According to antiquities trade lobbyist Peter Tompa, ‘you can’t find [coins] without a metal detectors’.

On the question of why a lobbyist would characterise cooperation between archaeologists and tradespeople as a frenzy among archaeologists, the lobbyist in question says that it was ‘humor/satire/irony‘. A work of auto-parody? But he has said something else even more curious…

Antiquities dealers’ lobbyist and ancient coin collector Peter Tompa has commented,

As for coins, you can’t find them without a metal detectors. Unless ISIS has access to metal detectors, and can afford to use them for coin searches as opposed to using them to uncover mines it’s not likely to find many at all.

Is this comment supposed to be taken seriously?

'As for coins, you can't find them without a metal detectors.' (Peter Tompa, Conflict Antiquities, 9th June 2015)

‘As for coins, you can’t find them without a metal detectors.’
(Peter Tompa, Conflict Antiquities, 9th June 2015)

11 Comments to “According to antiquities trade lobbyist Peter Tompa, ‘you can’t find [coins] without a metal detectors’.”

  1. Well, of course no coins at all were ever found by archaeologists, Goatherds or ploughboys through the whole nineteenth and early twentieth century. We only found out, didn’t we, Mr Tompa, that the Greeks and Romans used coins at all when the metal detector was invented, yes? In fact there was commerce in these objects (so they were being found in commercially viable numbers) well before that auspicious (ahem) date. What tosh Mr Tompa, pure tosh.


  2. As should have been clear from the context, I was referring to looters associated with ISIS not archaeologists, a point that I nonetheless made in a previous reply you have not seen fit to publish:

    “1. As for finding coins, yes you need metal detectors. One certainly cannot find them by digging random holes in the sand. Archaeologists do sometimes find coins without them in the process of excavating, but that is based on a laborious process and even then coins are lost if the earth that is sieved is not checked. I suppose ISIS could have captured some or the Syrian Army may be prospecting for coins with its own, but as I previously noted one would think they would need them for their intended purpose of finding mines.”

    I assume you are not suggesting that archaeologists dig random holes in the sand.


    • I have published it. You are an approved commenter, so all of your comments are published automatically. But I am not going to dedicate a post to each of your utterances.

      Do you think looters wilfully avoid known archaeological sites, actively target places where there is no evidence of historic human habitation, then see if they chance upon something with a metal detector? *They* are not digging random holes in the sand. And they don’t need metal detectors or to engage in any process more laborious than digging up soil and sieving it. Or are you contending that the Islamic State (or the Free Syrian Army or Assad regime) can’t afford shovels and sieves?


    • This is just getting sillier and sillier, isn’t it? So everybody else can find coins without a metal detector but there is something about belonging to a specific militant group or religion (or skin colour maybe) that renders one (genetically?) incapable of this? Eh?

      As everybody knows who has dealt with REAL old collection material which was catalogued by the collector, coins were found in great quantities in the Old World by uneducated (but admittedly Christian and very White) ploughboys, labourers, builders, gardeners and other such folk going about their everyday tasks (as well as real amateur archaeologists fieldwalking). Museum accession registers are full of such details (that is in the Old World of course, you’d not have much direct experience of this in DC I guess). It is pure nonsense to say you cannot find them without metal detectors.

      Now why actually do “looters associated with ISIS” not have – according to you – access to metal detectors? Why can they simply not buy them as they would a spade, a riddle, mattock and thick gloves?

      Finally, I am again puzzled, why would “earth that is sieved” on an excavation NOT be checked? On an excavation the sole purpose of passing the spoil through the sieve is to pick out the smaller small finds that might otherwise be missed. I ask again, have you ever been on an exscavation Mr Tompa? Where? Who was running it?


      • I was again confused by that. The act of sieving is the process for checking. How would it be otherwise, sieved while looking in the other direction, sieved before dumping all of the retained and passed material on the spoil heap regardless?


  3. An archaeologist explained to me that many times the sieves allow smaller module coins through. That gives a false picture of coins at archaeological sites. Many are simply missed. Not very “scientific” don’t you think?


  4. Well, as far as Roman coins go, it is in fact the smallest module coins (Ae issues of the House of Constantine, the radiate issues etc) which are invariably the most commonly found coins on excavated and fieldwalked sites with third century and later activity. That is why ACCG and IAPN dealers sell them for the proverbial “few dollars each”. You are flailing to distract attention from your own bizarre statements that (1) that coins IN GENERAL “cannot” be found without a metal detector. and now (2) the diggers in ISIL land somehow are not capable of getting or using metal detectors. Bizarre Mr Tompa, sorry just bizarre. You’ve talked to an archaeologist, but are you presenting as ‘facts’ observations made during experience of actually working on an excavation? If you have no such experience then why do you presume to lecture those who have “where archaeological finds come from” and “how to find them”?


  5. Keep in mind some Greek AR fractions are of very small diameter. Also, it’s my understanding that sieves are not always used– which is a major problem for finding coins.

    Again, this is way off topic of my original reply which merely suggested that that ISIS would not find coins without metal detectors (which are likely hard to come by). I suppose the other option is to employ archaeologists to ascertain good places to dig and then use small diameter sieves to find coins but this also seems to be a bit out of touch with reality and certainly would be a hard way to make a buck.

    In any event, my original point was and continues to be that we would all be better off not indulging in wild speculation based on the slimmest bits of evidence, like a book with some pictures of Phoenician coins provides evidence that ISIS is funding itself with sales of ancient coins.

    Dr. Hardy did some very good work early on debunking ridiculous claims, but for some reason has engaged in what can only be termed some flights of fancy of late.


    • How many are 3.9mm wide!?

      This is not off topic from your original reply, because ISIS could very easily find coins without metal detectors. They could simply use sieves, which are, in the end, bits of wire mesh – hardly hi-tech specialist equipment.

      Also, again, metal detectors are not hard to come by for anyone with a little money, let alone a terrorist organisation with a GDP greater than that of some countries.

      And, while they may well force some archaeologists to tell them some things on pain of death, because they can and because it’s even easier than other ways, they don’t need to force archaeologists to tell them where sites are, because there are thousands of known archaeological sites within their territory. They can check the books in the museums and libraries that they’ve occupied or simply search the web. So there’s no need to imply that archaeologists are wilfully collaborating with genocidal terrorists, particularly when those genocidal terrorists consider archaeologists to be kuffars and idolaters.

      Yet again, no-one claimed that the book was proof that the Islamic State was profiting from conflict antiquities. Everyone sensible acknowledged that perpetrator and eyewitness testimony demonstrated that the Islamic State was profiting from conflict antiquities. They simply thought that if the Islamic State thought that a numismatic book was worth carrying along with heavy weapons, identification material and communication equipment, it was worth knowing which numismatic book that was.


  6. Not sure, but if you look at Waggoner’s book on the Rosen collection coins, some of the weights of the electrum fractions are very, very low, like .16 grams. (Making coins this small was a real technical achievement of the ancients.) Of course, you are assuming that sieving is always done down to 4 mm or at all. Anyway, its certainly possible that ISIS has metal detectors or compliant archaeologists in quantiy, but the question is that is likely or a fact that can be verified in some fashion. It’s also possible that any coins that are coming out of Syria are either being sold by the Assad government or the Free Syrian Army or the Nursa front, but we really don’t know, do we? What we do know is that there does not appear to be a flood of recent finds from Syria on the market in the US at this time. On the book, I quoted what you said the book might tell us, which sounded to me at least like you were making some unwarranted assumptions. But anyway, our readers can certainly judge that for themselves.


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