Monday, 18 March 2019

How to Make it Look that the 'Partners' Are Reporting Stuff

Just added to the PAS website:
Ceramics (including the Pottery Guide) Created on 15th March 2019 by Helen Geake
So perhaps now the Artefact Erosion Counter (currently focussed on metal items) should now estimate how many ceramic sherds and Ceramic Building Material fragments are being walked over on the many medieval and Roman sites exploited by artefact hunters in England and Wales and not picked up and reported. Many excavation archives of this sort of material can be measured in the hundreds of kilos. And how many kilos are represented by the nationwide-twenty-year public pickup that the PAS database represents?

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Cadbury's Heritage-Destroying Chocolate Frog

Behold the new enemy of the heritage/environment professional.

the wrapper and packaging are plastic, too.

and a comment from the #Batrachomyomachia twitter feed *

Sentient archaeological mammals fighting greed-driven corporate metal detecting reptile fantasies.

Sotheby's Advert

I hate those pop-up antiquities sale adverts I keep getting while trying to keep up with the latest celebrity chat or whippet-racing news. This one annoyed me, and should annoy you too, more knocked off 'Face from the Past' Buddha Heads.... and now look closely. 

The quality of teaching in public schools in the UK must be even worse than we thought.

What do they Put on the Soil in Washington DC?

Acid fertilisers here? 
One born every minute. How many times do we have to hear this "Rescue" argument from collectors? If they are not "rescuing" looted artefacts from ISIL, its modern farming and its chemicals:
Peter Tompa @Aurelius161180 14h14 hours ago Acidic fertilizers are slowly destroying coins buried in the ground so perhaps metal detecting should be viewed as salvage archaeology.
Do they have biology in US schools? The optimal pH range for the growth of most modern crop plants in the temperate zone is between 5.5 and 7.0. I am not sure what crop yield Mr Tompa thinks any farmers would expect irresponsibly placing their soil parameters much beyond that by deliberately adding acid to the soil to reduce their pH lower than they naturally are. In fact the pH of rainfall in Washington DC is currently around 4.8 to 4.9 so deliberately adding extra acid to the soil, especially in the region where he lives, would not really help feed America. 

Perhaps Mr Tompa needs to do some reading on soil science (and corrosion mechanisms) and get out and talk to local farmers about the costs of those artificial fertilisers, how they are applied to get maximum effect and lead to beneficial, rather than damaging consequences. If copper (a toxic metal) is getting into the soil water through 'acidity', that means other metals will be too, if that is the case, then that alone is cause for much more concern than whether a few coins are still in collectable condition when dug up by artefact hunters. Heavy metals in US kids' hamburgers are no laughing matter.

The Bedale Hoard Animation Project

"What ho chaps, I wonder how this lot got there?"
As part of York Museums Trust’s Genesis project a group of young people aged from 14-16 created an animated video on the story of the Bedale Hoard at the Yorkshire Museum. 

 Published on You Tube by YorkMuseumsTrust Published on 9 Jun 2015

 A very good example of the type of empty speculative narrativisation that accompanies a metal detectorist's isolated find of a hoard. "Advancing understanding" or storytelling? How can we go beyond typology to context in situations like this?  I do not think we can. What is significant is that the archaeologists are not going to be able to come up with a story any more reliable than the speculations of these kids.

Seven years on, the Hoard has still not been properly published.

Norfolk: Finding those "Productive sites"

Anglo-Saxon gold pendant found in Norfolk declared treasure
An Anglo-Saxon gold pendant, found near a site where a similar item worth £145,000 was dug up, probably belonged to a woman of "high social status". The Winfarthing Pendant was found in 2014 near Diss in Norfolk. The latest pendant, with a central cross motif, was found in 2017 and it has been declared treasure. [...]  In 2014, a student found Anglo-Saxon jewellery, including a pendant, at Winfarthing, later valued by the governement's Portable Antiquities Scheme at £145,000. The more recently discovered pendant, which features gold bead work and measures 17mm (0.67in) by 13mm (0.5in), is believed to date from the late-6th Century to the mid-7th. [...]   The Winfarthing Pendant, discovered by student-turned-archaeologist Tom Lucking, has recently been on show at The British Library in London. Treasure experts described it as having "national significance" shortly after it was discovered.
How "near"?

Saturday, 16 March 2019

What' in a Name? Knowledge Theft and Destruction by any Other Name is still Knowledge Theft and Destruction

UK's theft epidemic
In the wake of me saying on social media (in the wake of the  Cadbury's Freddos marketing campaign) that I am of the opinion that 6800 UK archaeologists should take a harder stand on artefact hunting and collecting, I am being cajoled by a fellow archaeologist on Twitter: 
[...] Can we agree that some metal detecting is not as destructive as other types? Promote that and go from there. [...]
This is a good example of the issue-dodging weasel-wordery used by the supporters of collectors. If by 'metal detecting' we mean the use of these tools to find hidden objects in airports and schools or in food products leaving a factory production line, or by archaeologists in a properly-designed archaeological survey with a specified research agenda and methodology, then the "metal detecting" is not damaging the archaeological record as much as when the tool is used to accumulate random but selected collectables from a site. I do not think the author of those words could legitimately ask me "Can we agree that some Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record is not as destructive as other types?". Yet that is exactly how a metal detector is used by the majority of (perhaps) 27000 active metal detector users in the UK.

If you think about the effects of collecting on the remaining parts of the archaeological record of that site, and is aware just how selective the pickup always is in artefact hunting and collecting and therefore the comparative worthlessness of any "x-marks the spot" 'documentation' compiled in the collecting process, then that is an evident nonsense. Which is why, I guess, the lazier archaeologists will employ the vaguer terminology in favour of naming the process as what it is.

There are a host of reasons why archaeologists, and archaeological bodies, in Britain should not  'promote' ANY kind of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, whether with metal detectors or unaided spades, whether it is called "responsible" or not. I doubt that there is a  way to "responsibly rob" somebody, and likewise I do not think there is any truly responsible way to loot the archaeological record for mere collectables.

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