Friday, 18 May 2018

How PAS 'Partners' Perceive the PASt: A New Glossary (3): Oregon Detectorist Claims He's making a Difference

'Joseph from Oregon' (18th May 2018 at 1:41 AM) wrote that he expected that John Winter would have written
A glossary with a Barford twist. Words like ”detectorist” or what we might see as it’s [sic] true definition[,] or ”archaeologist”[,[?]] to raise the hackles of ones that are ignorant of our contribution to history. I can see the glossary is much more serious than a few puns [sic] at Paul.
 This was followed not so much by puns, but the usual low-brow and as personam baiting one sees in 'metal detecting' circles, referring to my recent operation.

Oregon, a state in the Pacific Northwest region on the west coast of the US, only saw desultory European settlement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the establishment of Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River in 1811. The establishment of the Oregon Trail in 1842–43 brought more settlers and the creation of a state in the 1840s. It should be pretty clear that this is not the byegones-archaeology that this blog is primarily concerned with. In that case, I really do not know why any metal detectorist from Oregon (unless he's also digging up Native american burial sites or something) would have interest, let alone quarrel, with what I write about Collection-Drtiven Exploitation of the (mostly pre-Victorian) archaeological record.

While one is to some extent thwarted in understanding what 'Joseph from Oregon' actually means by his somewhat inarticulate expression, I think we can assume that in some way it is connected with a belief among detector using artefact hunters that the true definition of  'detectorist' would (be intended for some reason to) 'raise the hackles of ones that are ignorant of our contribution to history' (sic, he probably means historiography).  It is less clear whether he was trying also, in his Oregonian backwoods way, to express the idea that the true definition of  'archaeologist' would also (be intended for some reason to) 'raise the hackles of ones that are ignorant of our contribution to history', or perhaps he meant that he feels that archaeologists do not, in fact, contribute to history. Who knows? 

 'Joseph from Oregon' seems to regard it as a criticism that some 'are ignorant of our contribution to history'. And what might that be? I have discussed here a couple of times the looting of the Oregon trail by metal detectorists.* What 'contribution to history' does targeting these sites actually make? Metal detector-made finds without a context may be used to 'rewrite' history, but whether or not that is in any way justified is another matter (see here for just one case). I do not see what 'contribution;' one can make by selectively removing material from archaeological (or historical assemblages) and pocketing it, or even under-reporting it. That is simply grabbing and not contributing.

Then we have the reaction to  an attempt to make sure that artefact hunters actually contribute by introducing a permit system ('Petition on State Of Oregon Senate Bill 64', PACHI Wednesday, 6 May 2009): 

"Say "NO" to State Of Oregon - Senate Bill 64" urge the petition organizers. Certainly one for the ACCG to get involved in, surely it will not stand idly by while moves are underfoot to compel US finders by retentionist and "nationalist" laws to hand over relics to the state to be made available for study and archiving in public collections so everybody can enjoy them? [...] So basically what these people are all saying is that they do not want anything like the UK's treasure act or portable antiquities scheme, they just want the ability to claim the right to pick up, or dig up and carry away whatever they want without sharing it with anyone else.
And what became of this initiative? In what manner do collectors and artefact hunters and collectors want to 'contribute to Oregon's history' now? 

Vignette: Coin commemorating the Oregon Trail
*  ('Treasure hunters with metal detectors damage Oregon Trail', PACHI Thursday, 29 August 2013; 'More Metal Detecting Along the Oregon Trail', PACHI Saturday, 31 August 2013; 'Focus on Metal Detecting: Metal Detecting Oregon - Barlow Trail Explorations',  PACHI Saturday, 31 August 2013; more insulting comment from the tekkies - 'Oregon Trail Wreckers Find This Blog: "Archie crap gone awry... with a little logic and perspective, they fall apart"...', PACHI Saturday, 28 October 2017).

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