Skip to main content

Heritage Crime and the need to protect Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall at Cawfields Crags © David Gill

It appears that illegal metal detecting has been taking place along the line of Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland (Tony Henderson, "Heritage crime concern on Hadrian's Wall because of illegal digging", Chronicle 10 February 2015). The hunting has taken place in the central section of the wall to the west of the well-preserved fort at Housesteads.

This is discussed in the wider context of 'Heritage Crime'.
Mark Harrison, English Heritage national crime advisor said: “The practice of nighthawking, particularly from such important sites as Hadrian’s Wall, is an issue that we take very seriously. 
“We recognise that the majority of the metal detecting community comply with the laws and regulations relating to the discovery and recovery of objects from the land, but just as it is against the law to break into someone’s house and steal their possessions, so it is illegal to damage land and steal valuable historical artefacts. 
“The objects they are stealing belong to the landowner, in this case the National Trust, and the history they are stealing belongs to all of us.”
Quarrying along the line of the wall in the 1920s and 1930s brought about a major shift in the attitude towards heritage monuments in their wider setting (see here). This deliberate damage to a world heritage monument should renew the discussion of how the finite archaeological record is being damaged in a quite deliberate way.

Elsewhere Harrison has called for 'research, debate and ultimately influence [to drive] the changes necessary to protect and preserve the world's cultural and historic environment'. How will Harrison and English Heritage seek to influence the necessary changes to protect our universal heritage?

Some of the issues were raised in the forum piece for the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Mark Harrison said…
Hi David many thanks for raising the issue of unlawful detecting at Hadrian's Wall. It would be good to have a chat to see how we can work with you and your students. Mark

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Mithras relief from Tor Cervara

A fragmentary relief of Mithras was discovered in 1964 at Tor Cervara on the outskirts of Rome. It was acquired by the Museo Nazionale Romano.

A further fragment of the relief was acquired by the Badisches Landesmueum in Kalrsruhe in 1976. The source was an unstated Swiss dealer. This fragment has been reunited with the rest of the relief [press release].

Today a further fragment of the relief was reunited with the other pieces. This had been recovered during a raid in Sardinia.