In his reply to David Gill's paper, Trevor Austin of the National Council of Metal Detectorists asserts that there is a reason why more finds are not being reported by the PAS, despite the high values of the "guestimate[s] of yearly detector finds promoted by some protagonists". Apparently the total number of such finds would in any case "be impossible for the PAS to ever record" as mitigation for the information loss. According to Austin, "to blame detectorists for under recording is totally without foundation as the resources of the PAS are simply too few: accordingly at this funding level it can only ever achieve a token figure". Austin seems to lose sight of the fact that to carry on causing erosion of the archaeological record knowing that there is no possibility of mitigating that damage by recording is hardly what one would term "best practice" or responsible behaviour. Austin says however that information loss is not the fault of the metal detectorist, but the fault of the PAS, or rather the MLA, for according to Austin,
Under its current funding masters, the Museums Libraries and Archives Council, the PAS has a set target of 55,000 items recorded per year.I am not clear whether he means "artefacts" or "records". Let us assume he means the latter (recording the findspot details of a bag of twenty Roman sherds, or a pot of Roman coins on the database takes little longer than the handling time required to do the same for a single find). What that figure represents is 25 objects recorded a week (five a day then) by each FLO [not counting attendance at rallies] and each one costing the taxpayer 23 quid.
The latest of a series of figures for annual recording numbers to emerge from the PAS reveals an interesting contrast to what Austin asserts:
|Records||Finds recorded||Year of recording|
If the PAS was receiving enough artefacts to keep it working to a 55000 objects/year capacity, it would have reached its 400 000th record within seven and a half years and not thirteen.
This is just another of those self-justificatory deceits put out by collectors isn't it? It's yet another attempt to shift the blame from the artefact collector (portrayed as a victim here) to the archaeological establishment. We've seen this so many times before with the ACCG, British metal detectorists are no better. Austin's texts like the detecting forums are full of this "it's not are fault" nonsense. I suggest if collectors (and that goes for metal detectorists as well) want to be seen as responsible, they should take responsibility for the way they conduct their hobby and take responsibility for the effects of what they do, and not constantly attempt to show that it is the 'other side' that is responsible for what can only be seen as their failures.
Nobody MAKES them go metal detecting. What is asked of them though is that they do so in a manner which is sustainable and as non-damaging as possible, and where even minimal erosion of the archaeological resource is mitigated by proper and detailed recording. The reason why the PAS is not getting more records in its database is that (though it busts a gut to get them), the truth is not all detectorists are showing all their finds. But then the "number of objects in the database" is not the most important characteristic of PAS outreach. Austin's text shows clearly just how much of a failure those other aspects have been and are likely to ever be too.
I bet neither Trevor Austin nor any of the metal detectorists he represents (so that's ten thousand of you) can post up here in the comments a single reference to a document in the public domain which confirms the existence of an official '55 000 objects a year' fixed limit to PAS annual activity set by the MLA, beyond which the PAS is not permitted to extend.