Saturday 30 August 2014

Focus on Metal Detecting: Welcome to Hoik Wiltshire Too

Dave Crisp and heap of coins
PAS poster-boy metal detectorist Dave Crisp (photogenic Frome Hoard finder) now writes for the Guardian ('The joy of metal detecting – it’s not just about the treasure', Friday 29 August 2014).
Yesterday, a treasure hunt began on a Folkestone beach where a German artist, Michael Sailstorfer, has buried £10,000 of bullion – 30 bars of 24-carat gold – as part of an arts festival. People started to descend with metal detectors, spades, forked sticks and anything else they thought might help, and on Thursday night a family found the very first bar. Is this art? It’s not for me to say. I can’t tell a Picasso from a potato, but it’s certainly given my hobby a boost.
Ah yes, beachcombing, using metal detectors to find coins and jewellery recently lost in the sand by holidaymakers, and the quirky other objects that they take to the beach (model cars seem to be common finds), or the odd thing washed up by the tides. in the meanwhile performing a socially useful function in removing rubbish, sharp can fragments, cutlery and worse. Sadly this PAS-partner did not extol that, he turned a discussion of an art-happening into a plug for collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record, artefact hunting and collecting.
It’s not all about pots of coins and jewel-encrusted gems, but the items people have lost over the past 2,000 years, the fascinating everyday artefacts – buckles, brooches, rings, weights and buttons. All these lost items are our history, and they shouldn’t just be left in the ground to rot and disappear. These Celtic, Roman, Saxon and Viking items conjure up the history of our shores, the people who made us what we are today, the ancestors whose blood runs in our veins, and their lost objects are ours to enjoy. 
"These Celtic, Roman, Saxon and Viking items" which artefact hoikers are taking by the thousand and adding to thousands of scattered ephemeral private collections (where it seems that the majority soon lose all contact with their findspot information) are not just capable of "conjuring up the history" (narrativisation -story telling). Through proper analysis of their associations and deposition patterns, they are a resource for the study of the past, one which we are wasting in a wholly unsustainable manner.

Out comes the self-interest special pleading "they shouldn’t just be left in the ground to rot and disappear". Being left in the ground is called preservation, and these "Celtic, Roman, Saxon and Viking items" have been in the ground one to two thousand years or more without "rotting and disappearing" until now and - in reality - there is no reason to think that the majority of them are any more "threatened" with "rotting and disappearance" (except if taken by hoikers and knowledge thieves) now in 2014 than they were in 1414. In 1414 when they had ploughs, frosts and manure - but no metal detectorists. What is currently the threat to the knowledge in the ground is the number of grey metal detectorists pilfering archaeological sites for collectables and it is irresponsible for Mr Crisp to write so blithely to encourage even more.
"Go on, take yer spiydes to th' 'eritidge, rissponsble like!"
PAS-partner Mr Crisp says its OK

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