Monday, 24 November 2008
The New PAS and Artefact Collection Best Practice in England and Wales : NuPAS 7
The 2008 PAS Review has created a whole new set of objectives for the Scheme. Some of them reflect that the new Scheme that its author proposes creating is no longer envisaged primarily as a means of providing archaeological outreach to the accidental finders of artefacts. It now seems likely to be even more concentrated than before on collaborating (in a “partnership”) with those who exploit the archaeological record as a source of collectables for entertainment and profit.
The old Portable Antiquities Scheme was always very wary of discussing with “metal detectorists” the archaeological approach to using metal detectors and digging tools in certain sensitive situations, such as artefact-producing areas which are permanent pasture or earthwork sites, or emptying archaeological sites already known in the literature of archaeological finds. The PAS was caught between the feelings of some archaeologist who expected them above all (as part of their outreach on behalf of the discipline) to impart such ethical guidelines to artefact hunters and the artefact hunters themselves who wanted to be left to get on with emptying the archaeological record into their scattered ephemeral collections with the minimum of interference. As Clark (p. 28) puts it “Detectorists simply want FLOs to be ‘independent’ – in other words to not be antagonistic towards the hobby”. Independent that is of the rest of archaeological thought on such matters. The PAS has spent the last ten years not only not being antagonistic towards massive artefact hunting and portable antiquity collecting, but promoting the official line presenting it as in the public interest, and those that engage in it as “the unsung heroes of the UK's heritage". In fact it would appear that not everybody (in the PAS?) feels that this outreach needs to be done at all. One of the [unsourced] opinions Clark quotes (p. 28) is that “recording should remain a priority for the scheme as outreach can be done by others”. That is simply nonsensical – the ability of the PAS to do outreach about the archaeological aspects of finding portable antiquities was the prime motivation for funding the PAS in the first place. Where is this all leading?