Sunday 28 July 2013

CBA Director on Metal Detecting Rallies

Mike Heyworth of the Council for British Archaeology ( Farming Today, Radio 4, 6.00 minutes in) is beginning to take a less ambivalent approach to artefact hunting than he was a while ago. Here he is on commercial artefact hunting rallies:
“you can get hundreds if not thousands of metal detectorists converging on very sensitive archaeological sites and that can cause a huge amount of damage to that archaeology and that information is completely lost …. I’d like to see much more of a clampdown on those sort of rallies because I don’t think they’re in the public benefit"
I think the question is broader, whether in the long run current British policies on artefact hunting and collecting are "in the public benefit". In fact they only benefit a selfish exploitive minority many of whom basically could not care less about the long-term and overall effects of what they are all doing.

See Heritage Action: "At last! Paul Barford and Mike Heyworth in total agreement!" 28/07/2013.

Let this go on record, in the first half of the previous decade, when I took part in forum discussions on UK heritage policy and metal detecting in particular, I was fairly frequently getting emails from Mike Heyworth asking me to tone down my criticism of artefact hunters who were (he argued) just a different way of manifesting an interest in the past, and as such had a place in the general picture of British archaeology. I have no idea to what degree he himself sincerely believed what was, after all, the official [post Denison and Dobinson report] CBA position on artefact hunting a decade ago. I am glad to see that a decade on, he is coming out and from time to time can be heard more frequently expressing mild exasperation with the situation - which is as it should be. Things were probably not helped much by the fact that, despite the detector-tolerant policies of the CBA throughout the first decade of the 21st century, there were frequent attacks on the CBA by the metal detecting community. Clashes over the "Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales" in particular became rather nasty (the Code is today almost universally ignored). Perhaps the CBA realised that they were getting British archaeology nowhere trying to pander to these people, and their "partner' the PAS. The latter put the CBA in a really stupid position with the non-collaboration over the issue of best practice in "Britain's Secret Treasures" (it seems from the preliminary announcements that the CBA will not be in the projected second series).


Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, my potted history would be as follows:

I think it would be fair to say the CBA's attitude ten years ago was intended to be supportive of a social contract: Archaeology would tolerate the damage if artefact hunters could be persuaded to deliver voluntary mitigation.

IMO professionals and politicians had no moral right to make such a deal with the public's heritage but still it was a generous gesture that made British artefact hunters the most privileged in the world.

In the event, as we all know, but those with a vested interest won't admit, one side failed to keep to the bargain to a catastrophic degree so there had to come a time when CBA reconsidered its position. I hope it's now. Everything points that way.

Paul Barford said...

Why are you writing in the third person while addressing me?

Neither is there any "innuendo" that I can see there....

"the ransack of huge amounts of roman coins from that country ending up on Ebay"

This is Poland you are talking about?

You know, the Poland that was well and truly outside the Roman Empire, across the forests and wastes of barbaricum and the Carpathian mountains? That Poland? How many huge amounts of Roman coins do you think are here to be "ransacked" by your fellow metal detector-waving artefact hunters?

So, you are talking about the Poland where metal detecting a Roman site will get you locked up? Selling antiquities from Poland on eBay or anywhere else will get you locked up ? That Poland?

Tell you what Ton, as a "responsible" collector you give me the details of the folk selling those Roman coins from Poland on eBay and I will do my best to make sure the people supplying them are locked up. Fair enough?

Go on, do your bit to responsibly save the heritage, what you say you have witnessed is an illegal act (dealing in cultural objects (offences) Act) and as such - and with that knowledge - if you fail to act on it you are an accessory to that legal act. So, names and evidence please and I will make sure it gets to the right place.

IF it is true that we are indeed talking about Poland. Are you/we?

Do you not see any irony in urging me to go after metal detectorists in Poland, but not your UK mates? Why not let us go after all the despoilers, non-reporters and site wreckers. Are you with me as a "responsible detectorist"? What actually do you mean by that term?

Paul Barford said...

So... Ton, the Responsible Detectorist maintains a discrete silence about those Roman coins on eBay. Another tekkie time-waster indulging in some mud-slinging instead of engaging with the real issues.

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