Barry Bishop writes:
>> There is also a problem of personal safety, one large site I worked at was
>getting raided everynight. We did employ commercial security guards but
>after they were threatened with shotguns one night they decided not to
>venture out of their portacabin. The police did take this seriously but
>after staking the site out for a couple of nights without success (the site
>was huge and evidently the 'nighthawks' realized a police presence was
>there) had to abandon attempts to catch them due to not having endless
What a bunch of wimpy security guards and inefficient police!
With all the money that the British government is putting into heritage
projects, I wonder why security is not better addressed. I think that most
believe that creating laws is all that is needed. Clearly it is not, and
the evidence from countries where laws prohibit MD use, collecting,
dealing, or exporting antiquities shows that stiffer laws attract greater
profits by eliminating small time "mining" and shifting the activity to
organized crime that can even have government officials in their pay.
China, Sicily and Turkey immediately come to mind. The laws are useful for
organized crime as through these laws they can eliminate the competition
for their syndicates.
A large site poses problems but there are devices that could be used. One
of these is placed in the ground and it "listens" for the ground vibrations
caused by anyone walking within a certain radius. These were used in the
Vietnam war and I have seen these offered as military surplus. Perimeter
patrols, especially with attack dogs, would help, as would good lighting
and video surveillance. Approaches to the site should also be closed or
have security checks for metal detectors.
Such government funded security measures could go hand in hand with better
education for the public and MD users and responsible MD use should be
encouraged even more within MD clubs as being "politically correct".
I also think that studies should be done to see which regions have better
MD/archaeology liason, and how this affects site looting statistically.
> The site incidentally was a large Iron Age settlement which
>produced a few stratified coins. I'm sure many others were stolen and now
>part of someone's collection. No doubt the thieves invented a secure
>provenance in order to off load these items ''legally''. I wonder what that
>will do to our understanding of distribution patterns as gleaned from those
>marvellous private collections?
No, they do not have to provide provenances to make the coins "legal". This
is just as well as a false provenance is worse than no provenance. The
reliability of provenances of IA coins are taken into consideration -- some
sources are more reliable than others, but it is obviously not a science. A
false provenance is sometimes given to mask an obvious source. A few years
ago, someone who had been doing landscape work at Harlow temple sold some
bronze coins of Cunobelin with the Tasciovanus inscription. The most likely
source for these types is Harlow. He had to create a false provenance to
mask the source and his connection with it. Archaeologists checked out the
find spot he gave and could find no reason to suppose that it could have
yielded these coins. Nothing could be proven, but the given provenance has
had a black mark against it ever since and no one believes it.
Overall, MD use has created a phenomenal increase in the number of coin
types known, and this has led to very good published research and even
conferences on the subject. Most provenance data published is reliable, and
there is a lot of it.Thirty or forty years ago this attention was absent
and virtually no archaeologists were working in this area. At that time,
coin finds in top soil were going unnoticed to a very great degree. When IA
coins are in modern ploughed fields near the surface they are at great
risk: most IA bronze coins are fairly small and the acidic soil eats them
up very quickly when they are near the surface. Small silver coins
especially Atrebatan minims suffer greatly from contact with chemical
fertilizers. Suphur is not a great problem as it produces a hard black
oxide patina that protects the interior, but when chemical interaction
produces silver chloride it can be a very serious problem.
Ironically, both archaeological and private MD use together accounted for
only about 10% of the finds of IA coins prior to 1987 (Haselgrove BAR
British Series 174). I don't know of any more recent assesment, but this
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