Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Focus on PAS: More on those figures

The PAS says that finds have been reported by 29,402 finders. How many of them are metal detectorists? There is no way to tell for sure, those data are being kept by the PAS close to their chest. However we may assume that that most members of the public who are not artefact hunters are not likely to be serial finders of artefacts (statistics on that are also lacking from the PAS). If we look at the number of records from various activities, and assume that the number of recording events (records) relates more closely to the number of reporters than the number of finds, we get the following
Agricultural work  681 records
building                708 records
gardening            3017 records
chance find         9751  records
total                  14,157 records
Then there is another group of finders:
Controlled archaeological investigation  543+319+23+615 = 1500.
Metal detector during archaeological investigation  
Fieldwalking                                                                     17294
Again it is impossible to determine from that how many 'finders' included in the PAS total that represents (indeed, what these data from archaeological projects which should be being reported elsewhere are doing in the PAS database at all, that is another 2649 + 17,294 = 19,943 finds that should be subtracted from that nominal "million").

If we assume that the majority of the chance finds in the first group were one-off events, we may suggest subtracting 14000 from the 29,402 total. That means that only some 15400 finders would be either metal detectorists or archaeologists, plus those falling into other categories. This is pretty disturbing if we assume that the number of detectorists was 8000 a decade ago (those were my figures and the PAS has been saying much the same sort of thing), and has risen to 16000 in more recent years (this seems to be suggested by extrapolating from statistics on the growth in MD club membership). Many of these artefact hunters will have been active for only part of the time the PAS has been running. Those who took up artefact hunting as men in their twenties in the 1970s will now be in their late sixties. Those who took it up in the 1970s or 1980s in later middle age or retirement are mostly dead.  So the figures of "more than 9000" (minimum given by 'rally' figures) to "less than 15400" really are not very satisfactory for the fruits of eighteen years' work.

But really it beats me why we are left guessing about these figures and having to stand on our heads trying to work out what the PAD "statistics" mean for the heritage debate. Why on earth can the PAS not just tell it as it is, and give the figures for the patterns of reporting by artefact hunters and collectors and others in black and white for us all to see? Why not? How much more cash would transparency cost?

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