Thursday, 1 September 2011


I see that the ANS has published a piece by a Washington cultural property lobbyist ("Ancient coins and the cultural property debate"; see here). The lobbyist is well known for misunderstanding academic debate and again repeats his flawed view of how the Portable Antiquities Scheme operates in England and Wales (NOT Britain and Wales).

It may have escaped the lobbyist's notice that there has been a debate about the PAS in the Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. The forum piece posed the question: "The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act: Protecting the Archaeology of England and Wales?" PAS lists reported find-spots but the removal of archaeological material from the ground by unscientific methods can hardly be described as "help[ing to] preserve context". The two things are very different.

I also note that the quote "pays people to loot" (cited in the ANS "article") ---
many archaeologists remain dismissive of the U.K.’s program, claiming that it “pays people to loot.”
--- was coined, if I may use the term, not (apparently) by an archaeologist (or even by "many archaeologists") but by the coin collecting lobbyist himself.

If the ANS wants to join the debate about cultural property, could it select a more informed commentator than an individual "who provides lobbying services and advice to the International Association of Professional Numismatists and the Professional Numismatists Guild"? (The quotation is from the introduction written by Rick Witchonke [sic.].)

The third essay in the series will be by Dr Roger Bland of PAS.

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Cultural Property Observer said...

David- Thank you for publicizing my article, but couldn’t you do better in critiquing the content? PAS and the Treasure Act are not even the focus of this piece. Dr. Bland will write on those programs. As for your specific nits, yes I’ll have to admit that us Yanks sometimes confuse Britain with England when it also includes Wales. Perhaps the Brits themselves also sometimes confuse American geographical terms. As for preserving context, again I think your nit relates more to terminology than anything else. But certainly finders have called in archaeologists to excavate what they find on occasion and other times their reports have given archaeologists the opportunity to excavate otherwise unknown sites. Finally, I first heard the claim that PAS and the Treasure Act “pays people to loot” at a SAFE event. I’ve also heard archaeologists also claim that these programs give the public a “license to loot” and other similar formulations. I’m glad that you evidently disagree.

Peter Tompa

David Gill said...

Thank you for your comment. My aim was to focus on your views of the PAS published on the ANS website. Has PAS stopped (or reduced) the destruction of looting in England and Wales? Are all finds reported to PAS? You miss an essential point in your discussion.
And as an advocate of PAS for other nations, such as Italy, I would hope that you would know the difference between England, Wales, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. I would expect a lawyer to be a little more precise in his use of language.
I have noticed that you like to supply words and phrases as if they come from those who disagree with you. Is this a form of discourse that can be pursued with integrity?
I very much look forward to what Dr Roger Bland will write about PAS.
With best wishes

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