Wednesday, 8 August 2012

BST: Beginners' Guide to Artefact Hunting

Concerned about the damage to the reputation of their hobby, a UK metal detectorists' forum has attempted to fill the gap with what the CBA and PAS between them could not manage to cough up in association with their television "Secret Treasures" show: UKDN "Britain's Secret Treasures" Beginners' Guide. This starts off rather inauspiciously:
With the long awaited start of the detecting season coinciding with the Britain’s Secret Treasures ITV programme we can expect a rush of people joining the hobby, if that programme has not wetted (sic) peoples (sic) appetites to detect[,] then nothing will. Well done to the finders of all those Treasures for unearthing our past, filling our Museums with tourists, raising the Nations (sic) esteem and to the Portable Antiquities Scheme for all their hard work in their outreach, recording, conserving, researching and on occasion getting down to earth excavating the hoards. 
There's clearly been lots of value in those fifteen million pounds worth of outreach if the result of their involvement in a TV programme results in a "rush of people joining the [site-depleting artefact hunting] hobby"! As a result of this outstanding work, metal detectorists, though unable to cope with apostrophes, have learnt  that archaeology is all about:
filling our Museums with tourists [by showing cases of glittering geegaws dug up by metal detectorists] and 
raising the Nation's esteem ["Vorgeschichte, eine hervorragend nationale Wissenschaft"]

This 25 page guide is obviously well-intentioned, but it is a shame that it was not consulted with their PAS "partners" and elsewhere. They might at least have cautioned them to put at the top that what it says applies not the whole UK but just the bits covered by the PAS - so England (and, for the moment, Wales) and provided some suggestions about approaching the wider question of  best practice (though I am glad to see some rudimentary considerations at last about the question of curation of the finds, missing from the official code of practice - let alone the rival unoficial ones).

On the latter see Heritage Actions recent post "Codes to Pose with". Some sensible words there as always.  


heritageaction said...

"Well-intentioned" ... Well, I think "intentioned" would be more accurate.

There was certainly an intention to produce some minor Best Practice sentiments and Best pro-detecting Platitudes that the programme neglected to supply but those seem to have been in order to paint a superficially better picture of artefact hunting not to render a service to the resource or landowners or the public.

If it was meant to be truly beneficial to the resource it would have told its Members to keep off all archaeological sites, not to target them. Equally, if it was acknowledging the inarguable truth - that the farmer is the sole owner of what is in his fields and the most reliable and appropriate person to report finds - it would have said so straight out. Instead, Best Practice exploiter-style is laid out as merely showing him the finds and then take them home!

I'd be fascinated to hear any detectorist or archaeologist explain how that is fair or heritage friendly or other than Bad Practice....

Paul Barford said...

"it would have told its Members to keep off all archaeological sites, "

Yes, that is among other things, what I was thinking about when I mentioned those "wider" aspects of best practice, pasture, earthwork sites, known archaeological sites and so on.

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