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Subject:

Odp: metal detectors selling on ebay

From:

Paul Barford <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Mon, 7 Jul 2003 11:10:45 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (106 lines)

Ros Jarvis wrote about the metal detector finds on Ebay.uk and pointed in
particular to the "stigs-antiquities" offerings there as an example. I agree
with Ros that the existence of an antiquities market in any form is
something which we should be concerned about as it encourages the removal of
material from archaeological sites, but we have been through all this many
times on this list in the past few months (years).

What however is interesting is that apart from the lots of Roman coins the
majority of stuff being offered (at the moment) by Stigs Antiquities is what
we might consider as of dubious archaeological significance. If one looks
for example at the several "30 interesting metal detector finds" from
"Cambridgeshire" we find what seem to be artificially constructed
assemblages with the token ancient coin or two thrown into a lot of more or
less pretty or recognisable metal finds. The majority of these are
relatively modern (like an RAF hat badge and an insignia with the EIIR
monogram) or relatively undatable, brass spigots or bits of chain for
example. Very probably the majority are indeed topsoil finds and in their
retrieval no archaeological deposits or assemblages were significantly
damaged.

Of course I do not deny that the 1880s or 1940s also produced archaeological
deposits which can be investigated to produce information - simply that
their protection from looting and destruction and the protection of Early
Medieval or Roman sites and deposits are questions of a different nature and
should not be confused. The question does arise though where one actually
should draw the line.

Rather than information on the seller and his activities, I am more
intrigued by the mentality of the buyers of this stuff, many of these lots
consist of the sort of things one can find in the bric-a-brac trays of local
flea markets, much of which never was in the ground. Buying it anonymously
through the Internet robs them of the chance of an exchange of banter and
haggling with the seller which surely is part of the pleasure of browsing
the flea markets anyway (?). As for the education of the collector and
dealer (a subject we have discussed here before), I am not sure I would buy
anything on the say-so of a British firm which calls every item an
"interesting edition to any collection" (and indeed wonder at such a
description of for example an old bent teaspoon).

As I said though the mentioned seller does have material for sale which
certainly did come from archaeological sites and it is unimportant to me
whether from the topsoil or not since the random removal of elements of the
site assemblage depletes the information available about and from that
particular site. The problem here is that the coins are totally
unprovenanced and mixed.

Indeed, looking at the "Roman bead" lots offered by Stigs-antiquities,
reputedly from North Africa one wonders in fact about even the integrity of
the very broad "provenances" given. Do Roman North African bead groups
actually contain amber? Its difficult to say from the fuzzy photos, but I
get the impression that there are some amber beads among those shown. And
(although I am not an expert in Roman beads from North Africa) the etched
carnelian barrel-shaped beads do not look very Roman to me. They do however
look like the sort of beads produced in the Cambay region of India for the
African trade in a much later period (but then did these beads reach North
Africa rather than its eastern coast?). As far as I can see "Stigs" do not
offer any explanation of the circumstances of the assemblage of these
"lots", and while they may guarantee their "antiquity" they do not actually
guarantee that they are from where they say they are. The coin lots from
"Europe" (one assumes its the modern region rather than the Roman province
which is meant) of course disguise the fact that some of these coins could
come from countries which have more stringent laws on the transfer of
ownership rights on archaeological materials than in Great Britain. What a
shame that they do not give the mintmarks of the coins they are offering
because of course this would show to some extent which part of "Europe" they
come from.

Paul Barford




----- Original Message -----
From: No Name <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, July 06, 2003 10:49 PM
Subject: metal detectors selling on ebay


> I have been increasingly concerned at items I come across on ebay which
are
> from metal detector finds
>
> what is being done about monitoring this vast selling forum for illegal
> selling at home and abroad?
>
> for those who have not looked go to
> www.ebay.co.uk
>
> click on search and then on 'by seller' and put in this one sellers name
> stigs-antiquities
>
> then when you have looked at items currently for sale in his list, click
on
> the number in brackets after the name - it was 2244 when I looked last and
> has a red star next to it - this will take you to his feedback lists where
> clicking on the huge number of item numbers will tell you what he has
> already sold and how much he got for it
>
> this is only one of many and I am very concerned that ebay is a potential
> major source of moving minor and major artefacts around the world and will
> encourage people to go out secretly and not report finds.
>
> Ros
>

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