Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Usual Level of Public Outreach From "the Scheme"

"The important contribution the Portable Antiquities Scheme
have made to our understanding of Britain's history"
Today BM Treasure-fest -  "News from the Scheme": 
Largest Anglo-Saxon coin hoard tops list of latest nationwide treasure finds Published: 10 minutes ago Author: British Museum Press Office On the occasion of the launch of the Treasure Annual Report 2012 by Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture, at the British Museum, the largest Anglo Saxon coin hoard found since the Treasure Act began is announced. This amazing archaeological hoard of around 5,200 coins was discovered in the village of Lenborough, Buckinghamshire. This discovery highlights the ongoing importance of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure Act in ensuring that the most important finds are secured for the nation.
In what way? The reporting of the hoard is mandatory under The Treasure Act. The involvement of the PAS in its hoiking out in a matter of hours is not really something the Scheme should be trumpeting. "Ros Tyrrell, the FLO who was in charge of the excavation" [sic], is quoted as saying: "now I know a little of what Egyptologist Howard Carter must have felt, when he first looked into the tomb of Tutankhamen". But Carter took ten years to excavate that single context back in 1922, documenting every step. Modern UK archaeology does it differently, Ms Tyrrell had the whole lot tipped out on a kitchen table at dusk and the field documentation of the context is as yet nowhere to be seen. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum is quoted:
'The publication of the latest Treasure Report demonstrates the important contribution the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme have made to our understanding of Britain's history and in supporting collections around the country. More Treasure finds are being reported than ever before and unique objects are documented and conserved for study and public display, such as the recent find of the largest Anglo-Saxon coin hoard recorded since the Treasure Act of 1996. These achievements are a testament to the network of Finds Liaison Officers, who play a key role in ensuring archaeological finds found by the public are properly reported and recorded.
It is all about the Treasure these days' isn't it? The Treasure finds are taking over the PAS database (originally intended for recording non-Treasure finds made by members of the public). Yet no archaeological comment is made in the PAS press release (and what's the betting will also be absent from tomorrow's media coverage) that this hoard was found:
- by a man who had bought a tool made specifically for the purpose of finding buried metal objects,
- on a commercial artefact hunting rally,
- targeting a known archaeological site, a sensitive earthwork site under grass.

Further down the document, Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, stresses that "finders and landowners have graciously waived their right to a reward so that local museums can acquire Treasure" which he says:
demonstrates that metal-detectorists have a genuine interest in the past, and are not just interested in archaeology for personal gain '.
And landowners he meant to say. So is he trying to kid us into believing that Mr Coleman and the absent landowner of the earthwork site at Manor Farm, Lenborough near Buckingham ill be waiving their reward?

When are PAS going to see themselves as less apologetics for metal detecting and more as a public scheme supposed to be informing the wider public about portable antiquity issues? Their job descriptions (eg even assistants) often require "Awareness of issues relating to metal-detecting, the Treasure Act and archaeology" why, if they are not discussing them with the wider public who pay for their posts?


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