Monday, 5 January 2015

Which part of the word "conservation" do artefact hunters not understand?

Brighton (not very, apparently) detectorist Peter Abbott comments on the Heritage Action blog (2015/01/04 at 21:50):
As citizen archiaologists [sic] we act with in [sic] the law we declare our finds and notify the relevant people FLO even when a hoard is found we can’t do no [sic] more than that. We’re keep [sic] finding these fantastic hoards while your [sic] sitting on your hands, and if we don’t find them nobody else will and they will be lost forever.
"We can't do any more than that" - precisely what the Treasure Act Code of Practice says. Any ham-fisted attempt by poorly-prepared diggers, citizen archaeologists or not, to dig the thing up destroys information, which is why the Code of Practice states what it does. The hoards which are found during archaeological excavations (Beau Street Bath, Williams and Griffins site Colchester just recently) are dealt with far better than the majority of the Treasure finds hoiked out by artefact hunters (no, collection driven exploitation of the archaeological resource is not "citizen archaeology", it is damaging erosion of the record). They also have a far better chance of getting published than the majority of metal detected ones.

To simplify the aims of archaeology to merely be the discovery of "Treasure" is not to understand at all what archaeology is about - but then if that is the dumbdown version which the PAS is telling the British public, then it is not exactly the fault of those members of the public who cannot work it out for themselves that this is the picture they get for their investment of seventeen million pounds in an outreach scheme.

The point is though that hoards buried deep in well-preserved, unthreatened stratified sites are not "lost", they are preserved, awaiting an opportunity to yield information about the site they are part of. Simply hoiking them out as was the case at Lenborough and Holt is like wildlife conservationists cutting the heads off living rhinos saying they are "saving the horns from getting into the hands of poachers". Just a nonsense. Which part of the word "conservation" do artefact hunters not understand?

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