Saturday 23 November 2013

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Bloomsburian jubilations

Bloomsburian  jubilations, Dan Pett of the Portable Antiquities Scheme tweets:
Looks like we’ll surpass 2012’s total of recorded objects/records on in 2013. Good work team PAS.
Yet once again another year of liaison passes without any official estimate of the number of artefact hunters actually out there hoiking away day after day and finding, discarding, selling stuff without any record entering the public domain.

There is total Bloomsburian silence on this, even though in 2003 they set finding this out as their Fifth Aim (subsequently silently dropped - they said they'd "achieved" it, but the results were never made public). When anybody concerned about this asks for those figures, they risk getting called a "troll" by the British Museum.

In the meantime, the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion counter ticks away challenging them to produce the official figures. Metal detectorists and their archaeological supporters may claim (though never demonstrate) that these figures do not reflect reality, neither will they answer the question of by what degree must the results be "wrong" in order to make the shortfall an acceptable one by any measure other than "summat's better than nuffink".

In this context, let it also be noted that this was constructed using an estimate from a decade ago that there were 10000 active detectorists in the UK, my own recent work has led me to believe that figure has now grown, largely as a result of short-sighted PAS "outreach", to nearer 16000. If so, that erosion counter is ticking away far too slowly, and whatever the increased data-recording rate of the PAS is in that period, it has wholly failed to keep pace with the rise in number of artefact hoikers.
Our numbers: 
This year (so far), 258,237 recordable archaeological objects hoiked.
Bloomsbury numbers:
Hooray, we recorded
72642 items (in 50031 records)* so far in 2013
Hooray for Bloomsbury, for their audacity claiming this as a resounding success:
ONE FIFTH recorded this year, FOUR FIFTHS (80%)
Bloomsbury, do us all a favour, either in 2014 produce your own figures for global loses, or just shut it. You are just making an undignified exhibition of yourselves and taking us all for fools.

Vignette: Number 41 (Caroline Reeves).

*the discrepancy is going to be counting the number of potsherds/flints/tile fragments in a bag, ten finds, one record.  Most metal detector finds will be produced and recorded individually (and groups of associated objects - a hoard for example - count as a single piece of archaeological information anyway).

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