Today’s post is written by John Howland and it’s about good ole ‘Warsaw Wally’. You remember him don’t you? He’s the self-anointed, self-ordained savior of the archaeological blogosphere. The man who wakes up each morning to battle the ever evil detectorist/collector!
by John Howland
That’s what some ‘archaeologists’ call YOU behind your back – for no better reason than they lack the moral fibre to say it to your face. It comes via their international gobby mouthpiece, the arkie-oaf, Paul Barford, one of the more undistinguished members of their community. In keeping with his kindergarten-style of abuse so typical of the narcissistic, and so lacking in any academic intelligence, he penned (and I use that word in its loosest sense) on Friday 28th November, the following :-
“Heritage Action, referring to my post about the tenth century ‘York Area’ hoard the finder “just had to” flog off, remarks “surely there’s a better way for a First World country to deal with heritage blackmail?” A new term is proposed for a certain category of artefact hunter well illustrated by many of those commenting in the thread:
(Short for Selfish Undeserving Ignorami)”
Amazing, eh? All this bile from a man who calls YOU ignorant whilst simultaneously claiming elsewhere on his vile blog to be an academic, whose intelligence he thinks (wrongly) is far above that of the average detectorist and collector. What it shows is that here’s a man who can only express his offensive views in terms that would even disgrace the limited lexicon of a ten-year old. Like a façade, Barford has length and breadth, but no depth; typical ‘know-nothings’ of limited learning.
‘Stupcommiebast’ springs to mind.
The impressionable among us – yes, they do exist – might imagine he has a point, but significantly, many scholars do not. Here’s John Boardmans’ take on what Barford terms illicit antiquities:-
“Objects cannot be “tainted” or “illicit”, but only be so described by scholars who do not understand them, or by legislators. Objects are testaments of antiquity, whether handled by a thief or scholar; their integrity must be respected and their safety assured. To suggest that they should even be destroyed rather than kept in a museum betrays an appalling vacuum of scholarly integrity and responsibility, even philistinism.”
While James Cuno commenting of the matter of ‘context’ (of Barford’s favourite soapboxes) is less than impressed by the propagandist Barford, Gill, Swift, view of things:-
“Archaeologists often argue that antiquities have no meaning outside their archaeological contexts. If we don’t know where they were found, they argue, antiquities are meaningless and only of aesthetic value, which they judge to be subjective and inferior to the “objective” value of the excavated antique artifact. But of course antiquities have all kinds of meanings outside their specific, archaeological context: aesthetic, technological, iconographic, even, in the case of those with writing on them, epigraphic.”
David I. Owen is less than impressed with fanatical opinions prostituted by archaeological radicals:-
“So extreme have these positions become that one archaeologist has gone so far as to equate those who publish unprovenanced finds with drug dealers, murderers, and supporters of terrorists, and another has even advocated the killing of looters.”
Perhaps the most telling piece is written by John Boardman, on the topic of modern censorship that appeals to the hermetically sealed skulls of the usual suspects.
“A major threat to scholarship in all this is the censorship practised by those scholars and others convinced of the wickedness of collecting. Distinguished scholars have had their lectures in Cambridge cancelled because someone has thought some material involved had not been properly, in their terms, acquired. Elsewhere international and other conferences forbid allusion to “suspect” material. The Archaeological Institute of America will not publish or review scholarly work deemed to be contaminated by such material. This is pure censorship. The German Archaeological Institute now takes the same line, admitting that it has to safeguard its status with countries where it excavates. I suppose in these days, when we no longer trust our politicians to tell us the truth, censorship may seem a slight offence. I was brought up to believe that censorship is worse than theft, and especially so where scholarship is concerned.”
So what about the scandal of excavation reports never seeing the light of day? John Boardman is again unequivocal:-
“The results of my investigation were depressing. Although the British record was better than many – more with regard to their excavations overseas than at home – I would judge that, over the last fifty years, far less than 25 percent of material and results of professional archaeological excavations has been properly published, and the rest will never get beyond preliminary reports, if that…[…] The scandal of unpublished and inadequately published material from excavations is one that archaeologists, quick to decry collecting, are willing to acknowledge but do nothing about, while the fact that it is some way regarded as “my material” will often encourage an excavator from withholding information – an attitude shared by no museum that I know outside source countries, and very few private collectors. […[ It is particularly ironic that those who often do not publish their own excavations are the very ones who are most committed to stopping the publication of inscriptions and other unprovenanced artifacts.”
PAUL BARFORD BRANDED “UNPROFESSIONAL AND OFFENSIVE”
So who is this Paul Barford some of you in the US ask? To cut a long story short, he’s an archaeo-blogger who likes to describe himself as an ‘archaeologist’ but one who’s extremely coy about his past and qualifications (if indeed he has any). He decamped the Free West in 1986 to live and work for Poland’s then Communist regime in their ancient monuments inspectorate. He resides in Warsaw in a fine example of Warsaw Bloc architecture. He occasionally tip-toes back to England.
He regularly, and variously, abuses detectorists describing them as ‘thugwits,’ of low IQ, frequently portraying them as thieves, or destroyers of the heritage, and generally exhibits narcissistic traits (of superiority) towards anyone with views contrary to his own. He detests and insults the Portable Antiquities Scheme and everyone connected with it, collectors, and regularly berates internationally renowned numismatists in the most offensive manner. His own archaeological career is undistinguished compared to the many diverse experts within the detecting community and the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
Here on Stout Standards, we mostly ignore his fallacious ‘anti’ ranting but think it only right to bring this nitwit to a wider audience. Occasionally however, after he’s thrown his toys out of the pram in a particularly spiteful outpouring, we bring him up sharply to remind him that he’s overstepped the bounds of what is acceptable in a polite society.
His kindergarten-style blog, constantly echoes that perennial teenage rant familiar to many parents, “it’s soooo unfair,” and is invariably the epitome of boorishness:-
“…The first is the obvious one of the digging up of stuff to flog off to unscrupulous dealers (who are patronised by equally unscrupulous collectors) to raise cash to finance their operations […] When however a group in an attempt to impose a new identity attempts to wipe away national identities, the heritage that supports them also suffers. Wiping out monuments to national identity and a common past is what the Nazis did in Poland, its what ISIS appears to be attempting in Syria.”
Barford supports the view that ISIS terrorists, the same ones who decapitated US and UK hostages, are subsidised by ‘unscrupulous’ coin collectors (mostly in the US apparently) aided and abetted by equally ‘unscrupulous’ detectorists.
It’s increasingly transparent that ISIS fills its war chest from the proceeds of ‘hot oil’. The allegations that these terrorists profit to the tune of $-millions from the sale of illicit antiquities is a fantasy, spun in the main by radical archaeological lobbyists anxious to bolster their propagandist agenda. Their aim is to swing legislative opinion in favour of draconian legislation to limit the legal antiquities trade using collectors and detectorists as the excuse. Some legislators are being led by the nose while others can spot the con from a mile off. Paul Barford is in the vanguard of the movement. So no surprises here then.
Indeed, the internationally respected Gainesville (MO) based, numismatist Wayne G Sayles, wrote on his influential blog, Ancient Coin Collecting:-
“While the evidence of ISIS looting and/or intentional destruction of cultural property is undeniable, the connection to ISIS funding through the sale of antiquities is far more spurious. That evidence is conspicuously lacking and the trade is essentially devoid of material that could conceivably have come through the hands of ISIS.”
I commented on Sayles’ blog about a prime example of archaeological ‘evidence’ conspicuously lacking facts:
“It seems that the fabrication of statistics on cultural property issues has become another cottage industry in the field of archaeology,” you write. You are too generous.
“There’s no ‘it seems’ about it…fabricated statistics were alive and well in the UK in the form of the now-widely discredited Artifact Erosion Counter, the brainchild(?)
of unsurprisingly, Paul Barford and Nigel Swift, with the tacit approval of David Gill, and the CBA’s Mike Heyworth.
“Though the AEC is now in the trash can, it illustrates the lengths some in the archaeo-sphere will go to present a false picture, but leaving a lot of egg on a lot of faces.
All of which spurred Jessica Dietzler, to comment (about my post) on Barford’s blog, “I read the snippet you referenced in your post and he’s right that evidence is lacking. He’s also right to question things.”
Dietzler is a PhD student in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow, who was awarded the ‘Illicit Antiquities and Global Criminal Markets Scholarship’ to analyse comparative criminal market control mechanisms in order to learn if there are more optimal modes of governance at our disposal that may be effective in treating the illicit cultural objects market. I doubt she has much time for collectors and detectorists either, but at least she plays a straight bat.
Much to Barford’s chagrin, and in an effort to deflect Dietzler ‘s defence of my comments, offensively dismisses her as being ‘young’, and ‘fluffy’ alongside a picture of a rabbit, inspiring another commentator to take Barford to task:-
“Transparency and cooperation at all levels is required, and to be honest, by posting items on a fellow professional in the field, claiming her to have a ‘fluffy bunny’ point of view—a view that actually represents a humanistic take on deeply rooted socio-economic problems and their criminogenic effects the poorest in the world—is highly unprofessional and offensive.”
It seems Barford never tires of making a prat of himself in that while he condemns collectors as ‘unscrupulous’ without a shred of supporting evidence, makes no condemnation of those who buy ISIS’s stolen ‘hot oil’ raising multi-billions of dollars for its war chest along with funds raised from general criminality. It naturally follows that anyone buying ‘hot oil’, or petroleum products refined from that oil, or anything else derived from it, are the truly ‘unscrupulous’ operators.
Of course, those archaeo-bloggers running automobiles on petrol processed from ‘hot oil’ might well be, albeit and unknowingly, supporting ISIS terrorism, murder, kidnap, and rape.
On Thursday, 27 November 2014, in denial that ISIS/ISIL terrorists’ main source of income is NOT from illicit antiquities, Barford trots out this garbage:-
“The notion that coin collectors are homegrown scholars, doing important “research into the past” is a recurrent leitmotif in their attempts to justify the continuance of the damaging status quo. So let us have a look at this scholarly “exhaustive investigation”. Does it consist of an exhaustive literature search of where claims have been made and the verification of their sources? Does it perhaps consist of a breakdown of the information we have about the mechanisms of ISIL funding in general? Well, heck, no. “during the last week, two articles have been published by independent parties supporting our point of view, one from Suddeutsche Zeitung, the other the blog ‘Chasing Aphrodite’”. So this “exhaustive investigation” consists of just a single newspaper article and a single blog post. The author of this text (Ursula Kampmann) actually cannot even manage to quote either of those accurately in support of her thesis.”
Barford, the principal architect behind the now discredited AEC, shows once again he is no position to disparage the research of others.
Nevertheless, on current form, he’s treasure hunting’s BFF!