Monday 15 July 2013

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Archaeological Evidence SCRAPPED by C(ould-not-c)areless Searchers

Over on the John Winter blog is another tale illustrating the serious problem we have relying on an assortment of amateur collector-searchers as a source of ersatz-archaeological information. In a post (8th July called, ironically, "Positive Thinking in Action") Mr Winter  tells us about beginner Steve Hale who found a Late Medieval seal matrix... which had been lying "in his ‘scrap’ box for a few months because he hadn’t realised what it was". John Winter continues:
The moral is NEVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY UNTIL IT HAS BEEN THOROUGHLY CHECKED. Did I ever tell you about the Saxon saucer brooch I discarded before it was eventually rescued by Mrs. John? 
There are two problems here. First by the time an unclued-up finder eventually identifies as important (collectable) something that has lain uncatalogued and unrecognized among a whole load of other uncatalogued and unrecognized archaeological finds from several sites loose in a box, there can never be any certainty where it actually came from. Even if it is subsequently pulled out and does not get melted down (like the rest of the finds in many scrap boxes or buckets), its value as any kind of archaeological evidence is thereby reduced or removed. Secondly, in the remote situation* that a metal detectorist finder is going to record all the recordable objects from that site with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the fact that some of them have been chucked disregarded into the "scrap box" is going to distort the record that is made of the "findings". In truth, the desultory sample of what is being hoiked from archaeological sites all over the country by over ten thousand tekkies week after week is a poor return for the magnitude of the information lost, and since it is distorted by a number of factors, may even be profoundly misleading as a source of archaeological data.

This is just a waste of public money disguised as "archaeological outreach" (or a "community archaeology project", however they want to spin it) and through creating a façade of "responsibility" behind which much else hides, merely goes to legitimise an exploitive and damaging hobby. Archaeologists all over the UK simply shrug this off. What else can they do, but pretend it's not happening?

* Nota bene:
"Steve contacted me and wondered if I could assist, because he couldn’t decipher the legend around the seal matrix. He’d tried to register with the United Kingdom Detector Finds Database (UKDFD), but failed. I explained that they were experiencing difficulties and weren’t accepting new recorders and how could I help?"
Send him to the PAS?

No comments:

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