Monday, 31 December 2018

The Scale of the Damage


At the end of 2018 (midnight 31st December), my unofficial revised Artefact Erosion Counter had ticked past 6,656,833 objects. In the period from the beginning of the Scheme, the PAS has managed to make just 886653 records. Though some of these records contain more than one object included together, it is not an impressive showing of mitigation. Is 2019 going to be the year when the problem is admitted and steps taken to deal with it properly?

Personalia: The Views of the Durham FLO


While, as is the nature of things, this blog often makes generalisations, it is primarily built around presentation and discussion of news items and specific cases accessed (mainly) through the social media involving real situations, real statements by real people. The reader can see examples of the sort of practices and attitudes this blog opposes (and by following the links, verify and contextualise them and judge the accuracy of my presentation). Since many of the situations described are ones I cannot agree with, this often involves a polemic style of writing. Some of these polemics take on a life of their own. One such case is a longish series of posts here concerning the views and statements of Benjamin Westwood, PAS FLO from Durham.

I have always been fascinated by the FLOs. They are all archaeologists, would have the same training and intellectual background as the rest of the archaeological world, and they have daily contact with the effects and attitudes of those involved in Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record. One might think we would all be singing more or less from the same song-sheet about this. What is quite obvious to me is that we are not, very often in fact the PAS and FLOs offer the public (and archaeological community) 'justifications' that are a perfect mirror image of those offered (and coined by) by artefact hunters and collectors. I would love to understand why. The expression of his views by one FLO, Ben Westwood, for a certain period of time seemed to be offering an opportunity.

The Views of one FLO on Portable Antiquities Issues, Archaeological Outreach and Archaeology


For reasons discussed above, in 2018 I spent a bit of time here examining the views of an FLO on portable antiquities issues, archaeological outreach and archaeology. It's not very edifying. But I have decided to index these posts here in case they might be of use. The guy started off claiming that by blogging about these issues I am engaging in bullying, it goes downhill from there:

PACHI Monday, 12 March 2018, 'UK Heritage Professional, "Raising Conservation Concerns = Bullying"...'.

PACHI Saturday, 30 June 2018, 'Can a FLO tell the Difference? [UPDATED] Museum Coiney Joins Discussion'

PACHI Wednesday, 26 September 2018, 'Writing About the Preservation of the Archaeological Record in the eyes of a PAS FLO'

PACHI Wednesday, 26 September 2018, 'Bellingham, PAS: "Don't worry, it's all in hand". Really?'

PACHI Wednesday, 27 September 2018, 'Fake News? "You woz Done M8"'

PACHI Monday, 1 October 2018, 'FLO Attempts to Justify Fake News Claim'

PACHI Tuesday, 2 October 2018 'Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record': How do we Start Debate without Defining What it is About?'

 PACHI Friday, 5 October 2018, 'Bonkers PAS in Bonkers Britain'

PACHI Tuesday, 30 October 2018, 'A FLO Flails and Fails: Blogged Tweet Thread'

PACHI Tuesday, 30 October 2018, 'Portable Antiquities Scheme Staff Member: 'Ploughsoil Has no Context' [UPDATED]'

PACHI Tuesday, 30 October 2018, 'What Kind of Archaeology is the PAS?'

PACHI Tuesday, 27 November 2018, 'The Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (IV): Scremby in the Early Middle Ages [Updated] [Updated]'

PACHI Saturday, 10 November 2018 "I Can See What This Is!!!" [UPDATED] 

PACHI Tuesday, 27 November 2018, 'The Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (IV): Scremby in the Early Middle Ages [Updated] [Updated]'

PACHI Friday, 7 December 2018, 'Losing the 'Idea of archaeology': PAS Antiquitism as Scissors and Paste Archaeography [UPDATED]'

PACHI Friday, 7 December 2018, 'Losing the 'Idea of Archaeology' II: The Foucault of Baz Thugwit? '

PACHI Sunday, 9 December 2018, 'The Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (VI): Hauntings, Heads on Poles, Imaginary Data and Clipping, Reporting Archaeological Artefacts PAS-Style'

PACHI Sunday, 30 December 2018, 'The Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (VII): 'Being Old and Being There', it's Enough'...'

Also: FLO hysteria mentioned in passing in the 'update':
PACHI Saturday, 24 November 2018 'British Archaeological Professionals on Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (II) [UPDATED]'

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Unreported 'Metal Detecting' Reaches Crisis Proportions in England and Wales [UPDATED]


Hannah Furness, arts correspondent, 'Payday for metal detectorists as average treasure find now worth £2,671' Telegraph 29th Dec
Wikipedia (UPDATE: Wales now
added to the picture for Liz Howe,
even though the DCMS Survey
 was of England)
They may be stereotyped as amateur hobbyists, spending their evenings traipsing through fields for the love of the search. But the life of a metal detectorist can very well pay off, it seems. The average treasure find reported to the authorities and valued last year made £2,671, it has emerged, a total value of £643,683 across 241 items. It is the first time the valuation committee has released figured for the average find, as the number of reported treasures continues to rise each year. 2018[...]
But it is not, is it? Most of the finds that are hoiked out by increasing numbers of these people are not recorded, the PAS is working at capacity, and the number of finds recorded year by year has remained more or less the same for the past ten years or so. So in fact the net effect is a loss of information as more and more artefacts are being emptied from the archaeological record into people's pockets.

Not everybody gets the implications of these figures"
Referring to a DCMS study which showed that 1.5 per cent of adults in England had taken part in metal detecting in the last year, [Michael Ellis, arts minister] said: “This increase in detecting has contributed hugely to the extension of our knowledge of our past.”

1.5% of the current adult population of England is 674 700  people. Nearly seven hundred thousand people (!). The PAS has a capacity to deal with the finds made by just several thousand people. The shortfall is several hundred thousand. Surely, even the most diehard archaeological supporter of collecting must admit that this situation cannot go on.



Treasure Hunting Increases in Wales Too, Archaeologists not Worried


Gemma Ryall is really excited by archaeological destruction, she joyfully reports on it going on ('Metal detecting helps increase treasure finds in Wales' BBC News 30 April 2017).
The number of people finding treasure in Wales is increasing as metal detecting becomes a more popular pastime, archaeologists have said. National Museum Wales experts said they had seen a year-on-year rise in precious items reported, such as Bronze Age and mediaeval artefacts.
That's the short-term view, propagated by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the rest of us wonder where this is all leading and what effects there are not only on the archaeological record, but also public perceptions of archaeology and the broader study of the past. 

The Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (VII): 'Being Old and Being There', it's Enough




The FLOs continue their predictable artefactual dumbdown in the post-Christmas social media as we head towards a new year. The Durham incumbent follows suit with a twitter post joyfully showcasing an artefact temporarily on his desk:  'A ferry token issued by the River Wear Commissioners in c.1900. The ferry crossed the River Wear at Sunderland, between Bodlewell Lane (pictured below) an Monkwearmouth for over 250 years until the closure of the route in 1957'. So we have a picture of a round disc with writing on it and an historical engraving showing some waterfront lane with steps and some folk history taken from a local website. To my mind this is another example of how the PAS presents to the public loose artefacts as illustrations of history, ignoring their function as components of archaeological evidence. So, I wrote that. I asked for clarification: is this archaeological outreach, or using objects to illustrate history? In what way can the object recorded here on a database be used for proper archaeological research?'

The FLO glibly replied 'this token is material evidence of past human activity recovered from an archaeological context, from a historical period for which we also have documentary and pictorial evidence to complement the archaeological record'. But no archaeological record is represented anywhere in the social media post or database record. Both are typical examples of 'scissors and paste' show-and-tell. As I said, the artefact is used as a passive illustration, rather than actively used as a source. We are shown a piece of metal found loose in a field 100 km away from the ferry crossing. How and when it got there are unknown, what it can tell us about that ferry, or anything else is negligible. But it can be used so the finds volunteer can entertain herself by looking it up in the existing literature and telling us what she found out. Show-and-tell.


As for my comment about it being used as an illustration, we got a tantalising glimpse into the FLO mindset and approach to archaeological inference in the next comment:

But don't all archaeological finds have that dual purpose, both illustrating the archaeological record and being sources in their own right? I don't necessarily see a conflict here.
Archaeological finds comprise part of the archaeological record, they do not 'illustrate' it. It is the job of the PAS to turn loose objects into a component of the archaeological record, not merely illustrate it. The latter is what coin collectors do. And indeed if you search eBay or coin collecting websites, you'll find more of these tokens with exactly the same kind of narrativisation about what they were, where they were used as the Durham FLO offers us. Here the PAS merely duplicates what is already online on coiney websites. Again, that is not the function the PAS was set up to serve. 

The FLO says he sees 'no conflict' between the collection-driven approach and the archaeological one to artefacts. I do. What he says begs the question of what for an FLO 'the archaeological record' actually is? What constitutes it? And when is a pile of loose things not archaeology? Is the George Ortiz Collection (or Christian Levett's private museum in Mougins) 'archaeology' for the FLO? Addressing that gets him even deeper into the object-centred swamp.

For me personally, the archaeological record is everything that has gone before, whether a bronze age burnt mound or a 1960s concrete park bench, 1970s plastic cotton reel or Neolithic flint scraper (Not to say I don't find some things more interesting than others)
When  I said that he'd not answered the question posed, was just talking of 'things' and pressed further I asked: 'What makes a record a record? Just "being old and there"? Is an antique shop or car boot sale also 'the archaeological record', the subject of archaeological research and conservation protection?' I got a rather surprising reply:
'Being old and being there' is a pretty good description of the archaeological record. And yes, it's possible (but not always the case) that boot sales and antique shops may be part of that record. Context, as ever, is key.
'Being old and being there' is William Camden and Jonathan Oldbuck. Frankly, I do not see a box of loose metal items in a car boot as any kind of context that would allow the use of those items (the box, its contents and the vehicle) as any meaningful  'archaeological record' at all that would tell us about the sites those artefacts were randomly ripped from and mixed in that box. I doubt (hope) that the Durham FLO does not either and that he's not entering data onto the database with that kind of pseudo-context. 

Team Spirit and British Heritage 'Professionals'


Team MD?
Heritage Action have a question for the UK's archaeologists and all thinking members of the public who (actually do) care for the remains of the past and what, properly used, they can tell all of us and future generations: 'Metal detecting: which team will YOU support in 2019? (HJ 28th Dec 2018).

CBA Newsletter Writes on 'Metal Detecting' [UPDATED]


"I've found lots of gold, it's always wonderful'
Karen Till BDMDC


The latest number of British Archaeology has a thought-provoking article in the section called 'my archaeology'. It is an interview with an artefact hunter. Readers who know me would expect me to be fuming about that, collecting historical artefacts of metal is not in any way archaeology. But that I'll leave aside now because I am intrigued by 'what the author [apparently] had in mind' - by which I mean the interviewer.

Up to now the CBA has had a pretty laissez faire attitude to Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record with the use of metal detectors, but this article seems to me to have a hidden message - coming on the wake of the RESCUE policy document, that might be good news. Or is it just a temporary aberration in a two-decades long spate of the CBA shying away from rocking the boat when it comes to Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record (which the CBA call 'metal detecting' and continually represent as some warped form of self-serving 'archaeology for all').

The text is called 'Walking across history, absolute history' (CBA British Archaeology magazine Jan-Feb 2019 number, page twelve), and you wonder what the writer of the text (Mike Pitts) had in mind quoting that adjective - is it used here in the sense 'not qualified or diminished in any way' (like directly received, not through 'book learning')? It seems to me that the writer might be tongue-in-cheek from the very beginning. 

The full-page text is an interview with Karen Till, chair of the Brentwood and District metal Detecting Club in Essex. The lady (calls herself a 'chairman') is reportedly in her early sixties and started detecting ten years ago because she had nothing else to do, it says.  She had started artefact hunting in her teens (so, early 1970s probably), gave it up and then started again (she says) after watching the 'Detectorists' comedy TV series. The article's tagline reads 'She'd be outside searching every day, if she could'. Of the club itself, she says: ' We have a monthly club meeting, we should have 80 to 90 people there. we're a very popular club, about 130 [...]' and they have a waiting list. So how many finds does the Essex FLO get to record from the monthly haul of those 130 people and what do they mean? How successful is the PAS approach being in instilling 'responsibility' and 'best practice'? The perspective of this club is telling. After talking about the fantastic venue they have for the monthly meetings of over 100 tekkies and the new projector for slides, she blurts out:
'We have  an expert who comes as well, he's a dealer. He sits in a corner and people ask for things to be ID'ed, and if they are interested in selling (sic) he'll offer them a price. A finds liaison officer (sic) comes every three months, although we're trying out a new system where one of our members is taking the Flo's (sic) place and she'll be liaising with them. [Italicisation in original]
Wow. Well that is not how the PAS is supposed to be working, is it? So, basically what goes into the PAS database are the dregs, collectables that the dealer did not want. What on earth is happening over there in Darkest Essex? (I have to be careful discussing metal detecting policy in my home county, my local FLO might have the police on me again for discussing it: Another PAS 'Liaison' First). How persuasive the PAS drive to get 'best practice', once every three months can be judged by the further comments: 
'People in our club range (sic) enormously. You've got the old timers in their 70s and 80s. This was their club for 30 years and suddenly these youngsters are coming in. They're very suspicious. They would never put anything in the finds cabinet. When they started detecting, there was no Portable Antiquities Scheme, and what you found you kept, you know? You'll never, ever change them'. 
Also: "Nighthawks do exist, we've probably even got some in our club. It is totally frowned upon and people are very very wary" [of what is not quite explained, perhaps of putting things in finds cabinets].  She claims that, in contrast to the oldies, the 'newbies' will 'do absolutely everything right. They want to report everything to the Flo (sic). They want everything ID'ed [...] they are the future'. She does not explain whether its the oldies that go to the dealer, or whether the newbies in their haste to get 'everything IDed', will ask the dealer for their opinion on the days the FLO is absent. But the club's chair herself...
'I am in the middle, I report Treasure items, I'm not so good at other things, mainly because of time and logistics. That's my concern [...]'.
Well, in fact it is everyone's. She's taking stuff for herself and by not allowing it to be properly recorded, she is stealing (no other word for it - thought the Ixelles gang wants to represent it as 'borrowing')  archaeological knowledge from everyone else. So, in fact Ms Till is basically acting like the irresponsible Old-Timers' she has just criticised. So she reports only what she's obliged to by law (and there's a reward for that). Irrespective of that the interviewer allows her to start being preachy:
'I think there is so much being missed. It's coins.  Coins are so important, because they actually show that people walked across that particular land, that era of people were there. What was he (sic) doing? Where was he (sic) going?'
Reminder, this is darkest Essex, not the surface of the Moon. The presence of man in the past in Essex is shown by so much more than dropped small change - the very landscape itself and the field boundaries, hedgerows and much else are ample proof of that if you know how to read them. But apparently Ms Till needs a coin with somebody's picture and name on it to feel that  "that era of people were there". Pathetic. PAS, where is your 'outreach' leading? After her object-fuelled romanticised musings about past lives, the coin fondler goes on:
'But people just dont bother about single coins. More could be done to encourage detectorists to record them, but I don't think the Flos (sic) would ever cope. There'd be so much more (sic) markers on the archaeological map if more coins were actually recorded, but how you get that, I don't know'.
By apparently focussing on finding and reporting - or not - coins, Ms Till and her 130 members, 'walking across history, absolute history' are blithely walking across and walking into but missing a whole lot of information about the sites they are hoiking and pocketing from. Most archaeological site assemblages produce vast artefactual assemblages, of which those of metal are often only a fraction (oddly enough, actual statistics on this are pretty elusive) and of these coins will be a smaller fraction. Yet if we look at the PAS database we find that there are some 670,000 coins on the PAS database (that's about half the database!). I've talked recently about this here: 'The Archaeological Values of the PAS Database (VI): Hauntings, Heads on Poles, Imaginary Data and Clipping, Reporting Archaeological Artefacts PAS-Style' .   As an archaeologist, Mike Pitts, and all the archaeologist readers of the BA magazine will be well aware that the archaeological evidence from the sites the BDMDC hoik collectable from consists of much, much, more than showing 'that people walked across that particular land, that era of people were there' through one specific class of artefact (dropped or deposited small change). Though money may be central to the mindsets of many Brits today, there is more to the past than that.

But that brings us to commercial artefact hunts. Ms Till talks about a 'club dig' they held at an undisclosed location - they had a search and take agreement with the landowner for 77 acres (just over 30 hectares) and there were 38 people ('you could barely see somebody [sic], it was so big') and they were using facebook to communicate across the field. But 38 people scattered randomly over an area that size is not going to allow a systematic search and even coverage, so any pattern of finds from plotting them is only going to reflect the collecting activity and not the nature of the underlying patterning of archaeological evidence across that area - which is therefore being destroyed with no meaningful record. 
An uncoordinated commercial artefact grabfest - site destruction in progress

On the matter of the commercialisation of artefact grabbing, Ms Till says:
 'we are happy to pay to detect. A lot of people do it to make money. I'm happy to keep it maybe half the price of what everybody else is charging and give the whole lot to the landowner. We have agreements with all of our farmers, so that anything over the  value of  £500 which is not treasure is split 50/50 [...] Anybody can make money from detecting. look on eBay, you'll see the proof. Some guy has found 60 hammered coins within two to three months. He'll keep the best ones, but the others will be sold. He might get ten to 20 quid for them and that bit of history has gone [...]"
So 'we' are not in it for the money, but lots are, in fact. Everybody knows, everybody pretends. 

The article should perhaps have been titled: 'Walking off with history....'.

UPDATE 30th Dec 2018

I'll just put this reply up here, make of it what you will in the context of what's above:
Hi Paul, pleased you enjoyed the new British Archaeology! I won't comment on what the interviewee says as she speaks for herself, but note that i'm not "the author". The words are all Karen Till's, and I talked to her because she speaks well for many we should listen to more.



Saturday, 29 December 2018

There are Bloomsbury-encouraged 'Citizen Archaeologists' (sic) and Responsible Amateur Archaeologists: Which Side Will You be on in 2019?


Archaeology exposed
Over in Twitterland, Dr-Ing. Rouven Meidlinger@planlaufterrain from Aachen, Germany posted for our delight and edification a colourful enhanced LIDAR-data flyover of a hill near his home that showed a wide range of surface features of sites of several periods, from a 'Celtic' hillfort, a Roman villa, Medieval watchtower to a WW2 bunker. There were photos of the sites at ground level and some rousing music. That is Germany where ordnung muss seine and generally is. Sadly, there is a country beyond the edge of continental European civilization where there is no ordnung in public life or archaeological ethics. On a little green island there are archaeologists who see themselves as no worse than their European counterparts but see things very differently. The British Portable Antiquities Scheme and Council for British Archaeology and most of the archaeological community as a whole - in my conviction completely wrongly, and damagingly - actively promote Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record as 'Citizen archaeology'/'Archaeology for All' respectively. I do what I can to try and challenge them to think these issues through with proper attention to the issues they are dodging (a bit like brexit 'leavers' really). I thought this video was a good vehicle for such a challenge:
: and which one to head to first with those metal detectors, eh? There must be lots of "archaeology"there for totally untrained and acquisitive members of the public to find and get involved with, no? means not trashing it, surely.
Now, if the Portable Antiquities Scheme saw that (which they did not because they consider reading my blog as 'beneath their dignity'), they'd not give a second thought to what it meant, let alone consider offering a public reply as part of their so-called 'public outreach' (who cares what the public think archaeology is all about anyway, eh, PAS?). The Council for British Archaeology would probably shy away from ever engaging in anything that smacks of controversy over artefact hunting. They generally do. And so the site pilfering goes on, the British public and lawmakers continue to have the wool pulled over their eyes by the complacent, cowering and passive British archaeological establishment who cannot make up their collective mind that the scandal has to STOP and are too scared to broach the topic in public.

Over here on the Continent, we are going to fight the spread of this English disease. Most of us that is. There are some archaeological grant-money recipients in Ixelles and Helsinki who mouth the same fluff as the pro-collecting Brits and - like them - run a mile if you ask them to explain in more detail how what they say fits into the wider picture. But few people are convinced by their unconvincing Brit-bonkers arguments. So within minutes of me pointing out how the Brits with their short-sighted insular fascination with hoiking everything metal out now when they can would see that film, it's author reacted. Now, Germans are not given much to understanding the British sense of irony, so it seems Dr-Ing. Meidlinger took my tweet, aimed (it seems pretty clearly) to PAS and CBA and British archaeologists in general seriously. So he blocked me:

Blocked! :>)
Yep. I guess he mistook me for another advocate of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record. It is a shame that he did not look into the context of that tweet (another illustration of the importance of context). Now, from what I can see, Dr-Ing. Meidlinger is not an archaeologist (I stand to be corrected on that point) but seems to have an amateur, rather than professional, interest in the past and he's produced some really nice and informative animations of ancient sites using the LIDAR data and the program it seems he is marketing. He is engaging with the past, learning about sites, localities, their history, how that fits into a wider narrative and getting his own personal insight into those pasts. In short everything the Bloomsbonkers lot say their 'metal detecting ["Citizen Archaeologist"] partners' are getting through Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record. But Dr-Ing. Meidlinger is not destroying anything. His interest in the past is non-intrusive, leaves the archaeological record intact. Why cannot Britain foster this kind of work?

But what is going to happen is the Baz Thugwits of Britain when they find out about Dr-Ing. Meidlinger's program, they might decide to fork out their 250 Euros and buy one. What are they going to do with it? The PAS and CBA know full well what they are going to do with it. The Baz Thugwits are going to use it in the same way as they have been using publicly available LIDAR data for a few years now anyway. The Baz Thugwit version of 'citizen archaeology' (sic) is very much intrusive. In fact it is destructive. It involves spades and pockets.


Although I do not think Dr-Ing. Meidlinger is an archaeologist, if he thought I really was advocating taking a metal detector to the lumps and bumps he documented, then he acted responsibly. He did what he did, I assume, to prevent damage being done to sites through Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record. I'd like to ask whether 2019 is the year when we can expect British archaeologists to act equally responsibly towards this damaging and exploitive hobby. Well, archaeologists, is it? Are you up to it?

  

Archaeological Finds Specialists

Friday, 28 December 2018

"Knocked them Silly?"


US President demonstrates
how much he understands

about the situation in MENA
I'll just leave this here ( Orhan Coskun, Lesley Wroughton, 'Syrian surprise: How Trump's phone call changed the war' Reuters ):
On a visit to a U.S. air base in Iraq this week, Trump said that military commanders had repeatedly requested extensions for the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria - requests that he finally turned down because he said Islamic State was largely beaten. “We’ve knocked them silly. I will tell you I’ve had some very good talks with President Erdogan who wants to knock them out also, and he’ll do it,” he told American troops.
We'll come back to it, I'm sure. Mr Trump's childlike lack of grasp of the realities here too is worrying.


Thursday, 27 December 2018

Metal Detectorists STOPPED from Digging Holes into Archaeological Site, Damaging it. Not in England of Course


An ancient site and its holes
In England, Baz Thugwit wanders where he wants, digging up coins from archaeological sites and walking off with them. The current total of 889,304 records on the PAS database refer to a large part coins from their private collections (Total quantity: 680,143). In other countries, heritage professionals treat the archaeological record with more respect. In Israel the Antiquities police (nota bene) have managed to stop the theft of ancient coins from an ancient site by metal detectorists who had dug holes to find the coins, damaging the site. (Yvette J. Deane Antiquities police stop theft of ancient coins', Jerusalem Post December 27, 2018)
 Israel Antiquities Authority, JNF and Border Police stopped a band of thieves from stealing ancient coins from the Hukuk Synagogue archeological site in northern Israel on Thursday. "A quick response prevented damage to the magnificent and important treasures of the site," Nir Distelfeld, the antiquities theft inspector, said. "Damage to an antiquities site constitutes a serious offense punishable by five years' imprisonment. " The suspects dug holes to find the coins, damaging the site.
Conservation-averse UK artefact hunters, spoilt by the PAS, and indignantly playing the victim say "This is an astonishing breech (sic) of freedom and Human Rights. If this kind of repression was aimed at the gay community, ethnic minorities, or say the disabled, there would rightly be uproar. It must stop…NOW!It is ironic that this is the site with which Nathan Elkins is involved.


Gormless in Ormsgill


Code of Practice for 'Responsible' metal detecting in England and Wales
4. Calling the Police or HM Coastguard, and notifying the landowner/occupier, if you find anything that may be a live explosive, device or other ordnance. Do not attempt to move or interfere with any such explosives. 
The old superseded 'shut the gates' National Council for Metal Detecting Code of Conduct
4. If you discover any live ammunition or any lethal object such as an unexploded bomb or mine, do not disturb it. Mark the site carefully and report the find to the local police and landowner.
Toyz for Boyz (Graham Currie Militaria)
Of course if you are a moron, one who lives in a terraced council house and never benefited much from being in school, and is not actually able to recognise a mortar shell when you are out metal detecting, no 'Code of Practice' is going to help you become a responsible detectorist. In fact you might end up being a dead detectorist. That'll STOP you taking our past. But then the responsibility does not end there.  Look at the map and what one of them did (Dan Taylor, Bomb experts blow up mortar shell on Walney beach Barrow Central and Dalton 27th Dec 2018)
A BOMB disposal team has this morning detonated a mortar shell which was found by a man.  The experts arrived at Sandy Gap Beach on Walney this morning to safely blow up the device. Police said a metal detectorist found the explosive at Birkrigg Common in Ulverston and took it home with him to Hazel Gill in Ormsgill, Barrow, yesterday. The man contacted police when he realised what it was he had discovered, an officer said. The man had left the property of his own accord.
Google earth
So AnonFinder found a bomb, just for a laugh loaded it in his car and took it ten kilometres home, part of it passing through the builtup areas of Barrow, he kept it in his own terraced house on a council estate. It then had to be transported from there to an open space on the beach (another four kilometres away). Responsible behaviour is not at all a word I would use here.

But then, look at the beginning of the journey. See it? Birkrigg Stone Circle. Birkrigg common is managed by South Lakes District Council which  has a 'no metal detecting' policy. The area has multiple known interests from Bronze age enclosure, cairns and stone circle, medieval and post-medieval copper mining, Quaker burials etc etc. The guy should not have been here with his metal detector in the first placen and pocketing the artefacts he's hoiked. So that is why he would not have reported his find to the landowner.  And the PAS, the PAS stays silent. 

Google earth



UK Detectorist Shows off his Boys Toys


Metal detectorist Pondguru says:
Fakes are no good - they must be destroyed. In this video I destroy a couple of fakes,
 Published on You Tube by Pondguru Published on 1 Dec 2016 

 For those who have not yet grown out of their chemistry set and who cannot remember, the recipe for thermite that Mr Know-it-all gun-owning Detectorist wants to keep to himself is publicly avail;able in a number of places, including Wikipedia. Having given a 'safety warning', he proceeds to set off two loads of thermite in an area under some trees, with a lot of fallen leaves, coniferous needles and brushwood, and walks away, leaving it overnight. Not the sharpest tool in the box.

As for the idea of destroying artefacts on the grounds they are 'fakes', first of ll a fake is an artefct, it is a product of human creation that can be valued for that, even if it does not fit the particular set of criteria that satisfy one minority group (coin collectors). Secondly, this sometimes is a subjective judgement and not always accurate Man who was told rare gold coin was fake set to become millionaire after experts realise it is genuine.

More Artefactual Kitsch and Brit-Tweeness


"Citizen archaeology":
 The pattern of the Past
What do we learn from the context of these loose objects that we cannot get also from seeing them on eBay or in a car boot sale?


 1 godzinę temu1 godzinę temu
WięcejA-Z PART 1.
On the run up to Christmas this year I posted a letter a day for 26 days. It finished yesterday with a rather creative Z, but in case you missed any of them, here they are in…


  • Turmoil at Poland's national Museum


    Jarosław Kaczyski, architect of Poland's ruin
    A renowned curator, respected art historian and the brains behind a series of popular exhibitions was fired from the Polish National Museum before Christmas. Reason? He is more talented than the new director, a political appointee. He joins the ranks of excellent Polish ambassadors and patriotic civil servants who have lost jobs because the far-right Polish ruling party prefers spineless loyalists, fears talent, and cares more about party than country (Anne Applebaum).
    In Poland we used to have Party appointments under an authoritarian rule. Some old folk hanker for the old days and are trying to turn the clock back. Their time will pass but the destruction they are causing will remain.

    The Threat Increases: the PAS? Stays Silent


    UK Archaeologist: "This is fine..."
    Anonymous reader:
    "Our area [somewhere "up North" PMB] was always a relative backwater when it came to metal detectorists. Now the numbers have exploded, we even have a local detector shop. It is so bad that I have been reluctant to record new sites on the HER (I always do but it really irks to know that new to science also means totally unprotected from detecting interest). It has been a good month for such as google released the 'drought' images. You wait nearly 6,000 years for a henge then four come all at once. "
    and of course thicko acquisitive metal detector wielding artefact hunters will be up there 'dirt fishing' and pocketing around for all they are worth - and if the site is remote enough, whether or not they bother to get the landowner's permission. And the archaeologists will be rubbing their hands with glee, because some of the 'goodies' will fall into their object-hungry laps and no need to bovver too much about documenting context, eh. 'Findspot will do fine'.

    Monday, 24 December 2018

    Christmas 2018


    The Flight to Egypt.

    I would like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May you and your spirits be refreshed by the closeness of friends, the comfort of home, the feeling of togetherness. Let this festive season end the current difficult year on a cheerful note and reflections on what has passed prepare the way for a fresh and bright year to come for all of us. At Christmas, let us be thankful for what we have but also remember those that are not so fortunate, those that have lost so much that we take for granted. As we celebrate, all of us in our own way, the Birth of Christ, let us not forget that the narrative at the heart of this festival continues with the Holy Family's flight to Egypt to escape a murderous wicked regime.

    No place for Muslims
    I have just come from a traditional Polish Christmas Eve family celebration. Around the table were some 25 people but next to me was the traditional empty plate and chair for the 'unexpected guest'. It is an old Polish tradition. How bitter to sit there and look at that plate in one of the countries - ostensibly so self-righteously 'Christian' - that rejects refugees and whose Church recently organized prayer meetings with rosaries at the borders to keep them out. Such attitudes fly straight in the face of the teachings of the authentic Church (Matthew 25: 31 to 46James 2:14-17).

    Identity crisis
    At this time, when we settle down with our families in the peace of our homes to celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us not block from our minds that all over the world are people, families, whose lives have been torn apart by tragedy and who are forced to try and seek to rebuild them elsewhere. Yet, precisely at this time, others are planning walls to exclude these people.


    Wall of fear
    Let us have the strength of mind to recognize that these walls are an expression of our own insecurities, they reflect a lack of faith. They embody a fear that our own value systems no longer have the vitality to accommodate and resist influences from those of 'Others'. Building exclusive walls, physical and mental, we seek to enforce an 'end of history', rather than embrace the future.

    Let us have the faith to see the true message of the hackneyed Christmas trope 'goodwill to all men', the global realities behind it, but also the responsibilities and moral imperative flowing from it. And in the coming New Year, and those to come, apply them.




    Saturday, 22 December 2018

    If You Cannot Persuade by Logic: Use Harassment


    If you followed my link to the Change.org petition to remove the current permit system for metal detecting in Sweden, you might (unless of course you read the blurb, considered the matter carefully and added your signature to it) be getting reminders every two days or so from the organizers: 'Paul, we’re missing your name Finish signing “Bring fair metal detecting laws to Sweden”...'.

    What does that mean "finish signing"? How many internauts would type "Pau...", and then go away to make a coffee and not come back to add the rest of their name and close the window in the intervening week? The organizers do not seem to get the idea. They make a proposal and set out the case for it, we read it, think about it and then if we agree add our name to their petition. We sign or do not sign because of what we think about the proposition and the way they have presented their arguments, and putting that in context of what we already know and think. In this case, the proposers have not persuaded me and I am not putting my name under it.

    I am, therefore, puzzled by their insistence that I should 'finish signing'. But I think the reason they give is characteristic:  Since you visited, this petition now has 1,756 supporters. Every signature helps — add your name today. So, go with the flow, be part of a group. This is a bit like the pathetically superficial people (particularly the neck-tattoo guy, number two) represented in this Sept 2016 video about Brexit voting:


    This is what democracy has come to, people take 'decisions' on behalf of everybody else not because they have any opinion based on reflection on the facts, but because 'everybody else is doing it'.

    Note also what has happened here, the petition organizers are addressing me by name, they have tracked that I visited their site, and (though I did not enter my email there) they now have access to my email address and presumably will continue pestering me to 'finish signing', until I give in and do it to stop them harassing me or until the petition closes. Well, that certainly is not going to make me a friend of the Sveriges Metallsökarförening (SMF), the largest Metal Detecting Organisation in Sweden. I invite them to read what I wrote about their ideas, and attempt to persuade me that I am wrong by showing where my reasons for not supporting their proposals are false, rather than simply pestering me:




    Friday, 21 December 2018

    The background to Citizen Para-archaeology's Atlantis Fantasy


    An interesting comment by an archaeologist on the background to some current some pop-culture fantasy (David Anderson, 'Aquaman's Atlantis - Truth, Fiction, Or Something In Between?' Forbes Dec 21, 2018)
    Attempts to find physical evidence of Atlantis also began in the 19th-century. The public’s interest in the ancient Greek culture had been peaked [sic - piqued] in the 1870s when German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann claimed his excavations at the site of Hisarlik, Turkey, had confirmed that the site was the legendary city of Troy. Schliemann’s claims are controversial, but as far as the public was concerned, if one legendary ancient Greek city could be found why not another? In 1882, the book Atlantis: The Antedilluvian World by Ignatius Donnelly was released to great success, once again reshaping the public’s vision of Atlantis. Donnelly claimed that while he could not find the actual city of Atlantis, he could use archaeological evidence to prove it once existed. Employing an extreme form of diffusionism, Donnelley argued that the ancient temples and pyramids of the Egyptians and the Maya were so similar that they had to originate from one source, Atlantis. To find these similarities, however, Donnelley had to ignore countless differences in chronology, culture history and tradition. On occasion he would even stretch his evidence to fit. For example, while his claim that both ancient cultures had glyphic writing systems is true, it ignored the fact that these writing systems were fundamentally different in the structure of their characters, the uses to which they were put and in the languages they represented. Despite the deep problems with Donnelly’s argument, he helped to build a wave of Atlantis popularity as well as a century-long tradition among ‘alternative history’ authors whereby superficial similarities among ancient cultures are used as shocking evidence of cultural contacts. Donnelly’s legacy lives on with each new ‘discovery’ of Atlantis, but the reality is there are no historical or archaeological data that support the claim that Atlantis was ever a real place. Plato’s story was always intended as a moral parable, not a tale of human history.
    To be honest, I'd not thought about the connection between Schliemann and Donnelly before.


    The "Syrian National Coalition"


    I thought I'd just put this here, grouping together some of the texts where on this blog I refer to the " National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces" founded in November 2012 and which formed a 'Syrian Interim government' in March 2013 (currently based in Turkey) .

    Monday, 14 July 2014: Syrian Heritage Task Force on the Antiquities Trade

    Monday, 14 July 2014: Syrian Heritage Task Force on the Antiquities Trade

    Thursday, 17 July 2014: Truth and Lies in the Media: Getting Messed-around by the "News"

    Wednesday, 3 September 2014: ISIL Looting: In war, the first casualty...?

    Thursday, 7 April 2016: Two Palmyra Busts Traded by ISIL? (UPDATE)



     
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