Tuesday, 5 December 2017

'Metal Detecting', The fall of UK Journalism


Heritage-pocketing greedy buggers
depicted by the BBC
The Guardian coverage of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological record in the UK reaches new lows with the article of Stephen Moss ('Rise of the detectorists: how to hunt for treasure' Guardian Tuesday 5 December 2017) It is the usual tired tropes journalists have been fed by artefact hunters and the PAS alike. Guardian readers are told that it’s easy to get involved in exploiting the archaeological record for collectables, but they should not expect to strike it rich, some more six-figure Treasure ransoms are highlighted and that this will be 'shared with the landowner' (who by rights is giving away half his share), of course that endearingly warm 'award-winning BBC sitcom starring Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones' gets a mention, and that its all about 'being outdoors and finding something ancient', but (as in the series) 'mMostly, it’s rusty ring-pulls' (what' aluminium?). Gauardian man gets told that some detectorists 'explore the same fields for years on end', that should read 'exploit'.

The tabloid-worthy pro-collecting drivel continues:
Every enthusiast will tell you that the hobby is about communing with the past, not making a quick buck. “There are treasure hunters out there and there are detectorists,” says Steve Critchley, policy adviser at the National Council for Metal Detecting. Some of the latter will be lucky enough to find treasure, but most are happy to find the odd old coin and get pleasantly damp. [Harry Bain, editor of the Searcher magazine] reckons there are about 30,000 detectorists, some attached to local clubs, but many doing it alone.
There is a bit about 'how to start' (and a sexist comment that 'women can do it too' - "women are often better than the men – they are more meticulous”). So:
- 'To get started, find a place to search', research and find a place where you are bound to find something, a previously known site is ideal for this...('following Roman roads is often particularly productive'). Fish in a barrel.
- 'You need a landowner who is willing to let you dig on their land' and let you take artefacts away for your collection.
- 'buy a decent detector (about £200, although you can pay up to £2,000)'*
- 'You will also need a spade and perhaps an electronic pinpointer', because this is not really about just making the little box on a stick give a signal (detecting metal blind) but in fact about digging the stuff out of the archaeological record.
– 'plus an anorak and a bobble hat, of course'.
So no GPS then? No maps or notebooks, individual finds bags with a label for noting individual findspots to an accuracy of a metre then? No reading the Code of Practice (updated, they say), no establishing contact with the local FLO before you venture out? No learning how to properly document what you find?  No mention of getting individual artefacts signed over to you before you pocket them (in fact no mention of any kind of written agreement at all)?
 - 'In the unlikely event that you find a hoard of Roman coins or Anglo-Saxon burial objects, don’t get a JCB and start digging. You are obliged to contact the local finds liaison officer, who will undertake a professional excavation'. 
Really? And if there are no funds or proper resources available at the drop of a detectorist's bobble hat, he or she will do it out of their own pocket, even bring their own equipment such as orange plastic carrier bag. How unlikely is it when one in eighty finds reported to the PAS this past year were Treasure? Its better odds than the lottery, obviously. 
- 'Sorting out what it’s worth and whether a museum wants to buy it comes later'. 
Note that 'buy it' - no mention of the PR opportunities fer the 'obby you'd get if you donate it. Then you'd get mentioned in dispatches from the Treasure Registrar. He loves that kind of thing, really gives the partners' image a boost.




*'If you get the bug seriously, you can trade up – one enthusiast with 40 years’ experience tells me an £800 detector will give you everything you want'.

2 comments:

John Morton said...

get a life

Andy Chapman said...

Did a detectorist sleep with your wife by any chance?

 
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