Friday, 13 May 2011

That Last Post ("The PAS database: What people collect in the UK")

Last night after I'd posted the original of the post below this, Blogger had an "issue" and the whole site was "down" (meaning it was "read only", bloggers could not edit anything). We'll be back online "soon" we were told, continually, for a whole night and the best part of the next day. Then somewhere along the line we were told that posts made in the few hours before the "maintenance" started would be temporarily removed until blogger was "stable" again, but then they would be reinstated. I was worried about some drafts I'd created yesterday, but when the thing came back online they were there, but the post I'd made on the PAS statistics has gone - vanished into cyber-Hades. Fortunately I have the whole blog backed-up, just in case.

I mention this because of a rather puzzling post made on the forum Moneta-L where coineys hang out in private. It was made by ACCG-lackey John Hooker:
Hi all, I rarely refer people to Paul Barford's blog, and I never quote an entry in full, but today is an exception! I am copying the entire post, just in case someone tells him what he has done and he removes it. Statistics are a funny thing, sometimes, what they show is not exactly the point that is made of them. In this example, it shows very clearly that most of what is being recovered from metal detectoring are accidental losses -- not from any archaeological site and utterly free from "archaeological context". However, if one is in the midst of an /idée fixe/, then this might not be apparent:
[ there then follows a cut-and-paste with a LINK no less of my text of Thursday, 12 May 2011: "The PAS database: What people collect in the UK"]
Unfortunately, Mr Hooker, his thinking being coin-addled, does not see fit to explain in what way the information I summarised and presented there "shows very clearly that most of what is being recovered from metal detectoring (sic) are accidental losses -- not from any archaeological site and utterly free from "archaeological context". That's like saying the Parthenon Marbles cannot possibly be from any Greek building as there are no column bases or worn thresholds in the collection. Lord Elgin's men ripped off what they thought interesting, collectable and displayable, and smashed their way through what they did not want to cart off, leaving a mess of the rest. That is exactly what we have in the metal detecting finds reported to the PAS (have a look at the UKDFD dataset for exactly the same picture).

Certainly I do not consider Mr Hooker has made his point about what I "have done". I think what I wrote reveals nothing other than what it reveals, which is that the mess collectors make of the productive sites they take things from is not in any way mitigated by a record such as the Portable Antiquities Scheme Database. Contrary to Mr Hooker, I hold that the "record" we have of the results of the activity which produced it is insufficient to say anything much about the sites and assemblages the material comes from.

Mr Hooker and fellow Monetans would do well to do some reading about how UK detectorists find 'productive sites' to collect from. There are plenty of 'how to' texts available now. (I know, they find reading real books about anything but old coins a bind, maybe they can find a GoogleBooks version).

Certainly, Monetans can be assured that the temporary disappearance of this post was a problem with blogger in general and was NOT in any way connected with any "realisation" that the data could be read another way.

[As for the"statistics", the post in question was to be one of two - there is something very "interesting" indeed about the figures I quoted, and I am surprised that Mr Hooker of all people did not spot it, but I'll finish writing that one later UPDATE 17/5/11: I see a few people are looking in at this post, so supply the link of the further text on the subject of the PAS database].


FlaviusSextus said...

Clearly ivory does not come from elephants because ivory collectors have no record of the dead elephant carcasses in their collections.

What dullards these dealers and their apologists are.

Paul Barford said...

dullards indeed.

So the question is, is Hooker simply a coin-addled dullard, or is he counting on his Monetan readers being unquestioning coin-addled dullards?

Or both?

heritageaction said...

I wouldn't see Mr Hooker's claim as due to his being a dullard. Who could not be perfectly well aware that the very essence of metal detecting is "research" since every metal detectorist, every apologist, every "how-to" book and PAS themselves say so.

And what does research mean? It means that most detectorists spend vast amounts of time studying satellite pictures, parish records, archaeological publications and questioning locals, ALL to identify the hundreds of thousands of (mostly unprotected) archaeological sites. This is not a secret or a matter for debate, detectorists are completely open about the fact that's exactly what they all do.

So what Mr Hooker says, that most finds don't come from archaeological sites is utterly untrue. To be credible it would require something even sillier to be true - that detectorists aren't interested in, and don't try to, maximise their finds rate and would prefer to find less rather than more.

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