Wednesday 15 January 2014

Focus on Irresponsible UK Metal Detecting: "Refreshing the Field"

Deep ploughing
Readers may recall that one of the arguments used by their supporters for partnering' artefact hunters with metal detectorists is that they are concerned about "rescuing" archaeological evidence from the plough. That's the story they tell everyone anyway. Reality is somewhat different, as will be demonstrated by looking at a metal detecting forum near you. Over there is a different reality from the wishy washy fluffy bunny picture the pro-collecting crowd have been punching out. Member Mega B (who has a broken GPS so cannot plot his or her finds) is in fact rather happy about the erosion of the archaeological record through renewed and deep ploughing of a field that was formerly pasture (Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:33 am). Mega B has been hoiking artefacts from:
a pasture/haymeadow permission that was once a very big animal enclosure and going by the coins that i have found so far it goes back about a 1000 years [...] at the end of the month [the farmer] is going to really deep plough this field and also roll it as well, so i will have a narrow window too get on this large field before the crops are sown.
There is not a word of concern by Mega B (or anyone else reading his post) about the damage this might do to any archaeological stratigraphy that might be damaged by this "really deep plough[ing]", or indeed what they are doing detecting pasture anyway. But, gentle reader, it gets worse. Much worse. The thread was actually started by one "Beany Bot" (Mon Jan 13, 2014 10:44 am - thread name "Got a permission thats stopped producing?":
Have you got a permission that's stopped producing? If you get on well with the farmer why not ask them very very nicely if they will drag their deepest plow (sic) over it for you. Might take a bit of cash incentive but will completely refresh the field. If they really like you they might even roll it afterwards too!
Of course what a field that "has stopped producing" has experienced is the depletion of all the metal small finds from the zone that is accessible to even the new deep-seeker metal detectors. Ploughing with the farmer's deepest plough will cut into the subsoil, and bring up artefacts that were safe in some sort of context and assemblages below the ploughsoil, and not accessible to the majority of artefact hunting machines. What basically Beany Bot is suggesting ("completely refresh the fields") is trashing more of the archaeology of the site (aka "productive field") in order that they, Beany Bot (and anyone who irresponsibly follows their 'advice'), can grab more of the loot. This is not responsible detecting. Not by a long chalk. It is totally irresponsible artefact-hunter prompted destruction of the surviving archaeological record. This is basically strip-mining of collectables.

Now what is important about this is one rather interesting fact. The first post was made at 10:44 am Mon Jan 13, 2014, the last comment was made 11:54 am Mon Jan 13, 2014. It is now 10 am on Wednesday 15th January 2014. That thread has been seen by many members of that discussion list and a number of people outside and not a single person has pointed out that what Beany Bot has suggested doing is so downright unethical that nobody even thought of putting it in the 'Code of Practice for Responsible Detecting in England and (for the moment) Wales'. So where are these thousands and thousands of "responsible metal detectorists" if a suggestion like that, as bold as brass, right out in the open attracts zero comments from the responsible detectorists. Or is that really a mythical being? What is responsible detecting? What is "best practice"? What we see suggested on a public MD forum sure as hell is not in the slightest either. Where is the sixteen million pound Portable Antiquities Scheme which used to be charged with instilling best practice but seem to have given up? Would the PAS record items recovered by the unethical means of getting a farmer to deliberately destroy archaeological evidence to hoik the finds out?

Though there have been a lot of UK readers of my text the original thread on the forum still has nobody commenting, not even "pretend responsible detectorists". 

Twenty six minutes later, instead of adding a substantive comment to the thread advocating irresponsible metal detecting on the forum, "geoman" suggests ( Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:26 pm): 
Admin - Time to close this down as the usual pretend archaeologist nutters are blogging away.
Beany Bot (Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:53 pm) has no idea what he's talking about, replies: 
So, what will they do? Delete the thread and pretend there was nothing said by a member, or put a brave face on it and give him a talking to?

Following the link brings you to:
"The requested topic does not exist".
So there is not going to be a discussion of it by "responsible" artefact hunters then? Well, "there's a surprise"! It's a pretty pathetic discussion list which, the moment there is a weighty and meaty topic to discuss, closes down the thread, and before the PAS could have their say, too. 

No, the tekkies have not deleted the thread, but moved it. The suggestion still stands, "ask them very very nicely if they will drag their deepest plow over it for you"... The PAS still have their chance.


Anonymous said...

"Not responsible"? ... "Unethical"?

Why do you always pull your punches Paul? ;)

This is a deliberate, knowing assault on a country's culture by an ignoramus with no conscience - with none of his colleagues saying so.

And don't tell me he and they haven't heard the message that it's unacceptable over and over. They have. It's not that outreach hasn't reached them it's that they don't don't care.

How could there be a clearer illustration that something needs to be done? Terrible, terrible behaviour.

P2Pinvested said...

If you two have such strong views and so much to say about metal detecting as a whole why don't you sign up to the forum and enter a discussion with us all instead of bitching to a bakers dozen readers of your blogs ?

Cartouche1953 said...

This looks like more of an issue with the farmer and modern farming practises. This part was ommitted in the quotation

"it has been ploughed before but years ago but he has decided he can make more revenue from planting crops in the field that what hay produces"

It looks like n opportunistic detectorist benefiting from what the farmer is going to do regardless. also the field has been ploughed before but then again, other than upland moorland, any pasture field will have been ploughed relatively recently.

There should be more outreach to farmers both on the dangers of destructive agricultural methods and the damage to heritage by irresponsible metal detecting.

Detectorbloke said...

'Not a word of concern for the damage this might do to any archaeological stratigraphy that might be damaged by this "really deep plough[ing]", or indeed what they are doing detecting pasture anyway'

In Mega B's example the farmer was going to plough the field anyway. As such is it your position that all deep ploughing is bad as, and forgive me if i've missed it,I haven't seen any posts from you regarding such practice.

Should I, as a detectorist, be telling the farmer not to deep plough before he plants crops? I don't have an answer I just wondered.

I thought the below article about a former field operative for West Yorkshire Archaeology Service might interest you.

Anonymous said...

Do you know what slander is Paul?

Paul Barford said...

"Beany-bot" try me.

Paul Barford said...

Cartouche, what do you think the CSS were for?

I made a clear distinction between the opportunistic detectorist unconcerned about benefiting from destruction and the one who suggested initiating some in order to benefit. Two things entirely.

Paul Barford said...

Mr Baines, where were you when both Nigel and I engaged metal detectorists on their forums and elsewhere 2000-2007? Both of us came to the conclusion as the result of seven years effort, and facing the rudeness, aggression and sustained plain Thugwitism, that it was not a fruitful way to spend our time. Indeed, you hunt for the archives of those forums and you will find narry a trace now of the hours and hours of discussion we spent so much time on.

This blog is not for artefact hunters but about them. But they are perfectly welcome to contribute sensible comments (as you yourself have been doing) which add to the discussion.

I rather think (from experience) that the MD forums have a number of individuals who certainly do not want Nigel or myself on them, been there, done it, have the scars, and will do everything they can to disrupt any developing discussion, like they did when we thought it was worth a try. Now we do not.

Any metal detectorist who wants to know what we think can come here, its not a "members only" resource, perfectly open, perfectly transparent, nothing to hide. But you try and find a link (or even a mention of the name) on a MD forum and you will see that the metal detectorists in fact do not want anyone looking at this material.

I think you are being very naive if you think it is worth us trying to have a sensible discussion with today's metal detectorists, too many thugwits among you and nobody to rein them in.

Also what do you reckon the result consistently is when somebody called "Paul Barford" tries to register on one of your forums under his real name? Most of them do not even do the courtesy of acknowledging the receipt of the registration request, that is who we are dealing with.

Nope, I am quite happy here in my own corner of the internet, those who want to read this can, those who do not can stay away. Why complicate life?

Anonymous said...

Very well Paul. Have it your way. Expect a letter in the next few weeks.

Paul Barford said...

Yes, so we'll have our day in court "Beany"?

Anonymous said...

"About metal detectorists not FOR them", that's the crux.

If ever action is taken to make metal detectorists behave in the national interest it won't be something that will come from discussions with metal detectorists, there are just too many of them who are clueless, like this "give the farmer money to dig deeper" clown and too few sensible ones willing to distance themselves from the rest. Shame for them and shame for everyone but there it is. No-one can say Paul and I haven't tried "talking"
but it's a farce.

Paul Barford said...

Well, we see above a typical reaction to any attempt to discuss what "responsible detecting is and is not", the "refresh the field" pseudonymous guy is threatening to sue me for expressing an opinion which differs from the one he refuses to defend. What hope is there for having ANY kind of proper discussion in such an atmosphere?

Unknown said...

Seems like neither side can hold a sensible conversation about the issues that matter...???

Paul Barford said...

Is that a statement or a question Mr Broom?

Obviously it takes two to have a conversation. If the interlocutor keeps avoiding addressing the issues which are of concern to the other side (like deleting the thread and pretending nothing happened), then obviously it is impossible to have any kind of "conversation".

When detectorists mature to taking part in dialogue, I am sure there are those who will 'partner' them in it.

I certainly do not intend taking part in any "conversation" about deliberately trashing sites so collectors can get their hands on artefacts.

Paul Barford said...

Despite his threats, "Beany Bot" never came up with the goods. Typical of the mindless mouthiness of the milieu.

Unknown said...

If farmer didn't have any restriction from deep plough then what is the problem?

Paul Barford said...

Ross London, I'd say the PROBLEM (the really serious problem) is that people like you can read what I wrote and then ask "what the problem is"...

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