Friday, 22 July 2011

More Conservationists Threatened by UK Artefact Hunters

With regard to threatening behaviour of PAS' "partners", some undesirable elements among UK metal detectorists (Portable Antiquities Society Makes Death Threats), I am reminded of a similar recent attempt at intimidation in response to an enquiring attitude to the issues surrounding metal detecting. At the Central Searchers Keystone rally (the one stripping artefacts from a preserved earthwork ridge and furrow site) a member of Heritage Action was asked by the organization to take a look at what was happening there but without entering private property.

Now Central Searchers members agree as a condition of their membership to abide by either the FID Code of Conduct or the NCMD one. The last principle of the Federation of Independant Deetectorists' Code is:
10. As a FID member you have a lot to be proud of, so always be friendly to people who ask about your hobby, [...] never break this "Code of Conduct" or give the hobby a bad image.
The same idea is embodied in the two last points of the National Council on Metal Detecting one:
9. Remember that when you are out with your metal detector you are an ambassador for our hobby. Do nothing that might give it a bad name.
10. Never miss an opportunity to explain your hobby to anyone who asks about it.
Despite this, several members of the organization did not appreciate the interest being taken by a member of the British public in what was happening to the archaeological record (belongs to us all, you see). Word is that there was apparently a rather tense confrontation, with one rather large artefact hunter taking pictures of the number plates of the conservationist's car - presumably an attempt to identify him (the car has since changed ownership).

One can only imagine what would be said had archaeologists (or anyone else) being photographing for some reason the number plates of cars in a rally carpark. Will Central Searchers be taking any action against the person pictured whose reported threatening behaviour is not exactly being a particularly good "ambassador" for either the hobby or the reputation of the detecting club? Is this CS member "Big Mick Jaworski" whose aggressive tone in defence of the group (and incidentally creating a bad impression of the 'polonia') is already on record?

What actually is the problem, why are these people so concerned to hide what they do from as much public scrutiny as possible? What is it they feel they have to hide? What are the things that British artefact hunters and collectors want to keep secret from society, and why is this secrecy tolerated when it affects a common and finite fragile resource? Surly should not complete transparency be a pre-requisite of public acceptance of this activity? Why is it not?

Photo: Copyright Heritage Action.


Sheddy said...

Paul, if any member of Hertiage Action or indeed yourself (if available) would like to come out in the fields with me they are more than welcom. I'll even lend them a simple-to-use machine for the day, show them a map of what land I have available and they can choose for themselves where we go. I'm in Essex, if they are orepared to travel here then I'm prepared to take them detecting.

I think that in light of the recent threats, the detecting community as a whole should be standing up to show that we are not all like that. The majority of us metal detect not as a means to make money or bolster private collections, we detect because we love it and are very open about what we do and are philanthropic in donating to museums.

Sure, I like to poke fun at the archaeologists but that's because I find their attitudes amusing. Many archaeologists have the attitude that they are superior to any other human and attempt to foist thier principles on the detectorists - yopu are probably the most vocal in this genre and so you catch the most flack. There's no need for threats though - a bit of baiting is fun, but that's as far as it should ever go.

The offer is there and contains no veiled threats. If any of the Heritage action group want to see what does go on when we're wandering around the field aimlessly searching for yesterdays lost small change, they are welcome to. If they feel that there is safety in numbers then I'm afraid I'd have to limit it to two of them and one of me - the farmer who has granted permission doesn't like to have more than three of us "raping"(!) his land at any one time.

Paul Barford said...

Thanks, Sheddy.
It strikes me that there really should be nothing for groups like CS to hide, if they have not got anything to hide.

This is the problem, isn't it, within the hobby are various shades of responsibility and best practice, clandestine practitioners, trouble-makers and ruffians among the good guys and yet we are asked to accept and condone the lot and treat the milieu as a whole as good guys.

So you have groups which work closely with archaeologists and you have groups that are highly secretive, combative and do not, individuals who are happy to discuss issues with the archies, and individuals like Steve Taylor whose answer is to threaten to smash somebody's "gob" in (he is now threatening to come himself to Poland and find me). There is just no consistency.

This is something Heritage Action and I have been stressing for years. Our concerns are not with the best practice guys, and (if you look in archived posts etc) never have been. The concerns are that it is not being made sufficiently clear to everybody that a whole load of people whose practice is far from "best" is riding on their backs, and has been since the PAS was set up.

So what do we do? Continue to treat the whole lot as saints and try to ignore the abuses ("not real detectorists")? To what aim? To whose benefit? Certainly not the benefit of the archaeological record.

Thanks for the invitation, speaking for myself, I'll not be doing any "metal detecting". What on earth would I do if we found an archaeological artefact?

[Can you imagine too my conversation with the FLO about my "find(s)"? She'd not thank you, I guarantee you.]

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone from Heritage Action will consider taking part in random unstructured metal detecting until the Finds Liaison Officers, Roger Bland and David Connolly have done so. We really don't want to get in their bad books.

Sheddy said...

I wouldn't take it to the FLO Paul. Never show anything to those people. The county archaeological service are the ones to deal with, they have a job to do rather than an agenda to follow.

Paul Barford said...

No, that would not be responsible, this is not within the brief of the HERO since the PAS was set up to take the weight of dealing with metal detectorists from them. The Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales is perfectly clear on this (Article 9) and obviously anybody who does not abide by this to the letter as a minimum is not acting responsibly in my view.

As far as I am concerned, the only "agenda" the PAS is pro-collecting, and I question that. So I do not think the FLO would be pleased to hear from me, even if it was with a find I found.

Sheddy said...

Does that not open the door for a discussion on what "responsible" means though?

The VOLUNTARY Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales is not enshrined in law or legislation and is exactly what it says, voluntary. I have access to three methods of recording, P.A.S., County Archaeologist and UKDFD but not everyone does.

The P.A.S is incidious. It started out as a nice scheme but siunce it's first conference at the B.M. it has become obvious that there is a wider ranging agenda. I have an email from Roger Bland that infers that they can and will move the goalposts at any time they wish to and will do so without informing the person recording the find.
You have covered the H.E.R. but what about UKDFD? The PAS or HER mean taking at least a half day out of work (unpaid) to go and see but the UKDFD is accessable 24/7. Is it not still responsible to record with the UKDFD and if not, what is the meaning of the word "responsible" when used in this context?
I'm afraid that utilising the proviso "in my view" does not qualify the statement, real clarification of the document is required.

Paul Barford said...

This is really getting OFF THE TOPIC.

No, I am not really interested in discussing "alternative responsibility". There is a code, it was created in wide consultation over a number of years, taking all sorts of opinions and other options into consideration, why challenge it?

As you say, voluntary, one either agrees to abide by what it says is responsible, or you do not. But how could I, hypothetically finding some piece of old metal crap with a hypothetical metal detector, not follow the code of practice for responsible metal detecting?

No, the UKDFD is no substitute for the PAS, for reasons I have explained from (its) day one and can't be bothered to do it again here. It is not the same thing at all, and undermines the PAS. You are muddling recording with reporting.

You know you can self-record 24/7 with the PAS too?

[The PAS by the way obviously has no "wider ranging agenda", its a cop-out, under its present leadership couldn't come up with an agenda (ie proper long term programme to address any of the real issues) to save its life. They just do what they do. That's the system].

Paul Barford said...

Now, I think unless somebody from Central Searchers is coming here to explain the problems they have with members of the public watching them plunder preserved earthwork sites of artefacts, this off-topic thread is closed. Thanks.

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