Thursday, 28 June 2012

Metal Detecting Under the Microscope: "Plague Hoards", innit?

The media are still plugging the "ten million pound Jersey hoard". Anna King of BBC Gloucester regional radio now wants to know about treasure hunting, how difficult is it to find valuable stuff (she had a metal detector as a kid she says but found bottletops), what are the rules, and who owns the gold and valuable finds. To find out she talked to Steve Taylor of the Cotswold Heritage and Detecting Society (CHADS "A Society dedicated to the promotion of the conscientious use of metal detectors for both enjoyment and historical research"). Taylor (who has a really interesting accent - starts about 16:02) has been detecting thirty years, he began in the early 1970s. In 2004 he found a hoard of Bronze Age scrap metal called the "Poulton Hoard".

He has an original explanation (18:40) of such hoards and the Jersey cache. He reckons that in "the Plague" a third of "Europe" died (not here they did not, and I live in the Heart of Europe) and did not pass on the information where they'd buried the stuff. Hmmm. So the PAS has a huge peak of hoards dating to the 1340s does it? That is about as good an explanation of Roman hoards as the tired old "buried on the edge of battlefields" one trotted out by dealers.

Obviously the woman has talked with Taylor before the interview, several of her questions lead into topics such as his favourite tale of discovering the "Poulton Hoard" and metal detectors' ability to discriminate out iron artefacts (archaeologically significant, but generally of no interest to artefact collectors).

I think it is significant that the interview was pre-rehearsed, because when they get to the crux of the interview, where one can go searching, there are several surprises. Firstly according to this interview with a detectorist there is no mention of not detecting on certain sites (scheduled sites, sites of Special Scientific Interest, certain conservation scheme lands) let alone keeping off sensitive areas such as permanent pasture. No mention of a Code of Practice either, apparently just a free for all, though "you really ought to get the landowner's  permission... we generally go on a 50:50 basis on any finds that come up". The account of the Treasure process is garbled, it is not the function of the coroner's inquest to determine if the state wishes to acquire an object (ie pay a finder's reward). According to the metal detectorist the main problem with Treasure awards (apart from a vague hint to some earlier discussion of the TVC) is that it's the landowner who is invariably greedy when the detectorist (who of course is "not-in-it-fer-the-muunny-it's-the-history-innit") would gladly resign from it.
“You can waiver the find and give it to the nation but I think in these financial times many landowners are suffering like many other people….. and most people would want payment of some sort”. (22.30 minutes)
What a shame that the BBC interviewer did not think to get in touch with the local archaeology unit to ask about hunting for valuable archaeological artefacts. Likewise is there not somewhere in Russel Square in far off (but not as far off as Jersey) London some blokes who are paid lots and lots of public money to provide the public with that sort of information? Or perhaps they feel actually discussing these things is beneath them. Or do they simply not really matter any more?

Vignette: Plague victims, UK detectorist suggests it's their stuff you can buy on eBay. 


Paul Barford said...

The hero of the interview discussed in this post offered a few objectionable remarks and accusations as a comment here but deliberately used an offensive screen name that I have repeatedly asked him not to use. I am not going therefore to admit it - as no doubt was his intent.

Anyone who wants to learn about his new car, what use he has found for my book, what he thinks about archaeologists, what he's like to see happen to me, and assorted topics (EXCEPT whether he answered the interviewer's question properly), can no doubt find his disgruntled comments on the CHADS website or that of his own PASoc website, or the "Detecting Wales" forum or in the insulting spoof blog he set up a year ago.

[And with regard to his other comment, the nmore literate among my readers can always check for themselves in a chemistry textbook the properties of aluminium oxide to see if what I wrote is true.]

Paul Barford said...

Well, some people just do not know where to stop. Or where to start using spell-check.

("Your on the road to nowhere", "who ever takes", "I’ve got you in my sites", "waiting with baited breath")

So I am told nobody reads my blog any more.

This followed by a few threats:
"You really need to talk to Tim Grubb and find out what a nasty piece of work I am. They will tell you how I manipulate the press and radio to my advantage"
(They? Tim and Grubb?)

He claims that the reason why he did not answer the interviewer's questions was that:

"I did leave certain bits out of my interview deliberately, what has the P.A.S done for me, fuck all!"
But that of course was not at all what the problem was with his answer to the interviewer's question about where one can search for "Treasure".
Then there is a verbal attack on my wife and a remark which I find difficult to contextualise about my "run down Polish flat" and my "first wife", who allegedly dumped me. In this, as in much else he alleges, he has obviously got me muddled with somebody else.

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