Friday 18 October 2013

Focus on Metal Detecting: "What a fantastic Haul", Notches on the Headboard.

Over on a metal detecting forum near both you and the PAS, a member from "Sunny Lancashire" is boasting about his day's finds from targeting a Roman site, one which on repeated hoiking is "proving to be quite productive!"  (Fisher1266X, Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:39 pm, 33 Roman, 8 Brooches, then disaster...):
Hi All, Me and my DB Steve [...] managed to winkle out (sic) 33 Roman coins which indluded a denarius of Septimius Severus Also recovered were eight Roman brooch fragments, five almost intact. Some of these are excellent examples of Roman craftsmanship. A Celtic toggle fastener, Celtic/Romano belt slider and a childs Celtic/Romano decorated finger ring were uncovered as well! Tons of Romano-British pottery came off the field too.  [...] [later post in same thread] Funnily enough, we searched this area in April when it was in short crop and NO brooches came up at all!! We had fifty Roman coins though and a few artefacts but not a single brooch or fragment?!? It has now been reploughed and we has (sic) our first visit last week: This resulted in fifty-one Roman coins and a ....wait for it..... a tiny brooch fragment!!!! The brooches were spread (as the coins were) over a large area. It looks like the settlement has had a lot of use and covers about ten acres. We're back a week on Sunday to finish it off
Let us note, for the benefit of the detectorists who deny that there is any truth in the finds rate indicated by the Heritage Action counter (just over 30 recordable finds a year for each active detectorist), this is 134 coins and well over a dozen artefacts recognised from just three days detecting of two blokes. While many detectorists do no0t have access to such an archaeologically "prolific" hoik-site, I really do not think that posts like this give much hope that the figures of the HA algorithm are badly wrong.

The Flickr page showing rows and rows of hoiked artefacts is labelled "Paul King - Recovering History". No he is not. History is what you write from the evidence. All Mr King has done is hoiked out selected (collectable) parts of the evidence from its context and put it in decontextualised rows for a trophy-hunter's photo. This is not "recovering history', it is eroding it, it is destroying it (while you are there, do, please "view all sets"). I'd be very interested in the PAS coming here and explaining why this is "good" for the preservation of the archaeological record. Can they do that? (I suspect not). The FLO for Mr King's region is Stuart Noon

The forum's responsible metal detectorists do not seem at all worried about the erosion of the archaeological record of this site: "What a fantastic haul", cries detectorist "Fubar" (Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:58 pm). "Nice haul Mate" agrees "Mick" (Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:00 pm), while a third (Glenfiddich Fri Oct 18, 2013 2:52 am) blurts out "...a good hoard of coins too" - ooops. Baldrick with typical tekkie grasp of English grammar suggests: "you must of stumbled on a Roman Glastonbury equivalent".

The "finder" (Fisher1266X - Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:46 pm ) notes "settlement runs into the farm next door and we've permission to search that after Christmas" blithely admits the tekkie, rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of the next bit of targeted hoiking. Forum member Emrys (Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:02 pm) suggsests
"[I] bet the flo will be pleased by that lot!!".
Well, will he? Are FLOs happy to see the archaeologically diagnostic contents of more and more archaeological sites emptied out and scattered in ephemeral personal collections for entertainment and profit? I would love to hear from one who is happy about it and not at all concerned (please, be my guest). Sadly, the original idea that the PAS would be able to exercise any influence on best practice has been undercut by the fact that their contact with many of their more "productive" (therefore site-targeting) "partners" is now remote. The "finder" seems sure his FLO (Stuart Noon) will but "happy" to see this "haul" from the archaeological site but tellingly adds (Fisher1266X, Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:23 pm):
I'm a self recorder with PAS so it'll be me doing the graft [of enlarging the PAS database with this material] hahaha!
Which also means zero input in the data entry by the archaeologist who is paid to be doing outreach to these finders about what they are finding and how. PAS in their race to build a big database of hoiked archaeological items in private hands have simply lost any hope of being able to influence detecting practice, and have therefore lost their original raison d'etre.

These "partnerships" have deteriorated from meaningful conversation to notches in the headboard.

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