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BRITARCH  July 2003

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Subject:

Re: Detectorists : News travels fast

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Mon, 21 Jul 2003 12:56:55 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (104 lines)

John Woodgate writes:

>Yes. There is a very significant difference between reticence and theft.
>Withheld information can be disclosed at any subsequent time to persons
>of proven good intent, but you won't get looted artefacts back unless
>you buy them.

There is another future source of information, but I don't know how
widespread this is. It comes from some dealers. I know one on the south
coast who gets provenance information from detectorists in confidence. As
they trust him they disclose this information to him. He, in return, does
not use a metal detector himself or advertise the site. Over a number of
years he has accumulated a lot of information about his area. He plans to
eventually publish this data once he retires. As he knows me to be
trustworthy he let me into some of this data for one site after I promised
not to disclose the location. A particular coin type has a very localized
distribution, but its given provenances are over a wider area. The site
owner does not allow metal detectorist or archaeologists to work on his
land, but a number of "nighthawks" detect on the ploughed land. Early one
morning he showed me their tracks in the wet grass leading to one of the
fields, and the holes they had made (very shallow --  I saw nothing deeper
than a few inches -- less then plough depth).

It is a settlement that had a specialized industry. A hitherto unknown
Roman road was eventually cut through the middle of it and that road is now
a very straight intermittent hedgerow. The coins come from both sides of
this hedge.

Overall, I think he made the right choice. The information will eventually
be revealed and the detectorists do not feed him false information such as
what they have fed to some local archaeologists. He can thus gather a lot
of information about his local area. Of course there is criminal activity
going on here -- trespassing for one. That cannot be reconciled in any way.


It does reveal a direction that could be taken: confidences created and
maintained between detectorists and archaeologists, and concerns that
farmers might have about allowing both archaeologists and detectorists on
their property should be better addressed.

I know another dealer who is told exact provenances because his suppliers
know that he will not go there himself. He gives a general provenance with
the coins that he sells, but only a very specific provenance when he
reports these finds to the Celtic Coin Index. Such a two tiered system is
the best solution for all concerned. A collector really doesn't need to
know the exact field where the coins come from, but this information is
useful for archaeological research.

Most dealers are very responsible and have a real interest in the subject.
Most could make better money in other activities, and I know a number of
them that have taken a severe cut in their income to do what they like to
do. Painting them all as greedy profiteering crooks is not only false, but
drives further wedges between all of these activities. The same is true for
collectors. they do not collect for profit. Collecting is a money-losing
activity. A British celtic coin that cost 500 pounds back in 1965 might now
be worth fifty pounds. Even Greek coins -- the most expensive, generally,
of all ancient coins cost more now than they did in 1965, but have not kept
up with inflation, and what cost one weeks wages in 1965 might now cost one
days wages in a similar job.

Ebay has depressed the coin market even further, as it has done to other
articles, but mainly to inferior grades of material -- there is a lot of
junk on Ebay -- and vast numbers of fakes. Ebay attracts many of the more
dishonest dealers and the ill informed collectors are always buying fakes
from them. Slavei is one of the better known forgers -- from Bulgaria. He
claims not so sell his material as genuine, but his customers certainly do.
I also suspect that artifact forgery is also one of the main Bulgarian
industries. They have an interesting way of making money from foreign
visitors. They freely sell them real artifacts, then confiscate them at the
border, charge the buyers and impose fines. They might also have a
syndicate that allows genuine material to reach international markets. I
think that many of the La Tene II brooches are genuine -- they are all of a
particular local style. The vast number of rather crude Hallstatt bracelets
and torcs I find suspect though -- there seems to be far more of them than
any other material from that region.

China looted a lot of Tibetan artifacts from Tibetan temples when it
demolished them and took these artifacts to Beijing. A large number of
Tibetan artifacts also appear on the western market. A friend of mine was a
Tibetan smuggler, but he smuggled refugees from Tibet through Nepal to
Dharamsala in India. He was the accountant, at one time, for the Dalai
Lama. He showed me pictures he took of a long Chinese truck convoy moving
artifacts out of the country. He is a brave soul. Born on the Tibetan
border he can pass easily as Nepalese - that's why he was picked for the
task. He was tortured by the Chinese three times but never revealed his
purpose. On one of his expeditions his party was under fire from the
Nepalese police across a ravine. One woman was shot, but he took care of
her wounds and she survived the journey. He's now safe and living here in
Calgary with his family.

Some of you might think that Britain is suffering from its moderate laws,
but you should see what is really going on in some places that have stiffer
laws.

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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