Monday, 4 January 2016

Aspects of "non-professional metal detecting" in Europe

'Open Archaeology' is running what they call a "Topical Issue on Aspects of non-professional metal detecting in Europe" building upon the 2015 EAA Annual Meeting in Glasgow and edited by Pieterjan Deckers, Michael Lewis and Suzie Thomas (Call for Papers here).

One wonders what "professional metal detecting in Europe” entails, airport security? I really fail to see why they claim to be adopting a European stance but insist on using the anorakish/vanilla self-description of one group of artefact hunters from one country. Artefact hunting and collecting is the problem that should be being discussed and not the tool that is used by many to do it (and a variety of other things). One of my first posts on this blog was about that and eight years on it is galling to find academics are still unthinkingly churning out the verbal and conceptual detritus of pro-collecting spin. No change there, then. As for their statement that:
"some [European countries (sic)] even actively engage with detectorists, arguing that the benefits of such an approach for research and heritage management outweigh the potential risks.
Yet, in the case of one of them at least (England), absolutely no proper assessment of that "risk" has ever been carried out. None, in coming up to two decades of the laissez faire PAS-based policy. Why not? The Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter suggests a reason, it would mean admitting that the policy is simply not an effective one. Michael Lewis, of the "Learning, Volunteers and Audiences" PAS, one of the editors of this volume might like to address that issue properly in his contribution.The editors go on to say:
Professional attitudes and opinions have tended to become entrenched, and hard data on the nature of detectorists are limited.
In the case of the United Kingdom, that is only because "professionals" are deliberately refusing to address this issue and have been for nearly two decades. "Shhh, don't rock the boat" is what was heard from the PAS itself for a long time before they gave up. For two decades, the PAS has had some fifty people liaising with artefact hunters and collectors at several levels, yet are still unable to provide anything like "hard data" on what artefact hunters do and do not do, where and to what degree. That is simply professionally negligent.  They've taken two decades of public money and are still unable to provide hard data about how what they have done relates to the scale of the problem? Why?

This also is a questionable statement:
This volume [...] aims to form a new step towards more unified debate across Europe; towards common ground regarding ethics and best practices in responding to this phenomenon.
Apart from asking when we are going to stop pussy-footing round an issue ("form a new step" - instead of taking a firm decision), one might well ask what "common ground" can there be on artefact hunting for personal entertainment and profit across Europe? This is just PAS silly fluffy-bunny talk. Why restrict it to a Eurocentric view when the problem of exploitation of archaeological sites for collectables for personal profit and entertainment is a global one? Bonkers. The common ground is that in most of the world's 200 or so countries, artefact hunting, like bird-egging and rhino-shooting is seen as a damaging form of resource depletion. What entitles the English-speaking authors to say these views are "wrong" and what "common ground" can we come to over the stripping or artefacts from Dura Europos and Archar? What actually are "we" talking about?  
All papers will go through [...] comprehensive peer-review procedure. [...] transparent, comprehensive and fast peer review managed by our esteemed Guest Editors
Hmmm. So it'll be objective then. Deadline 29 February 2016. Seven weeks, the fluffy bunny propagandists however have their stock arguments ready to place in a row to boost their publication stats.

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