Friday, 2 November 2012

PAS Conference as Reported by Tekkies

On Monday 22nd October 2012 the PAS held their annual pep-talk. This year, the theme was: "Objects and Landscape: understanding the medieval period through finds recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme" the usual artefact-centric stuff was trotted out. The tekkies saw it a bit differently, as reported in the latest number of "UKDN Word". In the first extract one gets the impression that the PAS condemns landowners who say no to artefact hunting (!):
The Lincolnshire FLO, Adam Daubney, gave a talk about a parish that our very own Tom Redmayne has self-recorded many hundreds of finds from and what can be learnt from such an intense study. He showed that PAS data reflects, enhances and sometimes changes the known archaeological record. He also expanded on the problem that all areas suffer from and that is the blank areas in the archaeological record due to landowners refusing permission for detectorists and others to search their land. Later discussion turned to how, or if it is even possible, for detectorists to be able to record ‘negative’ evidence, in other words, be able to record where your blank fields are, which adds to the overall map of human use of the land. 
Well, let us first note the phrase that "PAS data reflects, enhances" the existing archaeological record, in other words, much of the searching is being done on sites which are already known. Supporters of artefact hunting can deny it as much as they like, until they are blue in the face, but here we have it in black and white. But what on earth is meant by an area "suffering from" a lack of plundering of collectables? That, Mr Daubney, is called archaeological preservation, and it is a shame that FLOs are not encouraging engaging in more of it.

Note the lack of a mention here of "blanks"  caused by thousands of artefact hunters hoiking stuff out over the years and not reporting it.

The second abstract (also sent me by Nigel Swift) refers to something else. Somebody saying something they did not mean to - fortunately for them, even the tekkie thought it would be indiscrete to reveal their name:
Towards the end of the day a discussion session was held where those who had given the talks where (sic) asked questions or to comment further on a certain point. There was one person who questioned finds being found in plough soil being of any research use. He was comprehensively put back in his box by his fellow archaeologists.
In other words, the artefact assemblages of disturbed plough soil are archaeologically significant. Quelle surprise.

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