Sunday, 25 September 2011

Commercial Artefact Hunting "Festival" in East Yorkshire

"More than 400 treasure hunters have descended on an East Yorkshire village for a weekend metal detecting festival" cheerfully chirps the BBC. "The Bishop Burton event has drawn enthusiasts from around the world to hunt for buried items on 1700 acres (688 hectares) of farmland" and the legal looting at Raikes Farm is all in a good cause: "each participant's entrance fee goes to the military charity Help for Heroes". The event was organized by Norman Smith's Northern England Weekend Searchers (NEWS) and cost participants £60 per weekend or £20 per day (so made a minimum of £8000, potentially £24000 for the charity).
One of the experts supporting the event said he hoped they would uncover some new finds. Dr Kevin Leahy [...] an archaeologist from Scunthorpe [...] said: "We know quite a lot about East Yorkshire. But, the more we can find out, the more kilometre squares we can fill in with information, the better. "There will be new sites discovered here."
Discovered and immediately denuded of many of the most diagnostic metal finds which will then be scattered in ephemeral personal collections or end up on eBay. It beggars belief that a state-funded archaeologist can actually give a journalist the impression he "supports" this kind of treatment of the archaeological record. This seems a tragic misunderstanding of what modern archaeology is about - and that is not "filling the kilometre squares" with dots. That is what Gustav Kossinna would have been doing a century ago. Archaeology has moved on quite a bit since then, though the old cultural historical and antiquitist paradigms of the antiquaries are obviously still alive and well in Britain's Portable Antiquities Scheme.
One participant, Mike Stavas, had travelled to the event from the Netherlands. He said: "I come here for the first time in England just to find hammered coins, or things we don't find in Holland.
Like archaeologists who support commercial artefact stripping of archaeological sites? (Export licences ?). He later appeared on a metal detecting forum to advertise the video he had made and saying he'd made "three great finds" on British soil.

Anon, 'East Yorkshire hosts charity metal detector festival', BBC 24 September 2011
"The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites" it says, but it IS responsible for the way it presents such events on its own. Since when has Britain hosted plundering "festivals"?

The Hull Daily Mail also sees no problem in what can only be seen as a treasure hunt ('Metal detectors want to strike gold at Help For Heroes rally', September 20, 2011). "Metal detector enthusiasts from around the world are hoping to strike gold at a major charity fundraiser [...] some from as far away as America, Iraq and Japan". It was feared the commercial event would be scrapped by the environmental conservation body Natural England: "However, the government agency, which is responsible for protecting the environment, has worked around the clock so the event can take place". That's nice, do they work that hard for toxic waste dumpers, bird egg collectors and other environmentally damaging groups too? Northern England Weekend Nesters take note of the name: Bishop Burton.

Could not the PAS, as part of its "archaeological outreach", prepare a brief journalists' pack to hand out when interviewed at such events? This would point out how damaging artefact hunting, and commercial rallies in particular, are and stress that PAS presence at commercial rallies is the lesser of two evils, because experience has shown that if the PAS does not attend, very few of the items removed are later brought to the FLOs for recording.

Vignette: the green man in the local church is not the only bit of the historical heritage of the village that is "battered" now.

1 comment:

Jee said...

Natural England's regional land manager said
"Both the organisers and Natural England are keen to make this happen and our staff have pulled out all the stops in the limited time we have been given."

What a shame he didn't explain "why". One can only assume it was for the charity, in which case perhaps next time they could NOT pull out all the stops unless they got a cast iron assurance everything found would be handed over and sold for the charity. It's no coincidence that acquisitive yobbery rhymes with robbery and English Nature should surely not be working extra hard to achieve either.

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