Monday, 17 April 2017

Them and Us [Updated]

Believers in a 'partnership' between UK heritage professionals and amateur artefact hunters probably do not spend much time reading what the latter candidly write on the internet  - because that would soon erode their faith in the possible existence of such a form of co-operation. We can take a recent post on the blog of a UK artefact hunter, chortling about an event during an amateur 'excavation' in Aylesbury in the 1920s as an example ('Sometimes even the ‘experts’ in the archeological world can be wrong in their assessment of metal objects. Such mis-identifications makes [sic] one realise that often the person with the real edge on determining the past use of a find is the detectorist with years of experience'). Leaving aside the epistemological issue raised by that statement, we may note the 'Us/Them' dichotomy that is created by the presentation of this anecdote. Metal detectorist Paul Mower (17 April 2017 at 2:46 pm) comments:
Yes the experts do occasionally get it wrong. I have seen objects on the PAS database incorrectly attributed. The worse examples are people selling objects on EBay and you have to be really sure what you are buying!
Here we should note that it is more frequently artefact hunters and collectors who are going to be selling artefacts on Ebay than archaeologists. I would recommend not buying any ancient artefact on eBay (or anywhere else) which have no supporting paperwork verifying its squeaky clean licit origins - whether or not you 'know' what it is.... If there was any true collaboration, Mr Mower would have written about the number of times he has notified PAS staff of their errors.

Vignette: The little man and jolly japes at the expense of the establishment.

UPDATE 18th April 2017

After the usual lowbrow banter about 'we've been barfordised' over on the tekkie blog, Mr Mower responds to my criticism of the them-and-us attitude underlying the mutually fostered illusion of some kind of a 'partnership' (18 April 2017 at 2:20 pm)
Like a bad smell given time it will disappear. Sometimes it’s best to ignore him John and not provide ammunition for him to use. You are not going to change his attitude and like a martyr he will continue to fight his corner!
This is pretty typical, artefact hunters and collectors imagine that if they 'ignore' a problem, then it will disappear 'like a bad smell'. But the issue is that the PAS was not set up to enable the artefact hunters of Britain to ignore the problem in their midst and carry on regardless. It was set up to effect a change in attitudes, which I think it is very clear from comments like this that after twenty years of trying (at huge public expense) is just not going to happen. The self-centred likes of Mr Mower simply ignore the arguments that there is a need for change (and who, actually, in this exchange is attempting to 'play the martyr'?).

Simpletons who merely take critique personally are not seeing the wider context. The 'ammunition' (as Mower calls it) used by their critics comes from what artefact hunters and collectors themselves write and say about what they do, This is shows very clearly how those engaged in the private exploitation of the archaeological record for collectables see the activity, its effects, and its relationship with wider concerns. That is what I intend to demonstrate in this blog - because none of these things are in face like the manner in which they are portrayed by the British archaeological supporters of artefact hunting and private collecting of portable antiquities.

Mr Mower and the rest of you head- in-the-sand artefact hunters, what would change my attitude to your selfish, exploitive and destructive hobby would be clear evidence that attitudes had actually changed deep within the hobby, rather than the declarative facadism that is what we see at the moment. Until we see that, I will continue to fight in the preservationist corner for wider public recognition that the way artefact collecting is done today must change. I hope the PAS will one day get the guts to show that it is, indeed, on the same side,  At the moment though both gumption and guts seem to be missing there, empowering people like Mr Mower to come out with such airheaded, divisive  anti-preservationist defiance.

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