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Subject:

Re: Odp: Treasure Revealed, thanks to BBC2 [long and boring for most]

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sat, 6 Sep 2003 21:39:52 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (278 lines)

Hi Paul,

Hmmm, so now it's what was reported to archaeologists eh?

Previously you said:

"the figures quoted by the 1995 CBA report for the apparent percentage of
metal
detector finds reported to museums (I think it was 6% in the case of Iron Age
coins - though I know John Hooker would contest this figure)"

then:

"I was looking for a statistic to indicate what the 'contact with the
profession' situation had been before the appearance of the Portable
Antiquities Recording Scheme, the CBA report said that 6% of new Celtic coin
finds had been reported to Museums (presumably a figure FROM the CCI)"
 
Then, after I explained that the CCI did not have data in that exact form
(demonstrating that it could not have been the source), and further explained
the nature and function of the CCI, the percentages of coins found by both
archaeologists and detectorists and so on, you the replied:

"since we cannot seem to find it, let us stay with the 6% published in the CBA
report. Only six percent of discoveries were being reported by detectorists to
the museums."

So you decided that your recollection of a statistic that you could not
substantiate with any other confirmation or sources should be the one we take
as real. After my explanation of the CCI you then replied:

"I hardly think the CBA/EH report is based on "guesswork". I assumed the
authors had used celtic coins as an example precisely because they could pull
the information from the CCI."

This gives the idea that I had suggested it was a guess, but what I actually
said was "There must be knowledge of the remaining 94% for the statistic to be
real, and not just someone's guess -- so this data must reside somewhere." I
later gave you all the available statistics from the CCI that Carrie had
compiled from the CCI database, not just provenance statistics but where these
records actually came from, and I suggested that you contact the authors of
the
report you wanted us to keep as fact for a clarification of their sources.

To all of this you replied:

"So the report says 6% of finds you say some 30% of finds have been
reported to
museums by "responsible detectorists". Obviously then some difficulty in
obtaining reliable figures. It seems to me that this is something that should
be looked into."

Suddenly a figure of 30% is attributed to me for data that I said could not be
obtained by any means that I was aware of. Not wishing to accuse anyone of
"creative statistics", I suggested the possibilty of typos for both the 6% and
your 30%.

Now it becomes:

>John, we are not discussing provenances here ! We were looking for figures
>for  the number of coins which were found and reported to archaeologists
>(e.g., through the agency of museums) instead of not being reported and just
>disappearing into collections or going to dealers and then by that route
>reaching the CCI. This was a rough index to the degree finds were being
>reported before the Antiquities Recording Scheme was set up, which was a
>point connected to the discussion which was taking place several days ago.
>The discussion has moved on, let's just drop the subject.

Evidently, the discussion has not moved on because it is only you and I that
have made mention of this statistic, and I have no wish to leave it hanging. I
am rather "terrier-like" when it comes to data. Carrie used to joke about me
learning things by "interrogating people".

The truth of the matter is that the report says:

"It is, of course, impossible to quantify the number of unreported iron age
coins with certainty. A few pointers, however, are available. Of the East
Anglian hoard­derived coins mentioned above, for instance, no undeclared
examples are known to have been found without detectors. Of the 6,601 found
with detectors, however, only 331 - or around 5% of the total - were actually
declared for the purposes of treasure trove. It may also be significant
that of
the forty dealers who deal regularly in iron age coins, only one reports
routinely to the Celtic Coin Index."

These refer to Icenian hoards and the source of that information to the
authors
was Amanda Chadburn, an inspector of ancient monuments for E.H. and a
specialist in Iron Age coins. She published a preliminary analysis of the
Icenian Field Baulk hoard in BAR (Brit) 222.
What is interesting, of course, is that the statistic refers only to Icenian
hoard coins that were not declared as Treasure Trove. This is a specific study
of a known quantity of identified hoards, so it is not an example of
information that is lost. In other words, the data exists.

Let's examine the CCI figures quoted in the report for the years 1988 to 1991:

"A second measure of the rate of detected finds is provided by the Index of
Celtic Coins at Oxford. Between 1988-91, only 14 iron age coins are known to
have been excavated. By comparison, 108 are known to have been detected, and
the method of recovery of a further 277 is not known - although it seems
probable that they were detected".

The source of these figures is given as the British Numismatic Journal.
Totals:
1988: 97 (actual figure: 145)
1989: 57 (actual figure: 181)
1990: 163 (actual figure: 910)
1991: 82 (actual figure: 398) 
Total: 399 (actual figure: 1634)

Isn't this interesting? Now I have not yet examined the figures for what is
given as detector, excavated, or uncertain find percentages, but given the
totals it would not surprise me to discover that these are also wrong. I
started to wonder why these years were singled out, after all it was in 1983
when the location of the first Wanborough finds was announced, in an
example of
total lunacy, at the inquest. This, of course led to the MD "gold rush" where
thousands more coins were swiped before they could be studied.

1983 to 1987 CCI records: 2070 (678 of these in 1987)

How about CCI records for 1992 to 1995 (the date of the report)?

1992: 862
1993: 861
1994: 1342
1995: 2915

Total: 5980

In case you might think that there is a gradual increase in CCI records over
the years, I should add that the first year (1961) has 1451 records; 1962 had
158; 1963: 252; 1964: 113
In recent years 2000 had 1589; 2001: 564.

As I explained in an earlier email, the CCI records do not reflect, exactly,
the finds for each year, but how much entry work could be done in each year
because of numbers of staff and other duties of the same. Backlogs can occur
when, for example, funding does not permit extra staff to be used to handle
busy years, and if Philip is given a heavy excavation schedule then he cannot,
at the same time, be sitting in his office receiving details of new coins. In
an ideal world, things might be different. The report picked a range of years
when not much was going on, and it omitted a large number of actual records
for
those years. Do you still feel that this report should stand as the most
reliable? You are getting this stuff from the horse's mouth. I have the CCI
(up
to the year on our web site) on my computers at home.

Data errors, elsewhere, are often extreme. I mentioned how clean the CCI data
is, and they are to be commended for this, but they are an exception. The ANS
database is a rat's nest when it comes to standardized descriptions; one
published British study of Celtic coins referred to a number of coins in the
Ashmolean Museum. I had reason to look at this group when I was visiting
Oxford
for a related study I was going to do. The Ashmolean's own records were
accurate, but the published study had a 20% error rate!

>What in heaven's name is so difficult about finding out which field and
>which part of it you are in John? Why do you consider it "impractical" for
>the person doing the searching to put a dot on a map to accompany the
>information passed on to the archaeologist?

What degree of accuracy do you want here? 1m grids? How many square meters in
an average British crop field when there are 10,000 sq meters per ha. Sure ---
no problem.

> Quite frankly, if they cannot
>reliably carry out this relatively simple task, then it tends to disqualify
>them as a source of useful information for the archaeologist. Anybody
>carrying out any kind of fieldwork should be familiar with maps and how to
>use them.

I remember hearing a rather hilarious story about some archaeology students
spending a rather long time plotting out a 100 meter grid with any degree of
accuracy. Why leave it at that? Let's use my knowledge to test professional
archaeologists. Let's fire every British archaeologist that cannot tell us
what
tribe VA 1210 belongs to without looking it up.It is, after all, a relatively
easy question. I didn't have to look it up to know it is the Durotriges. Hmmm,
I wonder what percentage of British archaeologists know the name "Durotriges"

>
>> (1) so that detectorists and collectors will have less of an adverse
>impact
>> on archaeology -- in other words they will be aware of the importances of
>> archaeology and be able and willing to act in a manner less harmful to the
>> interests of archaeology,
>I am sorry but this simply is NOT what you were saying a few days ago about
>the emergence of the specialist collector who would have the time and
>expertise to study the finds they have accumulated in a way which - you
>suggest - the professional no longer has. 

Please read my email more carefully. This had nothing to do with the value of
collectors and collections, it was concerning the sorts of training that
archaeologists could provide to collectors:  "how much time they are
willing to
devote to proper training, lectures and general help and encouragement" to be
exact. The subject of the value of collectors and collections is something
that
I could devote at least 50,000 words to, and might do some time, but I can
only
gives snippets here.

>> and (2) that detectorists and collectors will be
>> able to further their own manner of studying the past by utilizing the
>> techniques and theories of archaeology, thus adding more of an
>> interdisciplinary approach to the past.

>well to my mind there might be difficulties in applying an archaeological
>approach to isolated finds which have been removed from their archaeological
>context.

This is only due to an overly fixed frame of reference as what "context"
really
means. Would you like the 30 minute argument?

>Firstly, I did not say we should leave Hattatt out of the picture, earlier I
>referred to it as the example you invariably cite and I asked what else
>there was. So we can start off the bibliography with Hattatt. I wanted to
>treat numismatic studies as a separate area for the sake of developing this
>discussion. You have demonstrated over and over again that there's a lot you
>can say about coins even if they have no provenance whatsoever. They were
>meant to be carriers of information for their users, and bear today stamped
>all over them features which apparently one can study and interpret in their
>own right. But in your discussions you have been extrapolating the
>numismatic argument to the entirity of detecting and collecting and have
>been suggesting that if we would allow specialist collectors in general to
>develop their collections and connoisseurship (in a way you suggest that for
>lack of resources we cannot), we would have the benefit of a useful
>resource. This was one of your key arguments why archaeologists should
>support metal detecting, in order for these experts to emerge. You cite
>Hattatt's collections as an example. I asked though whether tthe latter was
>an exception or just the tip of an iceberg of amateur research on various
>artefact types (and so not just the special case of numismata) which has
>been generated by the proliferation of finds from metal detecting in the
>past several decades.

I am not aware of any other in-depth artifact studies during these years
produced by amateurs. What comparable studies have been produced by
professionals during these same years? we can't include Jope, most of his work
was done in the sixties, although the book was not published until 2000,
and it
had only an annotated list of recent discoveries without analyses of such.
Raftery's study was published in 1983, but I don't know how long it took him.
Of course I can't answer for much outside of my area of Celtic art, for either
professional or amateur writing.

>You seem not to have addressed my question on sites and why I was earlier
>accused of "jargon ploy" in employing the word. Your only comment on the
>"sites" was totally unrelated to the quote from my text which it followed.

You really don't want me to analyze your debating style in this light. I am
thorough in such matters. Having had training in "black PR" I can easily spot
it. I am also, now, very critical of such things. Like the scorpion story:
"It's in my nature". I was trained and used as a political weapon in the early
seventies -- something I am not very proud of. I made up for this later by
exposing the international organization that used me as such (a couple of my
friends were killed. I escaped) and did some risky anti-terrorist work for
the,
then, RCMP Security Service  (Canadian Intelligence) to make personal amends
for my rather shady past in political intrigue. Study Phil Agre and breath a
sigh of relief -- really. I'm not going to engage in this. John Woodgate
spotted it at once -- clever fellow. I choose to believe that your motives are
not nefarious, and you have perhaps absorbed such techniques unknowingly.
There's a lot of it going around in this topic. Let Phil deprogram you ;-)

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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