Thursday, 26 February 2015

Creslow Burial and Helen Geake in "The Searcher"

Someone objected to me showing
a smiling metal detectorist here,
so here instead is a picture of the
USAF doing Washington's bidding
and attacking someone
In the photo accompanying the "Searcher" feature story in the April 2015 number, American detectorist John Steele proudly shows his English metal detecting mates that he has all his own teeth.
Last year, on his first visit it the UK on a detecting tour organised by Weekend Wanderers, John Steele found a Roman burial in Buckinghamshire. He tells his own story of the discovery and I look in closer detail at the finds and their significance. John, a detectorist since 1969, lives in Colorado. He has been retired from the US Air Force for 13 years.
Does the Searcher metal detecting magazine (in which the British Museum's Helen Geake also has an article this month)  go through the problems caused to Buckinghamshire archaeologists by Col Steele's carefree foray in the British archaeological record? Does it tell readers that dealing with the find - on a known archaeological site being exploited for commercial purposes, the county's entire Emergency Fund was gobbled up and then there was nothing to allocate to Lenborough? Is this not an issue that should be of concern to responsible metal detectorists and written about and discussed in a magazine of this type? What is meant by responsible detecting anyway, just dig into something and let somebody else sort out the mess while the finder gets a pat on the back for shooting fish in a barrel? How much do commercial artefact hunting groups make from organizing events like metal detecting holidays for steely-jawed ex-US servicemen? How much of those profits do they pay into the emergency funds of counties where they operate to offset the substantial costs incurred in finishing the job properly? To what extent is Col Steele even aware of the extent of the problems his "dream find" caused for a lot of other people and organizations?

In any case, one of the justifications for metal detecting trotted out by the pro-collecting brigade is that these people are "learning about their past" through the activity of hoiking out archaeological evidence from sites and putting it in their pockets. Col Steele is not learning about any past at all pocketing British artefacts (note detectorist John Winter writes for the magazine describing the grave deposit itself) and Weekend Wanders is not facilitating anything much by taking money from people like him. Just what is going on here? How would you, how would the PAS, name this? How would you name this if it involved exploitive visits to other countries in other fields of human pleasure-seeking for money?

It is of course no use expecting the Portable Antiquities Scheme to be discussing this issue, but the rest of us can. Is this the way we should be treating Britain's fragile and finite archaeological heritage?

UPDATE 27th Feb 2015
Apparently in the "Searcher", Col Steele boasts "I’ve signed my interest over to the Bucks County Museum" I suppose that's a way to escape the full costs of excavation, conservation, analysis and publishing it. Now it's up to the Buckinghamshire Emergency Fund ('What the PAS Does Not Want You to Know About the Creslow Burial') and in true metal detecting fashion getting somebody else to pick up the bill - raising once again what we understand by "responsible detecting". Goodbye, good riddance and don't come back.

"Excavating casket" - another deep ragged hole
in Buckinghamshire's past (the History blog)

1 comment:

Paul Barford said...

Insulting comment rejected. Grumpy old detectorists who send comments under assumed names trying only to advertise "The Searcher" can try another blog.

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