Monday, 15 October 2012

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Bigotry, Fear and Loathing in Hammerwich

Certain elements in the UK metal detecting community insist that "the archaeologists" are out to get them, some liken archaeologists to "the Nazis". This is the way they then justify large numbers of artefact hunters not collaborating with what they see as "the enemy". So what is the archaeological response to some tekkies setting out to grab the collectables out of archaeologically sensitive areas, for example a 'productive' area next to a Scheduled site ? Well, they might try reasoning with the artefact hunters (for example rally organizers), if that does not work - like the Water Newton fiasco a few years back, they might arrange emergency scheduling of the sensitive area. Or they might go and see the landowner and try to persuade them that hoiking artefacts out willy-nilly is not countryside conservation. Or they may shrug their shoulders and sit in a corner grumbling. That's about it.

What about the tekkies? A touchstone case was the announcement that a family wants to live on a piece of land at Muckley Corner near Lichfield, a plot they bought at auction three years ago. Lichfield District Council planning department ruled such a use would be inappropriate development on the land, which is green belt. The interest of the tekkies is aroused by two factors, the land is said to be "in the field next to where the Staffordshire Hoard was found" by fellow metal detectorist Terry Herbert.  The second is that the family concerned are Roma (gypsies). So the course of the thread (Travellers appeal on camp near Staffordshire Hoard site) is predictable:
"George and Margaret" Age: 62: "They will dig the chuffing field up, keep um off i say"
"Cobblers": [...] "I have always been very sceptical about where these poor downtrodden travelers get their dosh for this sort of thing, perhaps they get a different level of dole from the rest of us [...]"
"Spursdave" Age: 50: "I can just imagine taking loads of golden torcs down to the scrap metal place".
"Deetektor" Age 61: "Indeed, ask anyone who knows anything about the Pikeys [...]"
"Nuke em" Age 47: "[...] burn them off. Bazooka that Varooka i say".
"Blankreverse" Age: 42: "Just bury aload of landmines and let them dig those up. Laugh".

And just for good measure, NCMD's J.C. Maloney Age 48:
An awful lot of land around Hammerwich is available for small windows of detecting at the cost of a phonecall and payment to the right people...... Research, research, research
To come back to the land at Muckle Corner, let it be noted that this thread has now been up a whole weekend without a single forum member protesting about the sentiments expressed there. Whatever social group the family concerned belong to, they are the owners of a piece of land, in just the same way as farmer Browning was of the field next to the Roman road where Mr Herbert was allowed to go artefact hunting. Frankly, I don't think the rest of us see a lot of difference between one landowner doing what they want (subject to planning regulations) with their land, and another one. But that's because we are not from the same circles as many of that forum's tekkies I guess.

So where can we find the online suggestions from the archaeologists of Britain (who allegedly are filled with anti-tekkie hatred) that the way to deal with them is a "bazooka", burning them out or planting explosive booby traps? Perhaps what we are seeing here is a projection by anti-archaeological tekkies onto the Other of sentiments in fact deriving from their own milieu? This sort of language is by no means restricted in collecting circles to metal detectorists, some coin collectors may be met advocating similar 'solutions'.

Now watch those offensive posts disappear from the thread on the metal detecting forum as the UK's tekkies once again pretend to be something many of them are not (cache here).

Oh, and by the way, according to Google Earth (I believe UK detectorists are able to use this simple application), the field has four sides and three neighbours that equally could go a'digging, and Muckley Corner is a full 1.5km from the hoard findspot, and between them is a pretty big (gravel?) quarry.  So, I am not really sure where all this talk of violent acts towards these people comes in at all.

 Vignette: Some UK tekkies give a Roma family the brown triangle.

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