Monday, 17 November 2014

Focus on Metal Detecting: Citizen Hoikers

Portableised antiquity as 'fragment art'
One assumes that the "Peter" who attempts to overcome his illiteracy to upbraid Heritage Action on (17/11/2014 at 10:06) commenting the issue of complaints about the value of Treasure rewards is a metal detectorist of the UK ilk. Nowhere else does the school system have such uniformly abysmal results. Nevertheless he claims some special understanding of the issue:
You lot  just don’t understand irrespective of what’s found ,it’ was found ,you preffer it not to be found ,especially by citizen archaeologists useing a metal detector who do report there  finds to the PAS ,as can be seen by reading the PAS treasure report ,or go and visit the Briish museam ,and many local museums that have items found by local citizen archaeologists. There is know difference in paintings and fine art being acquired for nation ,from the public purse ,than acquiring a roman hoard found by a citizen archaeologist ,the valuation must be accurate .
This 'better out than in' may apply to a decayed tooth or inflamed appendix, it does not apply however to conservation, neither rhinos, orchids or hoiking from archaeological sites. I rather think it is the metal detecting "lot" that is lacking in understanding. There is a very clear difference between hoiked archaeology and a painting taken from a hook on one wall and placed on another. There IS however a parallel if this "fine art" is a head wrenched off a statue which itself forms part of a temple, which forms part of a temple complex - part of a ritual landscape.  There are a lot of such fragments in museums, the London ones not excluded.

What's this "citizen archaeologist" nonsense? Was the head removed from the Cambodian temple above by a "citizen art historian with a crowbar"? What is the definition of "citizen archaeologists" if we are all citizens, doctors, lawyers, bartenders, dustmen? Is every hooligan with a spray can defacing inner city walls with racist scrawl a "citizen artist" for "Peter"? Is every metal detector user hoovering collectables out of sites in Bulgaria, Greece and NW Russia a "citizen archaeologist"? I doubt that terminology will achieve popularity there. Only in Bonkers Britain can somebody say something like that and imagine they are not going to get laughed at.  But the joke is on Britain and its archaeologists for failing to explain to people like "Peter" what archaeology is and what artefact hunting is not and preventing the debasement of the term by the singularly uncommunicative Portable Antiquities Scheme.

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