Thursday 24 April 2014

What message does the PAS selective recording give to metal detectorists?

Detectorist Andy Baines asks "What message does the PAS selective recording give to metal detectorists?" (Wednesday, 23 April 2014). Now it has been confirmed that the PAS is indeed selective of what they record and how many items they record, Mr Baines asks: "what is the point in asking people to record all their metal detecting finds?" He asks how it is possible for artefact hunters to be responsible and record all they find in order to help add to the archaeological record if, as he puts it, "the scheme we rely on to do just that is failing us".
I understand there are a lot of finds being dug and there are only 37 FLOs to go around but isn't this just a sign that the current system is not working and adjustments and upgrades need to be made.
Though whether that directing is to institute a system of karaoke FLOs is a debatable point. Using the figures supplied by the PAS, 37 FLOs each recording 1000 finds a year,
that only makes 37,000 recorded finds a year which is very low for the 8000 or so metal detectorists currently in the UK. [....] I honestly believe this current system is failing and can only see the problem worsening as the metal detecting population grows, which it is doing rapidly.
In fact 37000 finds a year is under five finds each, when many detectorists collect that many recordable finds in a few weeks - look at the forums and You Tube videos. This is of course what Nigel Swift and I have been saying all along.

 "Steve" (23 April 2014 23:24) comments that "prioritising what is recorded must take place".
The selection process for what is recorded, is however I suspect variable from FLO to FLO as many have competing demands upon their time. Most if not all FLO's (sic) have more than one manager and so they have to balance their time and output to meet these demands. For example their local managers will require a prioritising of finds which are relevant to various local agendas and needs, whilst the national management team in London will want their overall demands satisfied. I have heard that this burden of demands has caused a few unhappy times for some FLO's (sic).
Now if this selective recording of recordable items over 300 years old has always been taking place, then PAS has been taking public money under false pretences. The bargain is that detectorists will be able to hoik stuff out of archaeological sites at will, but this is acceptable only on condition that the basic archaeological information associated with them enters the public domain. The PAS has been telling everyone that this is what they are doing (and doing "jolly well") and that these data are then available for research and the public benefit. If however their "partners' have been hoiking stuff which they have been on the quiet turning away, so there is no record, then that is encouraging knowledge theft.

Surely PAS outreach in this case should be to say that the ONLY responsible attitude is to "STOP hoiking stuff we cannot record". They could follow that by "sorry get on to your MP to get us more money and people" if they like but the basic message should, surely, be not to remove material from the ground while there is no possibility of making a proper record of it. Why are the PAS not doing that, not even initiating such a discussion with their "partners"? Guess (and it's nothing to do with promoting anything remotely like real responsibility in artefact hunting).

Also if they have on the quiet also been applying some locally-variable selective recording policy (according to some secret protocol which the public and fellow archaeologists do not get to see) then they are also misrepresenting their database as a reliable source of archaeological information which can be used in research and resource management.

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