Tuesday, 17 January 2012

US Detectorist Moans

I mentioned here yesterday the blog of US metal detecting activist Dick Stout and very soon afterwards he replied (January 16, 2012, 'A New fan of Stout Standards').
Apparently I have a new follower for my website, and his purpose is to choose the topics that fit his need at the moment. Paul Barford is a British archaeologist, now living in Poland, and his recent updates indicate that he is apparently in need of visitors to his blog, or at best, something to bitch about.
1) I have a blog, and write there about what catches my eye and seems to me (yes, at a given moment) to be worth discussing. Sadly there is no need to seek far in the world of artefact collecting to find something entirely disagreeable. Note, however, the arrogance of the man who thinks that people will come to my blog now - and just because - I am discussing him. That aside, I am not a "new" follower of the US detecting scene, I have made reference to his blog before (John Howland's bit on the CBA for example). I do not find the Stout blog easy to navigate, it has some kind of antiquated Apollo 13 era template full of surplus HTML codes and no section divisions that means it takes ages to load (at least on my ISP), so I do not go there often. I find it also very boring, a repetition of the same tired old arguments about artefact hunting and how it is so "misunderstood". Thus it is we find Mr Stout moaning about my discussion of what he said that:
He, like so many others in the academic community, finds our pastime distasteful, and is quick to paint us as "thieves" and hell bent on destroying history, never taking the time to delve further into the subject, especially our contributions to so many museums, historical societies and communities. [...] Apparently Mr. Barford didn't care to read or write about the many entries I have posted over the years concerning what good we do...
Hmm. Hardly a novel defence is it? I think that one was coined back on the 1980s, if not before. Mr Stoat seems not to have noticed that the actual example of Battle Hill which I discussed (not therefore a glib generalisation) was not exactly a previously unknown site, so nobody was doing any "good" plundering it for collectables. That is precisely the point I was making, detectorists (like Mr Stout) claim one thing, but what detectorists do shows something quite different. We note however that Stout does not attempt to justify what he wrote to the journalist about artefact hunting on a known battlefield site, including what, from the reports, seems likely to have involved a bit of grave-robbing. Now, as I said, I do not see how one can defend that, so perhaps it is as well that Mr Stout did not try, but then why write it in the first place?

Also did I not point out that there is a methodology which has been developed for using metal detectors to produce information about battlefield sites? In that case, "doing good" would be endorsing and using such methods, not screeching in horror that somebody said that artefact hunting was like pot-digging (the substantial difference is?).

2) It is not these days just "academics" that have problems with mining archaeological assemblages for collectables for personal entertainment and profit. I hardly think anyone at all familiar with my interests would accuse me of not "taking the time to delve further into the subject". I do quite a lot of "delving" into a number of aspects of artefact hunting (yes, that's "metal detecting" too) and collecting. This blog reflects some of the results of that and what I take it to mean. Mr Stout may say he thinks I am "wrong", I do not think he is justified in assuming that my views differ from his simply because I have "not looked into it enough yet".

So, if I do not particularly "care" to "read or write about" what Mr Stout has produced "over the years concerning what good we do" it is mainly because I think it in the context of the whole picture of artefact hunting and collecting this is not the whole (or most relevant part of the) picture. But no reader should take my word for it, let them have a read right down through all Mr Stout's words and see for themselves the validity of the claims about what "good" artefact hunting does, and what "good" the "Task Force (sic) for Metal Detecting Rights(sic)" does, which is what the Stout blog seems to be mainly about these days.

3) It is wholly typical that the detectorist completely misses the point I was making writing:
I can most assuredly say that any finds that Mr. Barford finds distasteful in the photo were found on public land, and legally accessible by any detectorist. To assume otherwise is dishonest.
But that is not what I said, is it? So the accusation of "dishonesty" rather should not be addressed to me, but the person who claims I said something I quite clearly did not (and it was the furniture in the photo that made me feel ill looking at it, not the coins). The legality of metal detecting is not the point that concerns this blog, it is the archaeological effects. Now I am well aware that if "Archie" was digging all this stuff up in the USA, no real archaeology (as we would understand that over here) is being damaged, the coins are probably mostly Barbers and Wheaties and all the rest of the modern ("It's from the 1830s!!!!") geegaws that we see US collectors getting so extraordinarily excited about in the You Tube videos. The point was to show the amount of metal that these people ARE removing from archaeological sites when they can get their boots onto and digging tools into archaeological sites. This is in the context of those who pour scorn on the notion that artefact hunters find more than three old buttons a year metal detecting in the UK (vide the discussion over the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter). Legal or not, when it occurs in countries where productive sites are archaeological sites, that is a depletion of the archaeological record. Mr Stout (wrongly) accuses me of not acquainting myself with his "website", it seems I can make the same accusation:
I suspect Mr. Barford would prefer Archie donate them all to the local archaeologist in his area so they can be stored in a drawer in a basement somewhere.
No, as should be clear from my blog, I would prefer the archaeological sites of the world not to be emptied of collectables by spade-wielding artefact hunters so some geegaw-seeking trophy hunter can pose for a picture with piles of them. The leitmotif here is protecting archaeological sites as a finite and fragile resource as opposed to treating them as collectable geegaw mines.

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