Thursday, 7 January 2016

PAS "Better than Nuffink M8"

Michael Lewis who works for the BM and runs for them the "Learning, Volunteers and Audiences PAS" sent me the following question and gave permission for it to be published here:
“given that metal-detecting is not regulated in Britain, there is no political will to regulate it and (if there were) such regulation would be almost impossible to enforce, would British archaeology be better with or without the PAS, whatever you feel about its limitations?” (sic)
That seems to me, in the context of the present discussion, a totally naive question, unless of course the BM employee is simply behaving like a metal detecting partner and taking trying to "have a larf at Barfy's expense".

The question seems to suggest that Mr Lewis inhabits a PAS-centred cognitive universe in which nothing  is possible that doesn't involve PAS existing. Of course there would be a political will to regulate detecting if PAS didn't exist as a convenient (and noisily self-promoting) cop-out. That the Scheme's own public outreach unwittingly promotes a powerful object-centric public image of archaeology as merely a hunt for isolated interesting artefacts is not only damaging to the interests of archaeology (and the public) but also undercuts its own rationale. Mr Lewis probably considers it is enough to point to a database of "wotta lotta stuff we got" (so like the listings on eBay with findspots) rather than considering the issue of the need for a tool for protecting the archaeological heritage from exploitation by relic collectors. As for regulation, it could be enforced but he is insisting the opposite is the case simply to protect PAS, like the artefact hunters do.

I think precisely because of those 'limitations', and what a close review of what metal detectorists say on the social media, I cannot endorse the view that British archaeology is in any substantive way better with this PAS in its present form than it would have been if another route had been sought to deal with the artefact hunters that daily pilfer archaeological sites up and down the country.

Other views are welcome, especially from FLOs and British archaeologists. Which archaeologists are going to come on here and tell me that British Archaeology "is Better Off With a PAS"? Come on (names and affiliations please so we know you are not a metal detecting sock-puppet). Who's going at the beginning of 2016 to put their name under a comment here praising the PAS and what they do and saying I am wrong? Any takers? Many takers?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps as Chairman of an amateur group which also includes archaeologists I could offer our answer to Mr Lewis by throwing his question back to him in a different form:

“Mr Lewis, given that egg collecting used to be unregulated in Britain, and until it was there was no political will to do so or belief that it could be, would you think the ornithological resource would have been better preserved to this day if a voluntary Egg database had been set up back then? Or are we better off with regulation?

Incidentally, it's far harder to regulate egg collecting than artefact hunting (no big machines involved) yet it has largely proved to be a piece of cake despite the threats of defiance at the time.

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