Thursday, 27 August 2020



Accidentally and independently put on eBay at the same time so they appear on the page next to each other:

Top one eBay seller from Oxford UK (antiquiti 11771)
Bottom one, eBay seller from Thailand (persian.era 189

There is a third one, being sold by ancientantique92 from Aylesbury UK for $184.67 

The "Looting Question" Bibliography

Last time I looked, this very important resource was not available, but just now have discovered that it has moved and is available in all its glory. Make use of it while it is still there...

Compiled by Hugh Jarvis (PhD, MLS) University at Buffalo

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Looters destroy 2000-year-old archaeological site in Sudan in search for gold

The trench and spoil heaps [Getty]
Gold seekers with giant diggers have destroyed the 2,000-year-old historical site of Jabal Maragha deep in the desert of Bayouda, some 270 kilometres north of the capital Khartoum (The New Arab, ' Looters destroy 2000-year-old Sudan archaeological site in search for gold'    25 August, 2020 ). The damage was discovered when a team of archaeologists arrived at the ancient site last month and saw that the site had vanished. They found two mechanical diggers and five men at work in a vast trench 17 metres deep, and 20 metres long. The site, dating from the Meroitic period between 350 BC and 350 AD, is on sandstone in which there are layers of pyrite, which presumably they mistook for gold.
The archaeologists were accompanied by a police escort, who took the treasure-hunters to a police station but were freed within hours. "They should have been put in jail and their machines confiscated. There are laws," said Mahmoud Al-Tayeb, a former expert from Sudan's antiquities department. Instead, the men left without charge and their diggers were released too. "It is the saddest thing," said Tayeb, who is also a professor of archaeology at the University of Warsaw. Tayeb believes that the real culprit is the workers' employer, someone who can pull strings and circumvent justice.
Sudan's archaeologists warn that this was not a unique case, but part of a systematic looting of ancient sites. Now, in hundreds of remote places ranging from cemeteries to temples, diggers are hunting for anything to sell on the antiquities market. At Sai, a 12-kilometre-long river island in the Nile, hundreds of graves have been ransacked and destroyed by looters. Some of them date back to the times of the pharaohs. "Out of a thousand more or less well-known sites in Sudan, at least a hundred have been destroyed or damaged," said Hatem al-Nour, Sudan's director of antiquities and museums. He added that the lack of security at the sites made them easy targets for looters.

Monday, 24 August 2020

PAS Dealing with Issues of Trust: A Little Birdy Told Me


Two FLOs are having a go at a commentator that questioned the number of artefacts recorded on the PAS database that might not be from the place the finder claims he found them. That seems to have touched a raw nerve and the two of them have been thrashing around trying to avoid the question of whether they do in fact demand documentation (such as a protocol assigning title from the landowner as recommended by the 2009 Nighthawking Report). I suspect that we all know the answer to that... this would mean that PAS handles antiquities with no proof that they are not stolen.  If they can't do it, why should we expect dealers to? 

Anyway, something emerged from this. Baz Thugwit comes to the FLO, "...'ere mate, found this anchint broach in this field, 'ere" [stabs map with flabby finger]. FLO looks at him, "We trust you to always supply honest information, based on us building relationships of trust, and obviously Baz, old pal, if there was anything dodgy in what you say, I'd immediately see it as clear as day. but I trust you, good fellow, come again soon, bring me more stuff". More stuff I say! Happy Hunting!" And Baz turns on his heel, and off he goes, smiling to himself, "fooled the stuck-up arkie again", he thought. But no. Felix the wily FLO has a little secret... "It's a good job Baz does not know about my secret naughty-box. Now I'll just put this on the database, 42 this week!... There! and now, Baz..THIS is for lying to me!". Baz does not know there's a special box for Baz-finds: "there's a little info box we can fill in on the Db if we've any spatial doubts, and there's plenty of examples where this is used. And even in these few cases, at least there's a record of an object where previously it would be unknown, advancing archaeological knowledge". Make your mind up Felix old boy.. either there's "plenty of examples where this is used" or they are few. Few-plenty, plenty-few? (Oh, I feel a FOI coming on).

Now, forgive me for asking what kind of "data" are decontextualised artefacts that nobody is sure where they are from? What kind of "database" is it that has "grounded" artefacts alongside artefacts of doubtful provenance? I'd like to see the official PAS-exegesis on why an artefact of doubtful provenance (like the Piltdown skull, or Sevso hoard) "advances archaeological knowledge".

FLO Struggles With Decontextualised Thingy [updated]

Photo PAS
Object type certainty: Possibly
Workflow status: Find awaiting validation
A possible fragment of a Roman (Bronze Age?) copper-alloy saw, similar to BM-AF446A.SF 688.The Piercebridge Divers [sic]
The fragment is slightly concave and has a square piercing at one end. The object is 38.47mm long; 18.55mm wide; 1.04mm thick and weighs 3.05g
Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder
Broad period: ROMAN
Period from: ROMAN
Period to: ROMAN 

Submit your error report:
It is not a saw (or a "possible fragment of saw", what does that actually mean?). The object is too small and the teeth too coarse (it would jam) - it could not be used as such with no hafting, and yet there is no way to secure a haft, is there? Depending on "what" copper alloy it is, it could also be too soft and the teeth would bend. Neither does it appear from your photos to be a fragment. One possible use is as a potter's or modeller's tool, for removing excess clay, for example in forming a base ring, or applying grooved or stamped decoration. The hole would allow a cord to be attached to avoid losing it during work. But the fact that the site context of this decontextualised item found by a metal detectorist does not allow you to say whether it is Bronze Age or Roman is a bit of a hindrance in offering any kind of an interpretation. What would it have been found with?   

Now tell us please, if the find has already gone back to the finder, how is that description going to be 'validated'? And the findspot information, how was/will that be validated? 

the name has come back to me, it looks like a potter's rib (images). Of course if it as not now in some private collection, you could perhaps look and see if the original surface is well-enough preserved to exhibit diagnostic use-wear marks.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Americans Shamelessly Loot Europe's Past


Charles Garrett (2009) 'Introduction To EuropeanMetal Detecting', Garland Texas. Quite an eye-opener to see how a US metal detector manufacturer sees Europe as being a free-for-all:  

p. 10:'During my years of testing metal detectors, I have had the pleasure of recovering treasures in England, Scotland, France, Spain, Germany and Italy. Finding my first Roman coin is an experience I shall never forget'.
How were the search permits organised for these trips, if - as the forums attest - locals find getting landowners' permissions so difficult? In particular specific permits are needed for Italy, Spain, some lands of Germany, and the fate of the artefacts is different in each country - how was this dealt with, an agent? 
p.15: I found a coin cache in a plowed field in during one of my European trips. I was scanning near an old embankment [where?] when I dug the first coin. In an area of about an arm’s width, I had soon unearthed another 20 ancient coins. The coins are from the 400 BC period and I figure they had once been in some sort of bag when they were buried.[...] Some of these coins from the cache are on display in the Garrett Museum in Garland, Texas'.
Alongside the export licence I trust. Because without it, this is what we call "looting", whichever 'European country' it was found in.
pp 15-16: 'My son Vaughan accompanied me on a two-week detecting expedition through Spain, France, Italy, Germany, England and Scotland. Among other places, we visited the stone and turf fortification in northern England known as Hadrian’s wall. [...] its remnants are now a popular tourist site [...] Searching along this ancient frontier border [where?] was certainly a highlight of my European hunting experiences.
Apart from being tautology, it is also illegal. How were the permits arranged for Spain, France, Italy and Germany? What happened to the finds from these countries? Were the English finds recorded by the PAS and was an export licence applied for? Why is there no mention of this in the book (though there is a reference to (only) the English/Welsh Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting (pp 58-62). Then he goes on to talk about targeting known sites:  
pp 48-9: 'where a structure is well known to have existed you can search the areas surrounding it. I spent a week one time just to search the area around an early English fort site used in the late 1700s to defend against French troops [where?]. I was by myself and I literally worked from dusk to dawn to make the most of my limited time. By the end of the week I had accumulated some 500 relics. [...] My preferred metal detecting method was in the All-Metal mode with my sensitivity set to detect as deep as possible. Nothing was overlooked. Fortunately, I did not have to fight heavily mineralized ground conditions in this area. Because of this fort’s somewhat remote location, I had little tourist trash (cans, pop tops) to contend with'.
This site was not, actually, 'protected' in some way was it that there was still so much material to be found? Where are these artefacts now stored, and how are they labelled? How did Mr Garrett determine who the landowner was? In the entire book, there is no mention of this (see p. 53 about what he considers to be a "treasure hunting opportunity")
Again, pp. 53-4: 'The caretaker of an old castle in Spain we visited [where?] offered to let me come back sometime and do some thorough searching. Knowing how things often worked out, I decided to at least scan a few minutes before we had to leave. In the end, we did not make it back there but I did make a great recovery during that short time of searching: an ancient crossbow point. For once, I was proud of myself for seizing the moment! Never pass up a chance to scan.
Of course, though it seems the brash Texan is oblivious to that, the 'caretaker' has no legal authority either to allow access to a property, nor allow the removal of artefacts from it. There is no cure for stupidity either:
I made a hunting trip to an area near Koblenz, Germany. Some of our German friends were proud to show us various World War II German Army relics they had discovered with their metal detectors. We returned to one of these areas and I was thrilled with the number of items we were able to detect. In all, our detecting team recovered an estimated 2,000 pounds of relics. We dug up countless bullets and ammunition clips as well as some helmets and even hand grenades. Such military artifacts should be treated with great caution. When in doubt about discovered ordnance, notify your local authorities versus attempting to dig it up. European antiquity laws[sic] have become more stringent regarding exactly how such discoveries must be reported
He shows a photo of an intact clip of Mauser bullets that he'd found. We trust he did not take them on the aeroplane home in that state. And, from a metal detector manufacturer (p. 63):
Take advantage of new metal detector technology. There’s more treasure to be found today than you could find 40 years ago. I know this to be true because the technology of today’s metal detectors is superior to those I used decades ago. Deeper ground penetration and better target discrimination allow European detectorists to find items they simply could not detect years ago.
So more archaeological evidence than ever before is threatened by these carefree people.

For Some, Metal Detectors are "New technology"


Grow Your Own Life ♿ @Shrop_Allotment·51 min

W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues i @Bexx_FLO
It's sad really that a man in your profession has such a closed mind to new techniques and is happy to tar all with the same brush. You are the archaeologist equalivant of a Gammon.

Metal detectors have been around now for coming up to sixty years, so using them to find bits of metal can hardly be considered a "new technique" by anyone aware of teh world around him! As for finding gradation in collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record (think about that a moment), maybe Mr Minton would like to tell us all how he'd see me doing that. 

For non-native speakers:

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