Wednesday 26 February 2014

Focus on Metal Detecting: Tekkie Nonsense Writhing on Conservation

Metal detectorists reveal lack of
understanding of  the notion of conservation
It is quite a depressing task ploughing through the comments by Britain's (I'd guess mostly Kent's) metal detectorist showing what it is they have learnt (I use the term loosely) from sixteen years' multimillion pound outreach by the PAS. Take what Scirious (an NCMD representative) wrote (25-02-2014 10:38:46):
Mr. Barford[,] Your argument about taking items from the soil 'out of context' is wearing very thin and is generally not supported by many archaeologists nationally. What you and your cronies would seem to prefer is the rather negative option of not finding the items in the first place, leaving them where they are, just in case at some time in the future an archaeological dig will take place on that particular piece of land. We both know that this isn't possible. The few hundred professional achaeologists do not have the resources nor the time to check every farmer's field in the country.
That's no doubt what the rhino hunters and whalers say. All those horns and all that whale meat that would simply be hidden and lost out in the wild.  It seems to me that the whole aim of spending sixteen million quid on a portable antiquities scheme explaining things to finders is NOT that we have a general public that has not the faintest idea of archaeological conservation. The aims of setting it up were quite different, and that the PAS has failed abysmally in getting the information across to its "partners" comes out very well here. The "Medway History Finders" are clearly proud of having hoiked some nice glittery stuff (with "roobies on it, look at the kulah") at the expense of totally destroying the context (feature) in which they lay. According to this view, "not many archaeologists nationally" are at all concerned these days about items being taken out of context. Sixteen years of the PAS has shown that to be a "thin" argument and irrelevant concern for today's manner of "doing archaeology".

Another archaeologist had tried to make similar points on seeing the unholy mess created by the "Medway History Finders" in the photos. In reply, James Petts (23-02-2014 20:51:10)  ventures to write:
Christina. Your comments clearly show how ignorant your are about the honest detectorists out here and how they have contributed to the history of our country and the finds that no doubt you see in local museums in kent and the BM.[...] You also seem to forget that without the guys going out in all weather detecting every weekend the above finds would never have been found in the first place. Before you 'tarnish' all of us with the same brush please get your facts right.
Suddenly the hobby become "work", and for the public benefit, like fishing, drag racing, pigeon fancying, pheasant shooting, model trains, dressage training and campanology. Elsewhere James Petts also wrote (23-02-2014 21:49:38):
[...] If it had been for people like you it would still be in the ground rotting away and being damaged by farming machinery. At least it will end up in a museum rather than being sold on the black market which is what happens when night hawkes find stuff  Why don't you go off and do something worth while rather than writhing s**t like that
Christina had already noted that the survival of these items 1500 years rather suggested they were not "rotting in the ground" as the trite but unproven tekkie trope has it, neither twenty inches down below the plough level in old grassland would they be being "damaged by farming machinery". I rather think it is Mr Petts who is "writhing" in flagrant disregard of the facts, and revealing he has not the foggiest about conservation. Another like thinker (I use the term loosely) is the above-mentioned "Scirious" who wrote (24-02-2014 13:46:01):
Christina, you clearly have absolutely no clue [...] If these items hadn't been found by the detectorists then they probably would have remained hidden as they have for more than a thousand years.
yes, hidden and SAFE in the ground from the likes of the clueless people of the Medway club hoiking them out blindly. Another one who sees hoiking as public service "work" is Edward Penny (writing 23-02-2014 21:32:36):
This find has come to light due to the efforts of unqualified 'hobbyists' working tirelessly most weekends for sometimes more that 10 hours a day. Their combined knowledge and determination is due to them wanting to find our countries undiscovered history. Their efforts go widely unnoticed, but [...] needs to be acknowledged. Undoubtedly archaeology has bought us a lot, but it's been around a long time. When you consider that metal detecting hasn't even been around for a quarter of the time that archaeology has, it has claims to a vast amount of spectacular discoveries in modern times. How many archaeologists spend every weekend digging for the love of undiscovered history? Whereas the metal 'detectorists' work the week with their normal day jobs then spend the weekend doing what they do because they are genuinely interested and want to increase the knowledge we all love to share. Archaeology may have the upper hand when it comes to 'class', with their position being regarded as 'professional', but the so called 'hobbyists' are rich in knowledge and passion for what they do. Their feelings about the history of our land are much greater than any Tony Robinson.
It's amazing the guy does not fall flat on his face with that massive chip on his shoulder. It seems Mr Penny reckons archaeology is some kind of competition to find "the best stuff". Now, not all metal detectorists work in the week, nor do all  "do what they do because they want to increase the knowledge we all love to share". Many of them share only a very small amount of the knowledge from their hoiking - and many actually destroy archaeological information in their quest. We see it very clearly here, where the hoikers destroyed any feature the objects were in and any textile remains and beads and other small pieces of information, were just discarded by the hoikers intent on by hook and crook getting out all the shiny bits. It really never ceases to amaze that artefact hunters, targeted by sixteen million quids' worth of outreach, cannot even get their heads round the notion that archaeology is a bit more than a TV show presented by Tony Robinson.

The idea that archaeology is some kind of popularity contest is followed up by "Apulmax" (23-02-2014 22:02:55), again replying to somebody who'd expressed concern about the free-for-all seen in the Kent Mercury photos:
[...] These guys have saved our history by NOT letting it rot in the ground. Your feedback clearly shows you are a minority and have nothing better to do than voice YOUR opinion which is clearly wrong and unjustified

"Holedigger pete" (24-02-2014 17:35:28) replied to the same person in exactly the same vein:
[...]  i v been on archaeological digs and iv been doing detecting 25 years not a thing was destroyed or any damage caused. I see i have more thumbs up than you do so need not say no more.
All his mates have been vigorously "liking" their mate's comments and "unliking" anything that contradicts their feeling of entitlement. Since normal people have better things to do than read (still less "like") tekkie nonsenses, the result is predictable - but I would say it reflects the cliquishness of UK metal detecting than any true public opinion. Then James Pett again (24-02-2014 20:32:32, and again replying to the same concerns), brings out the next tired tekkie justification, after repeating what he'd said earlier about "without metal detectors these amazing finds would never have been found!", he goes on:
We are not talking about detectorists going on already discovered sites are we. This story is about the discovery of these amazing artifacts (sic) that will now be enjoyed by everyone.
Please don't get us mixed up with night hawkes and scheduled sites robbers because we are neither!
Now, my information is that this site IS actually known, that there were antiquarian investigations there and apparently (though since we do not know where it is I cannot check that) the site is actually in the lee of a scheduled site. That aside, in accusing critics of stereotypical thinking, these apologists fall into the same trap. Nobody was accusing the Medway History Finders of doing anything illegal. The issue is one of best practice and responsibility. Nothing more. I doubt many of them can absorb that idea. In reply to the same person, the semi-literate Fudgeeeey (passinitly intrestid in 'istry no doubt)  repeated what his fellow detectorists had suggested that the tekkies had "found these and saved them from being lost for ever", adding in the spirit of true liaison and co-operation (25-02-2014 17:02:46):
you archaeologist make me sick. I run one of the largest metal detecting groups on facebook and i can tell you we are not cowboys. Take a look at yourselves i would . You do more damage to site than any detectorist does.
Hmmm. Is that what the PAS and BM told you? Or did you work that one out for yourself? That sounds like saying that biologists that dissect dead animals do more damage to "animals" than those who merely kill one species and cut their horns off.

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