Saturday, 31 August 2013

More Metal Detecting Along the Oregon Trail



Although US metal detecting agitators may attempt to claim that there is no evidence that metal detecting has been taking place on sensitive and legally protected sites along the Oregon Trail, there would be nothing at all surprising in this. Artefact hunting is demonstrably going on in the immediate vicinity, and quite openly. For example there is the "Oregon Treasure Trails Society" ("uniting individuals who share a common interest in the sport and pastime of using metal detectors to search for coins, jewelry and relics from the past"). Then on a metal detecting forum near you (one of the members of which is the same metal detectorist denying the connection between holes in the Oregon Trail and metal detecting) we can read about "A strong box recovered on the Oregon Trail". It was being sold by Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins and Collectibles, Inc. ("our consignor was poking around in the area around Twin Falls, Idaho, near a known stage coach stop along the Oregon Trail with a metal detector..."). Someone asks "Has Anyone Tried MDing Emigrant Trails?", and receives the answer "Many people, including myself have been detecting along these old trails for years and years. research is key. good luck!" The point about "research" of course is to locate specific sites along the route that might contain a concentration of collectable artefacts due to the nature of the activities taking place there. in other words, these artefact hunters are targeting known historical sites to remove from them the material evidence of past activity (in other words looting its archaeological record in the search for collectables for personal entertainment and profit). An example of this is the thread on an "emigrant camp site off the Oregon trail". A mixed up accumulation of decontextualised collectables from a number of different sites on the Oregon Trail can be seen here: "Oregon Trail Finds from the last few years" showing the sort of things being removed from the historical record by artefact hunters in the US targeting known historical sites.

The thread "Question.. About Oregon Trail" concerning artefact hunting of a section of the Oregon Trail on BLM land in Idaho is pretty enlightening about attitudes and actual knowledge of the legislation. It's quite frightening. Jim in Idaho (Mar 06, 2013, 06:32 PM) reckons:

 Just do it. It isn't a big deal. If you ask somebody, you might get told NO.. even if that's wrong. Just go and enjoy the BLM lands. I've spent a huge portion of my life, prospecting and metal detecting on BLM. Have NEVER had anybody ask me what i was doing.
So BLM staff are not very vigilant then? Wyomingmedic  sees no problem: "I have been collecting artifacts [there]" Then we have this joker (Tom_in_CA):
 the best places to detect along the trail, would not simply be to find where the trail went, and start checking alongside of it. Instead, the best places, are where they STOPPED. Ie.: camped for the night, especially if there were some sort of commercial venture going on there (trading post, saloon, stage stop, etc....). 
So, basically anywhere where there is any archaeological evidence of past activity you mean?

Duffala who asked the original question is heartened by all this talk and (Mar 09, 2013, 09:02 PM) and announces:
Thanks everyone for the responses. I think I'm going to hit up a area tomorrow that thru research is a old campsite.
...and no doubt will well and truly wreck it by hoiking out any shallowly buried diagnostic (collectable) artefacts, totally ruining the site for later investigators. There were no other posts in that thread, until
Othist pointed out (not, I believe, 100% accurately):  
 Stop. You need to learn the laws of not only Idaho, but the rest of the country as well. It is a federal offense to collect artifacts from the Oregon Trail or any other historic resource of the country. The penalties are stiff. Not just in Idaho, but everywhere. It is also against the law to collect historic artifacts on BLM or other federally owned land. This includes Indian artifacts such as arrowheads, etc., as well as Oregon Trail artifacts.  The emigrant trails are a great resource. Please don't destroy them by digging for artifacts on them. Somebody just did that on a stretch by Burley and destroyed a pristine section of trail. Learn the history of the trails, read the diaries of the travellers, hike on them and share the struggles that thousands of emigrants went through. But please don't dig them up and steal artifacts for your personal collection.
Ironically (see above) "Jim in Idaho likes this". This is followed by a couple of "cold-dead hands"- type arguments applied to archaeologists "telling us what to do" of the sort that you'd find among any group of anti-preservationist artefact hunters.

But for more denials see the comments here:"Historic OR trail site damage blamed on treasure hunters with MD's

Vignette: While heritage professionals can record the extent and nature of the damage to the archaeological deposits on the site, the details of what has been taken from where by selfish collectors will forever be unknown

20 comments:

Tom Tanner said...

Loved your blog , where you cited metal detecting hobbyists, including myself ("Tom_in_CA" the "joker").

Yet, curiously, you did not address the subject that the very detector hobbyists were stating: That not every bit of the Oregon trail goes through types-land where metal detecting and relic hunting is forbidden. As you know, the trail meanders through a wide variety of entities of land. City, state, federal and private.

You can certainly bristle if we were talking about some form of protected federal land. Where perhaps ARPA comes into play. But I see that you've applied your "bristle" to the entire length.

Which is typical of purist archies. That, if it were up to them, all metal detectors and private hobbyist collecting would be forbidden.

Humorously, the exact same archies turn to the private sector collector/diggers to aid in their own research. Eg.: who do you turn to to identify an old button or bottle ? The relic hunters books and guides.

Sure: Avoid obvious historic sensitive monuments, or places where true laws exist to forbid (I MENTIONED THAT IN MY POSTS). But you are extending your bristling dislike to ALL metal detecting, even where not dis-allowed.

Fun reading your blog though :) My current email is ttanner777@aol.com if you care to dialogue more.

Paul Barford said...

Well, there is nothing like the timely cut-and-thrust of a lively debate. Four years too late Mr Tanner. I think instead of "enjoying" the blog, it might be more helpful to read it with understanding. If you use the search box you will see this is one of several posts about the Oregon Trail. On the one hand concerns are being aired about damage done by metal detectorists digging holes and disturbing and damaging the fragile surviving surface traces (wheelruts, campsites etc) and on the other side the artefact hunters who deny any responsibility of the hobby as a whole for causing this damage. Your comment falls into the second category.

What you are doing is following the "it's legal innit?" argument beloved of artefact collectors of all shades. This goes that if something has not actually been made illegal, it must be OK to do it. Like wife-beating.

So according to you, if a bit of the Oregon Trail is not actually protected by law, no damage is done to it by artefact hunters digging holes all over it (whether or not they 'fill them in') and walking off with what they find. Yet it is the tenor of this whole blog that this is not the case - which, if you look more carefully, you will see is why I am writing about it and the artefact hunters' habitual state of denial.

And yes, it is the prevalence and persistence of these self-centred blinkered views about how the heritage can be treated in precisely the circles of collectors that colours my attitudes (what you call "bristle") towards them. When they change their attitudes, then we will see if there is any room for debate with them. While however all they want to do is play the victim, permanently be in denial and dodge responsibility, then I personally do not see any scope for dialogue with them.


Tom Tanner said...

Paul, everything you are saying here is technically true. Can you believe I just said that ? Yup.

AS LONG AS WE START WITH THE FOLLOWING PREMISE: "That all metal detecting is inherently evil and wrong." Akin and comparable to the inherent evil of wife-beating (your words), for instance. Sure: If we start with THAT premise, then yes: Everything else you are saying logically follows.

But why that starting premise ? Because you are a purist archie. That's why.

Yes I know there's been jokes on md'ing forums about ARPA, etc... But .... for the moment: Holding the conversation to strictly where it's not illegal: Other forms of public or private land. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you are still aghast at that. Right ? Hence , as I'm saying: Starting with the inherent premise that: Metal detecting = inherently wrong everywhere. Unless done under the princely direction of an archie. Right ?

Paul Barford said...

Again I must insist that the only way to engage in a discussion is to make sure of what is being said. You seem not to be following.

You should be aware that your "all metal detecting is inherently evil and wrong" is a paper tiger argument and serves no useful purpose. The metal detector is a tool that we all know can be (and by some is) used on the archaeological record to generate information, and used there in another way is wholly destructive. The word "all" does not apply. The question is when is it helpful, and when is it causing damage? How can any damage done by artefact hunting not only be reduced but balanced out by maximum information generation for the benefit of all? This is not "purism", it is conservation -conscious. Many metal detectorists seem unable to grasp that central issue - you demonstrate that you are one of them.

Tom Tanner said...

Interesting that you do not let my post on your blog. . But only your answer. How better to steer the reader's conclusion ? :) But sure: I understand. That's how blogs (vs forums) work. Would just have been better for you to allow the dissenting view to be seen. In the interest of balanced comment.

So let's take a look at what you write, item by item:

You quote me as saying that you implied that: "all metal detecting is inherently evil and wrong" . And say that it is a "paper tiger argument" . But then you turn right around and AFFIRM THE VERY THING I WAS SAYING ! :) : You say:

" The metal detector is a tool that we all know can be (and by some is) used on the archaeological record to generate information, and used there in another way is wholly destructive. The word "all" does not apply. "

Ah, but see, I foreknew the purist line of logic reply you would give. And anticipated that response when I *clearly* indicated that NOT "*all*" metal detecting is wrong. The "right" detecting is, naturally, the metal detecting that archaeologist could princely supervise. Right ? And , by logical inference, all OTHER md'ing is "inherently evil". Right ? Exactly as I was saying your stance effectively is. Yet you fail to show the dissenting view. Or, correct me where I'm wrong: When is (ever) hobbyist metal detecting ok ? The sandbox at the modern school, right ?

You ask: "The question is when is it helpful, and when is it causing damage?"

Let me guess: It's "helpful" when it's in the hands of an archie. But it's "causing damage" when it's in the hands of hobbyists. Right ? Hence exactly as I was saying was/is the implied premise.

You ask: " ...How can any damage done by artefact hunting ..."

Again, the implied premise: "artifact hunting" = "damage". A very convenient starting point premise definition on your part for the conversation, eh ? :/

You say: ".... balanced out by maximum information generation for the benefit of all? ..."

Hence ignoring the fact (that I pointed out at first) that private hobbyist evil collectors/hunters have contributed (for the "benefit of all") ... oftentime... THE VERY WORKS that archaeologists consult. To identify the items they have dug. Not sure about Europe, but you see that all the time here in the USA for post-european contact (western) archaeology. If they need to identify a bottle, who do they turn to ? Bottle diggers (those evil guys) reference books. Buttons ? those md'rs (evil guys) reference works. Say it isn't so ! NOT SAYING THAT THIS GIVES cart-blanche for md'rs to "raid archie sites". But .... for pete's sake, give the private sector evil hobbyist (who ... gasp ... didn't get a degree) a little credit !

And again: Not referring to admitted "damage" someone did to truly off-limits sites. Enjoy your feedback ! You are the classic voice.

You say: "This is not "purism", it is conservation -conscious." Sure. No problem. I'll call it whatever you want :)

Paul Barford said...

I think, like many collectors, you are too busy trying to play the victim to actually read what is written with any understanding. Your reply is there. But you have not understood my response to it.

You DO understand what a 'paper tiger argument' is I hope.

What I think you miss (like much else) is that I would rather that it was detector users who were using the tool responsibly and in a non-damaging manner without the need for archaeologists to waste time permanently supervising them... but to do that, they have to understand the issues - which you clearly do not.

[PS as for your bottles comment: Since you are obviously unaware of this, you are writing to one of the first British archaeologists to actually review (more decades ago than I care to admit) a publication by a metal detectorist of their artefacts (medieval and post-Medieval buckles) when metal detecting was in its infancy. Over here, the publications of bottle dump diggers are just ONE of a variety of sources that are used to understand post-medieval artefact assemblages and contexts - and of course by 'generating knowledge' I do not have in mind mere atavistic naked artefactology]

Tom Tanner said...

Paul, thanx for including my text reply. That speaks highly of your fairness.

To answer your added material: You say: "I think, like many collectors, you are too busy trying to play the victim "

Maybe some other hobbyists might have that "victim" attitude. (no different than some archies who say they are the "victim" of md'rs, eh ?) But not me. All that you are I are discussing is strictly intellectual. Neither of us has stopped each other's pursuits. I have tons of places to go hunting, as do you. I am only interested in the intellectual comparison of how the purist archaeological mindset works, when it comes to their views on hobbyists. No "victim" here :)

You say: "But you have not understood my response to it. "

On the contrary. I totally understand what you are saying. I spent much time reading your past year's blog's posts. I docent in 2 different museums. So I brush shoulders all the time with archaeologists. So ... yes ... I understand where you are coming from. So it's not a "lack of understanding". It's a "disagreement" (or perhaps the word is "compromise").

BTW: Are you aware that there are many archaeologists that do not take your anti-hobbyist stance, to the degree that you do ? They are fine with hobbyists who hunt bottles, coins, artifacts, etc... So long as it's not in their study zones, or at off-limits protected sites. Contrast to you (if I understand you correctly) bristle at the thought of hobbyists unless under strict archaeological methods, eh ?

For example: Getting back to the Oregon trail: If a stage stop or watering hole was in "farmer bob's field" (private), you would be aghast at the hobbyist getting farmer Bob's permission to hunt there. Right ? Or if on some other level of public land with no express prohibition. Right ?

Where then can the hobbyist ever do it ? I have even heard of an archaeologist, here in the USA, who bumped into a hobbyist on the beach. She read him the riot act . Eg.: "ripping items from context", blah blah blah. When the stunned md'r realized she was talking about antiquities, he tried to show her that he was only getting modern change . In the quest for just fumble fingers jewelry at best. The lady archaeologist, in seeing that nothing was old or antiquities, had to stop and think. She then quickly retorted : "Well, perhaps it's not an antiquity NOW. But ... in 500 yrs. it WILL be for future archaeologists to study. Hence you are robbing future generations of learning about their past". Doh! :)

So you see ? It gets to the point where ALL metal detecting (unless done under supervision of archaeologists) is wrong. Is this your stance ? If not, then where can a guy like myself metal detect, without running afoul of your take-on-things ?

You say: there is a right way for hobbyists to metal detect, eh ? But that " ... to do that, they have to understand the issues " So do tell: Can you envision a fellow going to "farmer bob's field" or "county road right of way land" , somewhere in Idaho, Oregon, etc... along the Oregon trail. And for him to hear the beep, stoop down and dig it up. Is this, by definition, "not understanding the issues" ? What hobbyist can ever fulfill your stance? Without .... effectively ... having to BE an archaeologist ? (eg.: writing a volume of study each time they go out, digging with tweezers and brushes, etc...)

Good talking with you. I highly respect that you are answering this in your blog.

Paul Barford said...

> Are you aware that there are many archaeologists that do not take your anti-hobbyist stance, to the degree that you do ? <
Perfectly aware. I think there are very good, soundly-based, reasons why they are taking too superficial an approach to these issues and are wrong and challenge them to tell me where I am. They don’t. You work out for yourself how much respect I have for the views of those ‘academics’ unable to actually justify them.

As I say, it seems to me that if there is a way of artefact hunting causing less damage and creating much useful information, then that is what we should be aiming on getting metal detectorists doing, in “Farmer Bob’s field” and anywhere. I would prefer to see artefact hunters who refuse to document their activities properly keeping away from the known productive sites which is not only like slaughtering fish in a barrel, but damaging important parts of the archaeological record with no return benefits.

> I have even heard of an archaeologist, here in the USA, who bumped into a hobbyist on the beach. She read him the riot act . Eg.: "ripping items from context", blah blah blah <
Did she? Perhaps she voted for Donald Trump too. Some archaeologists are morons (see above).

> It gets to the point where ALL metal detecting (unless done under supervision of archaeologists) is wrong. Is this your stance ? <
You read in the comment above what my stance is and then make (the same) paper tiger argument and ask if that’s what my stance is. Duh.

> What hobbyist can ever fulfill your stance? <
(Leaving aside the grammar of that sentence) I would say the one who has taken the trouble to really learn how to observe and document in a permanent way the information they destroy by removing an object from the context in which it has lain, and about which it provides information.

And yes, that is “citizen archaeology” as the British Museum calls it. The problem is that the fellow going to a bit of the Oregon trail, “hearing the beep, stoop[ing] down and dig[ing] it up” without the most careful documentation of the context and its relationship to other pieces of evidence is not contributing anything, merely filling his pockets with decontextualised fragments of the heritage of all at the cost of a (permanent and irreversible) loss of knowledge about what that context, properly documented could have told us. In other words knowledge theft.

> Is this, by definition, "not understanding the issues" ? <
Yes, I would say so, it is also self—centred oblivion to the needs and concerns of others in the selfish pursuit of short-term goals.

Tom Tanner said...

Paul, thanx for dialoging. I think we can agree that md'rs: Hear a beep, dig it up, and collect. They do not dig with tweezers & brushes. They do not put in the rigors that archaeologists use. They do not write volumes on each dig, each item, etc.... And, assuming they are not on off-limits sites: They do so legally (much to your dismay).

In short: The type md'ing you would approve of, would essentially turn out to be .... doh ... archaeology. All other lesser md'ing pursuits is as you say, are: "... self—centered oblivion to the needs and concerns of others in the selfish pursuit of short-term goals."

You have made your stance very clear. Hobbyist MD'ing , as it exists now, is inherently evil. With that starting premise, then sure: All else that you believe logically follows.

I would *love* to meet you, and have a collegiate level organized debate in front of a crowd. You know, where each side has given-times, given response-reply times, and so forth. It would be fascinating. Since you are well-versed in your stance. And I am well-versed in mine. If you ever make it out to CA, let's set that up. The beer's on me :)






Paul Barford said...

It seems from the discussion on a treasure hunters' forum near you that Mr Tanner imagines he has supplied us (above) with what he considers to be 'a little logic and perspective' to the conservation concerns expressed in my post (and which is intended to make me 'fall apart'). See: https://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2017/10/oregon-trail-wreckers-find-this-blog.html (and the discussion to which that links).

He however simply lacked the ability to see anything like the perspective from which that post - and this whole blog - is written. As for logic, as we see above, if he has not understood the argument that he is opposing, then he is severely hindered in finding a logical response.

Tom Tanner said...

I did not know you'd started a new page, in your blog, about this. I am reading it now ........ Will reply there. Thanx.

Paul Barford said...

This post is about "more artefact hunting on the Oregon Trail" four years ago. That one is about the current discussion of what I said on a treasure hunting forum. Two different subjects. From whst you commented on the second one, I am not persuaded that you see that.

Tom Tanner said...

"Two different subjects." Right. So now I'm going with your "new subject". Still fascinated with your stance that all hobbyist level metal detecting (done w/o archaeological rigor) is harmful . Assuming the md'r, gasp, found something old.

Hence, sure, forget the Oregon trail. That's fine. Now let's just examine your stance by itself. For any location on the planet. I offered you a defined challenge. And I see you did not post or accept said challenge.

You will always "be persuaded that I am not seeing or understanding". So long as you avoid the scrutiny to your position. Ie.: He who controls the microphone wins so-to-speak. Eh ? :)

You can go ahead and elect to not publish or accept critique. That's the function of a blog after all. The power is in the hands of the blog owner. I get that. But ... just saying, it will further md'rs resolve, when they see purist archaeologists run from a discussion on the matter.

Paul Barford said...

> Right. So now I'm going with your "new subject". <
Well, no, no you are not, you are still harping on like a stuck record about the same old thing. But I answered that in my first comment here.

Since you obviously missed it and are too intellectually lazy to refer to what was said earlier, I'll repeat if.
"Again I must insist that the only way to engage in a discussion is to make sure of what is being said. You seem not to be following.

You should be aware that your "all metal detecting is inherently evil and wrong" is a paper tiger argument and serves no useful purpose. The metal detector is a tool that we all know can be (and by some is) used on the archaeological record to generate information, and used there in another way is wholly destructive. The word "all" does not apply. The question is when is it helpful, and when is it causing damage? How can any damage done by artefact hunting not only be reduced but balanced out by maximum information generation for the benefit of all? This is not "purism", it is conservation -conscious. Many metal detectorists seem unable to grasp that central issue - you demonstrate that you are one of them".


This is not about "the md'r, gasp, found something old" You are still confusing ownership issues with conservation ones.

>> But ... just saying, it will further md'rs resolve, when they see purist archaeologists run from a discussion on the matter.<<
"Resolve" to do what?

There is no "discussion" when half-brain detectorists do not face up to the task of understanding what is written about by others. THAT is the intellectual cowardice here.



Tom Tanner said...

You say: ".... and used there in another way is wholly destructive...."

And you seem to gloss over that I incorporated that FULLY. When I capsulized your stance, I distinctly and clearly said that: The metal detecting I am referring to (that you say is destructive), is metal detecting practiced in that "other way" .

And you and I both know that the "other way" is. It's when it is practiced without archaeological rigor.



Tom Tanner said...

You say: " .... >> But ... just saying, it will further md'rs resolve, when they see purist archaeologists run from a discussion on the matter.<<
"Resolve" to do what? "

Resolve to continue to feel that conservation-conscious archaeologists have failed answered the md'rs objections.

You say: "....There is no "discussion" when half-brain detectorists do not face up to the task of understanding what is written about by others. THAT is the intellectual cowardice here."

1) "half brain detectorist" & "intellectual cowardice" Sounds to me like name-calling. Eh ? Which lends nothing to the discussion of pro's & con's, does it ?

I hope I have risen higher than that. If I have called you names or made snarky remarks like that, please forgive me. I am not talking about the "locker room talk" that ... yes ... you are bound to find on md'ing forums. But as for our discussion here and now, on your blog. Now that we are person-to-person , let's be gentlemen about a fascinating intellectual subject.

2) "understanding what is written". Again: You are making the error of assuming that if/when people have "understood" what you wrote, that they would , of necessity, believe your stance. Perhaps they understand just fine. Perhaps they just disagree . Perhaps each side has something to learn and consider. Perhaps a compromise, eh ?

3) "You are still confusing ownership issues with conservation ones...." Paul, the only way to correctly implement "conservation", if I understand your stance, is to comply with rigorous archaeological methods. Thus, in effect , BECOME "archaeologists" when md'ing.

PS: BTW: For some sites, I have done careful gridding , note-taking, GPS, pictures, write-ups, etc... But it would not be as rigorous as hard-core archaeology does.

Paul Barford said...

> Resolve to continue to feel that conservation-conscious archaeologists have failed answered the md'rs objections. <
So be it. But one is concerned about the conservation of a resource the other, intent on emptying it into their own pockets, "objects" to that (your words).

"half brain detectorist" and "intellectual cowardice" are observations, not name-calling. In a very long comment thread I have explained why I wrote what I did, but you do not seem capable of recognizing the point being made or facing up to the conclusions towards which they lead.

Tom Tanner said...



You say: "So be it".

I will take that to mean you will not allow a capsulized statement of your position to given cross-examination. That's fine. It's your blog. It will just stand as a testament to which side was unwilling to be open-minded. I truly did hope to probe how the "conservation-conscious" would answer to some hobbyist counter points. Oh well.


You say : "In a very long comment thread I have explained why I wrote what I did".

And you will not let that be capsulized and cross-examined from a dissenting point of view.

You say: "half brain detectorist" and "intellectual cowardice" are observations, not name-calling."

Nice. Why thank you :) I will also let that stand on its own merits . The reader can judge for himself whether that was constructive, or name-calling.

It's been a fascinating look. It was quite "telling" where it went. Or should I say: Where it failed to go. I invite you to come look at the recap I will post shortly on the thread you found, which started all of this.

Paul Barford said...

Well, as I said, I had already answered your point, and it really is half-brained to insist that I 'had not' to avoid yourself addressing what I said. That is indeed the intellectual cowardice I think your behaviour here betrays. The reason why none of these discussions go anywhere is the failure of collectors to actually follow the argument of those they wish loudly to oppose. It seems to me there is ample material in this comments thread should anyone take the care to actually read it and think about it before a knee-jerk reaction.

Paul Barford said...

QUOTE:
your "all metal detecting is inherently evil and wrong" is a paper tiger argument and serves no useful purpose. The metal detector is a tool that we all know can be (and by some is) used on the archaeological record to generate information, and used there in another way is wholly destructive. The word "all" does not apply. The question is when is it helpful, and when is it causing damage? How can any damage done by artefact hunting not only be reduced but balanced out by maximum information generation for the benefit of all? This is not "purism", it is conservation -conscious. Many metal detectorists seem unable to grasp that central issue - you demonstrate that you are one of them".

 
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