This is the second of three posts dealing with the questions on metal detectorist Candice Jarman's blog ('How about answering some questions Mr Barford?').
2. How would Mr Barford propose to prevent the items within the ploughsoil from being further damaged by modern machinery and chemicals? I am told that coins found long ago were generally in much better condition than those found now, due to widespread use of fertiliser.First of all, mere anecdote is not enough to "prove" that this effect is either general or significant. I question whether the evidence has been properly marshalled to achieve this - in the forthcoming book there is a whole chapter discussing the evidence for and against this based on published studies. It is concluded that this is a myth, but the reader will have to await the full presentation in the book. "Fertiliser" has of course been used throughout farming. The qualitative change in finds now being made is due to the improvement of detectors and detectorists able to find more and more mineralised finds in the soil. the changes in the nature of finds coming onto the market as a result of the spread of metal detecting has been discussed here before.
What I would "propose" doing in cases where a threat is recognised and there is no means (for example through the conservation-bases Stewardship Schemes) to prevent it, is to conduct the work in accordance with the procedure laid down in the English Heritage document "Our Portable Past".
It is notable with regard these conservation schemes that there is discussion on metal detecting forums (for example the thread "No-Till farming methods") where these schemes themselves are presented as a threat to metal detecting. No ploughing means no artefacts brought to the surface from the erosion of buried archaeological sites! (let us recall too the recent discussions about the "depth advantage"). Things like this suggest very strongly that the "concerns" expressed about plough damage by metal detectorists is really just a front to allow them to continue hoiking stuff out of sites as they want. Please do not take my word for it, make 2011 the year you all log onto a closed-access metal detectorist forum or two to see what attitudes and depth of knowledge about the wider context of artefact hunting they reveal.
Frankly, I do not see this so much as a "question for Barford" from UK metal detectorists as much as one which, after thirteen years of PAS outreach, is somewhat misdirected. This really IS a question for the PAS, so my question is, why are these people coming to me with these questions and not to the PAS? Is it because they are observant enough to notice that PAS "archaeological outreach" has for thirteen years consistently failed to address such questions?
Candice tells his readers that my answer is a "cop out":
Instead of quoting published studies that we could all look up, he refers to his forthcoming book - where according to the old wind-bag all will be explained. Well Mr Barford, I have news for you. Very few people are going to buy your forthcoming book - a few University libraries might buy it, but that will be about all! So why not quote these published studies in your answer, maybe for once we could learn from you!Perhaps it is a cop-out, but I really have no time for discussing the ins and outs of soil science and corrosion studies carried out in Scandinavia and elsewhere and field studies by English Heritage here (especially with spiteful metal detectorists who cant even write under their own name and pose as blonde secretaries). I think that the PAS is there for metal detectorists to go to with such questions and it is their business to be able to back up what they say with the literature in a transparent manner so we can all see how they arrive at their conclusions. I've looked into it carefully and will be publishing in full the reasons why I have concluded that the situation is not at all as the metal detectorists and their supporters would have us believe.
But of course Candice totally ignores the other points I made in the post above, IF there is damage occurring by the mechanisms Candice claims, they why does this have to be mitigated merely by letting artefact hunters liberate the material onto eBay? Let me repeat: What I would "propose" doing in cases where a threat is recognised and there is no means (for example through the conservation-bases Stewardship Schemes) to prevent it, is to conduct the work in accordance with the procedure laid down in the English Heritage document "Our Portable Past". But then, that is not the answer artefact collectors want to hear is it? (see the penultimate paragraph of my post, also ignored by Candice, claiming a cop-out, who is copping out here?). Where is the collectors' interest in "conservation" when it involves NOT collecting the stuff away to their scattered ephemeral little hoards of geegaws?
Frankly, I do not see this so much as a "question for Barford" from UK metal detectorists as much as one which, after thirteen years of PAS outreach, is somewhat misdirected. This really IS a question for the PAS, so my question is, why are these people coming to me with these questions and not to the PAS? Is it because they are observant enough to notice that PAS "archaeological outreach" has for thirteen years while being very supportive of this hobby and these hobbyists as long as they "show them the stuff", has consistently failed to address such questions?