Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nathan Ekins Post on Detectorist Finds from the UK

Nathan Elkins has commented on two groups of coins being sold as coming from detectorists in England. See:

Though I disagree with Nathan's tone and some of his conclusions, I do agree with his main point that artifacts found in the UK should be properly recorded and exported consistently with UK law. In this regard readers should note that the Treasure Act does not necessarily require reporting for individual coin finds , but that the law does encourage voluntary reporting of all finds under the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

I suspect it is quite possible that there was no legal obligation to report the coins if they were found individually. I also suppose it’s possible that the coins were reported by the finders under PAS and then sold to these two dealers, but I readily admit that might not be the case. I also suspect that the US dealers or the finders may have not sought to procure an export license for the coins, though it is possible that the individuals involved might have not realized that an export license was required under UK law.

In any event, the PAS publishes a nice summary of "advice for people buying archaeological artifacts from the UK:"

UK authorities also have issued this guidance for the export of cultural goods, including numismatic items:

From my perspective, I would be happy if US Customs was more forceful in helping the UK to enforce its fair laws rather than in effect underwriting enforcement of Cyprus' unfair, nationalistic laws by detaining any and all designated coins of Cypriot type based on the erroneous assumption that they "must be stolen" from Cyprus.


Voz Earl said...

From an ethical standpoint the main issue in this case is that coins advertised as still having "dirt" on them have presumably not been recorded in the PAS database, right? I can certainly see Elkins' point in this regard--the loss of context information for the sake of a sales gimmick is a waste.

On the other hand, I think the constant emphasis of some on UK export licenses is misguided. Aren't we really talking about mere red tape here? The idea that someone will go through the trouble to get an export license every time he sends a low-value coin overseas is rather unrealistic. As far as legal infractions go it's about as heinous as jaywalking or breaking the speed limit. If a coin and its context have been recorded in the PAS database, an export license does not add any further knowledge of use to archaeologists or numismatists.

Voz Earl

Paul Barford said...

Cultural Property Observer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cultural Property Observer said...

Apparently, Mr. Barford can't read, which is not all that surprising as he more interested in scoring points in his own mind as much as anything else. My original post said this:

Though I disagree with Nathan's tone and some of his conclusions, I do agree with his main point that artifacts found in the UK should be properly recorded and exported consistently with UK law.

On the other hand, following up on Voz's comment, I do wonder whether British authorities would really like to be inundated with export licenses for the material that is discussed here and whether the bother of seeking an export license for such items makes it unlikely even honest people will comply.

Certainly, the even more onerous requirement of seeking export licenses for any and all materials over 50 years old from countries like Italy is probably honored mostly in its breach. See: I wonder how many archaeologists have violated this particular stricture when they travel from Italy or other countries with similar laws.

Now that I have responded to Mr. Barford's question, perhaps he can prevail upon his friend Professor Gill to enlighten us whether he has received any funding from source countries like Greece or related entities. That question would seem to be more pertinent as to the integrity of those who demand complete transparency from other private individuals with regard to private transactions.