Skip to main content

Does find recording stop looting?

Earlier this month I was discussing the differences between the situation in Italy and in England and Wales. A reader in Rome has emailed me to ask, if Italy adopted the same scheme as in England and Wales would it encourage more widespread looting of archaeological sites?

Let me take a well-known example from England: the Crosby Garrett Roman helmet. What do we know of the helmet's find-spot? Can we be certain of where it was found? Did the finder (or finders?) report his (or their?) discovery immediately? Why did the helmet not receive appropriate detailed conservation? Why is the present proprietor of the helmet undeclared? Why is this archaeologically and historically significant helmet not on public view? (The present anonymous owner did let it appear in Bronze at the Royal Academy.) Why has the present legislation failed to ensure that this part of England's heritage was saved for the nation?

These types of question were asked in a forum piece for the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology in 2010.

So would a Portable Antiquities type-Scheme be appropriate for Italy? I suspect not.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

rickwitschonke said…
I wonder how it is fair to evaluate the effectiveness of the Treasure system of England and Wales based on the handling of an object which is not even covered by the system?

When I asked Lord Renfrew if he thought that the adoption of the TA/PAS model in other "source countries" would reduce looting, he replied that he thought it would.

Rick Witschonke
David Gill said…
The present system did not protect the helmet. thank you for your comment.
Paul Barford said…
"... evaluate the effectiveness of the Treasure system of England and Wales..."

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is NOT "the Treasure System". They are two entirely different things. One records items in private hands, the other secures certain objects for public collections.

Having the Helmet summarily "recorded" (I use the term loosely), it may fairly be observed, has in fact produced remarkably little actual information about the object and its context of use and deposition.

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.