Thursday, 26 February 2015

PACHI PAS FOI: the PAS Forum, Lenborough and Fantasy Trolling by Nameless Varsovians

Commentary on the material placed in the public domain as a result of a PACHI FOI request from the British Museum from the PAS hidden forum

Topic K 24th -27th December 2014 Comforting Words over the Lenborough Fiasco:

The only other sequence of forum posts which Christopher Denvir made available refer to the Lenborough hoard. Nothing else I say on my blog over thirty months is of any interest to any of them, but the damage done by the Lenborough affair seems to have excited them into some activity. This is started off by Ros Tyrrell in a metal-detecting-forum-qualifying post full of emoticons and exclamation marks on 24th December claiming she was being "slagged off by email" - not true of course, she's playing the victim. I've discussed one aspect of that post earlier, and will return to it again later (and the significance that there was no reaction to what was said in either case). It was David Williams (24th Dec) who said it "all sounds absolutely fine [...] wish I'd been there!" Then,
"I see it's our Warsaw friend doing the criticising and wondering why his emails to you are bouncing?"*
Two points, first "our Warsaw friend" (and worse) is a metal-detectorish way to refer to he-who-shall-not-be-named. I have a name and it is not one totally unknown in archaeological circles and I do not see why it cannot be used here. Secondly  by the time Williams wrote this, it was not just me doing the criticising, there was quite widespread dismay in archaeological circles in general about this time, though RESCUE had not yet produced their account. Thirdly, my emails to Ms Tyrell's office were polite requests for information from an archaeologist interested in the case, what does it say for the transparency of the PAS that Mr Williams is "not surprised" these emails were ignored (indeed being - it seems he thinks - deliberately 'bounced')?  Julie C[assidy] agrees (30th Dec)
"you did a great job. Just ignore the Warsaw moaner. Nothing we do would have made [sic] him happy xxx".
"Warsaw moaner"? What? A major archaeological find is trashed on film by being hurriedly excavated ("it took all day") blindly digging down using a paint-stripping scraper and a carrier bag and tipped out loose on a kitchen table  and another FLO (paid for with YOUR money) says "you did a great job" and somebody looking at that scandalous footage and expressing concerns should instead be "happy" to watch something like that happen. That an archaeologist watching that reacts in any other way than delirium that some more shiny silver discs have been hoiked just makes him some kind of foreign "moaner". This conversation is ridiculous. These are not the standards of best practice the PAS is employed to promote. Peter R[eaville] makes an astounding claim:
I was trolled and insulted by warsaw [sic]  after excavating a couple of hoards - I just emailed him with details of my line managers and the IFA and asked him to report me for unprofessional conduct - he never did (but also never retracted the posts).
"Trolled"? I am really at a loss to understand this whole accusation. Mr Reavill is mentioned on my blog six times, twice with regard to the Kate Hunter piedfort case, once mentioning his blog, once with reference to a 'finds day', and once with reference to a hoard ('Not nighthawking, really - it woz in da day' Tuesday, 8 September 2009).  Could he be talking about the post (Sunday, 21 August 2011) on the 'Baschurch Hoard Screw-up'? Is the raising of cocerns about the aftermath of an archaeological investigation "trolling", or is it something else? Is it "insulting" to comment on a case like this? What is Mr Reavill on about? As for the email with employment details, I recall receiving no such document, and here the question was organizational matters not "professional conduct". I really think some people involved in the metal detecting "partnership" in the UK have extremely thin skins and warped ideas about the nature of archaeological debate. Note again the depersonalising labelling, "warsaw", here it is not even capitalised.

But then Dr Reavill (24th dec) also moots the suggestion, seventeen years into the operation of the PAS of guidelines and excavation kit lists and an emergency contacts page. Unfortunately if this developed into something, we cannot see it in the current FOI. Such texts should surely be consulted outside the narrow confines of a hidden PAS forum.

25th December Christmas Day, Dan Pett reports in this thread a propos nothing at all I can see:
Lovely, I am being trolled by Warsaw and H[eritage] A[ction] at the moment for sticking up for us.
Again the verb "trolled" and depersonalising "Warsaw". Later (25th Dec) Mr Pett added "don't feed the troll" to Ros Tyrrell's announcement that she was not going to address the issues I had raised. It was the BM's Dan Pett's use of the word "troll" at a public meeting where it was recorded that is part of the reasons for this FOI, so it is important to note he is still using it here and in what context. As for the accusation, on 25th December I sent no email to Dan Pett. This "trolling" is a fantasy of Mr Pett, on Christmas Day I made just one blog post with not a troll in sight. As far as I know Heritage Action were focusing on other issues at this time. This is really getting ridiculous, everyone is playing the victim, falsely crying 'wolf'  and refusing to address the archaeological issue at hand.

On 25th December Ros Tyrrell explains she was not going to answer my request for information, because she'd been unable to explain the Cold Brayfield hoard earlier and she did not fancy her chances here either. Certainly there are no comments by Ms Tyrrell under any of my posts on Cold Brayfield, so she'd not made much of an effort to put forward another side of the story here (and I would not think it too difficult a task for a skilled communicator to explain a hole in the ground to a fellow archaeologist). And look at the next bit:
I can't tell the world that there was no money for lifting the hoard because the Bucks Emergency Excavation Fund was spent on the Creslow Burial in Oct. The detectorists breaking the hoard story too early, while I was trying to be on leave, has messed up the plans we had for launching that! Aargh!
Hmm. Why "can't" there be any public acknowledgement of the financial problems caused by Weekend Wanderers targeting a known archaeological site just before Christmas (when their aim of going there is to find something) when there are no funds in the county to deal with anything they might find? I think this raises all sorts of questions about what is responsible detecting, and here we see the PAS deliberately avoiding bringing the subject up in the public domain (see 'What the PAS Does Not Want You to Know About the Creslow Burial?'). What is the problem with the Creslow Burial being mentioned? I do not understand why she thinks this is some kind of topic to be swept under the carpet.

Also, what a nerve she has blaming the detectorists for spoiling the plans to "launch" the (her) find (at the Treasure Report show). This raises a rather repugnant thought, was that the reason it was hoiked out - so enough of it could be scrubbed clean to make a good show for the Minister on Treasure Day?  The manner in which the PAS deliberately manipulates the timing of announcements like this for self-publicity has been noted before. The finders also have rights to brag about their find, Ms Tyrrell was a guest at the rally, now she seems to be depicting it as run for the benefit of the PAS and its annual circle of publicity stunts. Note also the interesting information in this thread that the finder of the hoard had only recorded a small number of finds 'none of them coins' with the Scheme before his million-pound Treasure. This is not the sort of information they generally release, trying to create the impression that many metal detecting finders show many objects from their personal collections each, when that seems from what one can glean from the PAS tables in their annual reports to be almost an exception rather than a rule.

I may return to what Williams says below that about my "support" of the PAS. That made me really angry. The guy obviously has no idea what this is about. Have any of them?

I think anyone who dismisses a fellow worker as merely a "troll", as this crowd are while at the same time bragging about never having read a word of what he has written, really represent all that is rotten in British archaeology when it comes to discussing the issues surrounding portable antiquities collecting and the antiquities trade. If we see this sort of superficial knee-jerkism in the Portable Antiquities Scheme itself - which should be the focal hotbed of debate, then what hope is there for the future of archaeology in Great Britain? Metal detectors and JCBs and grubbing out all the shiny bits?

Before leaving this topic, let us note that nowhere in the entire thread is there any discussion of the issues of archaeological methodology and best practice of the way this hoard was 'excavated'. All the name-calling by PAS professionals has obscured the fact that it was this, and primarily this, which was and is the focus of the comments on my blog. This, the PAS totally ignore. 
* By the way, Dr Williams' use of a rising inflection here is incomprehensible  - PAS punctuation perhaps is being affected by prolonged "partnership" with ignorant tekkies.

UPDATE 26th Feb 2015

Nigel Swift reacts to the accusation that Dan Pett was "being trolled by Heritage Action for sticking up for us" 
which was mirrored in my own post here 'Academics Lose the Thread in Metal Detector Debate (Again)'. Both of these posts are relevant to the aspects of the Lenborough fiasco being discussed here. But these are both from January 3rd, nine days after Mr Pett's complaint. Quite what it is he is referring to is beyond us to understand. Quite why anyone would want to "stick up for" hoik-blind-paint-scraper-and-carrier-bag-archaeology done by a major archaeological outreach organization is also difficult to understand.

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