Monday 21 October 2013

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: A case of Mistaken Identity

Two ranty emails have been forwarded to me by Heritage Action, it seems somebody is getting me confused with them. Apparently in reply to the other organization's blog post, Martin Gilchrist wrote: 
As an Archaeologist and metal detector user I am getting a little mad about your Scouts at Laverstoke blog. You have not looked into the facts correctly and as such you are close to being slanderous. I attended this very well organised fun day with the scouts which was mainly intended as a litter picking day after carfest took place. In total two archaeologists attended the day on ploughed fields so nothing was in situ for investigative recording. The three coins in question after being logged with the FLO are going to a museum and are not 'taken' as you have wrongly stated. All were aware of pre recorded Roman and Bronze age sites at the farm and we kept well away from these pre recorded areas. The club that you are also making remarks about are one of the best in the country, they work closely with Hampshire County Council out of Winchester and have attended numerous digs organised by them. All members are keen archaeology students and give as much respect for our heritage as you clearly do.
[this was followed by the "we are not nighthawks" defence]. I really see nothing terribly "slanderous" in HA's coverage of this rally, just the expression of concern. Maybe archaeologist Gilchrist would like to enlarge on this. Or maybe not. In the second email - which really puzzled HA until they worked out the ranter was on about me - he expounds:
It was legal with full permission. You do not have my permission to show pictures of my son nor to advertise as you are breaching the rules of wordpress i am reporting you for being unjust, unfair and unbiased and advertising without permission. You obviously have a massive chip on your shoulder,[...]  IF you are hiding in Poland you are close to be taken to a european court for deformation (sic) of character. 
Again, I really wonder where this archaeologist sees grounds  here, or here for a case still less in "a  European court" on "deformation" or even defamation. (Advertising?) Just for the record, in none of the accounts of this rally available at the time of writing was any mention made of the presence of "trained professionals" on site (names please, maybe they'd like to comment on here), the use of GPS machines (no evidence on the bags), nor is the manner of recording or disposal of the finds detailed. When the finds appear on the PAS database, maybe Mr Gilchrist would like to notify us and I'll post the link.

As for the pictures of the son, the illustrations I used came from the Minelab facebook page, choc-full of pictures of teen and pre-teen boys and girls at this rally, before using just two of them here, I edited them, and I disguised the faces, Mr Gilchrist might like to take it up with Minelab why they published the photos of his son and other kids without blurring the faces in deference to current modes and concerns.  I look forward to seeing the evidence that this archaeologist is capable of being consistent and that at least one metal detector-manufacturing company is at all concerned about the consequences of its marketing.

Now, if we look at the Minelab news page we find the following information:
The Southern Detectorist Group, (SDG) is a small friendly bunch of like-minded Detectorist[s] that are passionate about showing how metal detecting can be carried out responsibly whilst contributing to the recovery and preservation of the Nation[']s heritage. As such[,] the group prides itself on doing things “a little differently” and as such we often find ourselves in new and exciting detecting situations. This write up tells the story of when the SDG met the Scouts at Laverstoke Park for a day of discovery. The story started many months ago after an idea was hatched by SDG member, Martin Gilchrist (aka Broadsword). The initial idea was for the SDG to host a dig where Martin[']s local scouts group could attend and come along to try their hand at metal detecting. [...] Hopefully their experience during the day will lead some of them to take up the hobby in its own right.
This news item makes no mention whatsoever of any "trained professionals" on the site, just the " SDG gazebo and finds table" and a few SDG members ("Broadsword", "Dirt-fishing", and "Suresight")* hanging around doing things. We learn further down that the SDG finds team apparently need "reference literature" to identify George III coins and they date Barbarous Radiates to "the fourth century" (wasn't that the view in the 1950s?).

Now this SDG has a website where we might turn to try and learn about what (apart from aberrant dating of Roman finds), it "does differently". We learn: "Our members see metal detecting as an important means of discovering and preserving metallic objects that would otherwise be lost over time" (eh?), and "All of our members abide by the code of conduct for metal detecting", but they forget to link to it so we can see which one, but suspicions are raised by the nexst bit: "and are affiliated to either the Federation of Independent Detectorists (FID) or the National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD) ". Hmmm. But this looks super, doesn't it?
We take pride in our approach to the hobby, and believe that our respect for the land that we are granted access to and the way in which we aim to preserve and record any finds sets us apart form any of the other metal detecting clubs.
So we turn to the section "our standards" to see what that actually means in real terms, to find... it is empty. OK, we can turn to the "Finds gallery" where we will find a presentation of the finds they have recorded and match that to the PAS record, can't we? But that too is empty, except for some pictures of metal detectorists. but wait, is that not Sergei from New York sitting there morosely in the second photo? Sergei whose exploits are fully detailed on his own website, but among the things he fails to mention there is his membership of the SDG. Then in the third photo, that's Barry Wayne and Mark Becher  (of Hunters' corporate). Have they joined the SDG? Come on SDG, strut your stuff, show the world what it is you actually do before asking us all to believe that in some way you are better than all the rest.

* sounds like a group of goblins!

UPDATE 29th October 2013: I see Minelab are not acceding to Mr Gilchrist's request to remove pictures of his son from their Facebook page. That is awful, you would think metal detector producers would have more responsibility than to post photos like that for anybody to see and refuse to take them down whan an anguished metal detecting parent pleads with them. What kind of a corporate policy is that? Of course there is the possibility that Mr Gilcherist only rants at archaeologists and not metal detector suppliers. Which is it?

The development of the SDG webpage seems a trifle retarded. Nothing happening there either.

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