Friday, 11 January 2019

Bangor has a go on Facebook [UPDATED]

From NGÖ Jahresschrift  2014*
When he's not burying plastic Father Christmases in an Austrian back garden and trying to get the state prosecutor and courts to react to his stunt, Raimund Karl of Bangor seems to want to prove that liberalising laws about 'metal detecting' would be no bad thing (the Father Christmas stunt was part of that). That's not a view that wins him much favour with me, in particular due to the methods he uses to promote his views. Anyway, over on facebook a couple of days ago, one James Hodgson rather superciliously asked me to 'provide a source for these artefacts being 'hoiked' out of the ground in increasing numbers' in England and Wales. I pointed out first that we await a proper report addressing this issue but until then, the most recent published attempt was the text by Sam Hardy, which certainly seems to suggest that the numbers of artefact hunters with metal detectors in England and Wales is reaching disturbingly high numbers. That in turn triggered Karl to draw attention to his own nasty blog text from March last year:
This paper [Hardy's] contains serious methodological and arithmetic errors, of in fact shocking proportions, amounting in one rather significant case to almost a full order of magnitude. See here ( for a discussion of some of the more outrageous mistakes made by the author (who incidentally claims to have based it on a methodology first used in the context of metal detecting by me and one of my PhD students, while obviously not having understood even the most basic tenets of the method we used, nor its purpose and applicability).
Shocking, eh. I drafted a reply for Facebook. In march when I'd read this text through a couple of times, I was going to write a reply here, but in the end I couldn't be bothered. Perhaps I should have done. When discussions get to this level of he-said-she-said tedium, they become  dialogue of the deaf, and serve only to obscure the main fact: We do have a problem with current policies on Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record. And part of the problem is that we are refusing to admit it. Karl is one of those in denial - in fact like the Ixelles Six he seems to see everything as hunkydory in PAS-land. That is not a view I share. Since he was responding to what I had said to Mr Hodgson I felt like replying. In the end I did not post it, but this is what I wrote as a response:
Professor Karl’s post here, I think should be seen in the context of the fixation he (and others) have with proving that ‘restrictive’ approaches to artefact hunting and collecting “do not work” (and so therefore we would all need a liberal system and a PAS-clone system for picking up the pieces) Hardy has come in for a lot of flak (not all of it methodologically sound) from several academic quarters for the work he has done that shows that these liberal ‘systems’ are very damaging (a view I share).

Since the methodology of Hardy’s paper is set out In detail, and Prof. Karl argues at some length where what is what, the reader can plough through it and decide for themselves who is right where.

For what it is worth, I read it all when he published it in March last year and will just say I think Karl overstates his case, is unnecessarily offensive in his phrasing and not right in his overall assessment. But as I say, readers can decide for themselves.
For my part, despite all he says there, I still think the archaeological heritage of England and Wales (and archaeology itself) would be better served by the introduction of a permit system than what we have now.  
What the reader should notice is that while Hardy sets out the numbers he has deduced, and the basis on which he does so (precisely so they can be assessed) all that Karl does here is attack them, without providing any figures of his own to replace them. This is pretty typical of the pro-collecting lobby on the whole.

The point made so 
triumphantly by Karl (‘that little nugget’) about metal detecting in the USA is however correct, which Hardy admits here in a correction to the original article  (a text Karl has 'somehow' omitted to mention) . I do not think however that it actually affects the general argument of Hardy’s paper and in particular about the situation in England and Wales.

I also still feel it is irrelevant who first thought of the idea of mining information from the social media to see behind the scenes of ‘metal detecting’, Karl claims it was him in 2016. In fact, Nigel Swift and I were using these kind of data for this purpose a decade earlier. I suspect that Karl just uses the suggestion of Hardy’s 'borrowing' his idea as grounds for the subsequent nastiness (and for the record the paper by Moeller and him and its 'method' are discussed on this blog at some length).

But what this curious example of blog wars demonstrates is something else. Why – in the case of the UK - are we having this discussion like this at all? Where is the official survey by HM government, the CBA, CIfA, commissioned report from OA, or anywhere else? Why is this being slogged out as an academic punchup between Hardy and Karl ? How many metal detectorists are there in the UK, what are they taking and how much of it, and how does that relate to the coin-heavy records that are being made by the PAS?
When are we going to see some soundly-based definitive official figures instead of all this? Surely that should be the main fruit of twenty years liaison in the UK.

I'll just point out for its general entertainment value, that in the March text to which he links, one of the key points in the opposition of 'liberal/restrictive laws' is that Austria has a 'restrictive' legislation Cf what he was arguing in the comments under this post last week, and getting quite stroppy about. 

* Wanna know who Netzwerk Geschichte Österreich are? Look here. Members of the ECMD. 

UPDATE  11th Jan 2019

Hardy reminds us of a later article Hardy, S.A. Metal-Detecting for Cultural Objects until ‘There Is Nothing Left’: The Potential and Limits of Digital Data, Netnographic Data and Market Data for Open-Source AnalysisArts 20187, 40. that expands on his use of the 'netnographic' data.

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