Friday 5 August 2011

The Whiddon Down Hoard and Retarded Reasoning

In his discussion of the Whiddon Down hoard Treasure case, both lawyer Tompa and dugup antiquity dealer Welsh emphasise that archaeologists should be "happy" that artefact hunters are out there plundering the British archaeological record and finding things.
"This discovery and the responsible manner in which it was reported to authorities is only the latest of many examples of how effectively the UK's Treasure Act/PAS scheme has brought all classes and interest groups in that nation together in their determination to responsibly explore and protect their ancient heritage".
well, the law is the law; if they'd found this and sold them on eBay unreported, one would hope they could end up doing time, so its not exactly "responsibility", but doing what the law requires. But then coin dealers and collectors tend to see certain laws in a different manner from the rest of us. Has indeed the "UK's Treasure Act/PAS scheme" really "brought all classes and interest groups in that nation together" in a "determination to responsibly explore and protect their ancient heritage"? Is artefact hunting on archaeological sites with metal detectors and selectively collecting away the archaeological record "responsibly protecting" the archaeological heritage? How? That's like saying shooting rhinos for their horn is protecting them from getting ill and dying out there in the bush of natural causes. Basically it's not protection at all, and this is what it seems collectors on both sides of the Atlantic do not seem to be able to get into their heads. I do not see why, it is hardly rocket science (Welsh blames his difficulties understanding this on my "impenetrable prose", but it's not exactly as if I was the only person pointing this out)

Also is it true that metal detecting "has brought all classes and interest groups in that nation together"? The PAS has released postcode profiling data on their clientèle which rather quashes that argument. The people that they meet do not tend to be retired high court judges and former Air Vice Marshalls, do they? I would like to ask the PAS how many people they meet in the clubs they visit are from minorities (Moslems, West Indians, Pakistanis, Sikhs, Chinese). My guess is very few, even in regions where such communities are large. So what kind of "bringing together' is that?

Both Tompa and Welsh (again!) confuse the PAS and Treasure Unit. They are two entirely different things and operate on an entirely different basis and to entirely different aims. it's not rocket science, but artefact hunters and their pals just keep on getting confused.

We are asked:
Can the countries [to which] archaeological hard liners look [...] as models [(]like Italy, Greece and Cyprus[)] report similar results? Of course not."
That rather depends on what "results" we are talking about"Better than the systems in other countries" is collector-talk for chalk and cheese. The PAS makes no pretence whatsoever of trying to stop sites being exploited destructively as a source of collectables. It actively encourages it. So its not "better than", it is "different from". And that is where the problem lies.

Obviously, the issue is not to get (finds) reported/recorded, but stop the erosion, the destruction. That the PAS is FAILING to do. Is that really so difficult to understand?

If we are talkking about numbers of hoards reported Kyri says
"in the uk we seem to be having a hoard coming out of the ground every few weeks"
No, if there are 800 reported a year by metal detectorists, it means they are digging them out of the ground at a rate of FIFTEEN A WEEK. For the most part they are coming from undisturbed deposits under plough level, some of the, as here, from archaeological sites.

In the source countries mentioned above, what would happen to you if you were spotted on an archaeological site with a metal detector and spade over there? The answer to that is why you do not hear of fifteen randomly dug up hoards a week coming onto the market, licit or not from any of these countries, let alone hear the archaeological establishment boasting about it.

The PAS is not solving any of the issues, instead it is making their discussion a hundred times more difficult - which is odd because you would have thought that it would be the scheme which would be the focus of the most lively archaeological discussion of them all. Instead they sit silently and passively hoping that the issues would just go away and leave them alone to their introspective goodie-fondling and storytelling.

Vignette: Some people have difficulty understanding the arguments here, maybe I should sing it to them.

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