Sunday, 8 January 2012

Professor Karl, The PAS and the Austrian Denkmalschutzgesetz (IV): Unreported Finds by “Members of the Public”, i.e., Artefact Hunters

In Professor Raimund Karl’s polemic text ("On the Highway to Hell: Thoughts on the Unintended Consequences for Portable Antiquities of § 11(1) Austrian Denkmalschutzgesetz" he says (p. 114), gratuitously misquoting Georg Dehio out of context in the process, that it is important that finds made by artefact hunters are reported, for:
"if the BDA is to know what archaeological heritage needs to be protected, it first needs to know where it exists. And for that, it needs the information that only the public can provide".
Yet how can it "protect" that which it cannot protect from looting, because to get finds reported (I understand Karl is arguing) we need to lift the restrictions on looting?

Is this really "information that only the public can provide"? Absolutely not, an alternative solution, applied successfully elsewhere, is for the Historic Environment Record not to be based on ad hoc and random measures like the public reporting this and that, but a systematic survey of the country by trained personnel as we have in Poland. Then the archaeological community does not need to be reliant on pandering to the plunderers and can concentrate on keeping them off archaeological sites. The Bangor Professor completely ignores this manner of resolving the issue he raises. Why?

There is then some artefact-fetishist stuff (see the posts below) page 115 before the author attempts to show "that this is not just more grey theory" ("Finds reporting and metal detectorists in Austria" pp 115-124).
The author has conducted several partially related studies into finds reporting and metal detectorist practices in Austria [...], is currently carrying out a questionnaire survey among metal detectorists in Austria.
While stressing that this is still in progress, Karl suggests that "sufficient data have been collected to discuss the preliminary results of the surveys". In fact Dr Karl has been gathering data to an extent that should shame the thirteen million pound PAS who has not been able to gather the same kind of data from their liaison with and "partnership" of the metal detecting artefact hunters for coming up to a decade and a half (I want to highlight some of these data in a post below this as it is useful comparative material).

Dr Karl's awareness that "there might be a problem only came through a very rough comparison of reporting numbers of finds by members of the public" in England and Wales, Scotland and the figures from Austria. Dr Karl's figure1 "Comparison of numbers of compulsory finds reports in England and Wales, Scotland and Austria" shows the number of English and even Welsh Treasure cases skyrocketing, while Scotland and Austria both show a tendency to drop in 2001-2 (in Great Britain the foot and mouth years). In both Scotland (pop. c. 5,222,100) and Austria (pop. c. 8,414,638) the numbers of both reported accidental, artefact-hunted finds and official excavations hover around the 300-500 per annum mark, while England and Wales (pop. c. 54,452,000) the number of Treasure finds alone shoots up to 800 per annum after 2003, reaching a peak in 2007-8.

Dr Karl's Figure 2 presents a "comparison of total number of finds reports (including compulsorily and voluntarily reportable finds) in Austria and England and Wales" (note this: "statistically extrapolated from PAS annual reports values for 2005 and 2007 highlighted as darker symbols are figures actually reported in PAS annual reports"). Mercifully, these seem to be finds records, rather than the more commonly spun "number of finds reported" figures. As I said earlier, the "annual numbers of reported Treasure in England and Wales" which "hovered around 20 per year, and have since multiplied by a factor of around 40" is a spurious figure as it reflects a change in the law and the manner it was applied.

Karl claims that his statistics show that the "willingness of the public to report archaeological finds has dramatically increased in England and Wales since the inception of the PAS", while "in Austria and Scotland, on the other hand, where all finds must be reported, the willingness of the public to report finds seems to have stagnated or even considerably declined". What he does not mention is the fundamental difference between the three systems. In England and Wales there are FIFTY members of staff (equivalent to about a tenth of the entire archaeological workforce of Austria) going out and actively seeking items from artefact hunters to boost the size of the database. A fundamental element of this are their frequent visits to several hundred metal detecting clubs (which are not present in any numbers in either Austria or Scotland) and dozens of high-density finds producing commercial artefact hunting rallies every year (likewise not present in either Scotland or Austria). If the true figures were ever known, it would be seen that these two types of activity account for a substantial number of the records added to the PAS records annually. This is quite a different thing from members of the artefact hunting community coming forward with their finds. [I would urge the PAS to come clean over these figures for the benefit of people like Dr Karl interested in these issues (they will not of course)].

Dr Karl suggests that "it is impossible to give accurate or even reasonably extrapolated figures for voluntary finds reporting in England and Wales before the introduction of the PAS, since this information was not consistently recorded". It is unclear whether he has looked at the report of Denison and Dobinson (1995, Metal detecting and archaeology in England) which (Appendix I, Tables IX-XI and Figs 7-18) considered just this point. There are figures for museums which answered a questionnaire. When extrapolated to museums countrywide (Barford and Swift forthcoming Chapter 12), the results are quite surprising when compared with the pro-PAS spin. It turns out that reporting of finds by artefact hunters may not have been all that far below current levels, which are simply (because many PAS staff are based in the same museums) continuing a well-established pattern.

Incidentally there seems to be a problem getting Austrian archaeologists reporting finds too, with 435 of them, only 195 professional archaeologists reported finds in 2008. "In 1987 [before the restricting legislation], 481 finds reports were included in the FÖ, of which 371 came from amateur archaeologists [...] In total, 131 amateur archaeologists reported finds, of which 48 reported on their own and 83 reported together with professional archaeologists", (p. 118)

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.