Metal detecting Down to Earth with Mike Pegg
I bought this DVD a while back for 'research purposes', but bits of it are currently available on You Tube.
The first is one of my favourite scenes (actually not included in the copy I bought), which just about sums up the whole ethos. Take a look at what "Metal Mickey" has to say. For those not familiar with the accent, here is a transcript of the first part:
“Metal detecting’s got to be, in my eyes, one of the most relaxing hobbies anybody can get into. You are out in the sticks, [you] don’t see anybody, just me and Dad [?] normally, just waiting for that signal, the signal could be anything, and that’s what makes the hobby… waiting for that signal, because when you dig down, you just don’t know what its going to be… now, when you were a kid, um, even older kids, there was this sweet, right, called a “lucky dip” where you’d go in the shop and get something like a Jamboree Bag and you would not know what was in it until you opened it. And that’s exactly the same with metal detecting. This is why, um, living in England, well, in Britain, we are so lucky, this is the biggest candy shop you are going to find. This is so steeped with history, we go back so far…. and people have lost so many things over the years, and its all there, waiting for us. Um, even on the… whether its on the beach, on the farm, it [does] not matter, its everywhere, paths, back gardens… Absolutely strew[n], the whole island, the whole of the British Isles is one big candy box waiting to be explored. We can all do it, and I’ll tell you what, once you get out into it, once you start getting that bug, you’ll never want to get is back. It’s a really, really worthwhile thing. It should be taught in schools. We could get the kids out, away from that computer screen, and it teaches them the sense of history and who they are and where they are from, and it puts back all this trouble we read in the newspaper and what you see on the news, you leave it behind, when you go on a field, you leave it all behind; it’s just you in the field with your metal detector. In fact, personally I call it “treasureology”, because you are after treasure, so why not tresureology?” Then on the rest of the YouTube video, we are treated to a demonstration of “how its done” with an irritating soundtrack. Best not to watch.
Rather more interesting is another YouTube fragment: Down To Earth -- metal detecting tips. This is a show-and-tell sequence which gives quite an interesting insight into how a British collector of portable antiquities made by metal detecting is likely to be treating the artefacts they remove from an archaeological site (they claim they are "rescuing" them, but that's another story). Note that these finds are just thrown in a heap on the table in a breeze-block built shed, some of them in plastic tubs on the floor. None of them is individually bagged with a label giving details of provenance. “See the patina?” – yes, but we see no catalogue numbers. We note that bronze disease is left untreated and at one stage the camera sweeps across crumbs of an object that has disintegrated while being 'curated' by Mr Pegg and his Dad. Some pretty cringeworthy presentations of the artefacts shown; so much for the 'homegrown conoisseur' model of the pro-collecting advocacy. "Krotrel bells"? Crotal I think he means… So what is likely to happen to this collection of artefacts when Mr Pegg passes on to the great metal detecting fields in the sky? Will anyone actually be able to correlate more than a handful of them with their original findspot? This collector says nothing about the cataloguing system he uses, or the need to catalogue such finds at all.
Mike Pegg tells us he’s been detecting 25 years. “Although this is nothing really, what I’ve got in my collection, I could not get it in the shed […] I think, you name it, I think I’ve had it from every single period”. What is on this table top is a selection of what he has “detected” and dug up, probably from a number of different places in his home are and beyond, all mixed up together. What happened to the rest then? Note that he admits that if the beginner collector does not understand what he is looking at, he’ll probably throw away significant finds in making a selection. In fact a lot of evidence emerges that suggest that large numbers of finds which would be collected and studied in an archaeological survey are routinely discarded by metal detectorists exploiting a site for collectables and what (if anything) reaches the Portable Antiquities Scheme is already a highly selective and largely meaningless sample of what was originally in the soil. “Lead, I’ve got no idea where it comes from sometimes, it seems to follow us around, […] It’s a bit of a bugger really, because you get lots and lots of little pieces, you’re forever digging lead up”. He is keepingt it in a scrap bucket, no doubt ready to be sold off as scrap metal. The lead of course did not fall from the sky, this is evidence of past activity, the “scrap metal” of this detector user is of course disregarded archaeological material. In an archaeological field survey its distribution across a site would be plotted in detail.
The You Tube video fragment "Metal Detecting Down to Earth with Mike Pegg part 2" is excruciatingly boring. Then there is one called Treasures ("Finds made by my Dad and me over the years"). Mr Pegg asserts “the finds in this sequence have mostly been excavated in Dorset” – Hmm, the (fake) Athenian “owl” coin too?
Videos like this raise a number of questions about the hobby called by its practitioners in Britain "metal detecting". It is useful to have resources like this, actually made and distributed by "the detectorists" themselves as a basis for discussion and to allow us to create an impression for ourselves of who goes "metal detecting" and why. There is plenty more like this in the internet to choose from, but Mike Pegg is one of my personal favourites.