Sunday, 3 January 2016

UK Artefact Hunters, Best Practice and Conservation

"these matters affect the very
existence of our hobby and we
should be grateful that we have members
on here who are bringing things to light" (Liam McNolan)

[UPDATE 4th Jan 2016: What irritatingly juvenile jerks UK metal detectorists are. The links in the post below do not now work because "this topic does not exist". The buffoons have deleted it, so my summary of the gist of the content is the only public record. I guess they want you to think I made it all up. Downloads of the whole thread before bowldlerisation and then deletion are available to all with ".gov" addresses; Alternatively for the moment you can read it on the Google cache].

There is alarm on a metal detecting forum near you. Member "geoman" warns ( Fri Jan 01, 2016 7:10 pm):
CSS started today!!!
well, actually the Countryside Stewardship Schemes started yonks ago, in 1991. Anybody who remembers the old PAS public forum before it was closed due to the unpredictable behaviour of certain metal detectorists will recall the lunatic "the sky is falling" alarmism which surrounded the introduction of the CSS all those years ago. It seems the same is still happening. What is changing is that the policy is being made more coherent, and again, for metal detectorists, the sky is falling. It was Geoman himself who started the fuss at the beginning of December (Sat Dec 12, 2015 8:54 pm):
The new agri-environment schemes start on the 1st January 2016. I called in to see one of my farmers today and he says he has been accepted for the mid tier option on the new scheme. The start date is yet to be confirmed, but he did say i would not be able to detect on some of his fields i have been searching for over 20 years because they contain known archaeological sites. This used to be known sites under grassland on the old ELS ,but now it covers those on ploughed land as well. This is not sites which are protected by any statute, but simply those on the Historic Environment Records for the county.
So basically this at last sorts out the issue that a landowner is getting lots of public money to conserve the environment, but this did not affect the depletion of the historical environment through artefact hunting. This was sheer nonsense and has taken well over a decade to sort out. Attentive readers of the forums will know that UK artefact hunters (and not only) are fond of presenting what they do as a form of 'rescue', they claim that the artefacts they collect are all under severe threat and by hoiking them out and pocketing them, they are "saving history". Well, in CSS land where sustainable and minimal cultivation regimes are applied, these arguments are simply not applicable (I discussed this in the case of John Hooker's friend Dean Crawford who refused to report finds to the PAS because it would mean sensitive sites being taken into the CSS schemes - and in a moment we will see that the attitudes I highlighted there are widespread in the UK detecting community).

The metal detectorist then went to the National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD) and was told that "they understand that known sites will be those where there are cropmarks with a good number of recorded finds or a well known, but unprotected site". Geoman is appalled:
So details from the PAS database added to known cropmarks will be classed as known sites and so out of bounds for metal detecting yet they may be under arable cultivation. This is not good as i have recorded a lot of finds with the PAS and i know from the pottery scatters that there are small unremarkable sites under the plough so it looks like i will be excluded from many field simply because i recorded finds from these with the PAS. The CSS is going to cover 35% of farmland and as it is not clear if all that will be "Agreement Land" under the Scheme or only a part of a holding. Seems designed to exclude metal detecting rather than to encourage recording from ploughed known sites as was agreed under the old ELS. 
Now, wait a minute, is not the identification of sites depicted as the whole aim of "metal detecting"? That's what the supporters of the current status quo have been saying "metal detectorists" do. This, they argue, is why we should allow or even encourage the hobby, to harness it to the needs of conservation. Well, how quickly that model collapses when confronted with reality. Conservation of the archaeological resource (pretty obviously) means not random people stripping out random elements from a finite resource willy-nilly and pocketing them - with only a nod to a 'purely voluntary recording scheme, available 'if detectorists want to use it'.  That's what the rest of the world understands by archaeological resource conservation. Is that in some way difficult to understand?

It's difficult for "metal detectorists " (that is artefact hunters) to understand, the archaeological resource is where they get their stuff from. There was a bit of indignation and expressions of entitlement from other forum members, mutterings of a "betrayal". Then, as we are dealing with collectors, there has to be the conspiracy theory. This one goes that the lack of information from responsible reporting of metal detecting finds is to "make the job of the developer easier with fewer pesky sites to pay for to be evaluated". Geoman suggests (Sun Dec 13, 2015 5:17 pm)
For many it may be a time to re-evaluate recording policies with the PAS who have as yet to make any comment yet have been well aware of the proposed changes for some time now.
We start hearing from "finders" who, like Mr Crawford, have been withholding correct information about findspots from the PAS all along.  Now, interestingly, Geoman shows (Sun Dec 13, 2015 8:04 pm) that he understands very well the principle on which this works, the aim being to protect:
undesignated historic environment features which could benefit from inclusuion and hence protection by environmental stewardship. The design of the new CSS is to ensure that more [sites] will be entered into beneficial management by landowners.
I therefore fail to see where his argument is with such a system, IF artefact hunting is the socially-beneficial hobby its supporters paint it as. But - as I have been saying here for coming up to eight years - it is not, is it? That is just so much fluffy-brain bollocks.

Anyhow the 'PAS-partners' are waiting for a statement from the PAS. "it would be good to hear what the FLO's have to say? says Geoman. Member "AlloverRover" has been along to his FLOto ask about this, the latter was cagey (Mon Dec 14, 2015 11:09 am) and the detectorist was so shocked he could not decide whether he was writing a statement or a question:
Have just come out from meeting FLO and he says although he has only heard this annecdotaly and not read the full brief, PAS are also concerned about this and will be issuing a statement early in the New Year????
Oh to be a fly on a Bloomsbury wall while they are umm-ing and ahh-ing about what to say.

Meanwhile some really cringeworthy entitlement from "Muddy fingers" who fancies himself as an amateur lawyer it seems and getting in a right muddle in the process. (Basically, "Muddy" nobody is forcing a landowner to join the scheme, if he joins it he has to follow the conditions for getting the money, if he does not like the conditions, he need not take the money - it's what we call an "agreement"). There is a lot more material in subsequent posts, very revealing of the mindset (eager to play the victim and see an anti-collecting conspiracy everywhere). An interesting phrase (Geoman again): " I dont see how the PAS can change this now so it will be interesting to see the New Year statement on this issue". It is not in any way stated why the artefact hunter thinks the PAS would want to weaken the conservation care of "historical environment features which could benefit from inclusion and hence protection by environmental stewardship"! Allover Rover chips in here with this remarkable report (Mon Dec 14, 2015 9:21 pm)
To be honest, the FLO I met with today talked like PAS had been caught on the back foot by all of this, his actual words were " its no good for you and its no good for us" and seemed like they may of been surprised by it also ( at least at FLO level).
Is that the Essex FLO who said that? Blimey, why would an archaeologist say that? Anyway, "Muddy fingers" (Tue Dec 15, 2015 10:27 am) expects
The PAS has really got to fight for our cause a lot more than they have done.
Does that not seem an utter perversion of the actual aims for having such a Scheme? Just who do these artefact hunters think they are? Others are sure there will be "an "escape clause" for those effected [sic] [emoticon]". It turns out that this is to be named a volunteer recorder for the PAS, which allows the landowner to be "covered". Other suggestions involve such anti-social moves as swamping the FLO with bits of corrugated iron etc. to force them to argue against these new regulations. ,

From the conspiracy theory bit about " FLOs and their masters behind the scenes" and the statement "We are becoming a big brother state and the future for our hobby is under even more of a threat [...] lets try to make sure that [farmers] are not turned against us by certain groups of people", the discussion starts to get sillier and sillier.

It is interesting to note, but only 36 years on, the admission that detectorists got a "bit hysterical" about the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act. That is an understatement - it was also the beginning of my interest in this milieu and its false justifications and oddball ideas.

Vignette: The sky is (still) falling!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a hoot! Heroes in complete disarray because there's a danger they'll have to act responsibly towards archaeology! Are you watching Messrs Lammy and Vaizy?! It falls to Mr JC Maloney to cofess it on behalf of them all: "it seems that voluntary has "slipped" and is now compulsory." Oh dear me, responsible behaviour compulsory rather than voluntary? How can they stand such a wicked state of affairs? No wonder the thread is full of hysteria!

To the extent they're willing to drop their allies at PAS right in it. "The PAS has really got to fight for our cause" - something PAS has spent nearly 20 years denying they do!

Finally Paul, the phrase Recording Strike hasn't yet been used, (though rethinking their recording strategy means exactly that so it effectively has. Shall I added to the list?)

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