Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Nighthawks, Posturing and the Real Problem

Andy Baines from Yorkshire comments:
Yet whenever the topic crops up, several dozen detectorists immediately jump ot at anyone who even mentions the fact that there's been another incident noted in the media. This is the result of their own simplistic and ultimately deceptive equation:
not-a-nighthawk = responsible detectorist
As a result, the moment there is the shadow of a mention of illegal artefact hunting on the horizon, out they jump: "We are not all nighthawks, you know!", they shout at the world in chorus. "The majority of detectorists", they go on, "are responsible, law-abiding people, we hates nighthawks as much as the rest of yer, they get detecting a bad name". That is then typically followed by "how can these anti-detectorists say we are all nighthawks? I's not true! It's not fair!". What is not true is that nobody (watch the lips, n-o-body) is saying anything like all artefact hunters are nighthawks.

To clarify here, for the short-attention-spanners, what preservationists (not 'anti-detectorists please) are arguing - perfectly rationally - is that (a) there are problems with Collection Driven Exploitation (CDE) of the archaeological record (b) not all, and indeed not many, of these problems are solved by having a PAS [which itself creates several more which need addressing], and (and finally) (c) illegal activity is also damaging.

The latter cannot be denied (despite attempts by the pro-collecting lobby to do so). So, if that "responsible majority" would stop applying false bogeyman arguments, and make the mental effort to address what it really is that the other side is saying, we'd at least have some sort of rational basis on which to explore why they are not themselves doing anything to deal with this issue, except moan and engage in paroxysms of posturing every time somebody mentions it.

There is a lot of information emerging from the internal discussion of the UK artefact hunting milieu that, as I pointed out at the time of its publication, the Oxford Archaeology Nighthawking Report in fact utterly failed to get to grips with the scale of the problem. Yorkshire, where Andy Baines lives, is not likely to differ from the rest of the country in this respect. I have previously reported on similar comments from detectorists-in-the-know from other regions indicating the same under-reporting of this phenomenon (PACHI Saturday, 8 November 2008, 'Some Thoughts on Illegal Artefact Hunting in England'). It seems to me time to consider (five years on now) doing the report again, actually investing more effort in getting information from landowners and tenant farmers.  It is ridiculous that there is such a discrepancy between information on-the-ground and an official report. 


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