by Nigel Swift
The educated middle classes have just been scandalised by an article in The Guardian: “Looted in Syria – and sold in London: the British antiques shops dealing in artefacts smuggled by Isis“. Staff posed as antiquities dealers and trolled round outlets in London to demonstrate how looted items from warzones in Syria and Iraq were openly on display. They quote Neil Brodie of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at Glasgow University saying that “in the absence of coordinated strategies and concerted efforts, attempts to tackle the problem have thus far been ineffective” and another expert in the field, Sam Hardy, explaining that “A common practice is to fudge provenance by claiming an antiquity has been in the family for a long time …. The industry runs on trust ….. by not keeping any records, dealers make it easier for buyers to convince themselves there is no evidence of any wrongdoing.”
The irony of it all drives me barmy. Here in Britain for donkey’s years a whole hobby has been harvesting millions of archaeological items, every one of which encapsulates knowledge belonging to all of us – yet most of that hobby’s forums and clubs keep secret sections to discuss finds out of public view… and many rally organisers keep venues secret from the public …. and anyway most detectorists keep their finds secret. And as for British dealers, here are some adverts from the latest editions of The Searcher and Treasure Hunting:
Discretion? Confidentiality? Pourquoi? Who outside metal detecting (and Britain) would deny that secrecy has absolutely no place in metal detecting or that British artefact dealers are (unwittingly) making it easy for a few British looters and far, far more British legal knowledge thieves to do what they do? Wouldn’t it be nice if Glasgow University and The Guardian got it into their heads that what is happening here in Britain is massive, blatant ongoing theft of British cultural knowledge by thousands of British citizens and that it stinks – and to write some articles telling the educated middle classes about it accordingly?
Update, 5 July 2015
While I’m here ranting about cultural damage and lack of official action against it: this posted on a detecting forum yesterday, really, really annoyed me. (Why should anyone care what annoys the likes of me? No reason at all except one: I am right, and I’m only expressing what The Archaeological Establishment knows is true but won’t express!).
It vividly illustrates how knowledge loss works and that it is at a far higher level than anyone except a few unofficial complainants bother to work out or fret over. It is a visible manifestation of a simple but universal truth – a damaging all-British algorithm – namely that the more important it is not to metal detect a field, the keener are the unthinking or uncaring history-botherers to detect it. (For the avoidance of doubt, mostly legally – but that’s the shameful thing about Britain). Scale that simple truth up and it implies that the knowledge loss inflicted by the laissez faire hobby is massively greater than a “random” choice of target fields is commonly assumed to produce. In fact, not merely massively greater but almost incalculably greater., utterly tragic for Britain and completely unacknowledged by those who should be loudly condemning it. Ah well, he’s talking unkind talk again, carry on chaps. The depletion is invisible so it’s not worth standing up against it.
“Permission granted Virgin site
by Scorpio197 » Sat Jul 04, 2015 6:12 pm
Just got permission for 20 or so acres of land in South East Norfolk . It’s never been detected on before , many have asked and been turned down , . The site has been left for wild life since just after the war the owner and his family have lived there for many generations and as the story go a local archeology group wanted to dig some trenches on the land before the war but as yet I can’t find out why . Needless to say they were not given permission also the land owner was asked again in the late seventies but refused . So for the first time I have a reason to go out with my detector that I’ve had for over a year and only played with in my back garden . Let’s hope for something nice to be found , going next Wednesday evening for a couple of hours to get the lay of land . Sorry just had to tell someone …