Friday 18 October 2013

The "Correct way to Deal with Artefact Hunters" Freiburg Style?

Prof. Dr. Christoph Huth (Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften,
 Universität Freiburg):   'Das "Portable Antiquities Scheme"...',  More or less what one would expect, a Raimund Karl-clone:
The Portable Antiquity Scheme which has existed in England and Wales for a few years now wants to support and further the interaction between the public and the heritage management. The Portable Antiquity Scheme is primarily aimed at metal detectorists who are encouraged to report their finds to archaeological institutions. Regarding the number of reported artefacts the program is a huge success and also one of a kind worldwide. Critics fear this may cause a government sanctioned plundering of archaeological sites. Either way the Portable Antiquity Scheme deserves the attention of anybody who is concerned about the correct way of dealing with metal detectorists.
I really cannot be bothered to discuss it, it's much the same as we've read before. I note though that the section on 'criticism and opposition' is quite long, and begins well:
Man kann sich leicht ausmalen, dass Treasure Act und Portable Antiquities Scheme nicht nur Befürworter, sondern auch vehemente Gegner haben. Die Auseinandersetzung um den rechten Umgang mit Sondengängern wird mit großer Leidenschaft geführt, zumal sich hier ethische, juristisch-administrative, politische und wissenschaftliche Fragen überschneiden und diese in der Argumentation oft miteinander vermengt werden. Das ist für sich genommen nicht ungewöhnlich und eigentlich in allen Debatten zum Thema Denkmalpflege der Fall.
It goes downhill from there, he's been listening mainly to the supporters about their critics rather than examining in detail what the critics are saying and why. So a lot of his citations are from Suzie Thomas volume with its obvious pro-PAS bias, the opposition is represented by some of the 'Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 20' discussion, but it is good to see Nigel Swift quoted more extensively. The Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter is mentioned (pp 5-6), but I see the author is not quite sure what to make of it. The conclusion is, sadly, a foregone conclusion:
Wenn wir also nicht tatenlos zusehen wollen, wie die archäologischen Quellen für immer verloren gehen, ohne jemals zur Kenntnis der Archäologen gelangt zu sein, dann wird es höchste Zeit, sich mit der Situation in England und Wales gründlich auseinanderzusetzen und zu diskutieren, ob nicht ein gewisser Pragmatismus im Umgang mit Sondengängern (der ja mancherorts auch hierzulande praktiziert wird) vernünftiger wäre als die immer wieder geforderte Unnachgiebigkeit gegen über (echten und vermeintlichen) Raubgräbern.
The problem is that I cannot see that the author has paid any attention to precisely that aspect of what is going on in Britain, the pragmentics of the process of gathering those data, just how the PAS works, what compromises it makes on the way all in the aim of getting those big database figures he so obviously admires. The participation in the rallies, the existence of and exploitation of artefact hunting clubs for example. He has not understood the issues of the 'grey metal detectorists' though I presume he is of the opinion that it would be a jolly good thing to change the laws all over Germany which aim to protect the archaeological record to something like the laissez faire ones of Britain. This would mean changing the whole structure of the heritage protection measures and the matter of permits and so on - so massive legislative changes affecting the way archaeology is run today in Germany. Good luck to him.

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