You are currently browsing the daily archive for 11/02/2018.

Britain is considering banning the sale of all ivory on the grounds there’s no way to know which is legal and which isn’t. At last, sanity, despite the PM having recently tried to oblige her personal contacts in the antiques trade by keeping part of the trade legal, defying the rest of the world. In anticipation of the ban the BBC is considering stopping featuring all ivory on the Antiques Road Show. Who but crooks could possibly object?

On exactly the same basis shouldn’t the showing of all metal detected items be banned at auctions? Who but crooks could possibly object? Was the object dug up legally at point A or illegally and without the farmer’s permission at point B? No-one can say. Charles Hanson of Bargain Hunt runs quarterly auctions of metal detecting finds. He tells us he ensures all the items are legitimate, by checking they’ve been reported to PAS. How naive (or knowing?). He can’t possibly know. Laundering by find spot misdescription is one of the easiest and safest crimes there is – and highly lucrative as if you have an agreement to share with one farmer you can decide you found it on the land of another farmer with whom you have no such agreement.

Just how much of the PAS record is corrupted that way? They have no idea but they have quietly admitted it “happens”. Don’t they owe it to the Government, the taxpayers, the stakeholders, their database users and the farmers to be louder and more forthcoming about that?

Incidentally, just how easy it is to sell items without saying where they came from was just summarised by a detectorist: The best thing to do is take an object along and say it belonged to your Great grandfather”. Who but crooks could possibly object, and who knows how many of those there are? How many “legal” detectorists are looters?


Update: Comment by Paul Barford:
Actually, huge numbers of finds on the PAS database could have totally false findspots because the PAS uncritically accept what the finders tell them, and do not demand to see documentation of title, signed by the landowner when they accept items for recording. This leaves any FLO handling such material (or holding it in their office) with the responsibility of handling stolen material, and I really do not see why the PAS is so apparently oblivious to this danger. This is especially the case when on many sides there are calls for the commerce in portable antiquities to be more transparent and accountable with documentation of provenances and collecting histories, yet the single Scheme responsible for liaising with members of the public and collectors cannot be bothered to set any kind of an example by applying it to their own handling of the material.”


Ed: Is PAS really oblivious Paul or is in anxious to tell Government, academics and taxpayers that its database is meaningful when there are clearly major problems with it of of unknowable severity? Plus, as always, isn’t it a case of IFTOD – incurably frit to offend detectorists.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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