Collector David Knell has another gem on his "Ancient Heritage" blog, and like the text he wrote as a response to Peter Tompa's attack on archaeology (discussed earlier here), it is refreshing to see a collector of ancient artefacts who not only actually understands what archaeology is about, but expresses his opinion in a manner that is concise, logical and articulate. More of this please. Knell's text (Wednesday, 5 March 2014, "Saving history?") addresses the views of a UK metal detectorist who had "made a frighteningly uninformed comparison of Archaeology vs. Metal Detectoring on his sadly-named TonyRobinsonsPants blog".
After stressing the tedious and lengthy procedure of archaeological excavations, he trumpets metal detecting as the winner since it is simply a matter of "Find history. Dig out history. Save history." He then comes to the equally simple conclusion that "This, is why the brats [archaeologists] have a problem with detectorists" (followed by a link to a recent criticism by archaeologists of the way some detectorists obliterated the context of a find).Knell notes that many detectorists share the same total incomprehension of what history really is and are actively engaged in destroying it. This is why many people have problems with these metal detectorists, not any kind of "jealousy" or "elitism". The isolated artefact is not in itself a "piece of history" but "a tiny component of an assemblage that may have the potential to reveal history if the whole assemblage is meticulously recorded and investigated within its wider context - and in the modern day that involves a team of trained people":
An object in itself is not "history". And "history" is certainly not an insane grabfest of finding, digging out and "saving" as many objects as you can get your hands on, sticking them in museum cabinets and then drooling over how pretty they are. "History" is briefly defined as "the study of the past" and the word stems from the Greek historia, meaning "inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation". Note the words "study", "inquiry" and "investigation". History is a cerebral concept. You cannot hold it in your hands. You can find, dig out and "save" ancient objects until the cows come home and stuff them into museums up to the rafters but unless the sites where those objects lie are properly excavated (and yeah, that can be tedious and lengthy), you are typically destroying and obliterating any chance of seriously adding to our knowledge of history. And that tends to annoy any person with the intellect to appreciate what history really is, not just a few archaeologists [...].Excellently said.