Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gill Inspired Papers Provide More Heat than Light on Benefits of PAS

Archaeo-blogger David Gill has evidently helped organize a forum on the PAS. See

Gill obviously drove the agenda: some faint praise for the system combined with much rehashing of various (mostly old) complaints about it.

The papers speak for themselves. Overall, this all would have been more useful if there were an effort to compare the number of finds reported in England and Wales with those in Greece, a country whose cultural policy Gill apparently holds in high esteem. Does Greek law-- as it is actually administered by its bureaucracy-- encourage the reporting of finds? From what I heard at the recent CPAC hearing on Greece's proposed MOU with the US, I think not.

As an aside, I wonder about Mr. Barford's stated affiliation with the Institute of Archaeology, Warsaw, Poland. Other information suggests that this affiliation is quite dated. If so, it certainly should not be used to somehow elevate Barford's status. [This affiliation was subsequently deleted in favor of just identifying Mr. Barford as an "archaeoblogger".]

I also question Gill's obsession with "lobbyists" promoting PAS before CPAC. In point of fact, this idea also has also been heavily promoted by numismatic groups who employ no registered lobbyists, and, indeed, its greatest proponent is a private collector who has spent his own time and money to travel to Washington, D.C. to speak on the issue. See

To his credit, Gill and UCL did invite some speakers with opposing views, but I still must agree with Gabriel Moshenska of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, who stated, "It is a measure of this [the archaeological] community’s widespread elitism and class snobbery that the most feckless professor of prehistory with a string of unpublished excavations is likely to be afforded a thousand times more respect than the most diligent member of a metal detecting club."

Addendum: In some end of the year foolishness, Prof. Gill has suggested he had nothing at all to do with organizing the above submissions of academic papers. See
I suspect he is being far too modest and have asked him to clarify in the comments section of his blog. He has yet to do so and instead is harping on the fact that UCL "initiated" the conference, but this certainly does not foreclose Gill's help in "organizing" it. Of course, all this is just another diversion from the major issues at hand. The papers were purportedly designed to help assess the PAS, but they failed to do so because there was no effort to compare PAS to other systems like that in Greece. Ultimately, PAS needs to be judged not by any perceived shortcomings, but by how it compares with other systems in fostering the recording of artifacts from the past. In this, I'm quite confident the record speaks quite well of the PAS.


Paul Barford said...

Umm, the Forum was "organized" by the editor of PIA (Brian Hole) who commissioned David Gill to write the keynote paper and then invited the respondents to respond, which is the way [you should know] these things normally go.

"this all would have been more useful if...",
useful to whom? The theme was not about reporting finds (about which there has been a lot of talk, and it was the subject of a whole PAS conference last year) but preserving sites. To what extent does the PAS help preserve sites from being exploited as a source of collectables? It is a question as valid as any other. It is about time it was posed, and it is significant that Roger Bland refused to discuss it.

[If the PAS and the reporting of finds are so important to you, why are you and your fellows in the US "collectors' rights" movement not advocating the US adopts the same remedy as you wish to impose on Greece and all the other countries?]

I certainly did not give the editor any affiliation or address, I wanted to be called an "archaeoblogger", but obviously somebody did not like that. There are anyway two institutes of archaeology in Warsaw, and my current ties are with the other one.

Brian Hole said...

Dear Peter,

Just to set the record straight, the forum was indeed organised solely on the initiative of PIA.

The collection and trading of antiquities has produced a wide range of often strongly conflicting views, and this forum is an attempt to air and challenge these in one place. It is not meant to be the last word on the issue, but rather an effort to stir discussion on UK legislation, which as everywhere, needs to be periodically assessed and revised.

We’re particularly grateful to David Gill for accepting our in invitation to write the lead piece. Of course we chose to ask someone who has a definite view on the issue, but this does not in any way mean that we value the opinions of the respondents to his piece any less. The forum should be read as an open and equal exchange of views, and we hope that it continues to generate wider debate.

I apologise for the confusion regarding the affiliation of Paul Barford – this was a mistake made by the journal during production. Paul had in fact asked to be associated with his portable antiquities blog, and this has now been corrected.

Best regards,
Brian Hole

Papers from the Institute of Archaeology

Cultural Property Observer said...

Dear Brian, Thank you for your post. Given Prof. Gill's latest blog on this, please let me know if he had anything to do at all with suggesting participants, etc. He makes it sound like he just showed up and wrote a paper without any other involvement.

Peter Tompa

Paul Barford said...

Excuse me, what "blog"? Would it not help follow the discuission of a point if you'd turn on the backlinks facility of your blog so it displays the links to posts referring to yours?

("settings' -> "comments" -> Backlinks Default for Posts )


I was invited to contribute by the editor not an author.

Brian Hole said...

Dear Peter,

Yes, I can confirm that that's how it was - all respondents were invited directly by the journal, not by David.


Cultural Property Observer said...

Hi Brian- Thanks for the further comment, and not to be a pain, but I understand that UCL invited the participants. I was wondering if he had anything to do with organizing the forum, including suggesting participants, etc. This is a minor point in the scheme of things, but apparently this is a big issue to Prof. Gill and Paul Barford. If David Gill had no part whatsoever in organizing the event, so be it, but one should excuse me for thinking he as the major player would have something to say about such things. Anyway, thanks for your patience and happy New Year.

Peter Tompa