Friday 13 April 2012

Portable Antiquities Scheme: A licence to loot or archaeological rescue?

Today, and about now, will be the first 2012  lecture of Roger Bland in the US (at the AIA in San Diego) under the title: "A licence to loot or archaeological rescue? The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales". Dr Bland will be presenting the Portable antiquities Scheme which he heads to a US audience. The abstract of the talk he plans to give points out that Britain has adopted a "unique system of protection" of sites against "the activities of amateurs who search for archaeological objects" for collection.
England and Wales have developed the Treasure Act of 1996 and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The Act gives legal protection to a small group of finds that qualify as Treasure – precious-metal objects and hoards – and ensures that these are offered to museums, while ensuring finders and landowners receive the full market value, 
while the rest of the archaeological artefacts in the soil of Britain's largely unprotected archaeological sites are up for grabs, with the encouragement to "searchers – mainly metal detector users – voluntarily to report their finds".

Dr Bland announces that he will not simply be presenting the successes of the Treasure Act and the PAS, but a more holistic picture. He admits that "problems with the illegal recovery (sic) of objects and their sale abroad remain". He also admits that ever since it was created there have been questions asked about "the effectiveness of the Treasure Act" (in ensuring archaeologically significant objects are properly documented and reach public collections) .
This lecture looks at the problems surrounding these issues and the concerns of archaeologists.
Bland's "Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader)" however omits anything which actually addresses those concerns of archaeologists, mostly giving his own texts and those of his staff. David Gill's forum piece for example is omitted.

What are the concerns of the  archaeological world concerning artefact hunting and collecting? Are the concerns in Britain any different from those of archaeologists elsewhere, and if so, in what lie the differences? Certainly British laissez faire legislation is very much a "licence to loot" (except it's not called that in Britain, it is called "metal detecting", but the difference has not ever really been explained). Is making a showcase (and calling it a "database") of interesting collectable geegaws extracted from the ground under poorly-controlled conditions in any way "archaeological rescue" (of what and from what?). What is Dr Bland's reaction to the persistence of 'grey artefact hunting' - wholly unreported, and what does he think (honestly) is its extent? Should artefact hunting be regulated in any country, or should laissez faire legislation be introduced everywhere to support the market in dugup antiquities (as certain elements in the USA are suggesting) with merely a 'voluntary recording scheme' set up as a facade resolution of "the looting problem" and a means of legitimising the activity? In which states would Dr Bland see such a system working? Greece? Italy? Bulgaria? Mali? Colombia? Iraq? Cyprus? China?  Afghanistan? Egypt? Wisconsin? Poland? Will any of these questions fall at tonight's lecture and will any get any proper answer? I'll be looking out for a You Tube presentation.

No comments:

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