deal with NON-Treasure material. Somehow that distinction seems to be lost - with Treasure now being reported twice
Meaning in the Treasure Reports (which is what the Treasure Act requires) and the PAS database, which is extralegal, not in the Act, duplicates effort and information and merely serves to bulk out 'finds reported' numbers. As for her second point...
38 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
There's more to "local heritage and heritage" than a few loose coins pulled out of a field somewhere. We left the object-centric view of the past in about 1870 - PAS promotes a very atavistic 'view of the past', don't you think? Not a boring question - quite a fundamental one.
The third issue is indeed a pretty fundamental one, not only about the terminology, but the loopy ideas hiding behind it...
36 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
What is "responsible", please, about any form of *Collection Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record*? Can looting in Syria, Egypt etc be made "responsible' by installing a PAS-clone in Damascus or Edfu? Or Central America? Fundamental question, have you an answer?
I think she must have, as she apparently has no qualms about working with these people (because she took the job). Will she be bold enough to share it with us?  Then those alleged opportunities which supposedly mitigate the huge damage done:
37 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
What "opportunities" does Collection-Driven Exploitation of the basic body of evidence by rough and ready means (eg carrier bags and wallpaper scrapers in fading light at Lenborough) "bring to the study of" real archaeology? Most metal detected finds are NOT reported, as we all know
So, even the 'opportunities' she (apparently) sees have been offset by a far larger number of missed 'opportunities' and this has been going on for twenty years.  And to conclude, her parting comment
37 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
" I shan’t bore you [emoticon]".
I assure you, you will not bore me if you give proper answers to my questions, its the superficial ones which we've all heard mindlessly chanted like a mantra so many times before that are the boring and intellectually bankrupt ones.

36 minut temu
W odpowiedzi do
I invite you to make use of my blog's comments section for a proper reply, no space on Tewitter:
Right, start holding your breath... now. No, don't. She's probably awaiting instructions from Bloomsbury.

Looted Artefacts Represent the Destruction of the Past

A rather pedestrian article which reproduces what has been said before and adds little new, but useful to keep the issue in the public eye: Lexi Churchill and Jiwon Choi, 'In looted artifacts, archaeologist sees destruction of past' global  journalist 14 December 2017.No doubt the antiquities trade lobby will again want to dismiss all this as (quote) 'loud-mouthed propagandists' and
'peddlers of heritage fake news, mostly academic grant-grabbers (with a smattering of pig-ignorant camp followers) having an axe to grind, or, working to private agendas, [...] street-corner rabble-rousers [...] with their fingers in the propaganda cookie jar.
but I think there is a case to answer, and instead of insults the antiquities market (all of it) should strive to clean up their act.

The antiquities trade always destroys knowledge.

A Smithsonian Magazine article is misleadingly called 'Archaeologists Are Only Just Beginning to Reveal the Secrets Hidden in These Ancient Manuscripts' (palaeography probably would be a better description) but there is another point here.

Imagine if these had been found by an artefact hunter, divided up into little bits like the recent Dead Sea Scroll fragments and sold off piecemeal to greedy collectors. We'd know none of this. The antiquities trade always destroys knowledge. Even when its supporters claim it is in some way creating knowledge, the wrenching of the artefacts out of their context of deposition and discovery and putting them, decontextualised, in collections (or on the market) is always destructive. Discuss. 

Antiquities trade: Is it any wonder we are where we are?

A few days ago, a lobbyist for the no-questions-asked antiquities trade Peter Tompa published an article on his 'Cultural Property Obfuscator' blog called 'Hipster Internet Art Newsletter Raises Alarm About Antiquities being "Weaponized" for Political Purposes' which aims to discuss the text by Professor Michael Press ('How Antiquities Have Been Weaponized in the Struggle to Preserve Culture' discussed by me here). Rather than addressing the issue discussed, that is the weaponisation of cultural heritage by the US government (and the fact that in order to do that, the state has been lying to its citizens) we find the tenor of the ensuing discussion rather telling. One collector wrote somewhat emotionally but apparently in all seriousness (December 9, 2017 at 1:49 AM):
Hello Peter: These peddlers of heritage fake news, mostly academic grant-grabbers (with a smattering of pig-ignorant camp followers) having an axe to grind, or, working to private agendas, rightly deserve censure. The street-corner rabble-rousers have been caught bang to rights with their fingers in the propaganda cookie jar. I'm sure many loud-mouthed propagandists know the game is up and will be running for cover to both protect their backsides and what’s left of their reputations. Happy days ahead perhaps.
Here we see the tendency prevalent in the political right to reduce any political issue to the personal level, and then by overloading their text with epithets and derogatory adjectives to demonise those implicated. Another feature is the implication that when thus-demonised opposing views are silenced, some form of social utopia will emerge. Senior coin dealer Wayne Sayles (December 11, 2017 AT 4:24 PM) goes down the same road, blaming anything and everything on his own private bugbear, archaeologists. He has his own views about what needs to go to bring about a pie-in-the-sky  'Fel Temp Reparatio'.
Fact #1: Ancient coins have been collected and traded from literally the beginning of their existence in the 7th century BC.

Fact #2: No culture on earth ever considered, much less imposed, trade controls on ancient coins before the rise of archaeology as a "science" and the acceptance of these scientists as "experts".

Fact #3: Many millions, if not billions, of ancient coins legally crossed national boundaries without controls of any kind as late as the early 20th century when archaeology (once a hobby itself) started to achieve some recognition as an academic subject of interest. There is literally no way to determine modern ownership of ancient coins based on point of origin.

Fact #4: Between 1970 and 2017 the archaeological community has aligned itself with a progressive socialist ideology that radically opposes private ownership.

Fact #5: Radicals never let truth prevail and readily pervert truth for the "greater good".

Is it any wonder we are where we are?
No, with this kind of reasoning, it is no wonder that we are where we are.  So-called 'facts 1-3' are a smokescreen, if antiquities (this is not just about coins) have a collecting history that allows them to be shown to be part of that earlier phase of the circulation of collectables, then there is no problem. The problem is that dealers like Mr Sayles consider it perfectly acceptable to move large numbers of antiquities around the market he inhabits without any documentation of licit orgins and no-questions-asked. His problem is that opinion is shifting away from acceptance of such a state of affairs, nineteenth century trade models based on anonymous and colonialist exploitation no longer look, in the twenty-first century, as 'acceptable' and moods are beginning to swing away from the free-for-all/anything-goes' trade model favoured by many of the dealers in operation today who, for the most part, demonstrably pay only lip service to the concerns. 

So-called fact #4 is an egregious example of the sort of weasel wording these people use. The issue is not 'private ownership' (as Mr Sayles, slow to learn, obviously has been told many times). There is nothing 'radical' about accepting that - given the realities of the day -  if one wants to buy certain commodities, then there are requirements to ensure they are of licit origins, and to be able to demonstrate that when they are passed on to  new owner. Like a second-hand car, or a venus fly-trap (protected species in the wild).  Once again we see the political right in action, anything even vaguely relatable to 'communism' is automatically demonised in their minds, even if the actual accusation is so entirely in the face of logic it leaves normal folk scratching their heads in bewilderment at such a logic-lapse. Sayles' Fact five I would apply to antiquities dealers.

 Is it any wonder we are where we are?

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Not Even Kossinnism Now...

Re: Delay in Treasure process BlackBridgeBoy (Wed Dec 13, 2017 3:24 pm) writes:
I also don't have a great deal of confidence in some of the FLOs. My local FLO took over a year to respond to my e-mails, after I had registered on the site. She hardly ever holds Finds Surgeries, and trying to track her down is like trying to nail a jelly to a wall. In the end, I contacted the FLO in the next district. She was completely the opposite, and responded promptly and kept me up-to-date with details of her Finds Surgeries. In fact, her last e-mail message contained the following, which might be worth noting...
"The PAS policy on how we prioritise finds has changed slightly. Instead of concentrating on finds that are more than 300 years old, we now prioritise finds that date from before AD 1540, but we do still selectively record younger items too. It is also preferred that you hand in all your recently discovered finds, on the understanding that they will probably not all be recorded. This allows me to better understand the range of material being discovered, and helps me decide which objects and which geographical areas should be prioritised."
Looks as though, apart from Treasure, you might be wasting your time sending in Finds that are post-1540, unless they are of special interest. My guess is that we are finding, and reporting, too much for them to cope with it!
So if only certain geographical areas are being prioritised, that rather reduces the value of the PAS-favourite technique of dot-distribution maps.  Equally if there was a period in which finds from 1540 (so somewhere within the reign of Henry VII who died 1547) and 1696 were recorded following a period starting from an undefined date when those finds were no longer being recorded, intruduces yet another inconsistency in the PAS database.

The thread is worth reading, detectorists seem to be getting a bit uneasy (as well they might) about the future of the PAS as a form of mitigation of their hobby. They seem to think that an increase in the numbers of detectorists and an increase in the exploitation of the archaeological record means that 'the government' "should" employ more FLOs to deal with it. Nobody seems to be asking why and whether there is a cheaper alternative for the nation which would also save lots of archaeological sites being trashed to fill collectors' pockets.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Act to enable UK to implement the Hague Convention

Act to enable the United Kingdom to implement the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 comes into force 12th December 2017.

 That was the nineteen FIFTY-four Convention.

If only they'd given Brexiting as much thought and debate...

DMSC claim can only raise a hollow laugh, to be 'leaders' you'd have had to implement it half a century ago,

Monday, 11 December 2017

Fluffy Thinking on Metal Detecting: The Legacy of the PAS

In response to the article 'Night hawkers (sic) defile (sic) Cirencester's Roman amphitheatre' one Graham Burgess naively following the official line  replies
True. But don't decry all detectorists. Recent report from PAS shows that 98% of reported finds were from them. RAMs need better protection and public education to report nighthawk desecration
I am not sure what kind of 'protection' he wants to give ancient monuments and how you can 'report' what you cannot see (because they go out at night Mr Burgess, when it is dark).  There is however the problem of fluffy thinking:
What do you mean "98%" Mr Burgess? 98% of what, precisely? How many finds dug up by artefact hunters simply disappear into their ephemeral collections *without record*? This is a process in which, legal or not,  *all* detectorists are involved
Also, somewhet disturbng is the use of teh verb 'defle' in the original text, what does it mean here? And of course a "hawker" is somebody who sells something. While illicit artefact hunting may be done for profit, the term usually used is "nighthawks". Let us stick to one terminology otherwise we get in a muddle.
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