Skip to main content

Paul Barford on East Anglia

Questions at UCS © David Gill
The UCS Heritage seminar welcomed Paul Barford to give a paper today. It was a good opportunity for me, and for those attending, to hear Paul articulate his views on the unrestricted hunt for portable archaeological objects. There appeared to be a mix of attendees from the archaeological service, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, museums, and the metal-detecting community.

My colleague Dr Ian Baxter and I were tweeting some of the key points. Here are some of them:

  • lack of clear conservation policy for the archaeological record
  • critical debate on artefact hunting missing from the archaeological community
  • the forum paper for the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology
  • under-reporting may be as high as 80% (though Norfolk may be as low as 25%)
  • the development and methodology of the Heritage Action counter
  • the disturbance of deep stratigraphy due to metal-detecting
  • the increasing use of metal-detectors that detect deeper and in a range of conditions
  • the intellectual consequences of loss of context
There was an extended time of questions, discussion and debate.
  • What could be done to improve the situation?
  • There seemed to be widespread dislike of the term 'treasure'. We were reminded that the focus is often on the metal rather than the archaeological importance.
  • Is legislative change important? Should reporting be compulsory?
  • Comparison was made with Greece where there are stricter controls and recording of finds. (This perspective was provided by Cambridge researcher Christos Tsirogiannis.)
  • Is the legal framework now outdated where once it was world leading?
  • 10% of archaeological sites in Suffolk known from metal-detecting.
  • The importance of the 30 year relationship that had been developed between the archaeological and metal-detecting communities in East Anglia.
  • The impact of potato crops on archaeological sites.
  • Should PAS-style reporting be introduced for countries like Iraq?
  • English Heritage advice on metal-detecting.
  • Representative collections to be held by museums; acceptance of private collections.
  • Where should financial resources be directed in the present financial climate?
  • Positive media coverage of PAS.
  • ITV's 'Britain's Secret Treasures'should be seen as 'entertainment' rather than a factual programme.
  • The Crosby Garrett helmet and the failure to close loopholes in the present system.
  • The amount of money paid for treasure finds (and apparent lack of transparency).
  • The scheduling of archaeological sites (and areas around 'hoard' findspots). This led to a short discussion of the area where the Staffordshire Hoard was found.
These points should give a flavour of the paper as well as the subsequent discussion. They do not necessarily cover all of Paul's points or all of the questions.

I felt that the seminar brought together a range of positions in the debate. Paul offered a voice that is so often marginalised, overlooked or silenced. I very much hope that he will turn his notes into a published version.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Wayne G. Sayles said…
Your words are well chosen. The "voice" of Paul Barford IS often marginalised, overlooked or silenced. This is true not only in Britain but internationally. That does not have to be the case. However, the way forward is most certainly not the way of the past, as Mr. Barford himself seems to have alluded in a recent blog post.

Popular posts from this blog

The Getty Kouros: "The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance"

In the wake of the 1992 Athens conference to discuss the Getty kouros (85.AA.40), one of the delegates, a "distinguished" American museum curator, was quoted ("Greek sculpture; the age-old question", The Economist June 20, 1992):
The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance.
The recent discussions about the return of antiquities from North American museums to Italy and Greece may seem far removed from the acquisition of what appears to be a forged archaic Greek sculpture in the 1980s. However, there are some surprising overlaps.

The statue arrived at the Getty on September 18, 1983 in seven pieces. True (1993: 11) subsequently asked two questions:
Where was it found? As it was said to have been in a Swiss private collection for fifty years, why had it never been reassembled, though it was virtually complete?
A similar statue surfacing in the 1930s
A decision was taken to acquire the kouros in 1985. The official Getty line at the time (and reported in Russell…

Symes and a Roman medical set

Pierre Bergé & Associés of Paris are offering a rare Roman bronze medical set (16 May 2018, lot 236). Its recorded history is: "Ancienne collection Hishiguro, Tokyo, 1992". The catalogue entry helpfully informs us that the set probably came from a burial ("Cette trousse de chirurgien a probablement été découverte dans une sépulture ...").

The set appears to be the one that has been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogannis from an image in the Schinousa archive thus linking it to Robin Symes.

Given that the catalogue entry suggests that this piece came from a funerary context and that the history of the piece can only be traced back to 1992 (and not to 1970), questions are being raised about the set's origins.

What due diligence was conducted on the medical set prior to offering it for sale? Did Symes sell the set to Hishiguro? How did Symes obtain the set? Who sold it to him?

I understand that the appropriate authorities in France are being informed about the …

The Minoan Larnax and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

I was recently asked to comment on the acquisition of recently surfaced antiquities in Greece as part of an interview. One of the examples I gave was the Minoan larnax that was acquired by the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Although this piece has been discussed in the Greek press, the museum has not yet responded to the apparent identification in the Becchina archive.

Is the time now right for the Michael C. Carlos Museum or the wider authorities at Emory University to negotiate the return of this impressive piece so that it can be placed on display in a museum in Greece?