Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Talking of "an Acceptable Stance"

David Gill ('The Dumfriesshire Viking hoard: "an approachable stance towards engaging with detectorists") takes issue with a recent pro-collecting fluff piece by Suzie "cuddle a detectorist" Thomas. Thomas writes the typical airhead spin-stuff  so beloved of the camp-followers of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Gill succinctly put it into context. Thomas witters:
The Treasure Trove Unit in Scotland, and the Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales take an approachable stance towards engaging with detectorists.
What makes it "acceptable" to some is that it removes the need for anyone else to do any thinking about it. Dr Thomas, enthralled by metal detecting, apparently sees the "collecting culture" of Britain as some warped form of "community archaeology". While she's now ensconced in Helsinki, far from Bonkers Britain, until last year she was based in the amorphous Glasgow Trafficking Culture project where she'd have had good opportunity to both observe how "acceptable" the Scottish "approach" is and ponder on its broader context. If she did that, the conclusions she came to are all the more surprising.
In the 2013-4 annual report (Appendix 4)  there is mention of  825 objects found by 265 finders (at least 22 of which were not artefact hunters) . Yet Stuart Campbell ('Metal detecting, collecting and portable antiquities: Scottish and British perspectives' Internet Archaeology 33[1]) estimates that "there are around 500 active metal-detector users in Scotland". So last year 257 artefact hunters active in Scotland reported nothing to the TTU, and of those that did, each reported just 3.4 finds each. If they were finding things at the same rate as the HA artefact erosion counter suggests is happening south of the border that is instead of 15000 finds a year. By how much would one have to adjust the HA estimate downwards to make the shortfall an acceptable one (in a country where almost everything is to be reported is compulsory on all law-abiding detectorists?)

Is this really all that "acceptable"? To whom and on what grounds? Personally, I think that sounds like a load of old nonsense. Though, I'd be happy for  any Scottish heritage professional to come here and explain where I am wrong.

Vignette: Artefact hunters welcome to fill their pockets with the archaeological heritage?

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