Thursday, 30 October 2008

What would the PAS say?

Cultural Property Observer discussed two blog posts (mine and David Gill’s) about the three-foot deep hole apparently dug in the dark by English metal detectorists on a Roman site at Cold Brayfield near Newport Pagnell and says I find all their focus on context in this circumstance to be a bit laughable.” Well, he would, it has already been adequately shown out by David Gill that this US lawyer's notions on archaeological context are somewhat uninformed.

Tompa, amazingly, cites Roger Bland, director of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in support of his mocking tone. In the light of CPO's comments I’d also be very interested to hear what Roger Bland has actually said to the US coin collectors and dealers of the ACCG and Unidroit-L who seem to have a very warped idea of what the PAS actually does and represents. For the PAS is nothing if it is not about context !

This raises the question of what the PAS would say to these two metal detector users had they asked if it was OK to dig a three foot hole in the dark into a Roman site. Would they say “no, this is a bad idea”, or would PAS staff stay silent so as not to upset the inherently touchy and defensive metal detectorists? Well, gentle reader you will just have to log on to a metal detecting forum on which a number of archaeologists as well as Roger Bland himself are members to find out what weighty ethical matters they discuss as part of their outreach with British "metal detectorists" and how frequently. After all, what better place to reach these people than an online forum? (More to the point, have a look at the number of issues that came up over that year that they decided not to pass comment on.) I think though the notions of archaeological outreach conducted by the PAS and other "bridge-building" archaeologists have up to now tended to concentrate more on reaching out for "data" than reaching out with archaeological advice. More passive taking than active giving here too, I get the feeling. The same thing was happening on the PAS Forum when they had one.

I think we'd all like to know what the PAS would actually say as part of their outreach to other “metal detectorists” contemplating imitating the reported deed. The newspaper report of the findings of the Milton Keynes Treasure inquest gives us all the impression these guys are being rewarded for what sounds like bad practice, if this is not the case, I assume the PAS will be producing a statement setting the record straight.


Anonymous said...

I think your facts are wrong Paul.
According to these photographs it looks to me like its not dark and was excavated correctly.
I personally think you need to swallow humble pie on this blog post.

Paul Barford said...

Well, as I pointed out here (comments) my "facts" are not wrong, since I was discussing what had been made public about this discovery and said - apparently by the finders themselves.

The find in question was the Cold Brayfield hoard (2006/T631) dug up by Dave Phillips and Barrie Plasom in Dec (?) 2006 a week (according to Central Searchers web owner Gill Evans) before these photos were taken. They show museum archaeologist Julian Watters digging a "Buckingham" hoard. Cold Brayfield on the county border is a long way away from Buckingham.

Anyway, to return to my original post (above), it clearly would be a jolly good idea for the PAS to produce some kind of statement about what went on here and whether or not these guys will qualify for the full reward, and why.

Certainly the information currently in the public domain gives reason for concern, and I see nothing wrong in raising those concerns, I do not agree with the "bridge building archaeologists" who say we should simply "ignore" such matters. What kind of "outreach" is that?

It strikes me that the results of a coroner's inquest into Treasure as part of the common heritage in which we are all stakeholders should be officially made public. Probably the best way to do this would be in the Treasure Reports which the government is obliged by law (by the Treasure Act) to produce annually - the last one appeared over four years ago. Where are the rest?

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