Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Tekkies and their Culture 24 comments

My comment to the Culture24 article by Ben Miller ('A tantalising mystery: The story behind the huge Anglo-Saxon coin hoard found in Buckinghamshire') was a pretty tame one. I wrote:
So, basically what the FLO is saying is that it was "impossible" to secure the site and organize a proper investigation. Yet that is what the Treasure Act Code of Practice says ALL finders should be doing, so why not this one specifically, with the FLO actually on the site ? FLOs are paid to get best practice, why was it not practised here? Other hoards ARE secured and excavated slowly, and we get far more information out of them than a Sainsbury's bag of loose coins. 
I see nothing at all wrong with that. It is short, factual, to the point and indicating the discrepancies in current policy and practice. And the reaction of so-called 'responsible metal detectorists"? Did they too express concern about the free-for-all we see on the Lenborough videos? No, actually they did not. One can quite clearly pick out the detectorists in that thread of 15 comments following mine, they are the ones that cannot use capitals and axillary verbs. They come over as a group of people intent only on denial and acting aggressively when an issue is raised. They seem also oblivious to place and context and the fact that readers of cultural media such as Culture 24 will not all see the world through the same yobbish eyes as themselves.
andrew fudge, salisbury 12 January 2015 06:42  Barford go get a life . You should take up another hobby you sad sad man
Shane Buchanan, Nottingham 12 January 2015 06:53 also has some 'helpful' observations which put detectorists in as good a light as they deserve:
Barford it clearly states they couldn't make it secure and was a risk of night hawkers [sic]. If they a [sic] FLO on site he [sic] knows what's best for that situation. They [sic] could be any reason y [sic] it couldn't of [sic] been left in the ground and secured. Just stop being so negative you bell end [sic]
" paul coleman, southampton" 12 January 2015 08:52 agrees:
An FLO made the only decision she could make given the situation! She made the comments at the time that she really would have liked another option, but there wasn't one. She's an FLO, NOT A DINNER LADY.
"daniel bamsey, dorset" 12 January 2015 09:00
You can't please all the people all the time, they done [sic] the best they could. Would you have travelled there on a sunday a few days before Christmas to do a 'proper' excavation? Even if you would [sic] have the chances of it going missing before you got to it would have been vast. Too much hate towards detectorist's [sic] because after all this would never have been found, like so many treasures that sit in museums all over the country, had it not been for good, honest detectorist's [sic].
First of all, some brainy individual organized and took money for an event to search for archaeological and historical artefacts on a known archaeological site in the few days before Christmas and then decided that when an archaeological deposit was found by one of his paying diggers, that the timing was inconvenient to do it properly, that is hire a team to excavate and record the deposit carefully. The site of course could have been secured, where there is a will there is a way. It may cost the participants a bit more effort and resources, but there is a million pound hoard of national significance involved and they are "all responsible detectorists", so why cut corners? Whose responsibility is the finding of this under these circumstances? What is "responsibility"? Those people should take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.  Mr Bamsey, neither the organizers, the finder, the landowner nor FLO did "the best they could", because they could obviously have done a good deal more than they did. And two of them are going to be holding their hands out in the next few months for their million pound "reward" for what they did and did not do.

Of course to do the best, you'd have to know what that is, and it is the FLO's job to jolly well make sure they do. Here she failed to do that, but obviously is going to be the last person to admit it.  I am perfectly at rights to criticise her for that - and she is perfectly at rights to show where I am wrong here or via the PAS website, but instead she elected to do a garbled interview for a Culture24 journalist.

Peter Atkinson, lincs 12 January 2015 09:02 reckons:
Barford, if it had been secured and excavated over a period of 3 days instead of one you still would have found fault with something. Your life is spent attacking UK metal detectorists and PAS from Poland
He then gives a link to a text by John Howland (see below) on a US detectorist's blog and asks "any reader of you [sic] comment to read this about you". Why, is not explained; there is no discussion in the place indicated about the policies that led to this fiasco - just personal attacks and false insinuations directed at me as usual. So, in fact, nothing related to my comment above.

Yes, Mr Atkinson is right, due to the idiotic timing of the event, securing the site just "three days" would have meant a team of excavators turning up on December 25th, Christmas Day. That is obviously unsatisfactory and I would not be the only one criticising them for organizing it in such a manner unbefitting the gravity of the situation.

It is the organizers of this commercial event and landowner who created this problem (including by their choosing such a time for it), and it is their responsibility, and theirs alone, to sort it out, by organizing a proper team and securing the site until they can deal with the problem in a more satisfactory manner. If not, then in my opinion, the Treasure ransom should be cut.

"Steve", Cambridgeshire 12 January 2015 10:02 however has got the right idea. He agrees with me that the site could have been secured ("A hoard such as this needed to be lifted in one block when the area around the findspot was opened up and excavated properly"). Yep. 100% agreement. He's the only one though.

The so-called "Heritage Trust of Great Britain" (12 January 2015 10:31) want to express "a big ‘well done’ to Ms Tyrrell, and all present on the day" and tip a nod to "the dedication of the British Museum" too. Alistair Mackay, Rothwell, Northamptonshire (Coinmac the coin dealer) 12 January 2015 11:00 also wants to congratulate Ms Tyrrell and the detectorists involved. He suggests that the FLO, as "the person on site (not sat at a desk in Warsaw)" would have used "her best judgement, keeping in mind the location, weather, time of year, and the fact that, under the circumstances, the find would rapidly become public knowledge". But if the site is secured and a proper team put in place, the fact it is public knowledge is neither here nor there. The archaeological heritage belongs to everybody, so why would we be in favour of keeping information from them? It is the public that pay for the PAS.

No metal detectorist gathering would be complete without the ubiquitous John Howland from Poole and his usual foul mouth and ad hominem remarks. Here he is in full flow (remember the content of the comment I posted to which he pretends to be replying):
The problem [sic] with Paul Barford is that one cannot believe anything he writes or utters about detectorists, or the PAS, owing to his ingrained hatred of both. His widely derided and discredited 'Artifact Erosion Counter' has caused derision to be heaped on archaeology in spades. Compared to Ms Tyrell, he is an undistinguished heritologist; 'archaeologist' being too grander [sic] word to describe this incessant yapper. 
Basically I think readers of Culture24 can probably read and think for themselves, so do not really need to be 'told' what to believe about artefact hunting or the estimate of Heritage Action on the scale of non-recording. What I actually wrote in my comment can be checked out from other sources.

There was an opportunity here for "responsible metal detectorists" to show their concern for doing things correctly and by the book and not causing damage as a result of their hobby. There was an opportunity to show that there are grounds for believing the constant optimistic reassurances and assertions of the PAS about their 'partners'. But...

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy". 

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