Monday, 29 February 2016

Academic Will Not Address the Question

Sheffield ornithologist Dr  Humphrey Willnot cannot contain his excitement, he's getting his name in print again and keen to express his appreciation and support of together with his solidarity with the hobbyists with whom he collaborated:
Looking forward to next week now as our new work in Lincs, only possible because of responsible nest hunting, will be in
The text of which he is co-author is apparently about 'Newly-found Osprey nesting sites in Lincolnshire', and the sites of the empty nests shown on the dot-distribution maps were reported by proxy by anonymous nest hunters with whom the university department has been collaborating in plotting nesting sites. "This kind of responsible collection driven exploitation is adding greatly to our knowledge of the distribution of bird nesting sites" said Dr Willnot, "we are all greatly indebted to our friends the collectors for the scraps of information they feed us about what they have taken". Collaboration with collectors and hunters runs in the Willnot family, his brother Ranulf working for a dealers' lobby group visits rhino slaughter sites in mid-Africa after notification by informants from the milieu of clandestine horn hunters. He claims these data are telling us a lot about the habitats to which rhinos attempt to retreat when feeling endangered. Ranulf dismisses the concerns of ecologists, conservationists and the public debate on the preservation of the richness of the natural environment from casual exploitation for personal entertainment and profit: "as long as I get material for my current research, or give impetus to find new ones, I am happy to collaborate with these people to allow me to do science and advance my career. The critics have misunderstood on every factual count what I am doing. It is easier for them to carp from the sidelines than actually contribute to my work". Dr Willnot then climbed into his litter and was borne off by four sweating native porters to the next blood-soaked findspot where he'd been notified of another brutal rhino slaughter to put on his map. 

"Responsible artefact hunting"? Can archaeologists and other academics using that term so freely now give us a precise holistic definition of what that means in a global, not local, context - and from the point of view of the conservation of, rather than promoting collection-driven exploitation of, the archaeological record?  Dr Willnot apparently will not, the rhino has got his tongue, maybe somebody else is better equipped to do the task. It's surely not all that difficult archies, you've all been using the term for two decades now, and dismissing those who question it as 'troublemakers', go on then, define your terminology.


  6 min6 minut temu
There’s boringly criticism of working with detectorists, still a Sceat from my trench [picture] we wouldn’t have without ‘em
Perhaps Sheffield's Dr Wilmott simply needs to learn better excavation techniques or hope science will soon come up with a "detector" to help them find other types of small artefacts, like glass beads and carbonised seeds? How do police forensics manage to find and document minute traces of organic evidence without metal detectors? I think this is the issue, it seems to me that this is simply laziness on the part of British archaeologists who want stuff handed to them on a plate. I wrote about this quite a while ago (PM Barford, 'Wykrywacz metali jako narzędzie archeologa' 1999).

It may be "boring" for some British academics to be asked to define the terms they use so freely. The dismissive Dr Willmott is"Senior Lecturer in European Historical Archaeology" , and as such would be aware that over here on the continent we prefer to replace such fogginess with more precise formulations of what we mean. I think defining the concept of "responsible artefact hunting" in wider-than-insular context could be more of a challenge than the British academic thinks. 

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