Friday, 26 November 2010

Don't go "Walking" in the Fields Without One

The ARCHI database compiled among other things by indexing archaeological reports urges "Field Walkers" to use the winter to devote more time to "Field Walking research":
A few hours' background research now could save you months if not years of your time in the future. Maybe you could be making headlines soon with that spectacular object which has been sleeping in the earth for centuries, lying patiently for you to bring it back into existence. You could leave it to chance of course, but in most cases, as any old-hand will tell you, luck in Field Walking is proportional to one's local knowledge. Many historically significant new sites and beautiful artefacts have already been found and reported by people who have used the ARCHI database for their research. So with a little help, there shouldn't be any reason why you couldn't also contribute to our understanding of ancient British culture and society and also increase your prospects of making that special connection with the past too!
Now, is it just me, or is that text one long euphemism? These Field Walkers (capitalised in the original), they would not be "metal detectorists" (aka Treasure hunters, aka artefact hunters) would they? And is this "making a connection-with-the-past" not a "connection-wink-wink [banknote counting gesture]"?

To make it a little easier on the pocket in these times of austerity we are continuing to offer a subscription to ARCHI, the database of more than 125,000 UK Archaeological Sites at a reduced rate of Ł24.95 for one more month. Yes, thats a Ł10 pounds saving on the usual price of Ł34.95! However, this offer will only be available for one more month. If you haven't used the ARCHI database for a while, why not have a look now because new information may have been added since you last visited our site.
Do please enlarge, this "new information" comes from...?

Users will be excited that they can put bits of it onto car Sat Navs and mobile phones so you could drive straight to a location and walk directly to the precise position of an archaeological site of interest to do your "Field Walking" (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) at any time of the day or night.

I've looked at one of these on my blog before, still going strong, so obviously there is a lot of demand for this sort of thing from those who want to speed up their "research" on the "local archaeology". This raises the very important point that although the PAS is constantly promoted as a means by which British heritage management learns of new, previously unknown sites, to what extent are the data in the PAS database in actual fact coming from the erosive exploitation of archaeological sites already known in the literature or their immediate environs?

Is this "database" a resource the PAS is aware of, and if so, where is their statement concerning its use in "best practice"? Surely it should be pointing out that it gives a list of places where the truly responsible artefact hunter (both metal detectorists and eyes-only fieldwalkers) would be keeping well clear of. That is after all the only kind of outreach the PAS SHOULD be doing to artefact grabbers and collectors with public money.

Vignette: "Unsung hero of the UK's heritage", nocturnal artefact hunter or comic book figure? You choose.


Anonymous said...

“Surely it should be pointing out that it gives a list of places where the truly responsible artefact hunter (both metal detectorists and eyes-only fieldwalkers) would be keeping well clear of.”

Ah well, there’s a bit of a ticklish problem with that. You see the PAS database is FAR more used by metal detectorists to pinpoint “productive” areas to search on than the ARCHI database, and is FAR more comprehensive. And totally free to use! (Courtesy of the taxpayer)

PAS is inordinately proud of the Research that is carried out using its data and highlights that there have been a total of 208 research projects so far.

But that’s nonsense, and totally misleads the public by omission. There have been hundreds of thousands of research projects using the PAS database, not concerned with typology or distribution but a wish to find the best places to search for artefacts. One might ask why those thousands of research projects aren’t highlighted and boasted about rather than just the 208 academic ones. But an answer isn’t really necessary is it? "Partnership" sounds alright until you examine exactly what it really means. Best to keep very quiet about that.

Paul Barford said...

Indeed, and amazingly there are people on two continents who try to convince everybody that the PAS is some kind of conservation measure, preserving the archaeological record. A closer examination shows that this certainly is a view that can be challenged.

But then, as you say, there are those in whose interest it is that these questions are not examined closely and indeed (from their own point of view) best totally ignored.

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.