Monday, 28 July 2014

Three Colombians arrested for trafficking Pre-Colombian artifacts

Police were tipped off to the activities of a gang of looters when artefacts were seized with a falsified export permit. Three Colombians were arrested last week in the town of La Cruz in southern Colombia, accused of trafficking in more than 850 archaeological relics. The three are believed to be members of the same family, and are accused of "illegally digging up (pre-Columbian) pieces and art". The artefacts were stored in one of the diggers' homes and were being sold to tourists and collectors, who were taking them out of the country.

Agence France-Presse, 'Colombia Busts Antiquities Traffickers', July 28, 2014.

UNESCO Urges End To Destruction Of Iraq's Cultural Heritage

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has called for an immediate halt to intentional destruction of religious and cultural heritage monuments in Iraq, a statement issued by the UN agency said. Referring to the intentional destruction on 24 July of the shrine of Prophet Jonas and the mosque built in his honor in Mosul, Bokova said: "I am shocked by this violence against the millennial heritage of Iraq -- destroying places of religious and cultural significance is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated."
  UNESCO Urges End To Destruction Of Iraq's Cultural Heritage   7/28/2014

Illegal Metal Detecting in Yellowstone National Park

Erika Angulo, 'Yellowstone treasure hunters run into problems looking for buried loot', TODAY July 27, 2014
Summer at Yellowstone National Park usually means a steady stream of tourists, but this year a different kind of visitor has rangers on alert — one hoping to strike it rich by digging in the park. Armed with metal detectors, shovels and camping gear, treasure hunters are making their way to Yellowstone in search of a gold-filled 42-pound chest that a New Mexico millionaire says he hid in the Rocky Mountains some four years ago. [...]  But treasure hunting at a national park can land you in jail. "People are coming into the park unaware of the regulations that protect the resources that preclude invasive treasure searching techniques such as digging, metal detectors, anything that destroys or impacts the resources," says Chief Ranger Tim Reid.
Well, if somebody was digging to bury something in the park, they too should be prosecuted, surely?

UK Metal Detecting: Reading Problems Compound Thinking Difficulties

My comments on the Macedonian antiquities convictions aroused interest among the airheads with metal detectors. As usual the "passinitly interestid in th' 'istry" mob seem unconcerned about any of the other issues raised here about the responsibilities of artefact hunting and artefact collecting (indeed, laughing about them). The moment mention is made of an archaeologist being mixed up in some dodgy dealings, then suddenly their ears prick up. One of them (from the camp totally oblivious to the nature of the issues are with thoughtless airheads hoiking artefects to collect), unreflexively writes on his blog: "we are painted with an extremely broad brush as bad guys by those in the ‘holier than thou’ enemy camp, yet when misdeeds like the following happen they are always labelled inaccurate, misconstrued, taken out of context or political in nature".  Another of the same ilk, calling himself supernova1c
guffaws that this made him laugh. He says he "found the article on the greedy archaeologist very interesting, you don’t hear them shouting about that!". The artefact hunters' favourite "two wrongs make a right" argument.

I wonder whether any of them had actually read the article properly, rather than the headline. You know reading, where you put words in a row and then understand them? If you follow through the articles about the case going back over a year (I doubt any of them even thought of doing that, even though the information is in the Internet a mouse-click away) they would have found that the archaeologist they are "laughing" about has been sentenced for giving permission for artefact hunting, for aiding artefact hunters like themselves. Whether out of "greed" or not is not recorded.

The point I was making in my earlier post is that although the permits (which I presume exist) bear his signature, the precise conditions under which they were issued may not be so clear. Note that the antiquities ring is reported as being run by his deputy in the office. I think one can see that there is a variety of possible scenarios from which the court could have chosen, for various reasons. That is the point I was making about the political context here.

In most eastern European countries you need a permit to conduct archaeological excavations. Without them, excavations are illegal. Yet artefact hunters cannot get these permits, because state legislation in these countries usually specifies out who can get them and what for. To issue such a permit to people who do not fit those definitions is illegal. This is the dilemma artefact hunters have in many parts of Europe. I have written about this a number of times on this blog in the past, Raimund Karl wrote about it in support of Austrian artefact hunters. Polish archaeologists complain they cannot legally work with metal detectorists because of this sort of legislation and suggest modifying it. Chortling airhead metal detector users in the English-speaking world however cannot strain their search-engine-using mouse-clicking fingers too much or read more than eight sentences at a time, so they prefer to remain permanently ignorant. Then they can play the victim when somebody points out they are exhibiting minimal intelligence in what they say about their hobby and its contexts. They like that, it's an undemanding role to play ("we are painted with an extremely broad brush as bad guys by those in the ‘holier than thou’ enemy camp"). It helps foster the them-us division which increase the "hobby solidarity" within which so many of them seem to find comfort and a personal identity.

To judge by the reports in the public domain, Macedonia's Kuzman "and other office employees in 2011 gave permission to third parties to dig in locations near the town of Delcevo and along the road from Skopje to Veles". The reports of the case indicate that he has been convicted of issuing artefact hunters  with excavation permits, allowing them to dig openly. The point is that Macedonian law does not have the possibility for him to do that, he has therefore been declared guilty by a court of an illegal activity and has been sentenced to three years in prison. For being "guilty of aiding a criminal ring to excavate and sell off valuable archaeological artifacts". Giving permission for artefact hunting, in the specific Macedonian context, has been adjudged "misuse of office".

I would have thought that metal detectorists capable of thinking would have adopted a somewhat different attitude to the jailing of an (old and sick - to boot) archaeologist whose crime was giving permissions to artefact hunters.  But no, I cannot see any evidence that thinking metal detectorists will be An archaeologist jailed for helping artefact hunters, ha ha, ROFL eh?"
taking that one up. Instead we see mindless airhead guffawing: "

 Vignette: 'Illiterate Britain: One in five adults struggling to read and write' and many take up metal detecting.

UPDATE 28th July 2014:
Despite the pointer given above that actually reading some primary sources might help understand matters a bit better than the stereotypical archie-bashing flabberjaw that in the world of airhead detecting passes for 'informed comment', we still find that the slow on the uptake have problems unentangling the written word. One of them has just accused Dr Kuzman of being "fit and well enough to organise a criminal gang of archaeologists and reap the rewards of his ill-gotten gains", despite the fact that the name of the smuggling gang's leader is given in the Macedonian press reports based on court records. I hope when the slandered individual comes out of prison, he deals with the libellous publication of Howland and Stout in a manner appropriate to the accusation.

UK Metal Detecting: Heritage Action Challenged Again (Yawn), by a Newbie

Paul Currell a Weston-Super-Mare (Somerset) clock repairer and metal detectorist has been posting a few comments to the Heritage Journal trotting out the usual tekkie objections to anybody commenting on the effects of current policies on the archaeological record:  “I am new to metal detecting and you are all wrong, wrong wrong, you don’t know what you are talking about” [or words to that effect]. Having had the first three of his "points" at explained to him, and before he's had time to digest it, he starts off on another tack. "The Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter [...] is ridiculous" he insists because on his club digs (he's been on two) nobody finds very much (he seems to see that in terms of the number of coins found).

PD Currell admits he belongs to a club, members of which are not very good at finding stuff on "club land" and which (because he admits to not knowing much about it) apparently does not put its members in touch with the PAS. He seems to equate "archaeological record" with "coins". He seems not to have heard of the PAS through the club (would that be Weston Historical Research and Detecting Association - WHRADA, or The Somerset Artifact (sic) Seekers?). 

I suggest that before hastily concluding that his two novice detecting trips with his "club" are representative of the whole, he might like to research the matter a little more deeply. He might for example like to look at Katherine Robbins' 2012 doctoral thesis:  "From Past to Present: Understanding the Impact of Sampling Bias on Data Recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme" in the University of Southampton Research Repository. Dr Robbins gives proper data on finds rates from her case studies (a bit more than just a novice's two trips). On page 239 she gives an estimated quantification of the numbers of artefacts being recovered by metal detectorists across England and Wales. Her result is a little lower than the HA one (but then based on a lower number of detectorists) but certainly the same order of magnitude. She concludes the annual number is ~265,000. Now it seems from the finished document that her academic supervisors did not question either her methodology or her results, her reviewers likewise. Nor did Roger Bland of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, so much so that on the basis of her work he offered her a job in the BM  continuing the same line of research. I'd say that was a pretty good vindication of the conclusions reached earlier (by different methods than Robbins' just asking detectorists) by Heritage Action. I suggest that if the clock-loving but sceptical detectorist wants to take up the issue, he complains to Dr Robbins.

Once again, we find ourselves beset by being dragged into pointless discussions with those with a totally superficial approach to the problem and a fundamental lack of knowledge. This is Britain's awful dumb-down karaoke culture poking through. Lager lout takes on reason. It does not matter to people like this that people like Heritage Action have invested a lot of time (13 years they've been at it) and thought to the issue of quantifying and studying the effects of  the UK's policies on artefact hunting. A cocky novice wet around the ears imagines that he's got what it takes ("common sense innit") to show they're wrong. Even if he hasn't. This one's been out on two club digs with his new detector and imagines he knows everything there is to know about detecting in its wider context. In his opinion, HA "must" be wrong, cos that's wot his M8s say, and any thicko straight from the street thinks that without any reading up the issues discussed during those 13 years he will defeat them with a few pathetic stock arguments they've heard from airhead detector users on a forum somewhere. Those usually concentrate around themes of:
chip-on-the-shoulder playing the victim,
nasty ad hominems ("Did an ex-wife run away with a detectorist by chance?"),
extrapolating a vision of normal archaeological practice from something seen on Time Team,
application of a 'two-wrongs-make-a-right' argument,
and so on.

This is really pathetic, and makes you wonder just where seventeen million pounds on PAS "Outreach" has gone. What has the general public really absorbed from all that money being spent on informing them about archaeology by this organization? And the small (minority) of the British public so "passionately interested in 'istry" that they've bought metal detectors so they can rip large swathes of it up for their personal consumption, what have they really learnt from the PAS in all those years? Really. I think that by the repetitiveness of the absolute junk we see weekly emerging from this milieu, the answer is pretty obvious - not a lot. In my opinion, long term observation of this phenomenon indicates starkly that it's a waste of money trying to outreach to those that resist education. And its a waste of time British archaeologists persisting in  faffing around at the tax-payers' expense trying to achieve the unachievable for the only reason that its easier to deceive yourself and others that its different than it is, than actually taking real action to deal with the problem of collection-driven exploitation (CDE) of the archaeological record head on.


"Iraq is Heading Toward Total Destruction of its Historic and Human Heritage"

The war-mongers may be in denial, but Ali Mamouni is in little doubt who is ultimately responsible for the current destabilisation of the situation in Iraq
Iraq is heading toward total destruction of its historic and human heritage, which will turn it into a barren desert isolated from its time-honored cultural and religious history. This is taking place in light of chaotic circumstances involving terrorism that is on the offensive, Iraqi government ignorance, global silence and an international letdown — specifically from the United States, which [has] completely abandoned its responsibilities toward the situation in Iraq.

Ali Mamouri, 'Islamic State destroys sacred shrine in Mosul', Al-monitor July 25, 2014 (transl. Cynthia Milan).

UK Metal Detecting: "[...]k off and Die Heritage Action, Barford and the rest of you"!

"Remember that when you are out with
your metal detector you are an ambassador for our
hobby. Do nothing that might give it a bad name
Over on Heritage Action's blog we see a typical metal detectorist reaction to a discussion of artefact hunters selling finds.  It's from a John West and was sent 27/07/2014 at 22:47
Dont waste your breathe or typing skills on this bunch of twisted blinkered [...]ers. You could give all your finds to a museum and they still would call foul. [...]k off and die heritage action, barford and the rest of you syncapathic (sic) [...]ers... Here endeth the lesson. [...] at least us (sic) detectorists are actually finding pieces of the past rather than belittling those that do Pathetic [....]ers. Now post this you twisted [...]k. You know who I am and I will return to plague your [...]t sake of a site !!!
Yes, they always do. Very few of them feel the need to engage in anything but whining, feeble pseudo-justifications, threats and outright vulgarity.This is why there really is no point in trying to discuss anything with artefact hunters, but we need to be discussing what the rest of us can do about artefact hunters like this whose only justification for "finding pieces of the past" is to throw it in the face of the rest of us like this. Without the PAS they would be nothing but looters, yet the paradox is that the PAS was set up to negotiate best practice with the milieu represented here so eloquently by John West. How much chance of an effective resolution to the artefact hunting problem do you think the mentalities behind this and a host of other posts made by metal detectorists which anyone who looks can see all over the internet give them? 

Mr West's ISP is available to NCMD officials - just ask.
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