Friday, June 12, 2009

Paul Barford: Voice of the Archaeological Community on Portable Antiquities?

I see Paul Barford has ignored my demand that he remove an obnoxious post about me on his blog and instead has chosen to highlight it further. See: and

I guess I should feel I am in good company. Barford regularly insults many other commentators on cultural property issues who hold contrary views to his own.

I have to assume his obnoxious posts will only continue. As a result, and given the importance of credentials in academia in general and in archaeology in particular, I got to wonder exactly what credentials Barford might have that suggests others should take him seriously. I'm afraid I have not found much information, other than this Wikipedia entry (which in itself may not be entirely accurate or even meet Wikipedia's "notability guidelines for biographies"):

In any case, a few things jump out. The entry has no reference to Mr. Barford's educational background. I have to assume he has never received a PhD. Otherwise, there would likely be some reference to it either in the Wikipedia entry or on his own blog. I do see that Barford once had a University position in Poland, but now he is said to work as a "translator." One wonders, what happened? Certainly, as a "translator," Barford must have much free time on his hands. That would explain how he can pump out one lengthy post after another.

Oddly, Wikipedia states Barford came to Poland in 1986. That period, of course, was a time when the nasty Communist regime that tried to crush the Solidarity Trade Union was still in power. Barford is also said to have had a post with Poland's Ministry of Culture, but when? Was it during Poland's Communist period or later? If it was during the Communist period, one wonders whether he was sympathetic to the Communist cause. If so, this might help explain his obvious aversion to "commercial interests," as well as the US Military and US foreign policy.

Everyone who reads his blog will quickly learn of Barford's distaste for the PAS and its efforts to bring archaeologists and members of the general public together in a cooperative effort to record and preserve Britain's and Wales' ancient past. However, if Barford has resided in Poland since 1986, he cannot have had much of an opportunity to see PAS in action first hand. His "Heritage Action Counter" has certainly been criticized as lacking a sound methodology. One also must wonder whether this unsound methodology will form the basis for his upcoming book on the subject.

Barford also claims an interest in numismatics, but he is not known to have actually contributed anything at all to the study of coins. Indeed, as he admitted in an earlier question I posed, Barford only appears to respect numismatics to the extent coins are treated as archaeological artifacts. See: In so doing, he effectively discounts much of numismatics, including die studies, the study of iconography, and the study of the metallurgical content of various issues. Coins carry a meaning outside their archaeological context, even if Barford does not think so.

In any event, given the continuing nature of his posts, it is indeed unfortunate that other archaeological blogs like those of SAFE, David Gill ("Looting Matters") and Nathan Elkins ("Numismatics and Archaeology") continue not only to link Barford's blog to their own, but to cite him as an "authority" in the area. This not only promotes Barford's views (with which they no doubt share at least to some degree) but in effect legitimizes his utterly obnoxious behavior as well. In so doing, they may elevate Barford and his blogging, but they also diminish themselves.


Cultural Property Observer said...

Mr. Barford, who otherwise never seems to be at a loss for words, evidently chooses to remain coy on his academic credentials and even whether he still practices as an archaeologist or not.

I think some indication of those credentials would be helpful in assessing Mr. Barford's credibility as an "expert" on portable antiquities, and in particular as one who feels so free to lecture others on the subject in the most obnoxious of terms.

Voz Earl said...

As to Barford's credentials, this is what he posted to the Unidroit list in November of 2007:

"My first degree was from London;
although I was twice awarded a post graduate degrees from a foreign university, it is true that the thesis I wrote in 1994 was never formally defended, for reasons I do not care to go into here."

The greater issue, however, in Barford's case is his inability to express an opinion without pouring on the ad hominem insults.

Voz Earl

Cultural Property Observer said...

This Wikipedia page was heavily edited after this post to delete much of the prior information. It is unclear whether this post prompted the change.

Vosmick said...

I stumbled upon your exchange while searching Paul Barford's credentials. My curiosity was stoked by his harsh language in dismissing Leonardo da Vinci as the artist responsible for La Bella Princepessa. Naturally, I was surprised that P.M. Barford was an "archaeologist".

Here is a publication in which Paul Barford is first author. Please click on the PDF and read the editor's note on the discussion page.