Friday, 4 May 2012

Detectorists: "Never Back Down"

In a post full of profanity on the Dick Stout blog, a metal detectorist ('Never back down', April 30th 2012) writes that "purist" metal detector users "won’t and don’t take any shit from the rancid parts of the arkie-illogical lobby", including in the latter "[o]bsessives such as the ‘Warsaw Windbag’ for example and his dopey mentor at ‘Heritage Fiction’ - the self-appointed heritage police - who loathe what we do". He justifies this on the grounds that:
 Metal Detecting you see, is not archaeology…it’s a separate entity having its own methodology, ideology, and terminology. What we do is legitimate, wholesome, and what really pisses ‘em off is that it contributes significantly to the common heritage. 
"Metal detecting" contributes nothing except holes in the archaeological record to the common heritage if those using metal detectors to take collectable items out of the archaeological record do not report them so they can be added to the records. It is difficult to see how artefact hunters can both "contribute significantly to the common heritage" by reporting finds while at the same time harbouring wholly negative name-calling sentiments about the archaeologists with whom they should be collaborating towards this aim.

Or does the author of this diatribe consider that the "methodology, ideology, and terminology" of "metal detecting" can somehow do this unaided? The ideology of individuals taking collectables from the common heritage for personal entertainment and profit is all too clear (especially to those who look closely at detecting forums and blogs like the post cited). The significance of detectorists' jargon (slang) to the process of "significant contribution to the common heritage" needs further elaboration to make that comment understandable. What about this "methodology"? We see here - as in the case of heap-of-loose-coins-on-my-table numismatists - a claim that what they do with artefacts is in some way a separate discipline with its own methodology. What we do not see is that claimed methodology set down in an explicit and systematised manner in order that it may be examined, assessed and discussed.

The author of this post likens "detectorists" collaborating with archaeologists and heritage managers to "the N[ational] R[ifle] A[ssociation] mollifying the bunny huggers". He castigates the national bodies representing "detecting" (I assume he means the NCMD) for "busting their balls to accommodate archaeology":
Even worse, when the arkies tell ‘em to jump they reply, “How high?” Why hobbyists continue to pour money in the shape of subscriptions into these bottomless pits of ineptitude, is beyond me. At least with FID one gets insurance cover. [...] we do not, nor should we, justify our pastime to anyone, least of all to archaeology, though it has to be said that some archaeologists are slowly realising that we are a valuable resource that can considerably assist their endeavours, and importantly, respect our methodology. In the Britain metal detecting is recognised as a bona fide Outdoor Pursuit by the Central Council for Physical Recreation and has been since 1982. Unlike some in our hobby, I’ve never kissed an arkie’s ass and I ain’t about to start.
There is in fact no longer any body called the "Central Council of Physical Recreation" and the idea of considering digging holes in the archaeological record to hoik out collectable archaeological artefacts as a "sport" is indeed a typically British aberration. But of course that artefact hunting like a variety of other disparate activities is done "outdoors" (in the fresh air of fields, parks and forests) is disputed by nobody, what is at issue is the conservation aspects, which of course the real issue.

The author ends with some "advice" for other detectorists:
During the thirty-three years I’ve been mauling ‘anti’ archaeologists and their disinformation propaganda, one salient point emerged; that if you wear a big hat, carry a bigger stick which the enemy knows you’re unafraid to use, then archaeology’s gutless bully-boys always back away. Whilst I never cease to be amazed at a conspicuous lack of backbone and the general toadying in some quarters of our hobby, I am always reassured by those who go bare-knuckle with our detractors and won’t give ‘em, an inch.
Well, Mr Howland, why not come over here with your comments  and "maul" me with your reasoned arguments?  Or are you only good with the big stick and coarse words on Dick Stout's transatlantic blog? 

 It takes a special kind of mentality I guess to consider the way to be seen to be "contributing" to the heritage is to go "bare-knuckle" with the preservationists, in the conviction that they are "gutless" and will always back away and subsequently let artefact hunters and collectors get away with whatever they want. This is the philosophy of other collectors' organizations that feel the way to deal with opposing views is harassment and challenge rather than collaboration and reasoned argument. The rest of us feel that it is the publicly confrontational attitudes of the broad "from my cold dead hands" lobby among dugup collectors that belie the ultimate fallacy of the pro-PAS arguments. So let us see these "purist" artefact hunters strutting their stuff and waving their big sticks threateningly out in the open. Mr Howland claims that "there’s lot of us [...] out here". I do not doubt that, after all it is exactly this stark reality which the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter predicts.

By the way, I believe you will find that (at least according to its website on 3rd May, 2012)  the NCMD still offers insurance cover to its members.

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