Sunday, 7 December 2014

Putting the Parthenon Marbles into perspective

In an online discussion stimulated by the recent news that one of the Parthenon marbles has been loaned to Russia, one person posed the following question:

"Question: What happened to the 'missing pieces' of the figures?"

An excellent question. A large number of the marbles had already been damaged, defaced, pillaged, reused as building material or ground down to make cement by the time Lord Elgin saw what remained and I imagine many of the pieces he took may have suffered further or met a similar fate if they had been left behind.

In 1816 Elgin noted: "Every traveller coming added to the general defacement of the statuary in his reach: there are now in London pieces broken off within our day. And the Turks have been continually defacing the heads; and in some instances they have actually acknowledged to me that they have pounded down the statues to convert them into mortar." (St Clair, Lord Elgin and the Marbles, OUP 1983, p.97)

That this was not a frabrication by Elgin is confirmed by earlier visitors. "In 1749 the traveller Dalton drew twelve figures in the west pediment of the Parthenon: by the time Lusieri arrived in 1800 there were only four. Five slabs of the frieze drawn by Stuart between 1750 and 1755 had completely disappeared. One slab of which a mould was taken by Fauvel as recently as 1790 was utterly destroyed. The metopes tell a similar story." (ibid.)

Let's be under no illusion. Elgin did not deface an intact or stable monument; by the time he arrived, the Parthenon was already disappearing at an alarming rate. Evidence indicates that neither the Turks nor most of the local Greeks were particularly bothered at the time (it was not until much later that the Greeks adopted the Parthenon as a national monument). It was a frantic race between the British and the French to grab what was left and save it from further damage; if the British had not taken the sculptures, the French would have. The British won. But there is much to suggest that the rivalry was more in the nature of who got the best trophy than who was more conscientious in matters of conservation.

The legality of Elgin's actions was contentious. He had a firman (letter of permission) issued in 1801 by the Turkish authorities but it was somewhat ambiguous and a letter he wrote to Spencer Perceval, the then Prime Minister, in 1811 suggests that Elgin was aware that he may have been going beyond its remit: "I had no advantage from the Turkish government beyond the Firman given equally to other English travellers. My successors in the Embassy could not obtain permission for the removal of what I had not myself taken away. And on Mr Adair's being officially instructed to apply in my favour, he understood, 'The Porte denied that the persons who had sold those marbles to me had any right to dispose of them'." (Hitchens, The Elgin Marbles: Should they be returned to Greece?, Verso 1997, p.38)

The reaction when the sculptures arrived in London was mixed. Byron famously condemned their removal from the Parthenon as "Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed by British hands"; Keats praised them as "Grecian grandeur".

I do not condone what Elgin did - his 'rescue' was undoubtedly not entirely altruistic, the legality of it was tenuous, and his methods caused horrendous damage to the remaining structure - but it is perhaps unfair to judge him by the standards of today. We can only speculate on what would have happened to the sculptures if the French had got them instead or if they had remained. But if they had remained, as Mary Beard has noted: "Whatever Elgin's motives, there is no doubt at all that he saved his sculpture from worse damage." (Beard 2011)

Meanwhile, the debate continues as to whether the sculptures should stay in London or now be returned to Athens ...

Monday, 1 December 2014

Why do museums hoard?

A resentment of museums* apparently stockpiling thousands of "surplus" artefacts rather than selling them and allowing private collectors to buy them is a recurring theme in the world of collectors of antiquities. It seems a valid concern at first glance but much of it is rooted in what I term OCM (object-centric myopia), thinking of artefacts merely as art objects rather than as part of a far wider picture, as research tools in understanding our past.

The following question asked recently on a forum is fairly typical and I'll try to answer it very briefly:
"I think any piece is better off in private hands if fairly insignificant, what would they do in museum warehouses, gather dust?"
In most cases the artefacts not on display do just gather dust but they are normally available on request and, in theory at least, they are preserved (much like evidence from a crime scene) in case further research in the future may shed fresh light. Methodology and technology are constantly improving and, for instance, a present-day re-examination of pottery sherds kept from an excavation in, say, the 1930s may result in entirely different conclusions from the original ones. What may seem "minor" or "insignificant" now might well prove to be extremely valuable to future generations.

Nor is the fact that many of the artefacts are apparently "identical" a reason to dispose of "surplus" examples. The notion of a "duplicate" is just 'baseball card mentality', entrenched in thinking of artefacts as mere art objects to fill gaps in collections. There is no such thing as a "duplicate" in the conduct of archaeological inquiry. In the world of academic research, the very fact that many of the artefacts are seemingly alike can be invaluable in studies such as cultural development investigation or quantitative analysis.

For a very basic example, let's take a "minor" and "insignificant" artefact found in huge quantities. A study of Firmalampen (a type of Roman lamp) a few years ago (Schneider 1993) shattered some earlier theories, set new standards in classifying the type, and enabled far more accurate appraisal of those found in excavations (and thus the site itself). The study was based on an examination of hundreds of superficially similar lamps (both complete and bare fragments) kept in the storage of museums throughout parts of Western Europe. Verified knowledge of their findspot played a vital role and, since chemical analysis was involved, mere photographs were not sufficient. Of course, such a study would not have been possible if the lamps had been dispersed to the market decades ago.

Police forces store evidence, paleontologists store fossils, mineralogists store meteorites, archaeologists store sherds, and so on. It would be rather simplistic to assume they all do so out of a childish resentment of non-professionals or an addiction for compulsive hoarding. Who knows what fresh insights into our past those dozens of identical pots currently gathering dust may reveal in a few years time? But one thing is certain: future generations will not thank us for squandering them away just to please a few people today.

There may be room for museums deaccessioning in some cases but we do need to understand some of the reasons why they may be reluctant to do so. And in the meantime, it's worth bearing in mind that there are literally millions of artefacts already on the market or in private collections.

--------------------------------------------
*For the purpose of this post, the term "museum" refers to any public institution which includes the storage and preservation of archaeological material as part of its objective, and is thus distinct from those which function purely as a form of art gallery.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Outrage in Missouri

Humour - a vanishing resource?
Archaeologist Dr Donna Yates recently expressed her worry that her scholarly research on the origins of two Mesoamerican artefacts sold by the St Louis AIA may have enhanced the price fetched at Bonham's auction on 12 November. Scholars tend to avoid discussing unprovenanced antiquities on the principle that enhancing the commercial value of such artefacts may encourage looting. These items were not in fact in that category (they were well provenanced) but I still understand Dr Yates's position.

I posted this somehat light-hearted comment on Paul Barford's coverage of the event:
"Well, if it's any consolation to Donna Yates, the other lot she mentioned (Lot 149: Zapotec Figural Urn) sold for only $3,750, well within the original $3,000–5,000 estimate. I suspect that the doubling of the price for Lot 156 (Maya Effigy Vase) was motivated more by the fact that it is 'prettier' (the art market being shallow as always) rather than a consideration of the increased depth of its academic credentials. I think Dr Yates need not lose any sleep."
I thought nothing more of it but on revisiting Paul's post a few days later, I was surprised to find that my brief comment had provoked an outraged response from Wayne Sayles, Executive Director of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (a deceptively-named lobby group for American coin dealers). He was apparently horrified by my gentle dig at the art market and couched his diatribe in what was presumably intended to be biting sarcasm ...
"Annointed scholar David Knell expressed an erudite opinion [...] How enlightening!  The art market ought perhaps to consider the views of archaeologists when it comes to valuation of works.  If the views of archaeologists and similar highly educated "experts" are to be taken seriously, every artifact more than 100 years old, menial as it might be, is of inestimable value and is essentially "priceless"."
Well, in a figurative sense, every artefact that adds to our knowledge of the human past is "priceless" - but that wasn't the point of my comment.

It's a pity that someone living in a state that produced one of the greatest humourists of all time appears to have no grasp of the concept himself. My comment about the art market was slightly tongue-in-cheek but the humour clearly flew stratospherically over the head of this present-day resident of Missouri.

His disgruntled response, however, betrays that there might be a strong element of truth underlying my comment. Certainly, Sayles himself seems to be scandalised by the notion that anything more intellectually taxing than gushing over how pretty an object is should have any effect whatsoever on its worth.

What value could an artefact possibly have other than how well it complements Aunt Mary's drapes in the living room or how nicely it fills a gap in an upmarket equivalent of a sticker album? And it's all legal, innit?

God forbid that some fool might actually see value in knowing the individual history of an historical object. Such a radical and unseemly exercising of brain cells could end up challenging the time-honoured mindset that artefacts are mere baubles that should be pigeonholed and graded by comparing them to pictures in a book. And, even more apocalyptically, it could thus threaten the very mindset on which much of the antiquities trade (notably that in ancient coins) is largely dependent.

Perhaps most dealers of Sayles's acquaintance share his indignant dismissal of the value of knowledge. But someone once said that "whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect". In the meantime, I do wish this affronted advocate of dealers' 'rights' would try to lighten up a bit. My quip was hardly in the same league as those by Mark Twain - and literary perception may have dulled a little in the internet age - but it would be a sad indictment of the ACCG that any remark today must be accompanied by at least a dozen smilies before their dour members could even guess that it might have been intended as dry humour.



Friday, 19 September 2014

A few thoughts on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS)

As an addendum to my previous post outlining a few changes that I would like to see in the way metal detecting is approached, I would urge the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), as a government organisation in the front line of the situation, to do a better job at getting the conservation message across. They rightly state: "Context is vital in archaeology in order to be able [to] understand past human activity. Archaeology is not simply about studying isolated objects. How these came to be where they were found, their relationship to other objects and stratigraphy (position in the ground), among other factors help build up a picture of the past as a whole."

Fine - but that statement is hidden in a small font among a lot of densely packed, badly presented and carelessly formatted text on a lesser page, and makes no detailed mention of the significance of artefacts in surface surveys. I would like to see that message displayed far more prominently - together with several of the points raised by the CBA on their page covering the topic.

There seems to be a common misconception that the mission of the PAS is to encourage and foster metal detecting for its own sake. It is not. The 'Aims and Objectives' of the PAS make it plain that the Scheme is intended as a 'partnership' "between finders and museums/archaeologists". In other words, the PAS offers a means whereby any members of the public who find objects of archaeological interest can contribute to a shared resource. Those who deliberately search for such objects as a dedicated hobby are only part of that and, in this case, the PAS is attempting to limit the potentially erosive impact of an amateur pastime by promoting best practice and harnessing any positive aspect the hobby may have in advancing "our understanding of the past".

I think the word 'partnership' is an unfortunate choice of vocabulary. I suspect the PAS meant the word to convey merely taking part in something but a large number of detectorists apparently interpret it as meaning far more: that they are equal to the trained professionals.

Sadly, what those professionals actually do seems to be utterly lost on the more braindead members of the hobby, many of whom are under the impression that 'archaeology' is just about digging up objects, that 'context' is just a matter of noting roughly where the objects were found, and that 'saving history' is just a race to shove the objects into museums as fast as possible. Labouring under that severe cerebral limitation, they easily jump to the conclusion that 'hey, archaeology is easy!' and may even resent those 'toffee-nosed academics' being paid to do it. It is then only a tiny step for them to regard their hobby not as something that may occasionally aid archaeology but as something that is in competition with it and, since detectorists may find more objects and shove them into museums faster, even superior to it. Thus, we witness the abysmal stupidity of claims such as that made by James Warr.

There are undoubtedly perceptive detectorists out there but it is clear that a large proportion of them are anything but. As I said in my previous post, I would like to see the hobby limited or regulated in some way. Perhaps among the regulations should be a minimal requirement that anyone wishing to use a metal detector passes a basic test proving their understanding of what archaeology actually is exceeds that of a lobotomised baboon. In the meantime, the PAS faces an uphill struggle - and I would like to see them spend more time on explaining the pitfalls of the hobby and less time on condoning its sensationalisation.

Conservation vs. Metal Detecting - Part Three

Never say never. I did conclude my last post on this topic by saying that was all I had to say on it. However, I should try to clarify any confusion caused by the final paragraph in my last post and I added this comment to Andy Baines's blog post ...

KPVW, 
Sorry for my poor formatting. That last paragraph in my comment was not specifically aimed at you (perhaps I should have used 'they' as a pronoun instead of 'you') but at a huge proportion of metal detectorists in general, particularly those who like to portray the hobby unconditionally as a 'saving history' movement. It is THAT attitude that I think is misguided and I do feel many of the arguments used unreservedly to depict metal detectorists as magnanimous crusaders who selflessly toil away to help the public are largely 'bullshit'. Unless they have taken the trouble to learn and fully understand the effects of what they are doing within the discipline of archaeology and undertake detecting responsibly, preferably in coordination with trained professionals, they pursue their hobby purely for their own pleasure and, very often, in the hope of personal profit. And while there may be 'occasional exceptions' (some finds have been extremely beneficial in advancing our knowledge of the past), I suspect that overall the unaffiliated and unrestrained conduct of the hobby does far more harm than good. 
Yet again, you did not read my previous comments. No, I would not like to see a total ban on metal detecting - I'm inherently wary of too many government prohibitions and they very often backfire anyway - but I would like to see a change in the way metal detecting is portrayed in the media and elsewhere, a more realistic acknowledgement of the danger it poses to true archaeology and the principle of conservation instead of the current unqualified gushing over every find. 
And, since so many detectorists don't appear to have the common sense to recognise that danger themselves or simply don't care, I would like to see the hobby limited or regulated in some way. I gather some of the more responsible members of the hobby would like to see that too. 
One of my greatest concerns is the sheer scale of the hobby and the lack of restraint. As I said earlier, "I am not against metal detecting if carried out responsibly but I am convinced that one of the most vital facets of acting responsibly in any pursuit that may threaten a fragile resource (whether it's bird eggs, wildlife or the archaeological record) can be summed up in a single word: moderation". Even supposing detectorists were never tempted to dig deeper, there needs to be a recognition that merely because artefacts are in topsoil or ploughed layers is not a carte blanche excuse to grab every single one of them - and there needs to be far fewer people doing that if the finite archaeological record is going to stand any chance of being more meaningfully interpreted in the future.  
I recently read one detectorist naively saying that future generations will thank them for digging up all the artefacts. No, they will curse them for it. A few items here and there are no big deal - and some finds undoubtedly point archaeologists and historians in the right direction - but a future in which museums are stacked with bits and bobs ripped from their context while almost nothing is still left intact where it could have meant so much more is not one I would relish. Those bits and bobs will just be bitter reminders of lost opportunities wrecked by the misguided generation of today.
After composing my comment yesterday, I was gobsmacked to read about another detectorist reinforcing the point I made in the first paragraph of my transcribed comment above. Defending his pastime, he stated, "My work is important to me ...". WORK? What, like collecting stamps or spotting trains? Get real, dude. It's a hobby.
------------------------
(Since my original post, I have revised the first paragraph of my comment to clarify that truly responsible members of the hobby are excluded from my generalisations. 25/9/2014)
 



Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Conservation vs. Metal Detecting - Part Two

Continuing on from my previous blog post about a debate on conservation, here is a copy of my latest comment sent to Andy Baines's blog ...

Andy, 
*NOW ANSWERED*? No, Andy. As I said, Paul Barford "answered your question in his very first reply" - 54 minutes after you asked it. It's just that you failed to realise it. A more accurate correction to your post title should read *INSTANTLY ANSWERED - NOW ACKNOWLEDGED*.

KPVW, 
You found my reply "personal", "condescending", "derogatory"? It seems your ego is easily offended. While I simply shrugged off the withering sarcasm in your own pointed questions, you get upset at my accurate description of your points, not you, as "shallow and utterly unconvincing" without even a hint of sarcasm. I have no wish to offend you but please try to distinguish between criticism of your arguments and criticism of you.

"I am talking about detecting on areas which are not known sites of archaeological interest ..." 
There are many "areas which are not known sites of archaeological interest". The argument for conservation is that we do not know which places may turn out to be sites of archaeological interest in the future. As I said, why the frantic rush to dig up every bit of metal evidence that may have helped to interpret them? And, quite apart from potential excavations, why the frantic rush to destroy the traces used in surface surveys?

"... all my finds including non metalic finds are recorded, grid referenced, photographed, the landowner is then informed/shown and the items are then handed over to the relevant authorities be it my local museum or in most cases to the TTU in Edinburgh." 
That is commendable - but it is still the opposite of conservation. However you may try to justify your actions; ultimately, you are digging things up for your own pleasure. I am not convinced that society needs yet more hundreds of crudely dug-up and largely decontextualised Anglo-Saxon brooches and Roman buckles cluttering up museum display cases or shoved away in storage; those of us who genuinely appreciate history would much rather have a few sites with enough evidence left intact to allow a more meaningful, more intellectual interpretation.

"Problem there is when is the right time if archaeological and conservational techniques are constantly improving at what stage do we say to ourselves this is the point to do it and not wait for say another year, ten years, or even a hundred years ..." 
But you are NOT "doing it", are you? Crudely and selectively digging up all the metal bits is largely destroying evidence that may have been vital if any archaeological exploration is eventually done.

"... in hindsight should for example the Mary Rose have been lifted, could it not have been protected on the sea bed at the time ..." 
No, the lifting of the Mary Rose came within what is described as an emergency 'rescue operation'. There were fears that that area of the Spithead seabed was about to be deep-dredged to create a new shipping channel into Portsmouth. There was also the threat of amateur divers destroying the integrity of the site while scavenging for bits of treasure and souvenirs. Some of those divers may have deluded themselves into thinking they were 'saving history' - sound familiar? 
Excellent explanations of why the old "topsoil/ploughed" carte blanche argument fails can be found on Paul Barford's blog (just one example of many).

"....you didnt mention PAS in your intial post." 
Why would I need to? The whole point of both Andy's post and the post he was responding to on Paul Barford's blog was about almost 1 million objects recorded by the PAS. I don't want to upset your ego again but it would help the credibility of your arguments if you took the trouble to find out what you are commenting on before you comment.

"Have a nice day at the rock festival, try and avoid the head banging Dave." 
Thanks. I did actually say "for a few days" - a minor point but again, please read what you are commenting on. The only head banging I'm doing seems to be against a brick wall trying to get you guys to read. :) 
Go ahead and do metal detecting to your heart's desire. I can't stop you. It's all perfectly legal in England and Wales under minimal conditions. But at least spare us all the bullshit and be honest about it: it's just a selfish treasure hunt you pursue for your own pleasure, whether you give your finds to museums or not. Please don't try to delude yourself or try to convince others that you are somehow altruistically 'saving history' for everyone else. You're not. There may be occasional exceptions but more often than not, you're wrecking much of the evidence of history just to satisfy your own need for entertainment. As I said, that is NOT conservation. 
David (not "Dave" - nor, for that matter, some cryptic four-letter acronym hiding my real identity)
That's really all I have to say on that topic. Now to move onto other things in my next post ...

Conservation vs. Metal Detecting - Part One

When Paul Barford lamented the fate of the almost one million artefacts recorded by the PAS ("Where have Eleven Million Objects Gone?", 15 August 2014), Andy Baines, a metal detectorist, questioned where Barford would prefer the artefacts to be: "In the ground still or in a storage container? In a museum back office filling cabinet?" Barford replied by listing a few examples of conservation issues and pointedly asked, "in somebody's ephemeral collection, or still where they were before the poachers came along?"

I think the meaning in Barford's reply was mind-blowingly clear to most people but it flew over Baines's head and, thinking his question had not been answered, he created a post on his own blog ("The question that a conservationist cannot answer", 15 August 2014). Understandably somewhat exasperated, Barford then carefully explained his position in detail.

I also had a go myself at trying to explain Barford's reply to Andy Baines ...
Paul answered your question in his very first reply.  
Elephant tusks are best left on the elephant - where they form part of an endangered species - rather than brutally cut off and carted away into the ivory trade, leaving the elephant dead. Keep destroying elephants like that and you'll eventually run out of elephants. 
Wild bird eggs are best left in the nest - where they form part of an ecosystem - rather than picked out and carted away into a display box, leaving the birds without their offspring. Keep destroying eggs like that and you'll eventually run out of those birds. 
And so on ... 
Ancient artefacts are best left "in the ground" - where they form ONLY ONE PART of a WHOLE assemblage of assorted evidence - rather than selectively dug up and carted away into some unknown private collection, leaving the other evidence denuded. Keep destroying evidence like that and you'll eventually run out of sites that can be meaningfully interpreted.

"They are buried many inches underground at no benefit to anyone until they are discovered ..." 
The mere DISCOVERY of artefacts is only a tiny part of the process. They need to be examined in the stratigraphic context of the site as a whole, in relation to structural and other remains, other objects such as pottery shards, and many types of subtle evidence that require expertise to analyse. In most cases, the only "benefit to anyone" that you will achieve by just selectively ripping the metal bits out of the ground will be to have yet more decontextualised baubles to gawp at. The site itself will have been robbed of much of its evidence and the potential to add to our knowledge of history is likely to have gone forever. 
conserve (verb): Protect from harm or destruction.
Someone posting as "Anonymous" but signed as "KPVW" also commented on Baines's blog. I then replied to that comment ...

KPVW, 
I'm sure the points you raised were well-intentioned but even as a general member of the public, an historian rather than either an archaeologist or a detectorist, I find them shallow and utterly unconvincing. 
The old "topsoil/ploughed" carte blanche argument fails on at least two points. Firstly, it fails to recognise the importance of field surveys, etc. Secondly, no matter what archaeological practice is now or was in the past, it fails to acknowledge that techniques used by future generations are likely to be very different (and far more sophisticated). Do you really believe archaeology will remain exactly the same in fifty, a hundred or two hundred years time? I suspect future archaeologists will look back at the methods used today and shudder. 
One third of Pompeii and two thirds of Herculaneum are still unexcavated. The reason is not solely one of cost but, more importantly, a recognition that archaeological and conservational techniques are constantly improving, and the areas are best left buried in the meantime for future generations to explore with superior technology and methods.  
I don't think anyone is in favour of leaving everything in the UK undiscovered forever but my comment was phrased with a "rather than" qualifier. I believe that artefacts are indeed better left buried in the ground rather than only the metal bits selectively dug out and the archaeological record irretrievably eroded. I doubt that "every field in this country will be examined by a qualified archaeologist" any time soon but it would be nice if the fields that ARE examined still have a few scraps of evidence left.  
Apart from situations where land is genuinely threatened by immediate development or whatever (the danger posed by chemical fertilisers appears to be largely an urban myth), why the frantic rush to dig up every bit of metal that has already lain in the ground for hundreds of years? The alarmist excuses to do so sound like they derive from a selfish 'sod future generations, I want the goodies now' motive.

"... that is your assumption that not one find is ever recorded." 
Huh? I assume nothing of the kind. We're discussing finds in the PAS database; ALL the finds are recorded by definition. But do you seriously think that merely keeping a record of where something was dug up is always enough? What I am saying is that regardless of whether the findspot of the metal item has been recorded (even with coordinates), its precise relationship to OTHER evidence (including otherwise meaningless traces) is likely to have been lost. And we all know just how fragile that evidence can often be. The preservation of context is often vital to a proper understanding; my experience with projects such as the Mary Rose made that abundantly clear. 
I don't think anyone could object to chance surface finds - be they metallic, "worked flints, pottery or other non metalic items". Properly recorded, such finds can be of enormous value and the finders are to be applauded. But let's be honest, a huge proportion of the finds recorded in the PAS database were searched for deliberately by people using a metal detector - and it is those that cause concern.  
Hobbyist metal detecting is largely incompatible with the aims of archaeology. Limited in both its goal and methodology by its very nature, it is a targetted object-centric approach that typically ignores the integrity of the archaeological record as a whole. I understand the thrill of finding something and, under certain conditions, I am not against metal detecting if carried out responsibly - but I am convinced that one of the most vital facets of acting responsibly in any pursuit that may threaten a fragile resource (whether it's bird eggs, wildlife or the archaeological record) can be summed up in a single word: moderation. Even if every item really were recorded, the prospect of thousands of untrained and largely misguided amateurs sprawled over England and Wales selectively digging up thousands of ancient metal artefacts as fast as they can grab them is more than a little disconcerting to those of us who value the evidence of history. That is NOT conservation. Not by a long shot. It is the exact opposite.
Andy Baines responded that he now understood the views of a conservationist but did not agree with them. Fair enough. He added, "If amateur metal detecting was so bad and we were destroying so much archaeological history then surely there would be uproar ...". I pointed out that merely because metal detecting had not caused a public "uproar" did not mean it was harmless ...
Bear in mind that public "uproar" is not always an accurate barometer of what is right or wrong. Most people were perfectly happy with things like the ivory trade, egg collecting, uprooting bluebells and catching butterflies until they were eventually made aware of the downside to something that seemed innocent. Sometimes it takes a very long time for the general public to realise that things they take for granted are not always as simple and wholesome as they may seem.
I mentioned that I was off to a rock festival for a few days but, in the meantime, I did suggest that he might want to think about changing the title of his blog post. On my return, I found that he had added the words "*NOW ANSWERED*" to his title and that "KPVW" had added another comment. Since blogs by metal detectorists have a reputation for being somewhat ephemeral sometimes, I have posted my response on my own blog - in Part Two.

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