I have just received from the author the final draft of an article on metal detecting in Europe which quite simply is the best thing I have read on the topic, ever. I will not divulge the author's name, suffice to say that it is not the usual PAS-inspired pap we tend to get fobbed-off with passing as 'discussion of artefact hunting'. A long time ago the PAS was told in one of their reviews that they really needed to pay more attention to the archaeological critics of the PAS. They totally ignored that injunction. Now the chickens are coming in to roost. Ignoring that tiresome blogger in Warsaw, there recently has been David Gill's groundbreaking piece (of which the PAS chickened out of participating in the discussion), now there is this. It is a devastating indictment not only of artefact hunting but also archaeological approaches to it. It does not ask dumbass questions like those which supporters of artefact collecting seem fixated with in order to avoid the real discussion, such as whether artefact hunters "can be archaeologists", it cuts right to the core of the issue in a way which, to be frank, I never thought we would see from a British archaeologist. This is the kind of stocktaking the PAS should have done fifteen years ago, and have instead spent a decade and a half conspicuously avoiding doing. Except this one is on a European scale, the amount of work that has gone into it is staggering.
So far, British archaeology has disgracefully dodged dealing with a whole range of issues surrounding artefact hunting and the antiquities trade. Probably they feel that they can continue to do so and those they label "dinosaurs" will quieten down one day. I think that is not the case. The PAS's HLF funded PAStexplorers project of Karaoke Recording will soon be coming to an end, how many times can they extend it? And when they cannot, what next? Who will pay for what and why? Obviously we are going to have to have a proper discussion, and in the wider, European, context of just where all this is going. The pat-on-the-head,. cuddly-wuddly fluffy-bunny stuff of Suzie, Pieterjan and Mike seems (from the first two chapters released) not to be what is needed. This one, which has the words "English Disease' in the title, in my opinion, most certainly has laid the foundations for a proper informed discussion. Oh, and Ms Ferguson, it discusses legal and illegal detecting in the same article in a most useful manner.
I believe that it will be published as open access, so even library-shy coin fondlers can see it, though I suspect at over 130 pages, they and metal detectorists will not read it: "too many words". But the rest of us however really should read it carefully, I'd like to see it on university reading lists when the subject of "public archaeology' is discussed. I'll discuss it more here when it is out. I just could not contain my excitement - and that is not a word I often use about texts on 'metal detecting'.
Vignette: Previous attempts to turn the tide of dirt on the antiquities market have failed