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?


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