Wednesday 10 April 2013

Is it, or Isn't it? PAS Supporters get a Chance to Challenge

Is East Anglia's Buried and Unexplored Heritage being Pilfered in an unsustainable way? 
That's the provocative title of this afternoon's upcoming seminar. British archaeologists who support the current status quo will presumably want to say "no, everything is under control, we have the PAS and its metal detecting partners and everything is hunky dory". The PAS FLOs will presumably also be dying to tell us how it is, how the system we have is the best thing we have since sliced bread. These groups by definition feel that the archaeological record is in no way being 'pilfered' by being mined for collectables, and that what is going on out in the fields is some form of sustainable management of the erosion. I amm sure they will have some good answers and awkward questions for those who believe otherwise.

Meanwhile, those British archaeologists who are as worried as myself about the effects of the current situation will have a forum to express their concerns, I am interested how many will turn up to show their faces.

Apparently these seminars have been attracting 25-35 people each time, and the local and Cambridgeshire FLOs are regular attendees, so we look forward to some vigorous discussion of the archaeological issues. Already local archaeologists George Somerfiled, "Clare", Clive Falstaff and "Adam C" have begun the polemic on the USC blog, and promising more later on today. I look forward to meeting them, the latter promises to bring along a few colleagues. On a detecting forum, on the other hand, it has been suggested that I will chicken out and appear by video link - not wanting to face criticism by my archaeological peers. Well, I am here and curious to see what the afternoon brings.

It went quite well, considering. Of course the FLOs never turned up, the PAS was represented by a lady from the BM who took copious notes and revealed she'd been asked to report back to Bloomsbury "what he said" (Roger if you ask normally, I can send you a copy of the text!). Three metal detectorists came up to me afterwards and were very civil and wanted to exchange a few comments - which was very welcome. It was good to meet UKDFD's Jon Adkin (Flinty). Another one (Clive6) wanted to put me right on "depth advantage" detectors and made a good point about them. Needless to say, none of the persons who'd commented under assorted names claiming to be archaeologists who wanted to make comments on my interpretation of facts made themselves known.  There were a lot of good questions and points made from archaeologists, museum folk and others. Certainly a lot of food for thought. Thanks.

Only afterwards when mulling over what had been said, did it occur to me that the HA Artefact Erosion Counter which I'd presented did not even come up at all in the discussion. It seemed that those present were willing to accept as a starting point of what they were saying that it could indeed represent what was happening.  Through that, I did not say something about it which I'd been saving up for the discussion... But that is quite an interesting development in itself because it is precisely the implications of the HA Counter that irresponsible UK detectorists do not want discussed (because of course those convinced of their responsibility to the archaeological record will be discussing it with us).

I was also very interested in comments made about the PAS both in the session as well as in the corridor.
It seems I am not alone in formulating certain observations. It seems British archaeology is not as fully behind the Scheme as I had thought. In the light of that, it seems to me even more to be the case that the Scheme really needs to be seen to be engaging more with archaeological concerns as it seems in danger of becoming a divisive force in British archaeology - which is already internally split along other lines.

UPDATE 11.04.13
Quite a nice writeup on LM - includes transcript of live tweeting which gives a flavour of the topics covered in the initial presentation and our subsequent discussion.

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