Thursday, 14 November 2013

Focus on Metal Detecting: Wilful Ignorance - "Not Heard of Looting Pits"

Looters' pits, big ones, the picture spans an entire ancient city. 
Apamea, Syria [Google Earth,  4th April 2012]

So England (and for the moment) Wales have this Portable Antiquities Scheme, which has cost at least fifteen million quid, and its purpose (only purpose) is to outreach to members of the public over portable antiquities matters, to keep them informed. Of course it does not do that, it stumbles on trying to "record finds" and pretend that's somehow doing the job of keeping the public (and press) informed about the complex issues surrounding portable antiquities. So when detectorist Andy Baines is challenged to read a few of the many texts on this blog which do not concern UK metal detecting before judging it, he quickly comes back with (bearing in mind the overall topic of this blog) a rather naive question:
Andy Baines has left a new comment on your post "The New Golden Age of Looting": [...] I'm intrigued I have not heard of looting pits before and struggle to comprehend thousands of these pits out there. I take it by the fact that they can be seen from satellite that these pits are not small holes either?
 Where has this man been when there was all the talk (2003 onwards) about the looting of sites in Iraq such as Isin, with pages of shocking photos? More recently the looting (2011 onwards) in lower Egypt, Dashur, Lisht, Abu Sir Al-Maleq and other sites. Then we have Syria (2012 onwards), where I searched the satellite photos of the entire country and made a lot of discoveries reported here. The most graphic example of course (I would have thought everyone who cares would know) is Apamea, discussed here in May this year. Incredible isn't it that somebody engaged in collecting 'pieces of the past' and who slags me off for talking about, it is completely unaware of what it is we are talking about, what the wider context is of this discussion of portable antiquity collecting.

This however is wilful ignorance. There is not just one web resource talking about this, besides my blog there's Looting Matters, the SAFE webpage. There are twitter feeds and other sources of information (Donna Yates, Peter Campbell etc). Yet a metal detectorist sees none of this and candidly admits that he has never heard of the damage being done to the archaeological record by commercial exploition to serve the collectors' market. The market which UK metal detecting is just one part of.

And before he says it, would having a voluntary PAS scheme in Iraq, Egypt and Syyria solve these problems in any way? (Answer for the challenged - no, and not just because some foreign diggers dig deeper holes and leave them unfilled). 

Has the PAS ever talked with these people about any of this? When FLOs go along to detecting club meetings, do they just say "show me your finds, OK, 'bye", or do they actually talk about the wider context of the activity the club engages in? How wide? How many more of the UK's detectorists do not give a hoot about the wider context, simply because nobody has handed it to them on a plate that there is one? Obviously the fact that there is a huge amount of information about looting of archaeological sites all over the world is not enough for folk like these, they'll never look for it, they'll never find it by themselves. They may visit "the Barford blog" (following a link that somebody there has posted on a detecting forum to a post here that mentions metal detecting) but in general (because their partner the PAS has told them it's written by a "troll") they smply ignore the fact that there is here a huge resource about the wider context of their hobby, one about which they prefer not to have us talk about, and one few of them are prepared to read about, think about, and certainly not discuss.


P2Pinvested said...

Well Paul, I show a bit of interest in one of your blogs and you turn it round in me to use it as yet another blog to show detectorists in a bad light. Where was I in 2003? I was still at school Paul. I have only had an interest in artifacts and metal detecting for around 1 and a half years. Now I was starting ti read some of your blogs with interest but I feel you have tried to use this at my expense. I will leave this blog now .

Paul Barford said...

Well, does it not show detectorists in a bad light that this topic is not discussed in any place where UK detectorists discuss "preserving the past"? That is the point I was making here. That is the point I was making here:

That is the point, UK metal detectorists simply ignore this wider context, head-down, earphones on beep beep.

In 2003 you were in school and the looting of Iraqi sites was begun and some of us were writing about it - the writing and the photos (and the gaping holes in the sites) still exist. But you've not seen it yet.

And you had the nerve to come on here and (12/11/13) question my "qualifications" for writing here. It now emerges that I was writing about artefact hunting and collecting many years before you began the hobby and indeed while you were still a schoolboy!! And you want to check my "credentials"?

Furthermore, I do not see any evidence you "showed an interest" in this blog. You said the day before yesterday that you were not reading with interest but "mainly for the comedy value". The tenor of your twelve comments on the comments page show you just wanted to snipe like all the rest:

"I would read through the thousand blogs you have but it's just full of mindless whinging drivel, I was hoping you could maybe just bullet point your key issues and the differences between what we do and what archeologists do. Unfortunately you won't do this you would rather bore me to death with 1000 meaningless blogs, could it be because you have you have got so bitter and wrapped up in this that you have actually forgotten yourself what the point of all this is ? I find it funny to be honest that you guys are trying to draw us into some kind of war of words with your university educations. "
8th November 2013.

Andy, you are welcome to read the blog, but it is absolutely no skin off my nose if you do not. This blog is about artefact hunting not for artefact hunters. Other people can outreach to you lot, not me.

But then if you do not read this blog, you hardly have any rights to go shouting your mouth off about how it is ALL " mindless whingeing drivel". To do that you'd (a) have to read it (b) understand it and (c) know something about the subject. It seems to me that you fulfil none of those criteria.

BTW, I answered your question about the looting pits in the comment below it. I took the time to answer your question before commenting on what I see as its wider context. It's all right, I don't expect any thanks from an artefact hunter. Bye.

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