Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: "Hoard Hunters": A Reaction


Hoard Hunters, Episode 1.
A guest article by Nigel Swift 

"To understand this programme you need to know the background, which many don't. Years ago Mr Brun led (jointly with a self-confessed ex-nighthawk) a breakaway group of detectorists who were unwilling to accept the “best practice” recommendations of archaeologists and PAS. He set up a rival database as an alternative to reporting to PAS or conforming with what archaeologists think is right. Not that you'll find much about all that (or his raucous attacks on archaeologists) on line as most of it was deleted from Youtube and elsewhere just prior to the launch of this series. Mr Brun now presents himself as “responsible” on the basis that detectorists alone have the right to define what responsible means. On that basis, even though they may not report their finds to PAS or conform to the official Responsibility Code, detectorists are all “responsible”! Good innit! They're entirely beyond criticism by archaeologists or anyone else for they alone decide what's the best way to behave!

 So.... when you see telly programmes about a couple of blokes with long-established connections to Minelab (for many years Mr Brun ran the "Minelab Owners Forums and Minelab Owners TV!) using new Minelab deep-seeking machines (that can go down far below plough level into archaeological layers) you needn't worry about whether that's "responsible detecting". The official Code and every archaeologist says it isn't but Mr Brun say's it's fine because he, not them or you dear Reader, is the sole arbiter of what's responsible and appropriate behaviour.

And you needn't be puzzled about who is behind the making of this programme either. Minelab is a massive US company and it wants to sell oodles of it's new deep-seeking machines in Britain. The fact the British archaeological establishment sees digging below plough level as very wrong and irresponsible would normally be an insurmountable difficulty and they wouldn't even have tried to tackle the British market with such a product. But they got lucky: They had close connections with a couple of artefact hunters leading a whole group of similar-minded detectorists who had redefined "responsible" to mean something entirely different to what the archaeologists say. So it was a perfect solution for them - they got these people to pitch an idea (with Minelab finance as part of the proposal perhaps?) which actually amounted to advertising their wretched site-wrecking machines on peak-time TV in our country in defiance of the wishes of, one would like to assume, every British archaeologist. Yet it is presented to the public as "responsible"! It's pretty neat. A real coup, The public won't realise that "responsible" as used in the programme actually means the opposite - and best of all the Minelab marketing men will have long noticed that most of the British archaeological establishment are highly unlikely to say a dicky bird about this deliberate assault upon our heritage.

I could go on about the inane jokes, the low-brow aspirations, the unappealing dialogue and the general absence of cultural values in the programme but I'm no TV critic so I won't. I'd just suggest that the programme comprises a large US Company doing Britain's heritage harm via a couple of naïve people who hold the mistaken view that good behaviour is what they alone find it convenient to say it is. Discuss".

Thank you, Nigel.

Vignette: A swift in flight, heads-down tekkies encased in their headphones rarely see such a sight in their use of Britain's countryside. 

8 comments:

peter heath said...

The world moves on and so does archeology.

30 years ago a trowel was the major weapon for discovering our past - now we have the technology of metal detectors which has greatly enhanced our understanding of the past.

So many finds are made by metal detectors away from any known site. how else were these finds going to be discovered - maybe by future generations using future technology?

I wonder why the subject of intense farming causing corrosion of bronze and other metals is never mentioned. I dont expect to starve the masses for the preservation of our history, but ethical metal detecting of sites with PAS recording is surely better then loosing our history for now and the future?

peter heath said...

The world moves on and so does archeology.

30 years ago a trowel was the major weapon for discovering our past - now we have the technology of metal detectors which has greatly enhanced our understanding of the past.

So many finds are made by metal detectors away from any known site. how else were these finds going to be discovered - maybe by future generations using future technology?

I wonder why the subject of intense farming causing corrosion of bronze and other metals is never mentioned. I dont expect to starve the masses for the preservation of our history, but ethical metal detecting of sites with PAS recording is surely better then loosing our history for now and the future?

Paul Barford said...

Let me guess Mr Heath, you are... an artefact hunter with a metal detector?

I am guessing that you are one, because its the only group of people you can tell something to 38000 times and they dstil do not get it.

Your problem is caused by faulty terminoogy. Call it artefact hunting and all becomes clear.

A metal detector can be used as an archaeological tool, that does not make everything done with a metal detector "archaeology". In the same way as a freeze drier can be an archaeological tool, but not all freeze drying is archaeology.

Got it?


" maybe by future generations using future technology?
Oh spot on Mr heath. Yes, we leave some sites for future generations to explore using the technology they will have which I guarantee you will "enhance our knowledge of the past" FAR more than any crude hoiking of some bits with primitive twenty-first century screeching beep-boxes. Guaranteed - except you lot are not going to leave them any.

"intense farming" is not discussed here for the simple reason that this is neither a farming blog, nor an artefact collectors' one. If you would read the past posts here, you'd see I really do not believe what you lot are telling us about this, and I say why here too.


" ethical metal detecting of sites with PAS recording is ... not taking place to the degree that you lot would have us believe.

Chris Taylor said...

I haven't used a detector for 30 years but I have to say I wonder at the concern given to the archeology.
How much more can archeology tell us about the Romans for example that we don't already know? Another mosaic floor - culturally significant, but it doesn't increase our knowledge of the period. Without new technology or a find of huge significance we probably know 99% of what we will ever know. Just a thought.

Chris Taylor said...

I haven't used a detector for 30 years but I have to say I wonder at the concern given to the archeology.
How much more can archeology tell us about the Romans for example that we don't already know? Another mosaic floor - culturally significant, but it doesn't increase our knowledge of the period. Without new technology or a find of huge significance we probably know 99% of what we will ever know. Just a thought.

Mr Wood said...

Mr Barford why such a blinkered view. It would better your understanding of life if you perhaps looked in house before you damn and blast all metal detectorists. You will undoubtedly have heard a thousand highly charged arguments having briefly scoured your blogs but this personal attack blaming them for all the evils is a unsafe and some what minimalist view. During my twenty years in the field I find Animals, Modern Farm Practice, Erosion, Development and chemicals have destroyed far more archaeology than any Metal Detectorist. As for the PAS which I have been a supporter of since its inception, It has become the biggest single bug-bare until I walked away from my job in sheer frustration at the totally underfunded, blinkered, Empire style Academic Hierarchy that runs PAS. Some of the finds made took nearly Five Years to be returned to finders and some even disappeared. Also let me say the best collection of Artifacts ever witnessed by myself in a private collection was my Director of my first paid archaeological job. I have learnt a lot since.

Paul Barford said...

To Chris Taylor, well we've already found out a lot about the world, maybe we should just stop all scholarly endeavour in all fields and stop all activities aiming to protect a heritage resource for future use and save all that money? Eh?

Paul Barford said...

To "Mr (pretending to be an Illitrit Arkyolgist) Wood" ...

Dear oh dear, why do'nt detectorists try a few other arguments and stop writing under silly and unsustainable assumed identities, pretending to be something they are not? Are they really so lacking in real arguments that they have to justify themselves by sheer invention of facts?

It seems to have escaped your notice that the article to which this is attached is penned by Nigel Swift (not an archaeologist) rather than by archaeoblogger Barford.


"the best collection of Artifacts". That would be in America, then?

it's "bugbear" Mr Wood.

 
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