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Subject:

Re: Odp: Odp: private collecting by archaeologists: was in praise of metal detecting: was (no subject) private collections

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 18 Jul 2003 17:48:27 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (105 lines)

Hi Alison,

>I was being devils advocate and asking in very general terms what can
>be done about unpublished excavations and if that is irresponsible
>archaeology and whether this is different from the 'irresponsible
>metal detectorists '   After all, the results may be  worse - eg
>more extensive damage to the archaeological site, potential for loss of
material, etc

Here's an example of which I have personal knowledge: The La Marquanderie
hoard consisted of  thousands of Coriosolite coins. It was studied by an
amateur, Major N.V. L Rybot. He was an artist and he did some remarkable
reconstructions of all the dies used to strike the coins. I used his
illustrations for my own reclassification of Coriosolite coins which was
published last year by BAR (an earlier version is on my site)

I contacted the Jersey archives, the museum, and the numismatist for the
Societe Jersiase to get more documentation of the this hoard. I got a copy
of Rybot's original notes about learning of the hoard and driving out to
see it etc. Copies of this and his diagram of the hoard are also on my
site. No other documentation was known to exist other tha  Rybot's
published study of his reconstructions.

Philip de Jersey at the Celtic Coin Index at Oxford had been sending me
photocopies of  recorded British finds and holdings Coriosolite coins and I
was cataloging these (unpublished). One day he sent a series of photographs
that had been found in the desk of a retired employee of the British
Museum. They were all (about a hundred, if memory serves) Class I
Coriosolite coins (My series H). There was no other documentation with them.

It struck me as odd that they were all arranged in the order that Rybot had
first designated and that there were so many of the same die pairs. I
estimated that they had to have come from a hoard of several thousand. I
suspected that it might be from the La Marquanderie hoard so I looked in a
French publication where some of this hoard was published. By an odd
coincidence that publication had some photographs of only that part of the
chronology and I was surprised to see two of the actual specimens
illustrated there.


Then I got a shock. The lighting on the French photographs was from a
different angle than was on the British Museum photographs. I knew that
this hoard was photographed only once -- as one would expect with such a
great cost. I also knew that most of the hoard had been stolen from the
Jersey Museum by an employee who was later caught and imprisoned (he would
be out of jail now). He never disclosed what had happened to the hoard
(worth about a million dollars) The hoard has never been rediscovered.

I contacted the RCMP here in Calgary and phoned my contact at the Societe
Jersiaise who told me that they would have a nice warm jail cell waiting
for whoever had these coins. After making my report to the RCMP (who had a
hard time understanding what it was all about) they handed over the report
to Interpol and some officers from the Scotland Yard Art Crimes Unit went
to talk to Philip and questioned various people at the British Museum. The
Britsih Museum disavowed any knowledge of how these photographs came to be
in the desk of the retired employee. I know who that was, and he was a
rather important person. Forgive me for not disclosing his identity, even
though he is no longer living.

The RCMP clammed up, but I spoke to Scotlanf Yard and they told me that the
trail had grown cold. They knew that the photographs were of coins that
were stolen when they were photographed.

In the course of my study I wanted to know the ratio of coins to specific
dies so I contacted the Jersey Museum. The hoard had not been properly
recorded, Rybot's other notes had vanished, and the French numismatist had
also died without publishing a photographic record of the complete hoard
with coin to die ratios.

Only if the stolen hoard is rediscovered will I ever be able to add that
information to my study. There is not the slightest evidence that any of
the coins of that hoard have ever appeared in the International coin
market. In my opinion it was a robbery to order, and whoever took those
photographs to the BM was one of the guilty parties.

The loss of the coins coupled with the neglect of the academics in properly
publishing the data is insurmountable. On a happier note, I was able to
develop an entirely new technique in Celtic numismatics to overcome the
lack of that data and to build an even more accurate chronology than
existed before for these coins, and Philip recognized my new methodology in
his review of my book.

There is no excuse for not promptly making such reports public, but I know
that the British Museum holds "internal reports" on material that I have no
access to. (The latest on the last Snettisham torc hoard and analyses of
the basest Norfolk wolf staters for example).

With easy web access and the low cost of publishing on the web there is no
excuse for this elitism. A couple of years ago I offered web space to
anyone who wanted to publish their reports thus. I got no takers. I am sure
that everyone has their own special justifications that they can cite for
such neglect, but that is all nonsense. It is institutional "ownership" of
what should be public data that is at fault. It is indeed far worse than MD
crimes.

Regards,

John

http://www.writer2001.com/
Hooker & Perron, Total Project Coordination
Database-Web...Graphics...Custom Maps...Colour Suites...Expert Systems
Building the Celtic Coin Index on the Web:
http://www.writer2001.com/cciwriter2001/

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