Heritage Action are pretty good at awareness raising in areas the PAS fear to tread. This week they are discussing the destructiveness of certain types of dealing with the archaeological record in terms that even the most intellectually obstinate can come to terms with. In the course of this they come on to:
‘Excavation’ undertaken by metal detectorists can be without doubt one of the most damaging activities. Although there may have been some desk-based research prior to hitting the site, there will rarely be a formal methodology to the excavation other than ‘ping’/dig! Some detectorists may advise the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) of any significant (read metallic) finds but often the valuable context of the finds will have been trashed together with associated items (pottery, flints, fibres, animal bone etc) which are often discarded as irrelevant by the detectorist. Recording may comprise at best of a photo (or video) or two of the finds, and a GPS reference which may point to no more than a particular field, or parish. The loss of knowledge in these situations will be immense and of course in the long run means that many of the questions of future generations will go unanswered as a result.The PAS have nothing to add to that, it's no use even asking them. They might raise their noses from their desks enough to say :"but some recorders give us 10-figure NGRs", and leave it at that, without addressing the two main issues here, that hoiking a few displayable goodies and decontextualising them from the rest is not providing information about the site and oh, "it's voluntry innit?" most finds do not get shown, and for the accuracy (or even truthfulness) of reporting of the findspot, the recorder is entirely dependent on the goodwill of the 'finder'.