Wednesday, 11 September 2019

PAS Where is the Truth? Twenty two thousand what?

Mumble-mumble, grab the podium
In the video of the talk "making metal detecting great again" (sic) Mike Lewis mumbles his way through a read text, much of it is the usual PAS gumble-fluff, some interesting signs that the
confidence is seeping away though. Here's something I want to put on record before the video is pulled like so much PAS stuff, at 236 seconds he says:
"now, to date more than 22000 individuals have recorded, um, the 1.4 million finds with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is a significant number, especially giving (sic) that it is generally estimated that there are ten to fifteen thousand detectorists in the UK, this is even more significant if it is reckoned that only a small proportion of individuals are likely to detect frequently".

Odd that he does not mention that the latest published estimate of the number of detectorists in England and Wales (so just part of the UK) is 27000, and that the NCMD have for a number of years saying their estimate is 20000. So the PAS is already compromised by not being a bit honest about the true nature and range of those estimates (the "10000" figure is the one I was proposing back in 2005/6 based on what dealers were asserting at the time).

The fluff statistic given in a presentation of this official body specifically is about "22000 individuals". Are they not able to sort out their data to give the number of "metal detectorists"? Because those "individuals" are all finders, and that will include little old ladies finding things weeding their rose gardens, dog walkers, and the people doing the fieldwalking that produced all those Welsh flints a decade back (and one or two archaeologists who got into that database too). What an odd way to put it, "22000 individuals have recorded [sic - reported really]". And its conveniently twice his estimate-drawn-from-thin-air of the number of detectorists... He implies this is over the entire twenty year period resulting in those 1.4 million objects. 

I do not know how carefully the PAS head prepared that text, but what I do know (because I've checked) is that the PAS annual reports VI-X (so, 2003-7) give some very clear figures for the number of non-metal detectorists in that total. Check them out yourselves, the total is 8349 individuals.  After 2007, they stopped reporting those figures, and at some time after that, the "finds days/surgeries" were drastically (?) reduced in frequency in many areas.

But if in five years, there were 8340 non-detecting "individuals" bringing forward artefacts, that is an average of 1670 members of the public came forward with finds each year. If this went on at the same rate for the twelve (publicly) undocumented years, that would be another 20040 individuals. So in theory, the number of public reporters (non-metal-detectorists) alone would be 28390. What are there "figures" the head of the PAS is trying to foist off on his CIfA audience?

When, actually, will be get an evidence based presentation of the numbers of individual detectorists presenting finds from recording? One that does not count multiple times the same individual coming forward for several consecutive years? Is that personal input of those responsible individual detectorists really so difficult to extract from the "records", that the only way they can have their work shown is amalgamated with the rose-garden weeders and dog walkers to produce 'official' figures that are easy to show are probably totally false? 

It is odd that in Dr Lewis's presenting a text called "Advocating a more archaeologically minded approach to hobby metal-detecting", we once again get more pro-collecting propaganda from one of the hobby's most persistent claqueurs. An archaeological approach would be to look at the effects of this erosive activity on the fragile and finite  archaeological record and decide what in the best interests of that resource would be the way to deal with then problem. Twenty years have shown that the PAS is not that way. Avoiding telling the bald truth about the scale of the problem and the scale of the effects and the degree to which the current method of attempting to deal with it is keeping up with the damage  is not an archaeological approach. It's the jobsworth approach. Archaeology deserves the truth, not corporate fluff. 

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