Thursday, 7 February 2013

"Britain's Secret Treasures II": A Reaction

So far there has been a pretty conspiratorial silence from Britain following the announcement that there will most likely (unless somebody stops the madness) be a repeat of the archaeologically-damaging "Britain's Secret Treasures" series I do not think I could have put it as well as does Nigel Swift, ("Gold! Do “Britain’s Secret Treasures” reveal Britain’s secret rift?" 07/02/2013). It will of course pass without a murmur from the unconcerned British archaeological establishment, but the eyes of the world are on them:
 “Are you all completely insane over there?” asks my archaeologist friend in France.

Nigel has five short questions which will go without answer, such is the state of "debate" in British conservation policy. Question one about a RESCUE statement is telling, question four mentions a statement from the CBA. In both cases however nothing further emerged as a result of these two making a somewhat cautious foray into this territory. The points made were ignored by archies, by the government, by the PAS and by metal detectorists. Another two are revealing:
2) Has anyone made an effort to find what effect the first programmes had on sales of detectors? Apart from us, that is. We visited Britain’s largest metal detector retailer and asked them. They said sales have rocketed since the programmes, especially of starter machines. So another question arises: if PAS was set up to mitigate the damage that metal detecting does, how can that purpose be served by increasing the number of people metal detecting?
3) Cui bono? Who are the two big gainers out of these progammes? Metal detecting manufacturers and PAS, very clearly. Is that a good reason for making them?
The fifth point concerns whether any archaeological organization apart from the interested party, the PAS, will actually say they welcome this new series. Heritage Action point out that what such an approach would ignore is

...that in the ten days the programmes are jubilating over 50 objects we’ll lose another 10,000 bundles of archaeological knowledge. It’s a juxtaposition that just can’t be represented as tolerable.
Unless of course you are the Portable Antiquities Scheme and assume that by just calling the people who raise such issues names, the problem will continue to be ignored and nobody will question the "wottalotta-exciting-stuff-we-got" pro-Scheme propaganda.  

One problem though, from observing the british archaeological reaction to artefact hunting, I really do wonder whether there is actually much of a "rift" there. Are not almost all archies over there secretly on the side of the looters and collectors? Why that should be really defeats me to understand, let alone explain. 

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