Friday, 20 January 2012

PAS and the "Shafting" of the Archaeologists

Unable to answer the question about his views on disturbing battlefield archaeology by metal detecting, and the difference between artefact hunting and artefact hunting, US artefact hunter Dick Stout has decided to rely on his "bosom buddy from across the pond" (John Howland) to answer for him: "Note there will be nothing further to post on this subject. I hate wasting time, pissing in the wind, and talking with idiots". Well, I hope those following the debate about artefact hunting with metal detectors in the US note that Howland's ad personam "answer" does not really do much to address the concerns I raised either.

A little below that text Stout's protégé Howland also committed this text to print:
The word coming from inside academia’s US ivory towers according to one well-placed source is that a minority of radical and/or politically motivated archaeologists and historians have formed themselves into a loose confederation [ha! A Conspiracy! PMB] to monitor ALL aspects of the US media to search out features, programmes, and articles that portray the metal detecting/treasure hunting hobby in a favourable light. [...] Once a favourable piece is found, it’s a case of all hands to the bullshit pump in a concerted ‘highbrow’ hand-wringing propaganda effort with more than a little disinformation thrown in for good measure.
(Very John Hooker, no?) He reckons this is proof that what he calls "the war to outlaw the hobby" "is all but lost".
All of the foregoing is a mirror image of what occurred in the UK over thirty years ago. We in the UK shafted them royally, and now US hobbyists can do the same. You have the individuals well capable of destroying the archaeological propaganda machine and with guys of the calibre of Harold Lowenfels (Task Force for Metal Detecting Rights) and dare I say it, (yes, I will) Dick Stout. I see a great future for the US treasure hobby; collecting; and the buying and selling of legally found antiquities.
That's what it's all about, the legalisation of the buying and selling of dug up bits of history?
Howland reckons the US is currently
 "not far from a US-wide antiquities arrangement modelled on the UK’s brilliantly successful Portable Antiquities Scheme where thousands of artefacts are reported and recorded every week as more and more people flock into our hobby". 
He remarks:
Odd isn’t it, how the radicals are fighting to resist its implementation. Why?
Well, count me out. For wanting to protect the archaeological record from plunder as a mere source of collectables I have oft times been called a "radical" by those who know no better. As can be seen in repeated posts here I am all for discussions aiming to lead to an introduction of a Portable Antiquities Scheme in the USA, but no pale shadow of the UK one, a fully blown, singing-and-dancing PAS every bit as effective at getting as many public-found artefacts recorded a year as in the UK.

So Mr Stout might, instead of moaning about what public parks are closed to artefact digging, or reminiscing about the "good old days" when he had hair, consider concentrating on looking forward and on getting folk behind this idea. Instead of dodging discussion he could be justifying a budget expenditure of, at a conservative estimate, some 60 million dollars a year to set one up and run it. He and his fellows should join forces with another US-based "collectors' rights" organization, the Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild ("Preserving our freedom to collect") which has long advocated the setting up of PAS-clones in other countries, and obviously would be interested in one being set up in the States as a priority in this programme of cultural property leadership.

So the setting up of the PAS in the UK is according to UK detectorist Howland an expression of British archaeology getting - as he put it - "shafted"? Well, thank you Roger Bland! Howland is not the first to point out that instead of the expected instilling of conservation-aware "best practice" across the board as was the original intent of this dotty social experiment, all the PAS is achieving is encouraging more and more people to go out and buy metal detectors and come "flocking to the hobby of artefact hunting, and see nothing wrong with hoiking out anything that takes a collector's fancy - with all that means for the preservation of what is left of the archaeological record.

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