Wednesday 19 March 2014

What the PAS is not Telling YOU

Excluding the paying public
 from clear information
about archaeology?

Sawdust for brains numpties with no initiative of their own complain that they don't really understand how topsoil finds assemblages can have any archaeological meaning (see here). That's because the sixteen-million pounds Portable Antiquities Scam has not done their job of outreach to members of the public properly.

While I do not expect for a minute that anyone with a metal detector has a library card or Waterstones account, I thought I'd put up a few book titles just so nobody can say they could not find them. In particular, I'd draw their attention to the differences between the research strategy (and therefore sampling methods) of two entirely different kinds of techniques, surface survey and excavatation. It seems confusing them is at the root of the problem of misunderstanding.

The Time Team webpage used to have an online reading list which included references to books about archaeological methodology which was 100% better than anything the PAS did in sixteen years of wasted public money on outreach-they-never-really-got-the-hang-of (because the PAS, perhaps in an admission of the ant-intellectual attitudes of their principle clientele never produced such a reading list for tekkies).  Sadly, the Time Team website has been revamped and dumbed-down, and the reading list is no longer there (anyone got it downloaded?). Tony Robinson and Mick Aston's book "Archaeology is Rubbish: A Beginners Guide" (Channel 4 Books ISBN-13: 978-0752215303) however is well worth a read, and not just for beginners.

For a more advanced understanding, I'd say the non-specialist reader need go not much further than Renfrew and Bahn's (2000) 'Archaeology: theory, methods and practice' (Thames and Hudson ISBN-13: 978-0500287194 for home use, recommend wrapping the puce cover of one edition in brown paper). Martin Carver is always worth reading, so his (2009) "Archaeological Investigation" (Routledge ISBN-13: 978-0415489195) is a thought-provoking journey through various types of archaeological project. I'll include Peter Drewett's, (1999), 'Field Archaeology: an introduction', (UCL Press ISBN-13: 978-0415551199) out of sympathy to one of my old lecturers, but it's mostly about excavation and surface survey figures [in the book] mainly as a way of "finding sites". back in the old days, Kevin Greene's 'Archaeology: An Introduction '. John Schofield, John Carmen and Paul Belford's 2011 'Archaeological Practice in Great Britain: A Heritage Handbook' (Springer ISBN-13: 978-0387094526) might be useful for putting some tekkie ideas in context, but is overpriced.

As for surface survey, best to start with the simple stuff and work on from there:
Then there are some books listed below, at different levels, from popular to more specialist, some old classics, some newer.

Aston, M. and Rowley, T. 1974, 'Landscape Archaeology: An Introduction to Fieldwork Techniques on Post-Roman Landscapes', David & Charles ISBN-13: 978-0715366707) O/P

Aston M. 1985. Interpreting the Landscape: Landscape Archaeology and Local History . London and New York: Routledge.  

Banning, E.B. 2002, 'Archaeological Survey', (Kluwer Academic / Plenum - ).

Brown A.E. 1988, 'Fieldwork for Archaeologists and Local Historians'  (Batsford, ISBN 13: 978071344842) O/P

Collins, J.M., Molyneaux B.L. 2003, 'Archaeological Survey (Archaeologist's Toolkit) ' (AltaMira Press ISBN-13: 978-0759100213)

English Heritage 2007 'Understanding the archaeology of landscapes: a guide to good recording practice'

English Heritage 2007 'Our Portable Past'

Fowler P.J. (ed) 'Recent Work in Rural Archaeology' (Bradford on Avon Moonraker ) O/P.

Francovich, R. and Patterson, H. (eds) 2000, 'Extracting Meaning from Ploughsoil Assemblages' (The Archaeology of the Mediterranean Landscape, Populus Monograph, 5, Oxbow Books ISBN-13: 978-1900188753)

Haselgrove, C., Millett, M. and Smith, I. (eds) 1985, 'Archaeology from the Ploughsoil. Studies in the Collection and Interpretation of Field Survey Data' (Sheffield: Department of Archaeology and Prehistory, University of Sheffield ISBN 978-0906090541).

Molyneaux, B.L. 2005, 'Archaeological Survey' pp.106-32 [In:] C. Chippendale and H.D.G. Maschner (eds)'' Handbook of Archaeological Methods', Volume 1. AltaMira Press: Lanham, ISBN-13: 978-0759100787)

Schofield , J. (ed.) 1991, 'Interpreting Artefact Scatters: Contributions to Ploughzone Archaeology', (Oxbow Monographs 4, ISBN-13: 978-0946897254)

Tol, G. 2012, 'A Fragmented History: A Methodological and Artefactual Approach to the Study of Ancient Settlement in the Territories of Satricum and Antium', Groningen Archaeological Studies (Barkhuis ISBN-13: 978-9491431036)

Witcher, R.E. 2006, 'Broken Pots and Meaningless Dots? Surveying the Rural Landscapes of Roman Italy', Papers of the British School at Rome, 74: 39-72. (Available online if you have legal JStor access).

There's much more (from the Mediterranean and Near East especially), but I've got work to do, and increasing the size of the reading list only decreases the chance any artefact collector is ever going to read any of it. 

That actually took me (with cornflakes and coffee and a trip down to the book stacks in my workroom in the cellar) just over an hour and a half to put together. How much would you have to pay the PAS before they get round to doing something similar? They've gobbled up sixteen million of your quid without doing it - though this falls into the first and second "aim" (I use the term loosely) of the Scheme. How much more do they want before they get up even a rudimentary public resource up?  Or do they imagine they've got carte blanche to continue with their heads-down database enhancement with their bleep-bleep collecting 'partners', and hang the rest of the public?


Detectorbloke said...

Thanks for taking the time to put a list together. Will see how I get on with Archaeology is rubbish.

Paul Barford said...

The list was a matter of principle, I'd done one for the participants in a similar debate about a decade ago on the PAS Forum, it took a lot of work, but the Bloomsbury bastards deleted it and I discovered I'd d not made a copy.

I am not sure you'll find the answer to this particular issue in "Archaeology is Rubbish", but it's a good book anyway.

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