Monday, 16 July 2018

Metal Detectors on Sale in the UK Right Now

for sale
eBay, right now, 'item location, UK only': 986 results (New 836, Used 141, For parts or not working 9). Of these 38 are kiddies detector toys.

Brands available today: New
Garrett (82 items)  Minelab (37 items) XP (33 items) Bounty Hunter (20 items) C.Scope (19 items)   Tesoro (12 items)  Viewee (11 items) Seben (11 items) White's Electronics (10 items) Makro (10 items) Nokta (9 items) Wildgame Innovations (9 items) Treasure Hunter (8 items) Golden Mask (8 items) Homcom (5 items) Fisher (1 item) Unbranded (88 items)   Not specified (460 items)

Brands available today Used:
 Garrett (32 items) C.Scope (13 items) Minelab (12 items) Tesoro (10 items) White's Electronics (8 items) XP (5 items)  Bounty Hunter (4 items)  Teknetics (4 items) OKM (3 items) Fisher (1 item) Makro (1 item) Nokta (1 item) Seben (1 item)  Treasure Hunter (1 item) Viking (1 item) Unbranded (5 items) Not specified (48 items) 

The fact that UK dealers alone are offering (so have the expectation of selling) 930 metal detectors in one week/month suggests that there are a fair number of potential customers in the UK - bearing in mind that many metal detectors are also sold in brick-and-mortar venues (as well as at rallies etc).  How many?

What is interesting is that in British antiquities, sold from the UK alone, there are only 367 'metal detecting finds' auctions, some bulk lots. Many of them however do not look like actual metal detecting finds from fields (as opposed to finds from 'antique-tat'  and charity shops).  

Sunday, 15 July 2018

A Revised Artefact Erosion Counter

The Counter should be treated 
seriously. The depletion and information
loss due to legal artefact hunting appears to be
on a far g
reater scale than the public is being told.

Heritage Action 2006

The implications of Sam Hardy's published figures for the Heritage Action artefact Erosion Counter: one recordable artefact pocketed every 12.76 seconds by 'licit' detecting alone since the beginning of the PAS.

And 'how many' of them did the PAS say they've recorded?  This is the elephant in the room ignored by the Ixelles Six /Helsinki Gang of academic apologists for artefact hunting and collecting.

Six academics distracted from what is important (Mark Bryan)
Now we have new and as yet unfalsified published figures available, let us see just how much of a deliberate underestimate the much-maligned (by artefact collectors and their supporters) Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter  actually represented. I started this counter at midnight of 15th July 2018. The 'since the start of the Portable Antiquities Scheme' starting figure then was 6,260,328.

counter by POWr editor

How Many 'Metal Detectorists' are there in England and Wales?

The Ixelles Six /Helsinki Gang debacle got me thinking about the data they were trying to ignore. For the past two years I had been struggling with the implications of some of Sam Hardy's recent research and the numbers he came up with. I have long asked the question concerning the scale of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record as the only true background against which to measure the incessant 'propaganda of success' of the PAS and its supporters. They saw 'x000' more metal detectorists than a few years ago, and got 'y000' more artefacts in their database, all well and good, but to what degree are these figures representing any true mitigation of the information loss?

Back then (first years of the 21st century), there were some wild estimates of overall 'metal detectorist numbers', but nothing concrete. So I began to look into it. The figure I came up with in 2003 was quite a low one, 10000, with just over a thousand in Scotland. That was the basis for the figures used in the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter. About 2010, I was forced to reassess that original estimate, it seemed to me that by that time the number had probably gone up to 16000 (Thomas 2012, 58-9 has a similar estimate), and I ascribed this to the PAS popularising the hobby through their support and promotion. That's when I really began to see the PAS as having a totally negative influence on the very problem that they had been set up to solve.

In 2011, the NCMD was claiming there were around 20000 metal detectorists in the UK. By 2015 the NCMD estimate appears to have risen to 25000 (see here and here), which I was inclined to dismiss at the time. But then in 2017 Sam Hardy produced his figures of 27000 'metal detectorists' (in England and Wales) and another 1000+ in Scotland. I must admit, though I thought his methods were sound and the figures he was using were the best available at the time, I really was a bit sceptical of such high numbers. Until I sketched a graph out. The two lower-left points are my own estimate, the three on the right are the NCMD's and Dr Hardy's. They seem to work together quite convincingly to tell a story of expansion of this damaging hobby on the PAS's watch. What however has not increased by the same degree is the proportion of the finds they are currently making being recorded in the public domain.

The implications of these figures would seem to be that the increase may have been of the order of 17000 more detectorists' in 17 years. That is that while PAS has been legitimising and promoting Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record, numbers of metal detector-using artefact hunters have been quite steadily rising by 1000 a year.  We have no statistics on the number of scattered ephemeral private artefact collections formed in the UK at the same time.

At what stage are Britain's heritage professionals going to get up off their complacent jobsworth arses and stop shoulder-shrugging and do something about this other than just smile and pat the collectors on the head?

UK Metal Detecting: The Blogs

With some 27000 of them in England and Wales alone, according to Sam Hardy, it is interesting to note how few metal detector using artefact hunters ('passionately interested in history') are actually blogging about that passion. Seeing as their discussions on forums demonstrate that few of them can  cope with texts longer than seven sentences anyway, perhaps that is not surprising. If anyone would like me to add any they know of, please comment.

Addicted to Bleeps (discontinued?) Kris Rodgers
Andy's treasure hunting cafe and metal detecting blog Andy Baines
Aurelia's Metal Detecting, One Woman and her Deus
Detecting and Collecting John Howland
Digging History/Detecting Blackpool (Discontinued)
Janner53`s Metal Detecting Blog (invited readers only)
John Brassey Notes from Retirement
John Winter John Winter
The Daily Detectorist (discontinued)
The Detectorist Metal Detector Reviews Site
The Ogley Dirt Farmer wozelbeak, 

  • Friday, 13 July 2018

    Collectors' Corner: What happens to dugup archaeological evidence at the hands of so-called 'Citizen Archaeologists'

    Some cutsey (passinitly intrestid in th' 'istry) narrativisation probably owing not a little to sources like Wikipedia
    Roman Empire Bronze Aurelianus of Aurelian Father of Christmas, Buy With Confidence from ModernCoinMart (MCM) on ebay

    Why purchase this Ancient Roman Empire Bronze Aurelianus of Aurelian?
    Aurelian was the 44th Emperor of the Roman Empire, and a devout pagan. Hoping to unify the Empire through a common religious belief, he forced worship of Invictus Sol, the pagan god of the Unconquered Sun, throughout the region. In 274 A.D., he proclaimed December 25th, the winter solstice, the feast day of Invictus Sol, and in celebration, he eliminated public debts and burned the records to gain favor of his people. Christian's celebrated the day, secretly worshiping their own god, resulting the establishment of the date of Christmas (Christ's Mass). Aurelian's grand gesture of generosity become known as the "Christmas Spirit", the inspiration behind the spirit of gift giving today.
    Aurelianus imagery
    The obverse bears the radiate portrait of Emperor Aurelian, an image similar to the previously issued Antoninianus, surrounded by his inscribed name and title. The reverse depicts the Emperor, victorious in military uniform, or illustrates a theme of the regime with images of gods and goddesses. The Aurelianus was struck from bronze with a diameter ranging from 21-23.5 mm, weighing 2.7-3.7 g.

    Attractive album with COA
    This ancient bronze Aurelianus commemorating Roman Emperor Aurelian was struck 270-275 A.D. It is presented in a handsome collectible album, along with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by a member of the American Numismatic Association. The album includes a detailed narrative explaining how Emperor Aurelian came to be known as the "Father of Christmas."

    Make this impressively packaged Roman Imperial Aurelianus the centerpiece of your ancient coin collection!
    No documentation of licit origins or export from the source country offered. Other people are selling these, but one of them tells us: 'our buyers have hand picked the highest quality and best looking coins from A hoard of 15,000 coins'.  No publication details of that (presumably legally declared , no?) hoard are given, let alone where it was found.

    It is interesting to note that though this specific coin is 'authenticated' by an authentic signature of  Robin L. Danziger, the accompanying narrativisation attached to it is generic ('reverse depicts the Emperor, victorious in military uniform, or illustrates a theme of the regime with images of gods and goddesses'). Sadly, the buyer is not informed about the nature of the exact reverse bought (which is in any case hidden by the way the coin is mounted) so they'll not learn from the seller about which 'gods and goddesses' are depicted and why. The Syrian links of Sol Invictus might have been topically stressed in the commercial narrative - as well as the eclectic and mutable nature of Roman culture at this time.

    Would Bloomsbury/Helsinki/Ixelles Six also be calling this approach to decontextualised collectables 'citizen archaeology'? Or in their eyes are artefacts like this only decontextualised by the people they call 'citizen archaeologists' who take them from the context of deposition and without documenting the context of discovery make them available to collectors? Or is the seller that wrote that generic narrativisation and 'preserved' the coin for display in that folder the 'citizen archaeologist' sharing his knowledge with the rest of us? Or perhaps the 'citizen archaeologist' of the Bloomsbury/Ixelles Six model is the collector who puts his trophies in a row and goes to Wikipedia and Wildwinds to find out about those pictures on the back. This object in its 'attractive album' with built-in Certificate of Authenticity and ready-made generic narrativisation is a product of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record - so what precisely is the phase that in the eyes of Bloomsbury and the Ixelles Six academics is so-called 'citizen archaeology'? Or is none of it any kind of archaeology at all, but just collecting?

    Tuesday, 10 July 2018

    'Ixelles Six' or 'Helsinki Gang': love-child of SuALT and Addressing Finnish Academic Funding Body?

    I have used the term 'Ixelles Six' to refer to the representatives of four foreign universities and two British heritage organizations that for some reason joined hands across the seas to attempt to trash Sam Hardy's quantitative examination of  'Open source data on metal detecting for cultural property'. On looking up the academic bios and affiliations of these six authors it seems we should instead be talking of 'the Helsinki Gang', as all six of them are associated with a project involving (surprise surprise) collaborating with 'finders' and trying to turn their collectables into archaeological data. I should have spotted this before. But I'll stick with the sibilant 'Ixelles Six ' as the corresponding editor of both the 'Aspects' collection of papers as well as the response (Deckers et al.) is from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, which not only also has such funny (in this context) Latin mottos, but the toponym 'Brussels' has its own connotations these days.

    The Finnish Archaeological Finds Recording Linked Database / Suomen arkeologisten löytöjen linkitetty tietokanta – SuALT
    Sub-project 1: User Needs and Public Cultural Heritage Interactions (University of Helsinki)Principal Investigator: Dr Suzie Thomas, Researcher: Dr Anna Wessman, Research Assistant: Helinä Parviainen.

    Sub-Project 2: National Linked Open Data Service of Archaeological Finds in Finland (Aalto University and HELDIG – Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities)Principal Investigator: Professor Eero Hyvönen, Researcher: Dr Jouni Tuominen, Researcher: Esko Ikkala, Researcher: Mikko Koho.
    Subproject 3: Ensuring Sustainability of SuALT (Museovirasto – Finnish Heritage Agency)
    Principal Investigator: Dr Ulla Salmela, Project Leader: Jutta Kuitunen, Project Manager: Ville Rohiola.
    Project PartnersDr Pieterjan Deckers, Associate Professor Andres S Dobat (Minos), Dr Stijn Heeren, Dr Michael Lewis, Julie Melin, Professor Bonnie Pitblado, Carsten Risager.
    Now Professor Pitblado and her vested interest in collaborating with collectors back home in te States has interesting associations for me, (hopefully indirectly) connected with another project I am doing at the moment, more of that another time. But here is what SuALT say about what they are doing, and we see here a direct transposition of the 'Bloomsbury View' of what archaeology is and archaeologist should do. The English Disease is spreading:
    About the project / Projektista
    The Finnish Archaeological Finds Recording Linked Open Database (SuALT) is a multidisciplinary project developing innovative solutions to respond to metal detecting and other non-professional encounters with archaeological material, applying semantic computing to “citizen science”. The growing flow of uncovered archaeological material poses challenges to researchers and collections finds data managers [sic]. We must support finders with legislative and also archaeological information. Easy to use tools to report finds and provide structured metadata are needed. Leaving finds cataloguing to curators is increasingly unfeasible given the increase in metal detecting. To make use of new data, cultural heritage managers, researchers and the public need search and analysis tools. Since finds are connected to existing collections, we also address cross-collection data interoperability. The methods and Open Source tools developed are also applicable to other cultural heritage citizen science fields.
    Citizen science? Nice Old Collection of Obsidian
    Arrowheads and Knives from Oregon
     (photo by lake-arrowhead-artifacts).
    By the fluffy term 'metal detecting' [as] 'non-professional encounters with archaeological material', they presumably largely mean Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, so why do they not say so? Why not call a spade a spade in this transnational context?

    This then raises a question, in what way is collecting any kind of 'citizen science' any more than pheasant shooting citizen ornithology? I've asked this question before with relation to the collection of archaeological objects, but the supporters of the use of the term seem not to have any kind of answer, but instead are blithely continuing its use disseminating its uncritical use. This raises the question of whether this is just a meaningless buzzword that academics use to get grant money, so are unconcerned to define it properly.

    And then we find why the Ixelles Six disapprove of 'detractors' (sic) that base their opinions on how archaeologists should interact with people engaged in collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record on ethical standpoints (p. 322). They actually say here that they are engaged in 'supporting' such finders.

    What is significant here is that these six authors claim that there is nothing wrong with that, as pilfering random collectables from the archaeological record is 'not damaging' (it is even, they say [p. 323], 'fundamentally wrong' to suggest it is) and anyway there are 'social benefits' from supporting (sic) such pilfering if there is a recording scheme such as the Portable Antiquities Scheme in place (pp 328-330). I suppose SuALT is seen as the Finnish response to the collectors' need for a PAS. A sceptic might conclude that this would explain why they were so worried by Hardy's estimates that show that the PAS is not working to produce the effects (including social benefits) they claim (pp. 328-30) and presumably are the basis of their grant application for funding ('The funding is from the Academy of Finland, under decision numbers 310854, 310859, and 310860').  The response to Hardy's findings would surely only be academically responsible if it took proper account of and addresses all of the elements of his findings that contradict the fundamental assumptions underlying a project that they are all currently the beneficiaries of. I think readers can judge for themselves whether they have in fact done that, or satisfactorily and transparently countered the suggestions here that they have not in fact done that. 

    By the way, in case you were wondering, Finland is mentioned once by Hardy, page 14. No numbers are offered, but a curiosity is that Deckers et al. criticise him for not estimating those numbers (the ones he did not estimate) on the basis of a 'shorter detecting season in Finland' (p. 327, fn 3).

    Monday, 9 July 2018

    'Metal Detecting' (sic) 'Policy' (sic) in Bonkers Britain, not 'Complex' (sic) at all

    The Axis of Ixelles (PMB)
    Back in Bonkers Britain, there still seems to be confusion on what the public debate over Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record is all about. Here's my reply to one of a series of emails from Bloomsbury precipitated by my four posts (see below, Sunday 8th July) critiquing what the Ixelles Six wrote in Open Archaeology 2016 [2018] vol 2 issue 1:

    Mike Lewis wrote:We are advocating a system whereby detectorists take more responsibility for their actions through education, but (as you are aware) it is a long road… You seem to fail to recognise that detecting is a broad church, with some very conscientious individuals, and others that are crooks (a bit like society in general really). 
    Spoken like a true ‘non-professional metal detectorist’, that’s what they all say – so it’s by no means the first time anyone has heard that particular, but irrelevant,  ’argument’. Please save it for the compliant converted.
    You (plural) seem to fail to recognize Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record is damaging exploitation whether or not done with criminal intent. That is the point Hardy was making that you (plural) missed in your ‘response’.

    What else you (plural) missed in the Hardy’s text was the bit that really makes your implausibe ‘long road of education’ look positively futile. After twenty years of your ‘advocation’, Hardy says and you – plural -  fail to note or refute, perhaps 2,079,394 (96.13% of) recordable objects are not reported”. You would call that 96.13 percent “zero gain” (p. 324). The rest of us would say that is PAS-fluffy talk for 96.13% knowledge theft by “non-professional metal detectorists”. That is the whole point of my four-post critique of what the six of you produced. To pretend you did not see that is either simply carelessness or intellectual dishonesty. Which is it?
    By how much would Hardy have had to be wrong on this to make the whole defence (your – plural – whole section five pp. 328-330) by people representing four foreign universities  and two official bodies of this ‘liberal approach’ to Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record look anything but utterly Utopian, disconnected with reality and ridiculous?  This is not a “complexity”, it is shutting your (plural) academic eyes and ears to information that does not fit a pre-supposed model.

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