Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The PAS versus Nighthawks Discussion Again: Logic?

Convicted but still smug
Up at the University of Salford, Dr Mike Nevell (‏   4 min4 minuty temu) alarms:
yet Portable Antiquities Scheme faces cuts.
That is a pretty typical example of the sort of chalk and cheese 'logic' that is encouraged by the UK's stilted heritage debate in the shadow of the PAS. The PAS has no direct influence on illegal metal detecting, a crook is a crook, a culture thief is a culture thief. The PAS does not - they will tell you - deal with any culture thieves or looters.

Metal detectorists in Salford, as everywhere else will tell Mr Nevell that "nighthawks" are a totally different and subhuman species whose hideous physical deformities prevent them from coming out in daylight hours and mixing with other metal detectorists (where they would be spotted and handed over to the authorities immediately - as has happened so many times, no?). In any case, by what means does Dr Nevell think the PAS have the ability to deal with illegal practitioners, a carrot or stick? The only carrot they can offer is the ability for the artefact hunter to legitimise finds by recording them on the PAS database - what they cannot and do not check is whether the reported findspot is where the object actually was found. If they started demanding documentation that a specific landowner has signed over ownership of specific finds found on their land there is a chance that the PAS can make a real contribution to fighting illegal artefact hunting.

But will British archaeologists like Mike Nevell actually discuss this type of thing, or are they content just to parrot the same old same old glib PAS spin without deeper consideration of what it is they are saying and how it relates to the real world of artefact hunting and collecting? Do they read the detecting forums much?

Oh my... Dr Nevell in reply to my querying what he said actually writes:
connection very simple: PAS's needed to encourage responsible metal detecting. Damage to Hadrian's Wall sites highlights this
"Simple" is not a word I would use in any area of the heritage debate. Artefact hunting on Hadrian's Wall is illegal, not merely "irresponsible". The PAS works with people who are not acting illegally and encouraging them to act responsibly when dealing with their finds is not really likely to have any effect on those who deliberately go out and target protected sites. It's like saying that a police campaign of asking people to "knock on doors and ask nicely for permission to enter and wear light-coloured clothing at night" is going to be an effective tactic to counter burglary. That's just bonkers.

The real elephant in the room being ignored is the unfettered ability of the culture thief to shift his ill-gotten gains onto the entirely open and unregulated British antiquities market where buyers are faced with the risk of (unknowingly) buying stolen goods. PAS or no PAS, nothing is being done to find ways of dealing with this issue.

and yes, Dr Nevell I am well aware of what the Oxford Nighthawking report claimed about the PAS reducing illegal activity and the PAS themselves claim, but I do not accept that the evidence supports this interpretation - my reasoning is documented in my blog:

'Some Thoughts on Illegal Artefact Hunting in England', PACHI Saturday, 8 November 2008,
'How much Illegal Metal Detecting in the UK?', PACHI Thursday, 20 November 2008
'"Nighthawking Down - Hooray for PAS"? ', PACHI Wednesday, 3 December 2008,
'Damage to Archaeological Sites in the UK caused by Illegal Searching and Removal of Antiquities', PACHI Monday, 16 February 2009,
'Prominent metal detectorist says: “Illegal metal detecting is now virtually non-existent.”', PACHI Tuesday, 17 February 2009,
'Glemsford Detector Users: Nighthawking Down?', PACHI Monday, 18 April 2011

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