Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Merthyr Tydfil Detectorist Excavations

British metal detectorist Anthony Thomas has apparently discovered significant indications of Roman civilization in Merthyr Tydfil, town in Wales with a population of about 59,500, situated approximately 23 miles (37 km) north of Cardiff.
Local historian Anthony Thomas, 45, has found a series of crop marks believed to date back to Roman times.
The find has been hailed as a discovery which could "rewrite" the history of the town. Mr Thomas first noticed the "unusual, rectangular crop marks" after studying aerial photographs of the land.
He contacted the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust (GGAT) who confirmed that it could be Roman, most likely linked to metal working in the area. The location has not yet been revealed so more exploration can be carried out.

Undistinguished former archaeologist Paul Barford, an English teacher in Warsaw now on holiday in London, reacted predictably and almost violently to this news as a sort of archaeological sacrilege:
Telling it like it is?
Well, that depends upon one's perspective. To Barfy and his ilk, this is archaeosacrilege punishable by whatever sort of ultimate punishment archaeology can devise, e.g. becoming the object of Barfordian blog-scorn.
This observer, not afflicted by such delusions regarding the supreme importance of archaeology, views the actions of Mr. Thomas as being quite reasonable and responsible.
In a way it is regrettable that the ancient British tradition of trial by combat was discarded during the 19th century. Mr. Thomas appears to be a very well set-up gentleman who, according to Barfy, is employed as a "bouncer."
It would be interesting indeed to be present at a confrontation between Barfy and this incarnation of his imaginary image of a "loutish British metal detectorist."
Somehow I doubt whether this particular detectorist would take Barfy seriously enough for actual combat to occur. A "bouncer," to be successful, needs practical and responsible good judgement. It is necessary to distinguish between a real threat to the peace and dignity of the community, and a loudmouthed nuisance.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Illiterate Detectorists among the Great Unwashed

A characteristically sneering blog utterance, by the inimitably arrogant and offensive prince of archaeology-centrism, predicts wailing and gnashing of teeth among collectors and detectorists ignorant of historiography:


"There’s going to be a wailing and gnashing of teeth in certain [...] quarters following a detector-found mixed hoard. Note the words ‘metal detectorist’ and not amateur archaeologist, or even, professional archaeologist. Detectorist James Mather’s hoard find in Watlington, Oxfordshire, is set to rewrite the medieval history books with his spectacular find of 186 Anglo-Saxon coin, seven pieces of jewellery, and fifteen ingots. Why? Experts are saying that the find shows that Alfred the Great – one of England’s most revered historical figures – ‘airbrushed’ a rival king from history. The little known Mercian king, Ceolwulf II, mostly forgotten by history and known only as the “Unwise,” helped Alfred to historical prominence not to mention a battle victory or two, but who Alfred later dropped faster than one of his hot, burnt cakes (US readers check put the Burnt Cakes story)."

The fountain of snark goes on to observe:

"Yes, do read some books metal detecting blog readers.  I think if you did you might find some that discuss the redaction of the various versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (in fact going back to something like the 1860s) which discuss precisely this aspect - it is called Quellenforschung and historians are actually quite good at it and really don't need guffawing metal detectorists to provide a coin with "a picture on it" to tell us what they already know. But to find out what they (we) know, metal detectorists (allegedly "passinitly intrestid in th' 'istry") would have to read about it in more than a comic book in Simple English "How Alfred Burnt the Cakes"."


When the subject of reading of books is brought up, the former archaeologist who is the author of the above remarks is himself vulnerable. He makes resounding pronouncements upon subjects in which he has no apparent qualifications, without himself reading and mastering the fundamental literature, upon ancient numismatics for one very important example.

This observer, who has acquired a reasonable working knowledge of ancient history from his formal education in the classics and long time specialization in classical numismatics, also has very good reason to suspect whether this particular archaeology-centric blogger has a similar working knowledge of classical literature relating to history, or ancient history as a general subject.

Perhaps he does have competent knowledge regarding Anglo-Saxon history, in which this observer claims no particular expertise, and also regarding early Slavic archaeology. But that narrow expertise by no means establishes him as an expert upon the general subjects of ancient and early medieval history.

Fairness requires observing that this blogger does not explicitly claim such expertise in this post. However, readers should be acutely aware that the subject of historiography goes very far beyond the scope of this particular observation, and that in the broad scope of this subject, this blogger has yet to demonstrate expertise clearly distinguishing himself from those at whom he sneers in the above condescending remarks.

This observer knows a number of respected collectors of ancient coins whose knowledge of ancient history, as well as numismatics, is quite impressive. It would be reasonable to suppose that some collectors of other ancient artifacts have similar expertise.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Archaeologists, Marxism and History for the Few

A really characteristic blog post illustrates the mantra of radical archaeology: private individuals should not be allowed to possess artifacts, they should be reserved for the exclusive purpose of study by archaeologists and other academics:


Unfortunately for this perspective, archaeology is not a primary source for the development of history, while numismatics certainly is. History and archaeology are two very different disciplines, and for an archaeologist to claim that archaeology in some way owns, manages or controls the discipline of history is a really amazing display of arrogance and ignorance.

Historians aren't likely to have any interest in this fanatic or his archaeological fantasies, but numismatists have good reason to resent and detest his constant belittlement and ridicule of those who by any objective standard of assessment, are very much his betters.

Not content with assailing such luminaries as Wayne Sayles, Arthur Houghton and others who have advocated collectors' rights, this archaeologist now hurls his putrid vitriol upon Harlan Berk, who is one of the friendliest, nicest and most knowledgeable professional numismatists I have had the pleasure of meeting.

Harlan Berk is also very successful at what he does, and this perhaps explains his being singled out as a target by a bitter and angry individual whose brief career as an archaeologist was very far from successful, and who now teaches English in Warsaw.

Marxists rabidly hate the notion of anyone profiting from what they assert to be the inherent property of everyone - in this case, coins. Harlan Berk believes that the way to treat coins is to disseminate them among the public as widely as possible. Somehow, that strikes this observer as being a far better way to preserve and disseminate their importance than locking them away in institutional custody.

Friday, November 20, 2015

XVI Numismatic Congress Warsaw

About six years in the future, a major numismatic congress is scheduled to be held in Warsaw:

Much has been made of the academic numismatic conferences held in Poland in the archaeological blogosphere. While suspicion on the part of collectors and their advocates is perhaps natural, given the hostility of that blogosphere toward their activities and interests, it is nevertheless true that knowledge is neutral and ought to be regarded as being beneficial to all.

Hopefully this conference will focus upon advancing numismatic science, without pursuing any partisan agenda.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Doxxing and the True Believers

If you don't know what Doxxing is, you are evidently not one of the "true believers" conducting the crusade against antiquities collecting and metal detecting:


There are things which, as the Holy Scriptures inform us, "pass all understanding" [Philippians 4, 7}. Surely the perspective of these "true believers" is one such mystery.

To begin with, it is not obvious at first glance what these "crusaders" actually believe in. There is a good deal of reason to doubt whether they believe in God, as their perspective appears to be essentially Marxist. Let me hasten to observe that they have every right to hold such a perspective, and that Marxism is in reality a philosophy, not merely a political perspective. It is however a philosophy that I do not subscribe to.

But despite uncertainty as to what these "crusaders" actually believe in, there can be little doubt as to what they oppose. The oppose antiquities collecting, except under stringent conditions that they advocate [which would for all practical purposes make collecting virtually impossible]. They likewise oppose metal detecting, except under similarly stringent conditions [which detectorists likewise believe would make their avocation virtually impossible].

It seems clear, from the perspective of the ordinary citizen not initiated into the mysteries of their beliefs, that these crusaders are not distinguished by what they believe in, but rather by what they are opposed to.

It is a real challenge to conduct a "crusade" on a negative platform. The public has a natural human tendency to want to pursue positive concepts which would lead humanity into the "broad sunlit uplands" of life and fulfillment of spiritual needs, and intellectual growth. It is by no means an easy task to lead the public into believing that pursuits such as metal detecting and antiquities collecting are inherently vicious and evil.

These "crusaders" have however addressed that difficult task adroitly. The approach has been one of exploiting the theme of guilt - guilt on the part of collectors and detectorists, and guilt on the part of the public which lacks the social consciousness to restrain such inveterate sinners. Some substantial part of the doctrine of Original Sin appears to have been appropriated for the purposes of this crusade. Eve's apple has been transmuted into the despoliation of THE PAST.

Despite their successes in preaching the doctrine of guilt, these "crusaders" experience frustrations. Such frustrations appear to be intense and to create psychological pressures which can only be relieved by "venting." In this particular case that psychologically necessary process assumes the form of invective, satire, ridicule and a host of other pejorative slanging inflicted upon those who deny the truth of their doctrine of guilt, and oppose their "crusade." This observer has been the target of just about every form of such nasty eruptions from the dismal depths of their dark and twisted souls.

Such eruptions have consequences, one of which is a desire to expose to the public the actual nature of those who carry on this negative "crusade" and who so viciously attack those who disagree with and oppose them. Such exposure has been labeled "Doxxing." It is not only inferred but positively asserted that "Doxxing" has the objective of encouraging intimidation, and perhaps actual physical assaults, toward the "true believers." But the reality is that its intent and goal is simply to place them in context so that the public can accurately judge them.

This seems to be taken as a very unfair and unreasonable thing according to their beliefs. It seems to this observer that such "crusaders" crave darkness and obscurity, so far as their actual persons are concerned, and want exposure only for their polemics against collectors and detectorists.


Sunday, November 08, 2015

Confidential Information

On November 4 2015 well-known metal detectorist John Howland made the following post to John Hooker's blog [ http://pasttimesandpresnttensions.blogspot.com/ ]:

"Hi John:
I think it's all down to professional jealousy. Dean appears to be a knowledgeable source, and is stealing certain thunder, One Warsaw website carries the following:-

"Celtic culture, especially its spiritual sphere, still hides many secrets. Particularly interesting are the issues of religion and mythology, being inspired many legends and literary works.
The aim of the workshop is to develop the skills of speaking and reading and expanding general knowledge. Work on language is based on materials that spice up language classes and encourage further work.
Classes are given by Paul Barford, who is a teacher of English and archaeologist, are designed for people at FCE, CAE. For further information: (22) 833 91 12


ul. Fr.. J. Popieluszko 21/24
01-595 Warsaw
+48 022 833 91 12
+48 022 833 91 12 "

The PAUL BARFORD Language School has its registered offices at:-

59c, 01-950 Warsaw / Wrzeciono 59c, 01-950 Warszawa

Best wishes

John Howland


Nigel Swift, in his website [ https://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/heritage-action-threatened-on-two-continents/ ] has made a series of remarks regarding publication of his contact information and that of Paul Barford, culminating in this observation:

"Mr Howland has now published an address and phone number for Paul Barford – twice – on the website of Canadian numismatist John Hooker. This is the seventh and eighth time he has revealed our addresses, phone numbers or personal descriptions or offered our photograph to anyone who asks for them (“I’m anxious to let anybody who wants them, have them“). He has added a denial that he is engaged in a campaign to encourage “violent attacks” on Paul or me (Paul’s“loathsome pal” as he terms me) or our families but the number of instances, stretching now over three years, strongly suggest exactly that. You judge. I have written to Mr Hooker requesting he takes action but have received no reply."


This observer notes that Nigel Swift and Paul Barford both appear to maintain that commentators who excite controversy in their remarks, such as they do, are entitled to a sort of anonymity in which their personal information, including contact details, is kept secret.

It seems to this observer to be prima facie evident that the reason for maintaining this reserve is to ensure that such commentators can say whatever they see fit in their venues without any possibility of being personally called to account for statements that their targets find offensive. 

Whether it is really beneficial to society for individuals such as Mr. Swift and Mr. Barford to be able to continue publish their views on subjects such as metal detecting and artifact collecting in an intentionally offensive and provocative manner, designed to provoke outrage among those who are assailed, is a matter worthy of  considerable thought and intelligent discussion.

Freedom of speech is a very important human right, but it is not an unlimited right. There are situations in which certain forms of speech are irresponsible, damaging and dangerous. Shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater is one example. Defamation of character, and libelous statements, are others.

This observer believes that a good case can be made to the effect that the right of freedom of speech extends as clearly and legitimately to publication of Swift's and Barford's personal details, which they desire to keep secret, as it does to their provocative and offensive attacks upon the antiquities collecting and detectorist communities.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Common Sense Interpretation Of IQ

British expatriate Paul Barford who presently resides in the enlightened humanitarian democracy of Poland, has recently made a post aggressively attacking a well-meaning and sincere collector:


Kudos to Vikan for so deftly exposing the bias inherent in Barford's latest assault upon collecting.

It seems to this observer that the metric to be applied in such cases is clearly one which best measures "social good," That is necessarily something rather elastic in nature and controversial in ideology. But it at least asserts a concept and principle that conceivably might eventually be agreed upon.

What is "social good?" Here is a very essential question, and a frustratingly elusive concept. I have pondered it long and hard, and am confident that others who have done so with a relatively open mind would agree that this is one of the most fundamental and difficult questions affecting human society. At present it has no universally agreed-upon definition. This observer believes that clear agreement upon a workable definition of "social good" would consequently resolve many significant concerns as to the ethics of various human activities.

In this particular case the "social good" metric to be applied to collecting activities must be construed as a complex balance of multiple "social goods." These are neither zero-sum calculable nor obviously in any simple manner, quantitatively interrelated. That which is highly positive with respect to one interpretation of "social good" may well have negative implications in regard to another. Perhaps I may be sustained in advocating a perspective that humanity's ethics are as yet insufficiently evolved and quantified to definitively and accurately weigh all the complex, conflicting factors in assessing collecting activities.

Now, it is appropriate to assert certain essential principles fundamental to democracy. In doing so I do not imply that those not discussed are insignificant, but rather that those discussed relate in an essential way to the question at hand.

The first such principle is that of common sense. The implication of this principle is that arguments which construe theoretical principles in a manner contravening "common sense" are invalid. The definition of "common sense" is what appears to the individual voter to be sensible and appropriate.

I do not propose to argue that the collective opinions of individual voters will necessarily be perfect, They will however tend to reduce arguments to simple, easily assessed concepts. The social benefit of assuring a widespread, simply assessed verdict regarding controversial questions is that the electorate will be likely to support that verdict should push come to shove.

In assessing Barford's arguments against private collecting, this observer is convinced that they are in every respect anti-democratic and anti-popular. His perspective emphasizes the importance of the educated, academically qualified few vs. the uneducated, unsophisticated, unqualified many who should not be allowed to lay their ignorant and grubby hands upon the "past" because they are not academically qualified archaeologists.

Unfortunately for Mr. Barford's perspective, his own formal academic qualifications in the field of archaeology are far from impressive. It is however only fair to say that his personal abilities in this field have far outstripped his formal qualifications, as his book "The Early Slavs" indicates. But where and how does one draw the line?

In deference to the principle of common sense, this observer declines to question Mr. Barford's credentials as an expert since he has contributed a valuable reference work. But, it is none the less appropriate to question whether Mr. Barford should not likewise extend some tolerance to those whose collecting impulses are motivated by a desire to comprehend and disseminate an appreciation of the nature and artifacts of the past.

A measure of the social merit of experts, not the only measure certainly but surely a significant one, is their desire and impulse to share their expertise with others. I call the attention of others to the nature and focus of my website, www.classicalcoins.com. Ancient coins and reference works are offered for sale there, but they are presented in the context of their historical significance. It is in my opinion fair to say that this website emphasizes education equally with its commercial function.

What has Mr. Barford done to educate the public? Would in not be better socially, and more effective practically, for him to focus upon educating and constructively advising those whom he believes to be inappropriately focused upon excavating ancient artifacts without due respect to the principles of archaeology? Would not that better advance the concept of "social good?"

There is a lot to be said for the importance of archaeology and its systematic methodology of excavation. That subject needs able, articulate presentation to detectorists who focus upon artifacts themselves without adequate comprehension of the importance of preserving their context.