Saturday, 23 March 2013

US Archaeologist Suggests "Training" of Metal Detectorists

US archaeologist Lisa Hume MacIntyre advocates forming a mutually beneficial "partnership" between    artefact hunters and heritage professionals. She advocates the “training” of all metal detectorists in the US in "contextual documentation and such". This would, she argues, "eliminate the rebuttal archeologists fall back on, “Destroying Context”...":
Think about it. If the Archaeologist community could join forces with the detectoring community instead of fighting against each other, more history could be uncovered and shared with the American people. And isn’t this the ultimate goal? [...] It is a give and take and both sides must give and take keeping in mind that without respect for each other neither side will get anywhere.
What she does not explain is why the hobbyists would spend hours studying - in effect- archaeological methodology, where that would get them. More permissions? Or just get critics off their backs? More to the point, who is going to finance it and why? I wonder at the phrase "eliminate the rebuttal (sic) arch[a]eologists fall back on". It almost sounds like the archaeologist is trying to make out that the artefact hunter is the victim of an unreasonable group of folk out to get them. Pure tekkie talk. I wonder if Hume MacIntyre sees "unsustainable depletion of a fragile and limited population" as a mere "rebuttal" people "fall back on" to criticise rhino poaching? Will counting the carcasses bring the rhinos back?

The USA is historically home to notions of cultural resource management, I'd like to know how Ms Hume MacIntyre would work this "training to offset the rebuttal" into the sustainable management of a state's archaeological heritage. One way of planning for this and identifying the resources needed to put it into operation would be to conduct some kind of a survey of the scattered evidence for the current scope, nature and effects of this activity. She however seems to be opposed to other people's attempts to do such surveys. How does she envisage gathering this information in advance of her project?

More to the point, on the basis of over thirty years of my own contact with and studying of the problems surrounding the issues of artefact hunting ("metal detecting")  and the antiquities trade (which I wager is a good deal more than Ms Hume MacIntyre would claim for herself), I would question whether this fresh (2012) graduate has the faintest idea of the sort of opposition she will meet in the "metal detecting" community to notions that they will need training as archaeologists in order to practice their hobby. In the circumstances the suggestion seems rather a naive one.

This approach has of course been tried before, and failed, in the form of the Portable Antiquities Scheme which at the expense of millions of pounds, has achieved very little in terms of "best practice" in hoiking. It also has not made much headway with the hoikers in "leave it in the ground and call in the archaeologists". Most of the 800 or so Treasures and almost all of the tens of thousands of non-Treasure items annually removed from the archaeological record in the UK are just hoiked out of context with little more than an approximate NGR. If the BM in Britain with all those resources cannot "train" even the law-abiding ("responsible") detectorists of Britain, does Ms Hume MacIntyre think she could achieve better results in the entirely different cultural context of Texas, Arizona or Florida (not to mention the lootier state of Wisconsin)?

What actually would she be aiming to do with these data and the objects "recovered"? What sites would she like to see protected from plundering for historical collectables and how?

Vignette: Training in progress

UPDATE 23.03.13: I guess the US archaeologist will not be expanding here on those initial thoughts. I see she has been inducted into "our group, like it or not" by her metal detecting friends and told that her views will always be appreciated by them. She has been exhorted by them not to "waste your time trying to respond" to my comments. I assume then that we will never learn what she actually had in mind - if anything. Such it is with all these attention-seeking pro-collecting archaeologists (when asked for more than "wouldn't it be nice if....?" remarks), they are notably lacking in any answers. So I guess the reader will have to search for an expansion of her ideas on metal detecting blogs rather than archaeological ones. When she's not complaining about TV ads...

UPDATE 24.03.13
Yeah, Maxwell the pig is just a CGI in a funny advert; it may come as news to some that real pigs do not drive cars, talk, use mobile phones. So really there is little chance that the advert depicts what Lisa  indignantly says it does. The brash shout-yer-mouth-off-first-think-later parallels with her attempted trashing of Heritage Action's Counter however are clear.


Paul Barford said...

I thought Lisa said she knew the difference between algorithm and logarithm very well and it had just been a slip of the pen (twice). But now she says she didn't pay attention in "calculus" classes. Eh? Archaeological calculus (on teeth maybe?)

"Time to move on" says Howland, using the international call sign for "This is all horribly embarrassing, please don't look at their sites any more".

How the blazes does he imagine Lisa has scored any points? If he really thought so he'd be urging her to get stuck in.

Paul Barford said...

Just a little insight into a US tekkie-supporting mentality:

Jokey US insurance commercial:

Lisa Hume MacIntyre:
26 stycznia o 20:04 w pobliżu: Jacksonville, FL

"I have had Geico for twenty years but your latest ad campaign with this pig is disgusting and making me rethink my choice? And a girl wanting to do, I can't even imagine what, with a pig???!!! You have sunk to a new all time low. How repulsive! Spend a few bucks and hire a REAL ad agency! Gross!!!!!!"

[why the question mark after "choice"? Does she mean "I may"? if so, why not write it?]

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