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

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 …

George Ortiz collection to be displayed in London

Christie's is due to display part of the former collection of the late George Ortiz in London in a non-selling show to mark the 25th anniversary of the exhibition at the Royal Academy. There is a statement on the Christie's website ("The Ortiz Collection — ‘proof that the past is in all of us’"). Max Bernheimer is quoted: ‘Ortiz was one of the pre-eminent collectors of his day’.

We recall the associations with Ortiz such as the Horiuchi sarcophagus, the Hestiaios stele fragment, the marble funerary lekythos, and the Castor and Pollux.

Bernheimer will, no doubt, wish to reflect on the Royal Academy exhibition by reading Christopher Chippindale and David W. J. Gill. 2000. "Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting." American Journal of Archaeology 104: 463-511 [JSTOR].

Bernheimer will probably want to re-read the two pieces by Peter Watson that appeared in The Times: , "Ancient art without a history" and "Fakes - the artifice b…

Adding to the history of an Attic black-figured amphora

The post-excavation histories of objects are important as we map the that cultural property passes through collections and the markets. This is clear for an Attic black-figured amphora, attributed to Group E, that is due to be auctioned at Christie's New York on October 31, 2018 (lot 31). It shows Herakles and the Nemean lion, and Theseus and the Minotaur.

The auction catalogue claims that it surfaced in the hands of John Hewett in London in 1970 (or earlier), then to a private collection in Europe, followed by a series of auctions:
A European private collection; Antiquities  Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1988, lot 130thence to a private collection, New YorkAntiquities Christie's, New York, 15 December 1992, lot 81Antiquities Sotheby's, New York, 17 December 1996, lot 50Antiquities, Sotheby's, New York, 4 June 1998, lot 102 The amphora appears in the Beazley Archive (BAPD 350425). This provides the history sequence as follows (though in the list of auction catalogues s…