Sunday, 31 January 2016

Introduction of new Sentencing Guidelines for theft of Heritage Assets Tomorrow


In the UK....


don't HE know that metal detectorists are somebody's "Partners"? Still no sentence however for knowledge theft, but one day, maybe....


Battlefield Recovery Po Polsku


A team of amateurish PAS-partners came over from Great Britain to my country to "help" us to recover the war dead. They made a film showing what they did (though they claim they edited the film to make it look worse than what they actually did). Here's a film about how we do it, actually not far from the site where Clearstory's group of misfit artefact collectors were playing history seekers. Spot the differences:
In the way the bones are exposed in plan and not pulled out piecemeal,
the way artefacts are presented (no shouting or exclamations of excitement/how much it would be worth, the object is not ripped apart on camera)
the person filmed does not run around wearing the gas mask pretending to be a soldier,
Nobody is making money from the filming of this operation
Is it archaeological snobbery (sic) to point this out, or is what we see here rather more like what one would expect to see in the treatment of an accidental find (as here) of human remains? 


Posted on You Tube by Dariusz Brożek 20.08.2014
.
What were Cleasrstory and the "Nazi War" diggers thinking of?

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Portable Antiquities Attitudes: Challenge for Archaeology (Blogging Carnival)


Collection-Driven Exploitation of the site of
Apamea, Syria. Would a 'voluntary record'
of one-in-five of the artefacts hoiked here
have made this in any way 'acceptable'?
Doug’s Archaeology has set a new blog carnival for the month of January: The Grand Challenges for Archaeology: A Blogging Carnival. I would say one of the biggest ones is relevance. What relevance is what archaeologists do and why should resources be allocated to support it? Those of us who do archaeology (and even call it pragmatic archaeology) have some familiar answers. The most common involve things like:
national or regional identity ( Vorgeschichte, eine hervorragend nationale Wissenschaft/ Ahnenerbe),

"enhancing social inclusion" (community archaeology, ethnic and other minorities),
academic importance

"avoiding making the mistakes of the past"/ "understanding the present",

generating tourist revenue ("and jobs"),

It can easily be perceived that the use of the past to create identities involves problems, but surprisingly in archaeology this is still promoted in subtle and less subtle form - though running alongside archaeological concerns for the global heritage. In the age of all-pervasive globalisation, what role does the notion of "national heritage" play, and what should it play? Is the notion of a national heritage divisive or does it together with historiography and allied disciplines provide some form of basis for group cohesion within a broader internationalist framework?

Then, in that context, whose identity is being promoted through the use of the archaeological record? One thinks for example of the archaeology of former colonies of European powers (the most obvious being the USA where sometimes the cultural remains of the 'indigenous people' can even be found displayed in natural history museums and are subject to specific laws not applicable to the archaeology of the colonisers). Is not the fact that archaeology paternalistically engages in 'giving these people a voice' in itself an element of division? What is or should be archaeology's role in creating social coherence?

A more ivory tower approach sees what we do as of importance as an academic discipline with its own (?) methodology, body of theory and methods. The development of increasingly sophisticated approaches to the study of the past are seen as playing an important role in the development of the humanities. Seeking the relevance of archaeology in this however begs the question just how relevant the latter is to the man in the street and the policy makers who, in one way or another, foot the bill?

To argue that archaeology provides firm 'scientific data' which can be used to predict the future results of a process occurring or being initiated today ('warnings from the past') ignores the post-processual demonstration that archaeological interpretations, like other forms of historiography, can never be objective. We cannot honestly pretend otherwise.

I find the last argument somewhat shaky too, though it is the one which seems to be most commonly articulated. Firstly, is it really archaeological knowledge tourists in general 'consume', or is this an incidental factor? Would visitor numbers drop at any major site (like Stonehenge) if we did not have seeds and snails from the primary silts of its second phase? We tend to overlook the fact that 'not knowing ' about the past ('the mysteries of the past') is often a significant draw for tourism (and media edutainment). Gawpworthiness is also an important factor. A nice ruin covered in jungle plants is at least as photogenic as some heavily repointed wall-stubs displayed between immaculate green 'Ministry of Works' lawns. A museum case with a small heap of gold coins found accidentally in upcast from a mole hole by a dog walker is at least as much of an attraction for visitors as a carefully designed display of the snail shells and carbonised seeds and 'what they tell us of the chalkland environment here a long, long time ago'. I do not think the bulk of tourists actually need archaeology to make a site visit-worthy. They need access (a car park and paths through parts of the site), somewhere to relieve themselves, and something to photograph, and the marketing does the rest. In any case - as Egypt (not to mention Iraq and Syria) show all too starkly - tourist revenue cannot be taken for granted. It is difficult to predict whether in future decades the tourist industry in whole regions of the world will be expanding or contracting.

I think we need to consider also the changing social contexts of 'knowledge'. It cannot fail to be seen that the 'democratisation' of knowledge is being accompanied not only by the challenge to academic authority unthinkable even half a century ago, but above all by a severe dumbing-down. It is in this context that archaeology needs to function, but (manner of presentation aside), to what extent should the discipline adapt itself to 'fit'?

Though similar changes are occurring to a greater or lesser degree elsewhere, I think we see this problem most acutely in the British context. On British TV first we had factual and balanced archaeology/history programmes of the excellence of "Chronicle", today we have "Nazi War Diggers", cheap, amateurish, sensationalist and superficial. The archaeology of Britain is being publicly presented as 'digging up interesting things' of the "Britain's Secret Treasures" ilk. People with metal detectors are presented as amateur archaeologists, what they are finding is narrativised and presented as archaeology. That it is not is not the message that is getting through to the public. We show them the snail shells and they'll shrug and move on to the Staffordshire Hoard. We say snail shells are really important to understand the environment,  and we really need to fund more and better laboratory work on soil samples to get snails and seeds in context... and the Portable Antiquities Scheme will be shouting out that another member of the public with a spade and finds pouch - they'll likely not mention the shed full of collectable items hoiked from sites up and down the country -  and "the experts are delighted" (oh and he gets to share x0000 quid of your money with a landowner and the loot will be on display in the county museum). How long will the obsession of a few academics with the recovery of snail shells or the taphonomy of sherd density in fourth century reflooring of the Baths Basilica of Barchester be seen as anything worthy of note and funding by the public? How relevant will that sort of archaeology be to anyone except ourselves?
Treasures promote national and regional pride,

Treasure hunting promotes social inclusion, Baz Thugwit can hardly write his own name, but can amaze/astound/delight/help the experts with his metal detector

A steady flow of nice Treasures found by the public keeps the academics happy,

Treasures embody the 'mystery of the past',

Treasures make our museums more attractive to visit than any old snail shells. 
The collecting of archaeological collectables is being promoted as a form of 'archaeology for all' - a move well received in the antiquities trade of course. Dealers and their lobbyists all over the world love the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Why curb the commercial exploitation of the archaeological record when it is "not destruction" but instead - it is argued - "finding and putting on record things the archaeologists would not otherwise excavate themselves"? Artefact hunting is "saving culture", any archaeologist who invokes arguments that suggest otherwise is nowadays treated as a snobbish, PAS-hating dinosaur - paradoxically even in some archaeological circles in the UK.

It should go without saying that dealing with the indiscriminate manner in which the antiquities trade is still carried out is a major challenge for archaeology. The bigger challenge however is first countering the severe apathy we see among archaeologists when more is required of them than simple declarations. Indeed, British archaeology has instead declared itself  to be 'in partnership' with artefact hunters and collectors. It is disturbing to see heritage professionals not only figuring in, but participating in, the rhetoric of the antiquities trade.

What is the heritage of the influence of the PAS on public perceptions of archaeology in Britain and beyond (or indeed within the discipline itself)? I would argue that it has had a severely damaging and erosive effect and also with far-reaching consequences. That is not, as some would have it, academic snobbery or elitism, it is a pragmatic observation of what has happened over the past two decades. From my point of view, counteracting this is one of the great challenges before archaeology over the next decade or so.

Battlefield Hoiker Claqueurs Fall Silent


In a post last Sunday (Łubu-dubu: "Battlefield Recovery" (Nazi War Diggers) Supporters and Leningrad Sock Puppets) I list some if the claqueurs who have been tweeting in support of Clearstory's Nazi-War Battlefield Recovery.

I cannot say what Amy J. Clark has been writing on her mate's performance this week,  since she blocked me, but it is obviously nothing worth anyone else retweeting.  Neil Humphries, is also a "mate" of one of the diggers. He has apparently decided not to add anything to his comments last week. Then there is who has also gone silent. Rugby coach likewise. A surprise was "Harry Smith-Taylor" taking a break from his trolling. The new account of also seems to have suspended its activity.  The exception is the vacant clown calling himself HowardCarterGo the "investigative journalist" from London. He has added to his earlier activity these three tweets:
  26 min26 minut temu

 and
1 godz.1 godzinę temu
Roll up, roll up. Last opportunity (for the moment) for UK archaeo-snobs to wallow in spite and finger-pointing
 But, Mr Carter, the problem is you do seem to be rather alone tonight in supporting the all-too-apparent failings of this amateurish escapade. Viewer figures have dropped enormously, suggesting that it is not just "archaeologists" who have no stomach for this.






Friday, 29 January 2016

Friday Retrospect, Collector "Corrects" Professor Renfrew

US Dealer Dodges the Question


Coin Week ('The Modern Hobby of Ancient Coins – A CoinWeek Exclusive with Harlan J. Berk', January 28, 2016 ) had a question to ancient coin dealer Harlan J. Berk:
it seems that the greatest threat to the hobby is the growing tide of legal and administrative restrictions on the collecting, importation, and trade in antiquities – usually in response to instability and warfare in different parts of the world. Is this reaction called for? How do collectors and dealers stay on the right side of the issue?
Look how Harlan Berk dodges to totally avoid answering the question ... Why would a dealer (in the business now fifty years) not want to give collectors advice how they can avoid artefacts illicitly coming onto the market from various countries of the world against a background of instability and warfare?

The collecting of artefacts like these would be made  modern only by abandoning the nineteenth century colonialist attitudes that underpins the no-questions-asked market. All we have depicted here is a dinosaur industry in denial piggy-backing on the Internet.

Caring...


Mr Berk:
"

Donna Yates:
 Haha WHAT? Oh Harlan J. Berk, you're silly 
a bit of a Berk, actually. An American Berk who'd probably not know an archaeologist if he tripped over them in the dark.

"Ecologists Do Not Study Ivories, Collectors Do"


The current issue of the magazine Tusks Week (for collectors of scrimshaw, netsuke and other carvings of elephant ivory) has a revealing article in the which highlights the problems of the attitudes of dealers towards conservation of the resource ('The Modern Ivory Collection – A Tusks Week Exclusive with Hassan B. Jerk', January 28, 2016 ). This Harlem dealer was asked:
it seems that the greatest threat to the hobby is the growing tide of legal and administrative restrictions on the collecting, importation, and trade in ivory and other animal products – usually in response to instability and warfare in different parts of the world. Is this reaction called for? How do collectors and dealers stay on the right side of the issue?
The dealer dodges the question:
HBJ: This is all the work of ecologists. What they say sounds good, but it is not good. They say that all ivory objects should go to the country of origin and no one should be able to collect them. But the fact is, all of the good books and articles about ivories and netsuke etc are written by collectors. Ecologists don’t study or care much about tusks. But collectors do. Ivories circulated all over the world in the past. They were not confined to one geographic space. Ivories traveled. I’ve never been offered anything that has come from ISIS. And if I was, I’d never buy it. One time, I was offered an ivory carving that most certainly came out of a museum. I told the guy to never call me again and I sent a picture of the object to the feds. No dealer wants to trade in that stuff. As for the proposed laws, most are written by people who know nothing about tusks… and they do this for attention.
What actually is this dealer saying here? That dealers and collectors need not bother about the effects on the elephant population of the no questions-asked buying of material of unknown collecting history because "ivory travelled"? Is really the only thing this dealer has understood of the public concern and debate about the market for ivory and rhino horn is that "ecologists want the objects to go back to the source country"? How distorted a picture of the real concerns is that? This is not just about "repatriation". 

Any ban would be the result of dealers and collectors repeatedly showing that they cannot understand the issues of concern and refuse to take any action to counteract the problems their trade involves. How much longer can we afford to be patient with the non-arguments and deflections of the dealers and their lobbyists?

To STOP the illicit trade in ivory, we need to STOP those who will buy it from dodgy sources no questions asked. If dealers and collectors will not do it themselves, then they need to be compelled, (and one way to do that is to impose a total ban). Now is the time for responsible dealers and collectors to take responsibility for the shape of the modern antiquities trade. There is no place for dinosaurs.

US Artefact Smuggler/Dealer Sentenced


Matt Zapotosky, 'Probation for dealer who smuggled artifacts from grave sites in Pakistan - Washington Post', January 29 2016

John Bryan McNamara, 51, a fossils and artefacts dealer from Orlando, Florida, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Alexandria late last year to a smuggling conspiracy charge. He reached a plea agreement in which he acknowledged that he had worked with individuals in Pakistan to smuggle antiquities stolen from graves into the US and selling some of them for profit ('Orlando Dealer, his Shop and 'Museum'...', PACHI Sunday, 15 November 2015).
McNamara dealt in such goods and ran an online museum displaying some of his wares. He said in a previous interview that he kept, rather than sold, most of the materials he imported from Pakistan, as his interest was mainly in the scientific value of the relics rather than the monetary value. He said he did not think initially that what he was doing was illegal and, in some ways, thought he was rescuing precious materials.
He has been sentenced to two years of probation, authorities said.This leaves him free of course to continue to sell ancient artefacts  (here and here ' have a look through some random descriptions and see how few enlighten us on the verifiable legitimacy by which those objects reached the market, a lot of vague assurances and nothing else). One wonders whether, given the US country-specific cultural 'preservation' model, the sentence for the same offence would be different in the case of artefacts smuggled out of a country with more oil and dollars for American weaponry.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Progress on H.R. 1493, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act


Elliot Engel
The so-called Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R.1493) was unanimously passed by the House on June 1, 2015. The details of the setting up the promised Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection which is sorely needed were altered. The bill mainly now deals with the specific issue of Syrian antiquities (explained as needed to "help curb funding for ISIS")
The bill would impose new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria. Similar restrictions were enacted in 2004 with respect to Iraqi antiquities. The legislation would provide exceptions to allow artifacts to enter the United States for protection and restoration. Restrictions would remain in effect until the crisis in Syria is resolved and America is able to work with a future Syrian government to protect cultural property from trafficking under a bilateral agreement, in accordance with America’s national interests.
The bill also calls on the President to establish a new interagency body to enhance cooperation among the government agencies already working on cultural preservation and improves Congressional oversight of this issue.
The main alteration being reported (Tompa) is that the altered bill contains no reference to the  Department employee at the Assistant Secretary level or above to act as the U.S. 'Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection' at the head of the CCICPP.


It appears that all that lobbyist sniping on behalf of the US no-questions-asked antiquities market against this legislation was money which could have been spent on promoting best practice poured down a cesspit. Dealer Wayne Sayles is furious that the collectors' voice was not heard and lawmakers in the US want to see the market become more accountable. Perhaps it is time to sack the lobbyists and get some people promoting true best practice instead of making excuses for bad.

The Lenborough Hoard Coins


According to notes from a public lecture at the British Numismatic Society posted by a member on the English Hammered [coins] List (26th January 2015), Gareth Williams gave some interesting preliminary information on the composition of the Lenborough Hoard. He notes that the man from the BM says it "was not possible to excavate it carefully given the number of people there". What an odd thing to say. Many excavations, including those run by the British Museum, like Sutton Hoo, have "large numbers of people present", but this is seen as an advantage in an excavation, rather than a problem. Hmmm.

As we know, the hoard was found in a lead sheet, there are other examples of this, but this was broken up in the process of extraction. It probably would not fit in the carrier bag.

The hoard was characterised as containing coins which were very well-preserved on the whole, most were well-struck and well-preserved but some were quite worn. There was a significant number of coins bent to a degree that seems deliberate, but there was no evidence of pecking on any coins yet - which is characteristic of 'Saxon', not 'Viking' hoards.

It now turns out that the hoard had contained two distinctive groups of coins. There were 986 coins of an earlier group of issues of Aethelred II (978-1016) possibly a savings hoard or several hoards from the 990s and first decade of the 11th century put together :
1 crux [991-997],
282 Long Cross [997-1003],
141 Helmet [1003-1009],
1 Agnus Dei mule [1009?],
561 Last Small Cross [1009-1017],
There is then a gap in the coins, there are no Quatrefoil coins of Cnut [1017-1023]
and no Helmet coins of Cnut [1024-1030] but then another cluster of coins (a currency hoard?) put together in a short period between 1020 and 1036:
there were 4263 Short Cross of Cnut [1029 - 1035]
a few Hiberno-Norse phase III issues, Long Cross [1036-1060] - it is unusual to find HN coins in an English hoard,
and there were no Cnut Jewelled cross issues [c. 1036].
The total is 5248 (including two cut halves) but some coins have yet to be cleaned and identified.

What a shame then, that the hoard was not properly excavated to see how these two distinct groups were concentrated in the parcel which might have told us more about how it was put together.

Although there were few coins of individual numismatic interest, there were some 'new mints' eg BYDIO, BYR, FRE, NVM, WATHI, WYDIO. There was a large number of mints represented, but very local mints were not heavily represented. There was a handful of coins of Buckingham, none of Aylesbury, but London was reportedly well-represented in both parcels while Oxford and to an extent Wallingford seemed "over-represented". There was a variation between the two parcels, southwestern mints were well-represented in the Aethelred parcel, while northeastern mints were quite dominant in the Cnut parcel. Williams noticed many recurring dies.
 

The Dutch Shame


Shame on the Dutch people
EenVandaag poll: Netherlands: are you for or against the Approval Act of the Association Agreement of EU and Ukraine?
For 26%
Against 74%
and how much a part of that is played by ill-feeling whipped up just recently by a museum curator's unfounded and probably false accusations about stolen paintings? You lot deserve metal detectorists, lots and lots of them.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Drone view on battle in Daraya, Syria, Damascus district.


If you lived here, how long would you stay? Where would you go? Where is there for you to stay or go?

posted on You Tube by Alexandr Pushin 26.01.2016

Here is another view of Apocalypse :

posted on You Tube by Alexandr Pushin 

Frankly, the damage to any heritage here is at the moment a secondary issue. Just look at this and the effect on the lives of all those people who lived and worked here.

Xenophobic Paranoia in the Ranks


On a metal detecting forum near you, suspicious member "Batz52" from Cambridgeshire is slightly concerned about foreign "nighthawks" (Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:30 pm)
I went to my permission today to visit the farmer and she told me that last week she had a visit from two eastern European men asking her for (as they called it) a day pass because they wanted to detect on her land, she said no and that she already has someone who detects on her land they got a little agitated and continued asking (demanding) for day pass they also said we do this for love not money. This worries me on several levels one being that all the finds I've had from there are on PAS have these people been looking on PAS to find sites to search and possibly night hawk? Although my finds are only recorded showing parish only I'm still concerned. Are these people looking for items to sell, what harm are these people doing to us good respectable detectorists reputations [?]. Or have they seen me in the feilds and are just simply trying their luck [?].
Or maybe they are just doing what all detectorists do, after "researching" the area, knocking on farmers' doors asking for search-and-take permissions. In what way is that "harmful"? In what way is that "nighthawking"?

Note this man's pride in announcing he's been canny enough to "only record to parish level" - so creating a record that in archaeological terms is no good to man nor beast and certainly no mitigation whatsoever of the erosion of the search sites' archaeological record. This is just self-centred vandalism of the archaeological record for personal entertainment and gain. He even wants to stop others doing it, suggesting that if they are from the other side of the Rhine, they must be "nighthawks" and "looking for items to sell". They could equally be responsible detectorists with GPSs who are reporting findspots with full site notes and a 10-figure NGR for each item reported. By the way, it is up to the landowner who he/she allows on their land and to whom they may or may not, give what they find there.

Here's "Die Wacht am Rhein" for all those xenophobic metal detectorists who probably vote for UKIP and worse and fear those easterners coming to England and raping their land.

  

Batz has a Minelab Etrac and a Minlab Pro Finder and has recently added to his own personal collection at least: 1 Celtic bronze unit115 Roman Coins2 Silver Denarius22 Hammered coins1 Saxon Pax penny4 Silver six Pence All reported ONLY to "parish level". It is people like this that get the hobby a deservedly bad name.

Local View of the Sarbka "Nazi War" Exhumation


"Celem tej stacji jest m.in. dokumentowanie
i szukanie na całym świecie bezimiennych mogił,
w których podczas różnych konfliktów i wojen złożono
zwłoki żołnierzy oraz cywilów różnych narodowości".

They had a grave
It seems the descent of a small team of televisions film company cameramen and crew on a small Polish village did not gho unnoticed by the local pre3ss. Here is a page from the village website which includes photos of the team in action (Tadeusz Stachowski, 'Ekshumacja Cmentarza Ewangelickiego w Sarbce' 14th December 2013). From this we get several pieces of information not included in the film as broadcast. The first is that far from being buried in a field, the war dead had been interred in the historical Evangelical cemetery (so on land that is an historical monument), only part of which is occupied by the Catholic cemetery in use today. One wonders therefore what the logic is of digging the bodies out of one cemetery to put them in a new one. Can this be explained by the programme's producers or by Pomost? Where were the remains assumed to be of German civilians, removed from among those of their fellows in the Evangelical cemetery, re-interred, how and why?

It seems the exhumation group were on site on 15-19th November 2013, but the dates of the photos and their content suggests that the Clearstory team were filming there only two days, 17th and 18th (and are reported as having represented themselves as from "National Geographic in London"). The promised date of emission was March or April 2014. In the article are some date-stamped photos from the filming and digging of the 17th and 18th and then a few taken of the Pomost exhumation a few days later (the reporter however says that this work was done by the "Wojskowa Grupa Archeologiczna from Poznan"). The precise spot in the old cemetery where the victims of the War were buried "was shown by the village's oldest inhabitant Zofia Stachowska (96)". The reporter's account differs from the version shown on both the film and the Pomost website:
Podczas wykopalisk odkopano szczątki 28-miu nieregularnie złożonych ciał w jednej mogile. W wiekszości były to szczątki obywateli niemieckich, oraz żołnierz armi radzieckiej, m.in. były kobiety oraz szkielet małago dziecka o czym w Sołectwie mówiło się w okresie powojennym.
So the presence of the toddler's body which caused so many fake English tears of outrage on camera was no surprise, it was known to be there.

What is more, the site of the grave was also precisely-known. There is a diploma work by Klaudia Grygorowicz-Kosakowska from 2012 in Cracow Polytechnic available online here 'Formy przestrzenne pochówków wojennych z końca II wojny światowej jako element tożsamości miejsca na przykładzie gminy i miasta Czarnków ['Spatial forms of military burial sites from the end of World War II, as an element of the sense of place: a case study in Czarnków town and commune ']. This was published in Czasopismo Techniczne z. 7. Architektura z. 2-A. The text discusses the Sarbka burials as a place of memory providing a link between the modern Polish village, resettled with Poles from what is now Ukraine who were moved into the area by Stalin's 1945 redrawing of the country's eastern border, and its past. The study includes a project for the commemoration of the resting place of these victims. The removal of the bodies in 2013 however simply erased that place of memory, which instead of giving the modern village back part of its history, removes it thus tearing it from its roots. I really do not see how Clearstory and its team of foreign artefact collectors can justify this - not that they seem even aware of the issue at all.

I think one of the ladies shown in the photos looks very much like one of the Clearstory executives Molly Milton. Whatever the truth in that, I suspect the other young lady with a more 'Polish look' is a/the translator. The photos were all taken in the same small area, around the cemetery and chapel, even the old lady's house seems to be the one in the trees next to the chapel. Most of the places where these pictures were taken and the direction the camera is pointing can be worked out from comparing them with the buildings in the background with Google Earth. I noted that photo DSC00651 shows five, not four shovels leaning against the north fence of the graveyard. These are the only excavation equipment unloaded at this stage - no containers for the bones they expect to find, no measuring equipment. Photo  DSC00719 shows Kris Rodgers digging into the ground within the area that seems to be the old Evangelical cemetery and the infamous iron rods in action (Steve T and Adrian K) on this site. Where is the excavation permit for this? Note that the lady who looks like Ms Milton is on site here. It is unclear who the gentleman in the forest camo with his head resting against a tree (in despair?) is. Is this (see photo DSC00754, DSC00758) one of the Pomost men? Is "Molly" calling the translator over to explain to him what is going on? The team's last day on site may be marked by the picture of Adrian K smiling with his phone in the hole (DSC00741). In photo DSC00754 we can see another mechanical excavator and site boxes in the background - have the Clearstory team left their black-handled shovels with them? There is a very black layer of buried soil above the remains, but this may be nothing more dramatic than the ashes from burning wood and underbrush after clearing the overgrown cemetery. The layers of sterile soil above it will be deposited from from constructing the hollow tombs of the graveyard over the fence which is the typical modern Polish grave form. Over time, the ground level at the edge of these cemeteries rises considerably, sealing any earlier graves below.

One wonders what that sweet old lady to whom Kris Rodgers seems to have taken a shine (DSC00712) would make of the story the programme proposes that she was one of the Polish villagers who in cold blood had massacred German housewives and children in revenge for not being allowed to ring the chapel bell in the Evangelical cemetery.  Did anyone think to tell the locals what the film-makers, on the basis of very slim 'evidence' indeed, were going to accuse them of?


"Nazi War" Digger' Attacks Archaeology TV


Andy Brockman's The Pipeline has been following the thread on a metal detecting forum near you (see here) where in apparent self-justification one of the metal detectorist presenters of the series attacks ground-breaking TV archaeology series "Time Team" ('Battlefield Recovery Rodgers' Time Team Jibe "Cheap, Nasty and Wrong" says former presenter', 27th January 2016). Rodgers claims that in the case of the programme he was part of, finds were recorded and handed to relevant authorities or now in the museums. licenses were gained, search permissions gained, and brave soldiers and civilians were given proper, official burials, and that this was "the opposite of Time Team”, implying that the Channel 4 series did not record and report finds, gain licences or permissions and treat human remains ethically. This is typical of the "them and us" attitudes fostered among artefact hunters and collectors towards archaeology and conservation. Instead of understanding and taking on board criticism of the egregious bad practice shown by "Nazi War Diggers/ Battlefield Recovery" programme, and acting on them, we see here the two typical reactions of the UK metal detecting community and artefact collectors in general.

The first reaction is a knee-jerk denial. 
Re the show, I'm still very much proud of what we achieved, and no academic snobbery can take that away from me.
According to the artefact hunter, the comments are not merited at all, this is just snobbery by snobs (who no doubt Mr Rodgers would claim are "jealous"), and he sees nothing wrong with entering into a contact like the one he signed and being filmed doing these things.

The second is to prevent any open discussion of what the difference between best, and bad practice in the use of metal detectors and spades is. Hence the thread on the metal detecting forum near you got locked the moment such a discussion was begun, and very soon the links will probably cease to work. "Shhhh, hide it away, pretend it never happened".

The problem is the current model of so-called "responsible detecting" requires that there IS awareness of what is and is not best and bad practice. (For how else can artefact hoikers hoik responsibly in a manner not damaging?) This in turn requires open discussion and accountability being encouraged, not blocked.

It is the underlying thesis of this blog that the so-called responsible detecting of England and Wales is a myth, a facade  and it is the repetition time and time again of the issues that come to the fore in a very public way in the case of this televised example of a typical detectorist escapade that I argue bring into very serious doubt the tenets on which this (imagined) model relies.
Mr Rodgers comments may also be causing concern among some metal detectorists and militaria collectors.  ThePipeLine understands that, as is suggested in responses on metal detecting and militaria collectors forums, a number of detectorists and collectors fear that the practices shown in Battlefield Recovery [...] are reflecting badly on their hobby.  [...] The disquiet at the potential damage the series may be inflicting appears to  be even reaching the highest echelons of the metal detecting hobby in the UK. 
and not before time.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Italy covers nudes for Iranian president


Rouhani in Europe: Italy covers nudes for Iran president BBC News 26th Jan 2015

Plywood boxes concealed the nude statues at the museum in Rome
Italian hospitality for the visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stretched to covering up nude statues. Mr Rouhani and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi spoke at Rome's Capitoline Museum after Italian firms signed business deals with Iran. But several nudes there were hidden to avoid offending the Iranian president.
I suppose it never occurred to them to hold the meeting elsewhere.

Misinformed "Nazi War" Digger Implies Archaeologists are "Just Like Him"


[UPDATE: Oh look, with their typical devotion to discussion of  "best practice" on a metal detecting forum near you, the thread has been locked. Conclusion, UK metal detectorists are unwilling to discuss and incapable of, and will not be  discussing best practice. Wastrels. Note, the thread was about a news item]

[UPDATE UPDATE, How sweet, now the kids are playing 'hide and seek', the thread is unlocked again - but still no discussion of best practice in Nazi War digging].

On a metal detecting forum near you, a misinformed "Nazi War" digger implies that archaeologists are somehow just like him. In the thread "Georgian Time Capsule Found In Blackburn Cemetery Dig", there is discussion of a piece of development archaeology in Blackburn based on an article in the tabloid Daily Mail - one detectorist mentions that it is sad that "even in death they have no rest" and Kris Rodgers one of the Channel Five Four jumps in with the following (Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:45 pm):
Yup, people laid with love and respect by their families and other people who cared another to give them a burial. Proper graves, real graves created by real people. Archaeologists are capable of politician levels of hypocrisy.
I suspect that he's under the misapprehension that the archaeologists from Headland Archaeology are exhuming the cemetery for the cheap thrill of being on the TV doing something badass. I suggest he read the article first. If he cannot manage much further than the eight sentence, here is a picture:
 The burial ground is marked in red and the route of the new road, in yellow

A metal detectorist can understand a yellow line, I take it. "Road", "development archaeology", "redevelopment" Yeah? Got it? If not, ask the PAS to explain it to you.

UPDATE January 27th 2016
It took a bit of time but a forum member has just pointed out to the "Nazi War" digger  ( Fris, Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:01 am) that
"this is "Development-led Archaeology" - investigating and recording at sites that are going to be destroyed by development (in this case, a road). [...] But the long-standing feud isn't helped by snide remarks. I understand you've suffered a lot over the tv show stuff, but (with no malice here) I think you need to reflect honestly on whether it was actually not such a great idea, and maybe it's not just a large number of grumpy archies going mental for no reason.
Ah, reflection... Does Mr Rodgers do any of that? Well, here he is claiming teh whole thing is a misunderstanding, it wuz a joake (Addicted to bleeps » Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:35 am)
Yea, I know[emoticon] I was just having a giggle with a couple of friends. If you'd seen me typing behind my keyboard, you'd have noticed my tongue was firmly in cheek.
and his reflections on taking part in filming a series to be called "Nazi War Diggers"?
RE; the show, I'm still very much proud of what we achieved, and no academic snobbery can take that away from me. Finds recorded and handed to relevant authorities or now in the museums. licenses gained, permissions gained, and brave soldiers and civilians given proper, official burials. in a nutshell, the opposite of time team.
What finds were recorded and handed to the relevant authorities? Can we see a copy of those records and protocols of deposition? It seems to be the case that only a minimum of those Nazi War relics ended up in any museum from the Clearstory project, and as I and others have pointed out, there are clear documented records of the team members having "ground-dug items from Latvia" in their possession after their return. Some clarification is needed.   Can we see those "licences" (word should be permits - zezwolenie in Poland) in which cemetery were the civilians exhumed from the Evangelical cemetery in Sarbka reinterred? We are not talking about "academic snobbery", we are talking about good old honesty and best practice. Honesty and best practice. Show us the permits made out to Kris, Craig, Steve and Adrian. Without them their digging on a known historical site was as illegal as any British nighthawk. I hear the NCMD is finally taking an interest in what these clowns were doing.

Battlefield Diggers lose half their Audience


It seems that episode three (the one set on Pomost's dig in Poland) of the artefact hunting death-porn digger show "Battlefield Recovery" managed only 400k viewers, meaning it's lost over half its audience since the first episode. Nice to see the telly-viewing public has at least some critical facilities left. Now take this damaging crap off air please.
 

Battlefield Diggers, Accusations Confronted with Facts



Sam Hardy has written about the manner in which people raising issues about what we are seeing on "Battlefield Recovery" were treated: "Speculation, misinformation and lies, they said. ‘Speak to Legenda and Pomost for facts’, they said".
In the discussion about the Nazi War Diggers’ Battlefield Recovery, one of the under-currents – or counter-currents – was a defence of the programme. Any search of #NaziWarDiggers or #BattlefieldRecovery will show that those defences were few and far between. And the knowledge and motives of even those few defenders were sometimes questionable.
Amy Clark gets a mention. Sam contrasts what the supporters of the programme were saying (or were told to say) and what in fact the people whose projects the programme set in Poland do ungraciously  highjacks are saying about the four artefact hunters and their television buddies.
Will the Nazi War Diggers change their behaviour now that their former workmates have dismissed them as badge collectors who play with metal detectors, guns and bones? Or will they just target even more vulnerable communities and sites?
That presupposes that metal detectorists are capable of learning anything at all from the experience. We will see.  

Monday, 25 January 2016

Rifts and Responsibility


'Mizaru, Kikazaru and
Iwazaru in British Archaeology
English blogger Matthew Thomas has an untitled blog post with no paragraph structure (Northern Ephemera 20th Jan 2016) which makes a number of mixed points about Channel Five's "Battlefield Recovery" and historical wrecks. The structure of the piece makes it difficult to follow his reasoning, but I spotted in it a couple of the typical things archaeologists say which I thought worthy of comment. [UPDATE after I wrote this Dr Thomas posted a reply, the subject of which is stated to be "Lord Blog" of all things. Who's the "name-caller" now? UPDATE UPDATE: Now he's removed the title and edited the page - that's a bit metal detectorish]

It seems it is being remarked (somewhere) that the comments by heritage professionals on the issues related to what is seen in the series "may well be fuelling the fire, so to speak" (without a closer definition of what he means by that metaphor). [UPDATE, since the metaphor is not preceded or followed by anything which would explain what the author had in mind, I ask again, what kind of "fire"?]. The author continues:
However, i feel that it is essential that we continue to work together to highlight the problems as we see them, so that the general public are made aware of them [..]. The more that the public are aware of the ethical and moral issues that have been brought to the fore by the series being made and shown on British terrestrial television, the better.
He holds that the number of public complaints made about the series "can only be bad for archaeology and heritage". I am not so sure that those comments are about the programme "being" archaeology or about them not being archaeology. I would say this is a pretty devastating result for metal detecting. The more the public are aware of the ethical and moral issues about artefact/historical relic hunting that have been brought to the fore here, the better. Thus I am in agreement with only the latter part of the following statement:
no good can come of this media firestorm other than that we collectively hold 'Battlefield Recovery' up as an example of how to never, ever make a heritage television series again
[UPDATE: in his reply to this post, Dr Thomas indicates that since this programme will be seen by the public as archaeology, any critical comments addressed to the programme will be received as addressed to archaeology. I still think this is the wrong attitude. If what is shown is bad practice, in archaeology or anything else, we should speak out against bad practice]. I got a bit nauseous reading the next bit, this is a typical view of British archaeologists:
As a side note i wish to add that we are in real danger of opening up the rift between hobby metal detectorists and those who work in heritage (including many very professional metal detectorists). 
First of all, what does he mean by that, "metal detectorists who work in the heritage industry"? Baz Thugwit has a shed full of uncatalogued Roman grots, Medieval buckles, Anglo-Saxon strapends and all sorts of other archaeological bric-a-brac. Baz is a collector, an artefact hunter and an artefact collector, the material from archaeological sites which he does not add to the piles in his shed go into a "scrap bucket" (or a skip when its ironwork inadvertently gathered). Other surplus bits go on eBay. Some bits might, or might not, get shown to the PAS. If Baz goes and over a fortnight scans a spoil heap for the local university dig, it makes no difference to what or who Baz is. Archaeologists who use metal detectors as one of their survey tools ("professional metal detectorists who work in heritage") are a completely different phenomenon from our Baz. Equating the two is typical of the terminological confusion that has crept into British archaeology, today unable to call a spade a spade.

In what way is there not already "a rift" between the activities of people whose idea of fun is ripping into assemblages of archaeological material, pocketing the bits they fancy for personal collection or sale and ignoring /discarding the rest and the archaeological method? [UPDATE Dr Thomas and I seem to be talking at cross purposes I write of a rift between collecting and archaeology, he thinks I meant collectors and archaeologists]. Dr Thomas talks of not "opening it up". I would ask how we could think we can "bridge that rift"? Because it seems to me that watching "Battlefield Larks" shows with the utmost clarity that two decades and millions of pounds or resources thrown at patting selfish devastators on the head and saying "you done well boys" in the face of execrable bad practice has done absolutely nothing whatsoever to even begin bridging that "rift". There is no need to speak softly to avoid "opening it up" as Dr Thomas suggests, because it is already, and always has been, a gaping abyss. Instead we should STOP ignoring it. For goodness' sake.

[Update, in his reply Dr Thomas says "Next up is a comment that, apparently, I seek to “open up” the rift. No, I really don’t, quite the opposite". I suggest he reads what I actually wrote. I say a rift exists, so to talk of opening it up is a nonsense.]

Dr Thomas really has not been paying attention to what is happening in and around artefact hunting in the UK. He's got the vague idea that the NCMD is in some way "Cuddly Metal Detectorists" [UPDATE: He admits to "being baffled" by that comment which he labels "childish". It seems quite clear to me what I mean. As explained below, I suggest he looks into what the NCMD actually do and have done all down the line before assuming as he apparently does that they are the cuddly archie-friendly ones]. Hmm:
At the time of episode one i contacted the NCMD, the body that oversees metal detecting in the United Kingdom, and asked them to condemn 'Battlefield Recovery' and to offer guidance to metal detectorists in Great Britain. The response, from General Secretary Mr Trevor Austin, dismissed the call for condemnation because the series "concentrates on European sites, which are different to the United Kingdom". It is clear that in both of the episodes currently which have been aired on Channel 5 that the presenters have breached the code of conduct set down by the NCMD and as citizens of the United Kingdom (in the majority) the presenters should be expected to uphold those rules and guidance around the world. I have again contacted the NCMD now that episode two has aired, asking them to now condemn the series and offer guidance to the metal detecting community, for the good of metal detecting as a hobby and for heritage as a whole.
First of all the NCMD does not "oversee" anything, it is a federation of metal detecting clubs, nothing else. It has (thank goodness) no legal status as any kind of controlling body. Throughout its long history, the NCMD may fairly be characterised as a bunch of temperamental and obstructive flat cap ranters. Just have a look, Dr Thomas, at their newsletters and how they attempt to block ANY conservation-orientated moves which may affect the freedoms of their members, drop collaboration in reports from the Denison and Dobinson one that eventually led to the PAS and the Oxford Archaeology Nighthawking survey and just about everything else in between. Dr Thomas, like most British archies neglects to do his research and just uses vague notions as labels.

So it is no surprise to anyone who watches what the NCMD do that they refused to take a stand on what is and is not "responsible detecting". No surprise at all - you might as well have asked Muffin the Mule and got a reply as useful as any from the dinosaurs at the NCMD. [UPDATE everybody who thinks of the NCMD as highly as Dr Thomas, take a look at the NCMD Code of Conduct and see which articles apart from 4 and 9 "Nazi War Diggers" was actually in breach of].

But what an answer eh? Austin "dismissed the call for condemnation because the series "concentrates on European sites, which are different to the United Kingdom"...". That's an idiotic statement for a start. If it were as the artefact hunter says a Glaswegian who learnt his or her skills on sites along the Antonine Wall could never excavate a site in Egypt or Iran because they "are a different kind of site".  That's just the sort of junk argument you'd expect from a metal detectorist.

"Here comes Muffin,
Muffin the Mule,
     Dear old Muffin,
playing the fool..."
But of course Trevor Austin is the man whose ambitions are to "lead" all of European artefact hunters  to victory over conservationists. He wants to have a European Council for Metal Detecting taking its lead from the NCMD. So yes, Poland, Latvia, Bulgaria and Spain. I wrote about this here. So what grounds are there for creating a European Federation based on a model from Bonkers Britain when " European sites are different to the United Kingdom"?   the only real difference is that the European sites are protected from collectables-pilferers by law, those of the UK are not. The NCMD owes us all a proper statement on involvement of British detectorists in "Nazi War Diggers" and Channel Five's "Battlefield Recovery". Is what we see in those films in any way what the NCMD would promote as "responsible artefact hunting"? Yes or no, no beating about the bush Mr Austin. Your European credibility is under question here. Poland says no. Finland says no. What does the NCMD say?

If it turns out that Kris, Craig, Steve and Adrian were engaging in excavations in Poland without  an excavation permit, what would the NCMD say about that? Did they have one? Time to ask again.

UPDATE 26th Jan 2016
Dr Thomas has attempted to reply to this ('26TH JANUARY 2016 (AKALORD BLOG)'), but it would have helped if he'd taken a deep breath first and tried to understand what I was writing before hastily dismissing it all (see my comments added as 'updates' above).

I wrote of intellectual superficiality in British archaeology's approach to artefact hunting, and we see that confirmed in what Dr Thomas thinks is an answer to what I said.

UPDATE UPDATE:
Now he's deleted it. Timewaster.





Collaboration with UK Metal Detectorists: "A Mistake from Beginning to End"


"Nazi War" skeletons

Pipeline exclusive: Pomost Statement Slams "Battlefield Recovery" and Clearstory, Jan 25th 2016.
"a mistake from the beginning to the end", "dishonest", "abuse of trust", "looked like Black diggers", "that was the first and the last time"
Yep, work with British metal detectorists like that and what do you expect?  The problem is that the group may have been misled, there is a vast difference in mentality between Polish metal detectorists (eksploratorzy) and the sort of clueless clowns that take up the tool in the UK. An international scandal, and both the NCMD and PAS are keeping well out of it and the subject is taboo on the forums.


UPDATE 26th Jan 2016
Matthew Thomas contacted Adam Białas of the Polish organisation POMOST who issued a statement distancing themselves from the persons shown "...who played with detectors, ammunition and bones" and expressing regret that their good work was shown in unfair way in the episode of the show filmed on their site in Poland. Białas stated that after their experiences, Pomost would never work again with ClearStory.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Trampling on Memories: The British Television Company and the "Forgotten" of Sarbka


WWII history series following
four-man team as they explore the war  
zones of
the Eastern Front in an effort to excavate 
and preserve the forgotten battle relics, at the same time
discovering the stories of fallen soldiers from their remains
.
” 

Jennifer: "You Done Well Boyz"
It is difficult to know where to begin in summarising my feelings over what we saw three British detectorists and their Nazi relic dealer mate doing in Poland in the  third episode of the series made as "Nazi War Diggers" (I think it important to keep that in mind here) and re-marketed  as "Battlefield Recovery" after adding a few symbolic apopotraic subtitles. I am just so angry at this. I'm afraid this will be a long post.

The whole thing was a total mess from the beginning. I really do not want to go into the first part of the episode set in Poznan, it was the same puerile-half-brains-running-around-being-a-prat type stuff which has characterised the previous two episodes. But one element of this segment needs commenting from the local angle. As Andy Brockman points out, the fact that part of this segment is filmed among the artefacts preserved in a Polish museum suggests that the programme's stated aim of this team of "experts" being needed to "excavate and preserve the forgotten battle relics" is in the case of Poland more than a little wide of the mark. In truth, Polish museums (military, historical and commemorative) and Polish collections in general have more than enough material of this kind well-and-truly preserved. The trauma of the Second World War is an obvious part of the history of the nation and one which is by no means neglected in historiography or collecting activities. That remains of WW2 military hardware lie scattered across the landscape of Poland and concentrated in some regions is not at all due to it - or the human drama and conflict it represents - being "forgotten" in Poland. The wounds are still very, very deep. Nobody has "forgotten" what happened here, and nobody here needs Craig, Kris, Adrian and Steve to come here and help us "remember" it. The very arrogance of the idea of these four coming here thinking they can show us how to "preserve" our past is staggering. What were they thinking? Especially as this band of (apparently pretty uninformed) foreign amateurs has at their disposal only the most primitive of tools  and methodology for "discovering the stories of fallen soldiers from their remains”. As we saw in the previous episode (femur versus humerus), they cannot even recognize these remains, let alone interpret their state with any subtlety. In fact the activities they were filmed engaging in in the Latvian escapade was such that it could only obliterate parts of those "stories". That is the first of a number of things which makes this exploitive jaunt so annoying. What kind of ethics would allow anyone to get involved in a task so complicated without being adequately prepared or qualified? This is not just a game, these were real human lives, the lives of people related (I am talking about central Europe) to those around us still alive today. People who do remember. What on earth are these artefact hunters thinking?  Who entitled them to come here and behave as they did? 

After running around a Prussian fort like a group of kids on a school excursion, the four then pretend they are going to follow the 1945 route of the evacuating Germans, leaving Posen towards the Noteć. Here they display their total lack of historical preparation. By the time the city was abandoned, the route to the northwest was cut off by the rapid advance of Bogdanov's Second Guards Tank Army who were encircling army units withdrawn from Warsaw - and who are much more likely candidates for the identity of the remains found in a grave in the little village of Sarbka (in the administrative district of Gmina Czarnków, within Czarnków-Trzcianka County in west-central Poland) which is where our relic hunters end up digging for their relics of the Nazi War.

This was just a silly narrative excuse for the fact that the whole rationale for the programme is that the production company had negotiated a deal with the Polish "Pomost" foundation of the type explained by Andy Brockman (Revealed: Battlefield Recovery Accused of Sidelining Polish team who did the real work in Sarbka', The Pipeline January 24, 2016), whereby the Clearstory lads would pose in the trenches dug by the Polish team. As Brockman points out there is a huge difference between the activities of the two groups and what they are there for.  To make things more complicated, it seems there was some friction between the two parties by the time the programme was ready to be broadcast, and as reported elsewhere, this episode was pulled from the schedule of the Polish TV airing of this series. This is the reason why this is the first showing of episode three. If these allegations are true, this would be another expression of the utterly exploitive and colonialist attitudes of these collectors towards eastern Europeans and their heritage. They imagine they can just walk in, do what they want (take what they want) here and 'never mind the natives'. Whatever Clearstory and its diggers think, Poland (slap-bang in the centre of Europe) is not Wonga-Wonga Land.

For some reason the programme-makers decided they wanted to make up some fiction about how "their team of experts" found this site. Instead of admitting that it was already known and Pomost had an exhumation scheduled here, Dealer Craig  is set up for a fake conversation with a local who tells him they'd buried some Nazi soldiers in some trees. Ah, Nazis! There will be Lots of Nazi Relics there then for British viewers to gawp at. Swaasstikkaaasss. So off they go to search for the mass grave among the trees. In reality, this is one of thousands of places all over Poland where living oral tradition and documented history localise the graves of the tens of thousands of fallen of all nationalities and religions. Why four foreigners should take it upon themselves to dig up these dead bodies and not (for example) the three officers in the forest just up the road from where I write this is not explained. Especially as these artefact hunters had apparently come totally unprepared for what they were about to do.

First they set about finding where there could be a mass grave in those trees. They are shown roughly thrusting a metal spike into the site to find soft spots (!) Really. This is the team of British "experts" Clearstory brought in. Now it just so happens that when this sorry apology for a TV show was pulled from Polish TV it was replaced by a programme of work done by another British team in Poland - at Treblinka. There the Polish TV viewers learnt that even in backward England, they have heard of geophysics. (Poland has several well-equipped teams, including one run by a very good friend of mine, which do some exceptionally spectacular work - why did Clearstory and its "experts" not call them in?) Why instead did a bunch of cowboys come with their retarded tombarolo methods? That it is not normal practice in the English speaking world is indicated by Sam Hardy's post today ('I have never before seen anyone jam a metal pole into a suspected mass grave'). As conflict archaeologist Sam Wilson judged: ‘Probing a possible burial pit with an auger. ***ing clowns.’ Sam quotes other people saying more or less the same thing: ‘Intrusion by both probes and augers can… damage human remains if undertaken by inexperienced personnel’. Why is it that a team of British excavators think they can walk into a country like Poland and apply the most rough-and-ready primitive techniques they can think of? Why is it that Britain does not send a team of properly qualified people with cutting-edge (also "boys toys") equipment? Why this total disrespect for themselves and the archaeological  (not to mention human ) remains exhibited by the use of such cavalier techniques? Appalling.

Then the British clowns start digging. This they cannot do without having an unseemly argument on camera, which rather belies the claim that this "investigation" was carried out with decorum and respect. The editors did not have the nous to delete this footage (probably thinking it made the digging look more like a 'reality show'). Obviously their notions of recovering human remains with decorum and respect differ from those over here on the Continent.

The argument was about soil slipping into the raggedy hole they dug - basically because they were dumping the spoil right on its edge.  Here they are digging for Nazi War dead, a hoik-hole straight down:
[ClearStory Ltd for Channel 5:  Fair use for reporting and review]
This one looks like the Hollingbourne Hoik hole all over again. You know that one where the FLO back in England told Estuary English and his mates "you done well". THIS is the consequence of the PAS not properly doing its job of instilling best practice among its metal-detecting and artefact hunting "partners". We will soon see this British-archaeologist-approved standard of "you done well" all over Europe. "Made in Britain". Are you watching, Jennifer Jackson?  Here's another raggedy hole, dug by history-hunting methods "Made in Britain":

[ClearStory Ltd for Channel 5:  Fair use for reporting and review]
Now, what actually is happening here? First of all let us note the discrepancy between this and the Pomost statement that Nazi relic dealer Craig Gotlieb was not on their site. Here he is, digging down to those Nazi War dead with whatever's on the bodies for all he's worth. They seem to be digging in an area where there are no trees or modern gravestones. Are they actually in the cemetery? Are they actually where Pomost was expecting the mass grave? What really happened? The fictional story presented is that the lads from Britain found a soft spot where local intelligence had indicated a grave, started digging and then found a bone in that hole and then called in the Pomost team "for help" (see Brockman's account) and then "with their help" enlarged the hole. That is what the film, shows.

Here is a problem. As Estuary English mumbles "We're on village land wiv village regulations. We can't just dig where we want to". Too right you can't. But in Poland, excavation permits are not issued by the village headman (soltys), but by the provincial conservator. Other documentation is needed for exhumation work, arranged at provincial level too. So where are the permits for the hole we see being dug by these diggers before Pomost comes in? Can we now see them?  Without them, these screenshots (and I have more) would be evidence of an offence being committed on camera. Can we see the permits now? I am even more worried about the failure to show them now I have seen the final subtitle that came up as the credits begin to roll. Look at this:

[ClearStory Ltd for Channel 5:  Fair use for reporting and review]
What on earth do they mean "all excavation holes were checked following filming"? Checked, by whom and for what? What strange phrasing for excavations which we are assured were carried out with the requisite permits "The relevant authorities ... were notified". Eh? No, you get a permit and the provincial conservator should be coming out to see if you are complying with its conditions. That at least is how it worked when I was in the Chief Archaeologist's office. You do not "notify" the conservator, but invite them. This is the Wielkopolska voivodship - where still Ordnung muss sein. Can we see the documentation of the formalities associated with the permit, a protocol of a site visit confirming conditions were met would be helpful too.  Where are the documentation and site archive (finds) currently?

To come back to what really happened, is this hole, a regular excavation with secondary spoil heaps (sifted earth?), the same hole as we saw the lads enthusiastically grubbing out among the trees earlier before they "got help"?

[Fair use for reporting and review]
Where has the tree gone that is in the centre of the second picture above? It is not clear how many holes were dug, or whether this is the same site at all. I suspect this is the area of disturbed soil at  52°56'7.34"N  16°39'13.74"E and the shot is taken looking northeast to the long building 130 away. So where are the trees in the earlier shots? 

More comforting, in this episode, unlike the others, our four heroes changed their clothes between shoots. They walked around Latvia in sweaty and dirtied clothes while the film crew and continuity people tried (for reasons best known to themselves) to make it look like the digging was crammed into a much shorter time than we are assured each project took. This was obviously part of the fiction. But it meant our heroes had to turn up day after day in the same grubby wardrobe. Yuk. What led to the change of policy? Was there a quarrel about working conditions, working in close proximity to a sweat-stinking metal detectorist cannot be much fun. Or maybe one of the crew got a rash from wearing soiled clothing? Who knows? But at least when they are working with a Polish team going about things in a far more methodical way, the metal detectorists changed their clothes. Good archaeology is clean archaeology.

In the hole they first find a skeleton or skeletons of German soldiers (Nazis!!) thrown in. There's bits of uniform etc. I do not recall whether it was discussed how they'd got there.  No mention was made of any pathological examination to determine cause of death. Were they prisoners killed at the pit edge, were they corpses picked up on the road outside the village where they'd been caught in  crossfire? Were they corpses cleared out of the fields where they'd been lying several weeks? Attention was then shifted to the bodies underneath, they were not in uniform.

The diggers seem surprised that there are not only soldiers in the hole. I cannot imagine what world they come from where it would come as a surprise to anyone that women and children die in a war zone. Perhaps they do not watch the news from Gaza, Yemen, Syria, or as Andy Brockman suggests old film reels of the Second World War. This is pathetic. We are talking about Occupied Poland here, and the period when the Red Army advanced brutally across the region on its way to Berlin, sweeping all before it - and leaving not very much behind. Is it perhaps the case that these artefact collerctors had before they came, not the slightest idea of what happened here in this whole period? Unbelievable. It is not so much unbelievable that British metal detectorists and collectors seem to be ignorant (as we can see from their forums, a lot of them appear to be ignorant in general). What is unbelievable is that a responsible production company would hire such people as "experts" to head a programme like this, dealing with a subject as sensitive as this in such a totally insensitive way.

On finding the bodies of a woman and a child, one of the presenters (the one that collects all the military bits) is depicted as saying: "I feel more angry than sad". Well, of course it is good to feel angry that we have wars where real people do, indeed, die. But then, if one feels angry about wars, you don't go on camera glorifying it, running around like nine-year olds with rusting guns shouting "bang-bang-bang-bang", or cackling as you blast off a series of bursts from an MP40. That is just hypocrisy.

But this merges into stupidity when they lapse into pathos-for-the-camera. They find a baby, or rather where a baby's bones had dissolved in the acid soil and all that is left are the clothes, a plastic nappy cover in particular. These relic hunters had earlier been seen happily tipping skulls out of helmets and ignorantly waving femurs around and mistaking them for humeri. Suddenly it occurs to them that they are dealing with the remains of real people. One guy tearfully realises  "I can relate this to my daughter. Because she wears clothes". Hmm. Was he expecting "Nazi" babies to have crawled around naked? If this numpty finds it so traumatic, why on earth did he sign a contract which involved digging up people's bodies for Saturday night entertainment?

Bearing in mind that this was made as a programme to be called "Nazi War Diggers", it is no surprise that there is a lot of focus on a Deutsches Frauenwerk badge(lots for sale here) with a runic logo and a Swaasssticcaa which was found in the soil near some of the bones. Immediately the remains are identified by the metal detectorists as a German and what is more a "Nazi". I did not see where the badge was lying in relation to the rest of the skeleton, to judge from the contemporary photos showing them worn, it should have been over the left breast, was it? Or was this a loose badge that was in the soil filling the grave? There was no discussion of the osteological evidence for the bones being those of a woman. Real osteologists do not assign biological sex based solely on one artefact.

In the programme, the remains found in the lower level of the grave are presented as those of Germans (why?), but more to the point are being positioned by the programme's metal detectorist presenters as victims, killed by the Polish villagers as the war ended. I think this is one of the dangers of entering on such a project without adequate preparation. The four men have already been dumped by the production company in the Kurland-Kessel (their Latvian escapades), the last stand of the Reich - sacred ground for the Neo-Nazis. Now we see them getting embroiled in another ideological trap. If they'd take a look at some White Supremacist material (actually I do not really recommend it -its worse than metal detecting forums), they would soon find the motif of the 'persecution' of the good Germans by the Bolshevik and Semitic 'liberators' at the end of the War. These ideologues stress how the teutonic population was exposed to rape, arbitrary killings, theft, and other abuses at the hands of the inferior people which had somehow temporarily gained the upper hand (I'll leave the rest of what they say about that to the reader's imagination). An egregious example of this genre is Thomas Goodrich's 'Hellstorm—The Death of Nazi Germany, 1944-1947'. Horrific reading it is, to be sure, but it plays to a certain mindset. And this is exactly where Kris, Craig, Adrian and Steve are going.

Screenshot for the purposes of review and criticism
What evidence is there that these are not bodies collected in the fields rather than the victims of deliberate murder by vengeful Polish villagers who according to the metal detectorists (a) had a bizarre 'oriental' grudge that the Germans would not let them ring a bell and (b) just happened to have a gun lying around the house at the end of the Occupation? Oh, there is a skull with a round hole in the frontal... I am not a forensics expert, but have seen skulls of Polish officers killed by the NKVD and this "bullet hole" does not look very convincing to me. It does not look like the classic bullet wound made in living bone with fractures radiating from it. To my eye, this looks just as likely to be a relatively fresh hole made in ground-softened bone. Like with a fork tine in digging (raising the question of when this grave was actually made and where the bodies in it were collected from - no proper dating evidence was given). Several observers in their comments have suggested this hole was made when the metal detectorists were thrusting a metal rod down blind into a mass grave.

The metal detectorists incline to this hole being the result of a pistol held to the forehead and the person executed by someone "looking them in the eyes ['shudder, shock-horror]", what is said to be an exit wound (no radial fractures here either?) is briefly shown on the left of the occipital. Now, I am no expert on summary executions, but there are forensic traces on the bodies exhumed after the War and a lot of photographic evidence which you will forgive me for not linking to here, which show that a preferred method was having the condemned walk to and kneel on the side of the burial pit, and shoot them in the occipital from a position standing above and behind them, which meant not only that the bullet exited into the hole rather than among anybody standing around watching, but more importantly that the victim fell forwards, into the hole. That way the executioner did not have to stoop down and push or drag the body in. I am not saying that this is not an execution victim, but there is no proper presentation of the evidence for making that, and not another, interpretation. There was fighting between the German soldiers trying to reach the border and the Second Guards Tank Army chasing them. Why were the women and children found in this pit not victims of the crossfire but interpreted by the programme makers as victims of retribution? What evidence was there in the hole dug for such an interpretation? Was that conclusion reached simply to make "good television"? If so, that is a hugely irresponsible choice to make and thing to do. Where, in that light, were these people's remains reinterred and with what rite?

Several commentators made the point on the basis of the programme-makers' preferred interpretation that what had been discovered here was a "war crime" site. Perhaps it is, but if that is the case then it needed far better and more forensic work done than four foreign metal detectorists were equipped to do. That bullet hole for example, the bullet will be somewhere in the pit if the victim was executed on the spot, did they find it with their metal detectors?  Was it fired by a Polish civilian (a villager angered by the ill-treatment during the previous five-and a half years of occupation) or a Soviet soldier executing a civilian prisoner? Actually, that is not an unimportant question, given that Pomost is all about reconciliation between Poland and Germany - a question which gains additional importance in Poland today under its new nationalist, retrospective, xenophobic and myopic PiS government.

If we look at the website of Pomost, there is total silence about any kind of collaboration with Clearstory who used material filmed on one of their projects to make a programme called "Nazi War Diggers". To be frank, I am not surprised, and I would be astonished to learn that they entered into any kind of agreement with the TV production company knowing that. There is just a brief note here:
Listopad Sarbka, gmina Czarnków, woj. wielkopolskie
Lokalizacja i ekshumacja grobu żołnierzy niemieckich. Wydobyto szczątki 36 żołnierzy i cywilów.
The remains of 36 people were found by the end of (that phase of?) the project. Clearstory make their conclusions on the basis of the first few skeletons and then scarpered off back to England. There is no presentation by Pomost at the end of the film of their final results, and their own conclusions about what the site held, but then they find out that the four volunteers filmed working on the sitye with them have made a programme presenting the work as their own and disseminating their own interpretation of the results. If that happened to a project of mine, I would be more than a little annoyed. It is the same attitudes of entitlement and exploitation we see throughout this sorry spectacle. I would be even more annoyed if the foreigners who were working as volunteers on my project were disseminating not only the results of my team's work, but disseminating a picture which totally contradicts what I had found out as a result of further work. Is that what happened here? What is being reported is that Pomost apparently say they will never work with Clearstory again.


Historiography and archaeology always have a complex social and political context. Nowhere is this more true than here in central Europe, and Poland in particular. This is why four foreign amateurs waltzing in here with metal detectors, spades, cameras and a lot of ignorance mixed with stupid ideas to make an exploitive "history" programme is not only a completely hare-brained notion, compromising all involved. It also involves repercussions of which none of those involved have even the foggiest idea.What were they thinking?

 
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