Wednesday 27 August 2014

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Building material

pantiles for detectorists (Builder Bill)
It's damage control time on a metal detecting forum near you, obviously (Percentage of 'Keepers'). Now we have another tekkie extolling the virtues of keeping artefacts instead of binning what is not wanted for a personal collection. This one ("Timesearch" from Staffordshire - Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:21 am) begins by telling us: "My interest in metal detecting came out of 25 years working in the heritage sector". I guess we are supposed to be impressed by the non-specific use of the H-word. He is careful to point out that he does not dig deep holes to take items away, claiming that this therefore is: "no threat to underlying archaeology". Missing the point totally of course, since surface sites are also a major subject of archaeological research. Odd though that for a heritage professional he is ignorant about basic facts and terminology. he announces:
I'm about to work on a site where pantiles have been found, indicating Roman occupation [which is going to be] steirlised by being turned into a car park.
Hmm, if it's being sealed by a car park, then there is no need to do anything, it will be preserved under the asphalt. But, "Timesearch" is of course thinking a site which is no longer available for his and his mates' hoiking is in some way being damaged rather than preserved.

But then this collector seems not to have learnt very much about the things one can find in fields anyway. He's far off the mark in thinking pantiles are an indicator of a Roman site (what do they teach "heritage professionals" with metal detectors these days?). They were and are used mainly on the eastern side of England and Scotland and were first imported from Holland in the early 17th century. But then, this is wholly typical of these collectors who say they are hoiking stuff, chucking what they don't want and walking off with the nicer collectables in order to study the past. They are not, are they if they are chucking away, totally disregarded, the stuff they do not want, to the degree that this numpty apparently cannot even tell the difference between Romano-British and post Medieval ceramic building material. Most artefact hunters do not collect anything other than metal (and primarily non-ferrous metal) objects  to "study the past" (sic). You cannot study the past on the basis of discarding most of the evidence for it. In the same way as you could not say very much about our own society on the basis of just going through the yellow bins into which residents have segregated all the plastic. What the PAS is collecting data on is not "evidence of the past" it is evidence of the scope of today's collecting activities and collectors like this one cannot even recognize a very common and diagnostic artefact type - how reliable is this person's recording of the context of deposition of any artefact he hands in?

Of course if the PAS would produce 'a guide to common building material types worth recording' like they did the COINS  they after seventeen years, we'd be getting somewhere.

Builder Bill has photos of Roman tegulae and imbreces and a brief text in simple English: Imbrex and tegula.

UPDATE 28th August 2014
A reader has pointed out to me that the Staffordshire metal detectorist who hides his identity under the name "Timesearch" has elsewhere supplied the information what is meant by  "25 years working in the heritage sector" ('Timesearch', Tue Aug 26, 2014 8:44 pm):  
As a countryside officer working for a council I could legally sign on their behalf, but the tenants couldn't.
[countryside officer ].

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