Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Mitigating Context Loss in Metal Detected Finds

"How do we keep our records??" asks "Hoover" of fellow members on a metal detecting forum near you (Mon Nov 09, 2015 7:36 pm). This obviously is a matter of fundamental concern, and it is disturbing to see what the answers so far have been. Let us be clear that alongside 'bygones' of relatively recent date, there will also be archaeological artefacts removed from a once-definable assemblage - some of known sites targeted as potentially 'productive' of collectables. Obviously recording the position and associations of any archaeological evidence taken away and thus decontextualised is of primary importance. That is why eighteen years ago England and then Wales set up, at vast public expense, a Portable Antiquities Scheme. How far has that education gone several million pounds later?

"Hoover" himself shows what he does.  Not very edifying, a screenprint shows a digital 'record'  set up as a simple table with sketchy details, and findspot indicated on a Google Earth shot showing bits of a dozen fields.

That kind of record, if it survives, is next to useless for reconstructing context of the items pocketed and interpreting(or even identifying) the pattern of surface finds from the site which they came from. It gets worse, while one Fisher1266X (Mon Nov 09, 2015 8:40 pm) indicates that his finds are bagged separately, the actual mechanics are less encouraging "the field/s are dated and coded and the finds are bagged with the same details". The PAS seems not to have issued any guidelines on this. So it is we find other 'records' kept in non-standard and probably non-retrievable ways. "Ravenrook" (Tue Nov 10, 2015 1:50 pm) has a global approach:
I use Google Earth and change the Map Pin Icon into a photo of the object where I found it on the map. this way you have a column at the side with all the finds listed and can zoom in on any find in situ anywhere in the country or the world! (although I haven't got that far yet!)
Forum member "Smudge.g" (Tue Nov 10, 2015 1:59 pm) has a similar self-centred approach:
I too use Google earth and add every find (except buttons) as a new pin in the 'my places' list. It only saves the new data once you've closed the program down though.
Quite how Mr Smudge intends to disseminate that information to anyone wanting in future acccess to these data for research is not explained. Basically, it may be expected that the majority of the millions of objects hoiked by these careless and self-centred people is doomed to be divorced from any useful contextual data the moment it goes into their pocket. Any records that are made will be inaccessible and unusable within the decade.

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy". 

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.