Saturday 12 November 2011

Detecting Under the Microscope 11: The Seeds of Destruction

A commercial artefact hunting group called Leisure Promotions is planning an event for artefact hunters who have "bought a new detector in the past twelve months", planned for some time in December in the Lambourne (Berkshire) area. "It is a very good site" they assure the new detector owners. But:
There is no point in trying out a new detector unless there are guaranteed to be finds there in the first place, so we are going to be burying several hundreds of finds which will include Roman coins, hammered silver coins and masses of other coins and artefacts. All of these will be buried in a large area marked out so that you can move elsewhere if you prefer to look for any natural finds afterwards. These coins obviously cost a lot of money to buy, hence why for this event only the cost will be £15.00 per detector user.
So a patch of land at West Ilsley, Berkshire will suddenly sprout a faked artefact cluster some time before Sunday November 20th, and what the new metal detector owners do not find will most likely stay there to be found and then maybe reported to the PAS or a subsequent scheme by artefact hunters for many years to come. This is just irresponsible contamination of the archaeological record for commercial reasons by material of goodness' knows what origin (are the coins bought going to be guaranteed of British origin even, or are they going to contain an admixture of the ubiquitous Balkan culls and other foreign material? So what model of "getting to know the history of the local area" through "metal detecting" does this represent then? Surely it is just one more piece of evidence that all the claptrap about why artefact hunters go "metal detecting" is just that, misleading claptrap. In the UK, "metal detectorists" do what they do not to "learn" anything, but to get artefacts to add to their little personal hoard of loot.

I am sure somebody will point out that I should be grateful that "no real site" will be being trashed by this activity. This totally ignore the fact that somebody is going to be selling sackfuls of "Roman coins, hammered silver coins and masses of other coins and artefacts" which have been accumulated as a result of the undocumented trashing of a site or more likely several sites elsewhere. For what? So that sackfulls of artefacts can be generated for sale to commercial artefact hunting rally organizers? That is obviously no way to treat the archaeological record. But look in the thread from the metal detecting forum, do you see any criticism from "responsible metal detectorists" on that forum? It seems they are a rarer breed than the propagandists would have everyone believe. So how many tekkies will be turning up at the seeded fields at fifteen quid a shout?

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