Friday, 18 May 2018

How PAS 'Partners' Perceive the PASt: A New Glossary of Metal Detector Users' Jargon (1) [UPDATED]

'Kings and battles history' of
the collector (Wolsey groat from eBay)
Senior artefact hunter John Winter has created on his blog ' A Metal Detecting Glossary' but feels a little insecure about it:
What follows are some of the terms often used by detectorists and accompanied by a brief definition. Be aware that the compilation of such a glossary is very subjective and not definitive. It may be viewed as ‘a work in progress’. There are bound to be omissions you think should be included and maybe changes to be made.  
I think its candidly subjective nature is a very useful pointer to the way some of the people emptying the common heritage into their own private pockets sees what they are doing. One thing we learn about the author, he's not one of the technically-minded geeks who'd put in his glossary terms like 'ground balance', and 'coil-matrix interface interference' or 'elemental nanovibrations'. This glossary is not machine-focussed but unashamedly object centresd. This glossary is not about detecting (as an activity involving a machine) but about pocketing, acquisition and cseriating a collection.We have heard so manty times the PAS-promoted mantra that these fiolk are not just collectors, but they are in some way (allegedly) 'citizen archaeologists' (sic) who are 'passionately interested in the past (which is why they dig it up and hoik things out)' and are only interested in learning about the past and the way people lived. It is therefore informative to look at this glossary to see what its author considers to be 'the terms often used by detectorists' in discussing the hobby and how well that reflects the 'citizens learning about history' model that PAS and its supporters are using to justify support of this activity. Is it true, or are we all being misled by this glib use of a model?

The first thing that strikes me is that this text consists largely of material in the 'Metal Detecting Glossary' referring to coins, In fact about eighty percent. Here this can be shown by the extent of the purple text (ignore the yellow) in the accompanying screenshot. the purple is the extent of the definitions and discussions of coin finds, the black is every other kind of artefact and everything else.


 The PAS database also reflects this bias. If you search for 'coin' you learn that in the database there are 409,702 records for coins, yet the database as a whole contains 1,344,750 objects within 859,938 records so that means that of the vast array of artefact types representing the daily activities of millions of people through the millennia, artefact hunters are selectively picking from the resource, to hoik out what interests them, the other artefct tyopes are being selectively ignored and discarded. The UKDFD also shows the same patterm. This is almost never discussed (wonder why?) by the supporters of artefact hunting partnering.

What kind of 'learning about the past' is just picking out the coins anyway? It'll tell you nothing about the Bronze Age and much of the Iron Age. Nothing. Coins are 'easy' because they have pictures and weriting on them, any fule can read a hammie or a 'Roman grot', though UK metal detectorists - not generally belonging to the group of folk one would label literate - have problems with even that, witnessed by the number of pleas for help 'ID'ing (a term missing from the glossary which defines big-words like 'annular' and 'ferrous') a coin on the 'metal detecting' forums. Coins refer to an episodic (courte durée ) kings-and-battles histoire événementielle , rather than one of general processes and daily life. This is not the way history is generally studied by the rest of us any more, amateur or professional. The collector's is a history of Ranke and Kossinna rather than that of Braudel and Collingwood. 

Also instead of  the airy-fairy notion of'citizen archaeology', probably what many of the metal detector users encompassed by the John Winter Model of artefact hunting might be legitimately described as 'cheapskate coin collectors' - too stingy to actually go to a reputable dealer to build a collection according to certain criteria, but relying on what random material they can find for free and persuade the landowner to relinquish ownership.  

Also let us note this definition:
Hedge Fodder – A slang expression referring to detecting finds that are not worth keeping
How much of this material (discarded) will be not-coins? Cf. 'Keeper – A slang word for a good metal detecting find', obviously coins form a large proportion of what the detector users that the glossary's author mixes with would consider 'keepers'. But of course we are all losers from what these folk individually decide are not 'keepers' in the field.

Note also how the glossary differentiates:
Artefacts – Referring to the finds made by detectorists. We usually refer to buckles, buttons, spindle whorls, etcetera, but NOT coins as artefacts. (See Partefact)
and  on what grounds, pray, do these folk decide that coins are not artefacts (but fell from the sky ready formed, maybe)? The reasons behind this collector-specific terminological aberration is nowhere explained. Coins  not only are artefacts in every sense of the meaning of the word, but also, like the items collectors attempt to separate them from, archaeological evidence. 

In fact, the 'metal detectorsts' definitions' given in the glossary are easily found among others in many entry-level books on 'the joys of coin collecting' or the such-like. In passing I would note that coin collectors in general would give a broader definition of the term 'wire money', though I understand that the coinage of Muscovy is beyond the scope of the British 'dirt-fisher' (sic) if he stays where it is (still) legal and does not venture abroad with his machine.  

What the glossary's author has 'learned' about the PASt' (and in particular about the metal items that he searches with his noisy detecting machine to represent and make tangible that PASt) can be revealed by a couple of lapses such as where he 'informs' his slackjaw readers (none of whom seems yet to have corrected him) that silver is gilt only by a 'leaf technique' (when even checking with Wikipedia would have disabused him of that notion).  . 

I would also draw attention to a rather significant omission, there is nowhere the metal detectorists' own definition given here of 'responsible detecting'. What is it in their eyes? 

Indeed the term 'detectorist' is taken as a given and not defined in the glossary at all… which is odd. Who or what IS a “detectorist” and who or what are not (serious question – deserves an answer from the metal detecting community - and the heritage professionals that support and partner them).What is the difference between an ‘archaeologist’ and a ‘detectorist’? Are they the same or not? Interesting, the only reply that question has had so far from Mr Winter is:
John 18th May 2018 at 10:17 AM 
Paul – [...] This just just a bloody list. Take it for leave it, but don’t use my blog promote your anti-detectorist views.
I do not think anything like this is 'take it or leave it'. One of the (unofficial) Codes of Conduct tells 'metal detectorists' that the and their behaviour are all 'ambassadors for the hobby', and that is how we, the rest of us, should take it. Mr Winter surely should be 'telling it like it is'. In that case, I would like to know what it is that, in asking for closer definition of what exactly 'metal detecting' is thought to be by those who engage in it, one is expressing anti-detecting (recte, this is not an ad personal concern) views.   

Finally, why are the majority of the illustrations the author uses taken not from the public PAS database of artefacts found by members of the public, but the privately-run UK Detector Finds Database made 'by detectorists for detectorists' as the hobby's reaction to the publication of an official Code of Practice for Responsible metal Detecting?

UPDATE 20th May 2018
Although the poor old thing claims he 'did not understand' my text above ('too many words'), I note he's scrabbling now to add some more artefact types to pad out the dominance of the information on coins. Perhaps he could look at the Glossary of Metal Detecting Terms ' of Metal Detecting World and 'Metal Detecting Jargon Glossary' of Metal Detecting in the USA – Kentucky Unearthed for inspiration. Or maybe Joan Allen's Glossary of Metal Detector Terms or Kellyco's 'Metal Detecting  Terminology' World, Hobby Hour's brief text of the same name, and at last a dozen others which a simple Google search will bring up for anyone willing to look. So what is the point of Mr Winter's?

And indeed, he really did not get the drift. I wrote about his providing a definition of so-called 'hedge fodder', and I would have thought it was clear what I thought about it. This blog is about artefact hunters and collectors and not for them, so I really am not bothered (or suprised that those who are of that ilk simply do not follow - they have the PAS to explain it to them, that's what they are paid for).  Mr Winter therefore protests that Nigel Swift also mentions it:
Swift [sic] also objects to the phrase ‘Hedge Fodder’ and says it’s not a phase used by archaeologists and I got it wrong. What he fails to understand is that this is a list of words that may be of use to detectorists, not arkies. The phrase deserves a place in my glossary.
The point both of us are making is precisely that, there is a huge difference between the world of the hoiker-collector and that of the discipline of archaeology. Yet the model of 'partnership' which is de rigueur in the UK is based on the facile assumption that artefact hunting and collecting are 'citizen archaeology' (sic). Mr Winter has confirmed the utter fallacy of that convenient trope, which in discussions of policy I would argue needs to be discarded and replaced by a more nuanced fact-based characterization of what artefact hunters do.

Also, as we see with the example of Mr Winter's response, time and time again, we see collectors are unable to grasp the sense of the concerns being raised about the effects of their hobby, so it is totally naive and unrealistic to see them independently adopting any effective measures to rectify the problem or do more than pay lip service to various notions, but their facadism is not the answer. The decisions have to be taken outside their hobby.

And John Winter, Baz Thugwit, John Howland, all the heritage hoikers and Peter Tompa will never understand that.

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