Cultural Property Observer discussed two blog posts (mine and David Gill’s) about the three-foot deep hole apparently dug in the dark by English metal detectorists on a Roman site at Cold Brayfield near Newport Pagnell and says “I find all their focus on context in this circumstance to be a bit laughable.” Well, he would, it has already been adequately shown out by David Gill that this US lawyer's notions on archaeological context are somewhat uninformed.
Tompa, amazingly, cites Roger Bland, director of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in support of his mocking tone. In the light of CPO's comments I’d also be very interested to hear what Roger Bland has actually said to the US coin collectors and dealers of the ACCG and Unidroit-L who seem to have a very warped idea of what the PAS actually does and represents. For the PAS is nothing if it is not about context !
This raises the question of what the PAS would say to these two metal detector users had they asked if it was OK to dig a three foot hole in the dark into a Roman site. Would they say “no, this is a bad idea”, or would PAS staff stay silent so as not to upset the inherently touchy and defensive metal detectorists? Well, gentle reader you will just have to log on to a metal detecting forum on which a number of archaeologists as well as Roger Bland himself are members to find out what weighty ethical matters they discuss as part of their outreach with British "metal detectorists" and how frequently. After all, what better place to reach these people than an online forum? (More to the point, have a look at the number of issues that came up over that year that they decided not to pass comment on.) I think though the notions of archaeologiocal outreach conducted by the PAS and other "bridge-building" archaeologists have up to now tended to concetrate more on reaching out for "data" than reaching out with archaeological advice. More passive taking than active giving here too, I get the feeling. The same thing was happening on the PAS Forum when they had one.
I think we'd all like to know what the PAS would actually say as part of their outreach to other “metal detectorists” contemplating imitating the reported deed. The newspaper report of the findings of the Milton Keynes Treasure inquest gives us all the impression these guys are being rewarded for what sounds like bad practice, if this is not the case, I assume the PAS will be producing a statement setting the record straight.