Thursday, 23 August 2012

Focus on Metal Detecting: From Their Own Lips, "Metal Detecting and Archaeology Have NOTHING in Common"

UK metal detectorist John Howland has a number of choice remarks concerning the sustainable management of the archaeological record in the comments thread to a post on a metal detecting blog. Among them we find this one:
[...] we first have to identify what metal detecting is about. It is a pursuit having its own methodology, terminology and ideaology (sic), where the artefact or the ‘find’ is paramount. Metal detecting is NOT archaeology. Having thus identified the hobby’s parameters, then hobbyist’s rights on a wider canvas can be identified, persued (sic) and protected.

From his other comments in that thread it is clear that Mr Howland is against any kind of 'partnership' with archaeology over best practice and conduct, the need to preserve evidence and the need to make a record of evidence (that is not quite the insulting terms in which he put it though).
I find it interesting that there are still people in the milieu who fail to recognize, or refuse to admit, that for a decade and a half metal detecting has gained a position in the UK second to none due precisely to the image propagated that hoiking finds out of the archaeological record ("done right" ie "responsibly") can help archaeology (and, it is argued, preservation) and therefore should be encouraged, supported, not condemned. Here we have a school of thought entirely opposed to that. Possibly these standards of responsibility are a bit too tough for all, who'd prefer the topic was not raised in tekkie circles. Metal detecting and archaeology have nothing in common, these people say. Finding collectable things is paramount, and to this end there is a "methodology" a "terminology" and an "ideology" all of their own.

Now, I think we would all be very interested in a lengthy essay setting out that specific "methodology of finds-only metal detecting". It would be great to see a glossary of that "tekkie terminology" (Nigel Swift and I started one a few years back, I must dust it off) and it would be really useful to have that separatist "ideology" set down in black and white on paper.

I think it would serve the preservationist cause immensely to have those three documents in the context of a group of people campaigning for support of the "rights" of a group of self-centred hobbyists to pursue these aims and this ideology. It would do our cause no end of good, setting British metal detecting back where it was twenty years ago - which I suspect is what veterans of the Detector Wars of the eighties like Howland and his overseas mentor Dick Stout would really like to see. Go for it Mr Howland!

How many in British "metal detecting" circles would agree with Mr Howland and secretly applauding his crude attacks on the notions of sustainable management of the archaeological resource?

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