Monday, 6 August 2012

Nothing New from Overseas Advocates of "Metal Detecting"

Texas metal detector user Dick Stout has written on his blog a further instalment of the non-discussion following observations on best practice. This Aug 5th  "reply" is very superficial and in effect basically no different from his earlier "Mr. Barfart, why don’t you piss off and leave us alone?", adding for good measure that the sustainable management of the archaeological record is "none of [my] business". I presume he'd say the same about anybody reading this, it's "none of your business" what artefact hunters, dealers and collectors do to your, and our, common archaeological heritage. I think it's also probably what the Taliban said before they dynamited the Bamiyan Buddhas and whalers and oilmen say to conservationists.

Mr Stout seems to think that in some way that if people criticise something they see as wrong (wrong-headed) that this means they want to ban it. That seems an unwarranted logical jump, missing out the whole option called "doing things differently", which it seems he and his fellows are wholly unwilling to even contemplate. He cautions the author of this blog:
[...]  YOU, thankfully,  are not the final say in how “those of us” who own detectors can pursue our interests.[...] this is not your decision to make,  and frankly none of your business [...]  who are YOU to determine what is  deceit, evasion, deflections, false logic, etc.,
I see a lot of what I consider to be wrong-headedness, deceit, evasion, deflections, false logic in the arguments of collectors and dealers involved in artefact hunting and collecting, and I consider this to be very damaging to the interests of something I care very deeply about. For this reason I point out here what I think of examples I find. I am not sure why Mr Stout thinks I do not have the right to say openly what I think and argue the point. It is what is called "free speech" in England (and I believe the Americans borrowed the idea from us). There is of course absolutely no reason whatsoever why people like Mr Stout cannot address those comments and show why they are NOT deceitful, evasive, deflections of the argument or involving false logic. That is what we call "debate".

In addition, there are the usual old (really old) arguments trotted out:
There are good and bad in every field, even the within the archaeological community [...] archaeologists will never, ever find all that is decaying and rotting in the ground, especially sitting on their ass, waiting for a  government grant [...]
As the "it's legal innit?" argument used elsewhere goes, we see Mr Stout holding forth about "collectors' rights" and that the majority of tekkies are "law-abiding" ("we are not nighthawks"). The effect is rather spoilt by Mr Stout's own involvement in supporting the so-called "Task Force for Metal Detectorists Rights" to get certain lands which are currently under protection from unregulated artefact hunting taken OFF those restrictions, opening the previously protected places up to unrestricted exploitation by artefact collectors. That's like the "take away the laws and you'll have nobody doing it illegally' arguments used by another group of US collectors. While the logic (though Disneyland simplistic) is impeccable, the reasoning is not exactly conducive to the protection of the archaeological heritage.

As for the "finds rotting in da ground" and "archaeologists are all scroungers" arguments implicated in the above, I refer readers to a number of earlier posts on this blog, I can't be bothered to repeat myself. Like most of his fellows, the Texan claims that "random discoveries by detectorists" should be appreciated because they offer:
you and the rest of the archaeological community an opportunity to perhaps explore further and learn more[...] Does that not contribute to your country’s historical heritage?
(Not mine it does not). But over in the UK, this is what the brits have been desperately trying to prove to the rest of us for fifteen years and fifteen million pounds worth of PAS guff - and now they are having another go with a Leverhulme scholarship to try and make the point. When however asked about the conservation aspects (as in Dr Gill's recent paper) the PAS falls silent (they refused to write a reply on the topic for the archaeological periodical and have not returned to the question in the subsequent two years). I think that speaks volumes.

I think there is no doubt that  systematic survey and data gathering from surface finds assemblages does hold the potential to learn more and "contribute to the historical (sic) heritage". But that is not what we are getting from artefact hunters in either the UK, nor the USA (or anywhere else in fact). All we are getting is unsystematic though selective erosion of the archaeological record with unsystematic and ad hoc data gathering and selective reporting of a small quantity of the information. That is not contributing to anything at all except overall knowledge loss. Also in the process, the same surface assemblages are irretrievably damaged for any further systematic work. In my opinion, there is simply no question, artefact hunting of archaeological assemblages, even with a PAS - in its current form - is a lose-lose situation.


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