Friday, 2 August 2013

Focus on Metal Detecting: Stomping Around in Pasture in Baggy Camo Gear

Buy 'the Searcher' and find out
more about UK 'metal detecting'.
The cover of the latest Searcher magazine advertises a story on the uses of camouflage pseudo-battlefield dress in artefact hunting. Apart from its obvious uses in avoiding detection, the picture used to illustrate it brings to the forefront the typically large pockets and the virtues of the costume for the blurring of figure faults intended to foster the image of Treasure Hunting as a wholesome outdoor pursuit. Note the idiotic pose with the machine intended to make it look like a weapon, attempting to belie the fundamentally silly nerdish look of a metal detector held flaccidly in the normal manner. Note also the strategic position of the subject in a flora-packed pasture (headline story: "field techniques, tips to increase your finds' (sic) rate on pasture"*). The person portrayed could be stomping around on some Neotinea ustulata for all we know, many of her coil-waving colleagues might not even know it, trampling around in their camo gear in the dark. 

* Cf the National Council of Metal Detectingists' so-called Code of Practice which says owt about pasture and digging looter's holes holes in untouched stratigraphy.  But it would, wouldn't it?


UPDATE 4.8.13: On a metal detecting blog near you, a metal detectorist is jubilating 'I am Officially Scandalous!' because I express an opinion on this magazine cover. Others have stronger words about my reaction prompted by the fact that the photo shows a lady detectorist and not a fat balding guy in camo dress.

This is rather puzzling. Let me put it this way, several of the detecting codes make the point (at the end usually) that when you are out with your detecting stuff, you are (and should behave as if you are) an ambassador for the hobby. In that case, I really do not see why one cannot treat the cover photos of a major (or is that now THE major) UK hobby magazine as portraying an image of the hobby that the hobbyists themselves would approve (otherwise they'd probably stop buying the magazine). Furthermore, this is no so-called "lads' mag", so it goes on UK supermarket shelves uncovered. The picture here is what people see, what people will judge the hobby by. What everybody who sees "The Searcher" in the local newsagents or WH Smith will judge the hobby by. Some will see one thing, others will be sensitive to other aspects. I see what I wrote about above, and who is to say my opinion is any less valid than Baz Thugwit's?

Imagine that on the cover of Current Archaeology, for some reason, the editors put a picture of Paul Barford in a baggy stripy jumper, a blue nylon anorak with a 'Mr Angry' patch on it, torn trousers, standing on the top of Silbury Hill* and looking like an utter nerd poking a heavily-worn WHS pointing trowel insistently into the camera. Let's say it advertises two articles in the number (the mind boggles). I'm pretty sure such a photo might attract comments from certain quarters not only about Mr Barford, but "archaeologists" generally. I doubt that many of them will be saying what a great impression it makes of the discipline and its values. So why, when it's a metal detectorist portrayed in what some might consider a rather silly manner and advertising a story about detecting on pasture, it is suddenly something reprehensible to even talk about it? ("Shh, don't mention it, she's a detectorist"?). Has detecting become one of the few things that, even in these days of greater liberalism, "one does not discuss" in polite company?
* You are now not allowed at all to climb Silbury Hill. Nobody should be up there, the same as, according to the Code of Responsibility, metal detectorists should not be detecting in wild-flower grassland or on permanent pasture.


Detecting Diva said...

If you bothered to read, you would know the picture was submitted as a joke, and intended to look silly.

As for the pasture...haven't seen a pasture in Connecticut

The photo was taken a friends back yard, which the landscapers were late in mowing, but it proved to be a nice backdrop.

Paul Barford said...

Thank you for looking in, just three minutes earlier your pal Dick was there too. Thanks also for the comment.

I do not take "the Searcher" on principle (used to), but yes, the photo does look silly.

So this is supposed to be more of that Stouty-Howland 'Tongue-in-cheek' nonsense? So when do you tekkies intend taking debate on the hobby seriously?

This photo in a British metal detecting hobby mag does however quite clearly show somebody tramping around with a metal detector on what looks like pasture, and as the magazine's cover proclaims (and as I pointed out) there quite clearly is an article inside about how to hoik out more artefacts from pasture sites - which somewhat conflicts with the definition of "responsible detecting". The latter concept however obviously means different things to different folk, so as a concept is therefore rendered meaningless, is it not?

So you would say that fellow tekkies keep off grassland then? So why the "Searcher" article? What about straggly poorly-managed CN forest?

Frankly, when we are talking about trashing archaeology, I personally do not get the "joke". It must be tekkie humour.

Can you explain the "joke" for the benefit of my readers who probably do not get it either?

Unknown said...

I have a question about Archeologists? It seems to me that people with metal detectors do not really destroy the sites but find new ones for archeologists to dig. many time the sites are posted off limits but with the extremely limited funding for archeologist and archeology it is more of a dog in the manger attitude. You will likely never get funding and you will very likely permit total destruction of a sight before some one with out all the degrees can actually do anything with it if ever. Yes there are serious discoveries waiting out there but I doubt archeologists will ever find them. I really see the people who call them selves archeologists much like the people who listen to music and claim that they are the only ones who understand what is being said and no one else could ever be as intelligent as they are.

Paul Barford said...

"I have a question about Archeologists?"

"It seems to me that people with metal detectors do not really destroy the sites"

no, of course not, after they've dug a hole in it, the site magically heals itself, the coin fairies come and put the evidence back in. A bit of magic sprinkle- dust and everything is as good as new, eh? What world do you live in Mr Grainger? Shoot a rhino, and it is dead, dead dead. Trash an archaeological site or assemblage and it is trashed, trashed, trashed. Take my word for it.

"but find new ones for archeologists to dig"
Do they? So that's what conservation is all about, finding rhino herds to shoot?

In the UK many of the sites "found" by artefact hunters out to hunt down artefacts to collect are those they have "found" by searching archaeological literature or for sites known from old records and maps (so not "unknown"). It's what they call "research"; I call it targeting. I do not know how it is in Nova Scotia, have you found many previously undocumented sites Mr Grainger?

"many time the sites are posted off limits"
What? What do you mean "posted"? "Off limits" to whom and what's that got to do with anything at all? What ARE you on about? [You are not explaining this very well, are you?]

"You will likely never get funding and you will very likely permit total destruction of a sight
the word is "site", innit?

Given that you do not really seem to have much of a clue about what archaeology is, what it does and what it does not do, you'll excuse me for not paying much attention to what you think is "likely" in archaeology. Again, conservation is not about digging it all up now, I really do wonder why that concept is so difficult for collectors to understand.

BTW its nothing to do with "having all the degrees", its about doing archaeology and not doing hoiking/collecting.

You seem to miss the point that this post is largely about detecting on PASTURE and the (UK) Code on responsible Metal Detecting (read either, have you?).

Paul Barford said...

and over on a metal detecting blog near you, the denizens show how seriously they take the matter of conservation of the archaeological record, they are enjoying their childish joking about "coin fairies" and "magic sprinkle dust". They are demonstrating for all to see that they neither understand what the discussion has been about, nor that they care a hoot. Joke away folks, but then don't bother wondering why nobody really wants to discuss anything with you and work with you and will continue to go behind your backs.

Paul Barford said...

As for Mr 24.---.---.118, I wonder why he bothered yesterday to post some inane comment which showed he'd not really worked out what the problem was but nevertheless wanted to repeat something he'd heard somewhere about what benefits metal detecting can bring.

Basically such comments make me see red as it shows (a) the poster is arrogant enough to think (without actually reading anything on this blog to check that assumption) that there are some simple arguments they know which I have never heard before and which if I'd known them would demolish my position (that means assuage my concerns I suppose), (b)that these simple glib statements in some magical way must be treated as clinching arguments and cannot be challenged or discussed, and (c) these very complicated issues can be resolved by some semi-articulate glib mantra of reassurance which like magic-sprinkle-dust in a Disney film makes everything OK.

Why he posted what he did only he knows, but it obviously was not because he wanted to discuss the issue. He spent a few minutes here reading a couple of lines and then posted his kneejerk comments and just disappeared. He did not come back yesterday, nor visit again today to see if his comment was posted or generated any others. So basically Bruce Grainger was just out to waste my time.

This is quite typical. Metal detectorists seem to get some kind of a kick out of this kind of behaviour, like the little boy that pulls the girls' hair and runs away chortling. Time and time again, metal detectorists show themselves to be invalid as partners in any kind of detailed discussion about heritage policies. That is why this blog is about artefact hunting and not for artefact hunters.

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