Monday 6 December 2010

Everybody gets the Depth Advantage: At UK Taxpayer's Cost...

On a detecting forum near you, in a topic called "Minelab goes too deep" one post-PAS-outreach detectorist called "Tracker" enthuses about the new generation of metal detectors.Let us assume this is not one of the plants Candice Jarman refers to which are intended to deceive the public into thinking that its worse than it is but a genuine voice of a metal detectorist who has been a member of the EFID Forum since 2006 :
You have got to move with the times, the GPX is the next stage of the metal detecting journey, imagine how grateful everyone will be when more of our history and heritage is saved for future generations.

Bearing the above in mind I would go so far as to say that the government should make all metal detectors VAT free. In the case of the GPX the government should also consider subsidising the price something along the lines of Student Fee's. ie. You get the GPX free of charge and only start paying back the price as the finds appear, after the initial price has been paid back the detector then becomes the property of the detectorist. The Government would of course be buying in bulk further reducing the price.
Only in PAS-UK topsyturviness would an artefact hunter be writing "imagine how grateful everyone will be when more of our history and heritage is saved for future generations" by looting it deeper and deeper from otherwise unthreatened levels of archaeological sites. You would not find an Iraqi looter saying that, nor a tombarolo or haquero.

Some unthinking minister once called these despoilers the "unsung heroes of the UK's heritage" (once, he did not as far as I know repeat the mistake). Now there are buffoons among them who take this seriously, like this one calling for the Government to buy them the tools with which to further despoil the heritage.

Note that the suggestion is that artefact hunters get the tools for free, only start paying the cost back "as the finds appear" - i.e., the finds that the detectorist can sell either to fellow collectors, or for full market price back to the British people who so kindly supplied the tools to loot the heritage. Then when he's paid it off, he gets to keep the machine - and all the finds he can collect or sell which he finds with its further use. I believe this is what the British supporters of no-holds-barred emptying of the British archaeological record into private collections and onto the market as a "win-win situation" (ugh). Well, except the real losers are all those who were hoping that some part of the archaeological record may survive unscathed by the grabfest through the next few decades.

Is it NOT about time the PAS issued a statement as part of its archaeological outreach about their attitude towards this kind of talk? A statement that the role of the PAS is not to aid and abet the near total destruction of the surface evidence of archaeological sites in England and Wales (soon just England) within our generation but was in fact intended to attempt a certain amount of mitigation of the DAMAGE being caused? From that point of view the indiscriminate use of a tool like any form of "depth advantage" detector is not aiding the preservation of the archaeological record in Britain, and as such is not the mark of a responsible detectorist. Can they bring themselves to do that? Actually, bearing in mind their past record, I doubt it.

Vignette: getting down to getting the artefacts out from deep underground.


Pam Braddock said...

This is unbelieveable. I totally agree that it is time for PAS to do SOMETHING, just not sure how to go about making sure that they do

Paul Barford said...

What makes you think the PAS is at all interested in what you or I or anyone else thinks?

When have they stooped to telling it like it is and asking the public what they think, rather than telling them what to think?

So much for the much-vaunted policies of transparency and public engagement in the CONSERVATION process and policy making.

Anonymous said...

"What makes you think the PAS is at all interested in what you or I or anyone else thinks?"

Well they should be.

If PAS and the Treasure Act have reduced information-loss by 30% (as if!) but publicity generated by them has expanded the activity by just 10% then PAS and the Treasure Act have resulted in an increased information-loss and we’d have been better off without them.

So the truth is, avoiding at ALL costs (like the whole of the PAS budget) ANY expansion in metal detecting and preferably a contraction of it was always the only logical and cost effective way to reduce information loss.

But what strength has mere logic compared with a brochures full of shiny things shoved under the noses of the public and the Culture Minister?

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, the government can't make metal detectors VAT free, because, under EU law, something the groups of goods and services that are Zero Rated can't be extended - a good job because it's the sort of scheme you can imagine people championing.

The problem is 'though, how do you explain to someone who is probably convinced that they're doing what's best, that the best way of "saving" our history and heritage is to leave it alone - or at the very least to dig a site properly rather than sinking a pit where a machine goes beep?


Paul Barford said...

"how do you explain to someone [...] that the best way of "saving" our history and heritage is to leave it alone..." I have a bold and novel idea. What we need to do is set up a multi-million pound scheme employing fifty archaeologists to do outreach to these people in England and Wales and instil the ideals of best conservation practice in them by explaining these things to them. You know, going to where they gather and explaining to these people "passionately interested in history" the damage artefact collecting is doing to the archaeological record. And let it run for thirteen years or so.

The people who work in PAS tell me that British metal detectorists are to a man "decent blokes" and "not thickoes". So let them show that this is true and not some idealistic fluffy bunny claptrap, and that real and costly outreach can attain real results in this area, rather than just partially documenting the scale of the ongoing depredation.

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