A Metal Detectorist Christmas

A big lead bucket full of Anglo-Saxon silver coins! More than 5,000 coins from circa 1000.

Mr Welch said each coin could be worth at least £250.

He said: “They’re like mirrors, no scratching, and buried really carefully in a lead container, deep down.

“It looks like only two people have handled these coins,” he said. “The person who made them and the person who buried them.

And he added: “Ethelred opened a mint in Buckingham in conjunction with Cnut. I think there’s a proability there’s a link between the mint at Buckingham and the coins.”


Sanctimony over deaccession – whose art is it?

I’m teaching a First Year Seminar this fall on cultural property and just found another article for them to read. A regional museum in England sells an Egyptian statue to pay for building a new wing – and everyone is getting up in arms. 

I’m especially amused by the Egyptian ambassador’s fulminations. I’ve BEEN to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo – it’s a museological disaster. And, though there are plenty of packing crates just sitting around in the public areas, they have works in storage, too.

Metal detectorists – a subculture, and a legal one at that.

Read this article:  the man who found the gold bracelets has made a number of other finds – and he was part of a 100-person group searching the Forest of Dean that weekend.

I’m in the process of getting a First Year Seminar called “Stealing Art/Saving Art” approved for next fall. The main topic is understanding cultural property – who owns art? One of the units I’m planning is a compare and contrast between the practices and legal situation of metal detectorists in the UK and tombaroli in Italy. The British experiment beginning in the 1990s (I believe) with allowing detectorists to profit from their finds legally has been wonderful for archaeology. Meanwhile, in Italy, where the finds are much bigger, no one but the State (through its designates) can excavate anything legally.

You mean that’s a Van Dyck over there in the corner?

A British effort to put pictures of all the oil paintings in the UK online pays off – an art historian spotted a previously unknown Van Dyck portrait.

The painting, which was not thought to be important and in a bad condition, was covered in layers of dirt and varnish and was not on display at the Bowes Museum.


But it was photographed as part of the Public Catalogue Foundation’s mission to document every oil painting in public ownership and added to the BBC’s Your Paintings website, where it was spotted by art historian and dealer Dr Bendor Grosvenor.


“Although as part of our national heritage values are irrelevant, for insurance purposes it should now be valued at anything up to £1m,” Dr Grosvenor said.


“Had it appeared at auction as a copy, and in its dirty state, it would probably only have been estimated at about £3,000-5,000.”

Grosvenor runs Art History News – here’s an example of what he’s doing with this picture.

The general initiative is called Your Paintings.

Ptolemy Dean, Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey . . .

Ptolemy Dean, Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey.  It sounds like a young adult book title, almost, but he really is the 19th Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster. Who names a child Ptolemy? Parents who are sure their little darling will grow up to be someone interesting!

He’s got plans for Westminster Abbey, too – we might be able to get up into the triforium (the gallery between the arches of the nave arcade and the visible stained glass windows above) soon!

50,000 Celtic coins found on Jersey

Not in Jersey, on Jersey. The Channel Island, not the State. The story.

Click and look at the picture in this version – the find is a block that weighs 3/4 of a ton!

There’s almost no way to have a find of that size without it eventually telling us things we didn’t know about, say, Celtic exchange and trade around the time of Julius Caesar.