Metal Detectorists - not all bad news
We've all heard horror stories of "night hawking" by irresponsible metal detectorists; plundering everything from scheduled ancient monuments to ongoing excavations. The Dig Site team don't believe this is a fair representation of most detectorists and so would like to hear from you about positive stories. Stories about working in partnership on digs, of good practice and of adding to the historical record. The best stories will be featured on this website. We look forward to hearing from you, closing date is Friday 27 February 2015. Send your stories to us at firstname.lastname@example.orgGood practice or best practice? The PAS was set up to encourage best practice. That's what people are paying for.
This project is a pretty egregious example of the airheadedness that permeates the debate on artefact collecting in British archaeology in at least two aspects. First of all it is almost as if one can expect that next week they will do an essay competition to show "not all Moslems are terrorists" and the week after, "not all Catholic clergymen are sex perverts". I really do wonder why they feel there are such stereotypes among their readers. Do they imagine that they are all that thick? The "digsite" team are falling into the pro-collecting lobby's trap of arguing that anything that is not nighthawking is OK. This leads the unwary to the conclusion that if you separate artefact hunters into two groups "nighthawks" and "others" this has identified all the "responsible detectorists". The fallacy of that argument should be pretty obvious to anyone thinking the issue through, but as we have seen time and time again, not all UK archaeologists see it.
The other problem is these archaeologists insist on talking about "metal detectorists". So what are they looking for, tales of good practice using a metal detector (the guys who took part in an archaeological survey of a battlefield site and collected up and plotted all the bits of canister shot? The guy who took part in such a survey and insisted on keeping "only one" artefact for himself)? Or are they talking about good/best practice in artefact hunting and collecting? These are two different things. It is the latter - what artefact hunters do on their own when not being supervised - that is the issue. "Working in partnership on digs" is not the issue, "good practice and of adding everything found to the historical record and not damaging anything" is. Also they are making a mistake selecting out what they consider the best stories and presenting it as an example of the sort of behaviour they'd like (for some reason best known to themselves) us all to think is fairly typical. I think we should see the full range of accounts wihich detectorists consider to be the epitome of that "good practice". What have "thedigsite" got to gain by hiding the evidence they've gathered?
Still, let artefact hunters stop playing the victim and get down to writing their stories.