Tuesday 28 December 2010

Gill on PAS as Preservation (6): "Response" from the PAS?


Well, this is an ODD one ! Very very odd. Ms Worrell is accredited as: "Prehistoric and Roman Finds Adviser, Portable Antiquities Scheme, UCL Institute of Archaeology". Sadly she is the only member of the PAS staff who responded to Gill, according to the editor Brian Hole, "Unfortunately due to the sensitivity of the subject, PAS itself was less willing to contribute". That can only sound extremely comical. Fifty staff members of the PAS are out there in the midst of the general public engaging with treasure hunting clubs, for example in the roughest areas of Essex, and with cultural philistine "what's this archaeology for then, anyway?" diehards like my Mum, explaining to them the importance of what they do. And yet when David Gill ("the polite one") writes a text involving a few gentlemanly arguments, the PAS cannot muster up an answer? The PAS cannot spend a few hours at most discussing these issues with archaeologists in a proper archaeological journal, giving its response to what David wrote? Why not? Why run away from the opportunity to discuss with the very milieu the PAS is suppodedly representing as archaeology's "outreach" to the wider public? Was the venue, a proper journal produced by an academic institution, not in some way suitable? If they were invited to talk to metal detectorists I bet they'd find the time and the words and petrol money...

So after all that effort, all we get from the PAS is this brief text by Ms Worrell. David Gill initiated a discussion on current policies towards artefact hunting in England and Wales, in which the recently discovered Crosby Garret Roman helment is mentioned several times. Instead of addressing the issues Gill raises, she summarises events surrounding the discovery and sale of this single object (this is in fact similar to her text in British Archaeology published about the same time). What is notable however is that Worrell does not add any depth to the discussion on how the problems which obviously occurred here could be resolved. The text seems more of an apologia, explaining why the finders and landowners cannot really be accused of doing anything wrong. Surely that was not the point that Gill was making.
One might say, taking the lead from metal detectorist Candice Jarman: "How about answering some questions, Dr Bland?" Well, I have answered hers, now let Roger Bland give David Gill the answer his thoughtful contribution deserves. Shame on you PAS.

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