Monday, 3 March 2014

The Archaeologist and the Opinion of non-Metal-detecting Amateurs

Mike Trevarthen (Senior Archaeologist in R M A Trevarthen Archaeological Services), presumably related in some way to Ciorstaidh Hayward Trevarthen , Dorset FLO writes on the RESCUE Facebook page of the "Near Maidstone A20" grave scandal:
Nope, no denying these self justifying dolts acted ap[p]allingly stupidly, need to be told they acted ap[p]allingly stupidly (removing what looks very much like a grave assemblage) and given no comfort whatsoever by the Treasure Act. The fact archaeologists have working hours and that these particular detectorists don't trust each other enough to turn their backs is a pisspoor whimper of an excuse. I see no sense of personal responsibility here - just personal entitlement.
Sentiments with which we can all agree. I find it less easy to agree with the sense or tone of the next bit though. The professional archaeologist attacks an amateur conservation group for expressing views on current policies on the way the archaeological resource is being used up for the personal entertainment and profit of a very small minority of individuals - it is their heritage too. Referring to the article by HA "Metal detecting and a mess born of professional arrogance", he writes:
That said, two separate issues have been very cynically conflated in this article, and it's a shame, if no actual surprise, that the main purpose of the piece is to use the episode to attack PAS - a scheme HA clearly believes is corrupt and immoral, and insufficiently proscriptive. I would have hoped RESCUE might have made at least some effort to support fellow heritage professionals rather than continue to facilitate their denigration by a drip-feed of hint and slur and innuendo. Perhaps a clear statement of support for the very many overstre[t]ched professional archaeologists and finds specialists employed to work on a complicated and often difficult front by PAS is long overdue? Or shall I not hold my breath?
Now I would like to see him explain where he sees Heritage Action saying that PAS is "corrupt and immoral" and in what he sees a "drip-feed of hint and innuendo" leading in this direction. Can he explain that statement? Heritage Action, like myself, believes that the way PAS is operating at the moment is NOT effective, it is NOT the way forward for protecting sites, and is not in fact having the effects that it was intended to have both in terms of mitigating the erosion (HAAEC nearing five million in a few days), but more importantly nor is it achieving the result of effectively propagating "best practice" (of which this case is just one very obvious example). Both HA and myself believe that IF heritage professionals in England and Wales are to continue to operate using a PAS to deal with artefact collecting from archaeological sites and assemblages, then it needs to be strengthened, provided legal status fixing its position within the heritage management (I use the term loosely) system of England and Wales, and needs to have the freedom to be a good deal more proscriptive than it has at the moment. Only then will it actually be an effective measure in the sustainable management of what is left of the archaeological record in the UK. Frankly, I really do not see why professionals like Mr Trevarthen cannot come behind such proposals instead of attacking those who (unlike him it seems) are actively campaigning by the means available to them to get recognition of the need for change.

Also I fail to see where Mr Trevarthen sees a  "cynical conflation" in the HA blog article of "two separate issues". The article discusses just one topic, that the artefact hunters that did this were apparently told they'd done "well" and "the best thing" by the PAS, the BM and "archaeologists", and as HA point out this is the result of professional arrogance, the same professional arrogance revealed by Mr Trevarthen's own apparent attitude to this conservation group revealed by this text.

If the PAS is saying these folk "done well", then I think we, amateurs and professionals alike, should be protesting. No they did not. If the PAS are being misquoted in the public media, then the PAS surely has the duty to inform 62 million people looking on that no, no in fact they did not say that, and what happened here was both avoidable and reprehensible. Just to keep quiet and hope the storm will blow over is professional arrogance and is refusing to engage with the public.

UPDATE 4.3.14
And this is typical. An archaeologist has a view on a metal-detecting related subject, says what he thinks. He is happy. Somebody else says they do not agree and why. Professional archaeologist has choice - discuss it properly, or pretend he never said it. Mr Trevarthen decided to delete his anti-HA post. Why, actually can we NOT discuss this issue as we would hedgerow-grubbing, housing encroachment on SAMs, plastic windowframes in listed buildings, the fate of railway station buildings or old churches or any other heritage issue? Why all this running away from a proper exchange of views in this part of the heritage debate? 

1 comment:

heritageaction said...

"what happened here was both avoidable and reprehensible"

Funny isn't it, just those 8 words on the PAS website would instantly and radically reduce the number of hoards hoiked out in future.

Bonkers Britain, eh?

Just like an advert in the Farmers Weekly saying "No permission without commitment to the official Code (and previous proof)" would make a huge difference to behaviour.

(Bonkers Britain No 2 ! )

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