Monday 27 October 2014

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: PAS-thetic in Essex

Coming up to two decades ago, the British government surmised that they should try to deal with metal-detecting and Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record by setting up a scheme to instil 'best practice'. Since then the PAS has gobbled up millions of pounds doing (it says) just that. Their own statistics suggest they have contacted since those early years enormous numbers of people and brought them into the PAS-fold as "partners'. Since that number far exceeds the number of metal detectorists (who have a vested interest in the success of this legitimating scheme), one may assume that those who claim the "majority of metal detectorists are responsible" believe they have grounds for asserting the veracity of that statement.

Yet... the forums tell a different story. Although there are those who suggest that it is "totally evil" and a sign of being "one of the people of the lie" to suggest such a thing, I invite all and any of my readers to register on any forum (like those listed here, scroll down) and take a look for themselves where the liars are. Are the liars those who say "everything is hunky-dory, no need to worry at all any more about artefact hunters and collectors in the UK, the PAS has it all in hand" or is the truth on the side of those who say there is a lot of evidence that there jolly well is a good reason for concern and a need for proper debate of the issues that remain?

Let's take Mr Brummel, from near Harlow in Essexshire as a case in point. What Mr Brummel let slip about his own detecting practice was discussed on this blog a few days ago (PACHI Friday, 24 October 2014, 'Focus on UK Metal Detecting; On my untouched pasture') and this post has been attracting a lot of attention over the weekend. He originally said on a forum near you:
On my untouched pasture I need to dig down 15 inches plus to find something 300 years old or more !!
Now have a look at the comments below my post on the blog (ignore the twelve-year-old-boy excuses which are the usual array). First of all he tries to pretend he'd been misunderstood ("I was talking about artefacts being found on or near the surface on ploughed land"). No, you weren't Mr Brummel. So then he tries to pretend he was "bemused" by being picked up on that comment. That speaks volumes. So does the reaction on the forum from which that came. Nobody reacted to what Beaubrummell said. That is telling isn't it? The rest of us know that there is a Code for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales which says that Responsible Detecting is sticking to recently disturbed soil and thus keeping off untouched pasture. Mr Brummel's response is typical, look at this:
I have permission from my local council to detect on the pasture I mention, and should I find anything that needs to be recorded I will contact my Finds Liaison Officer accordingly.
On being asked what is meant by "anything that needs to be recorded" and drawing his attention to the issue of non-recording as postulated in the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter we get another characteristic answer. He defines:
"Anything that needs to be recorded" as per the following guidelines":
Recording and Reporting - Treasure
Under the Treasure Act 1996 finders of potential Treasure have a legal obligation to report such finds to the coroner within 14 days. [...]
Other (non-Treasure) finds
Apart from Treasure, finders have no other legal obligation to report finds (although human remains must be reported to the police). There might also be a requirement to record archaeological finds as part of any land stewardship agreements entered into" [note how he then omits the subsequent paragraphs]

How interesting that a 'finder' should be quoting the 'Guidance for landowners, occupiers and tenant farmers in England and Wales' as justification for only reporting Treasure finds because that's what the law requires. Mr Brummel has another piece of information for us:
In the 18 months I have been detecting, I have only found one item that met the criteria and Katie Marsden (Essex FLO) has had the item in her possession for nearly a year.
In my own experience Ms Marsden is certainly less alacritous to answer a query from a member of the public with deep Essex connections than her predecessors, so the disappearance of Mr Brummel's find  does not surprise me. But it is not Ms Marsden who "has" the Treasure find, the law says Mr Brummel should report it to the Coroner.

So he only reports the finds that are Treasure and in eighteen months, he has found on Treasure item, yet for eighteen month has been "digging down 15 inches plus to find something 300 years old or more", and not reporting them to the FLO, as is his right according to the law. This is exactly the phenomenon of which the HAERC is speaking. Detectorists like Mr Brummel, who get very indignant about being challenged ("you are tarring all detectorist with the same brush Mr Barford", "[it] would have been nice to engage in a sensible debate on the subject but your views are clearly too entrenched for that") and yet have little idea (or concern for) what the rest of us consider to be application of "best practice' to their exploitation of the archaeological record. Also, to have any kind of a 'sensible debate' on an issue, one would have to understand the other point of view and on what it is based. The collector's point of view is all too transparent, but does he even have an inkling of why those attitudes provoke concern? I think not. 

The PAS and its supporters will try to tell you that people like Mr Brummel are in the minority in the hobby in the UK, I suggest you visit a few metal detecting forums and see how (unprompted) the average metal detectorist there reacts to statements about digging down fifteen inches into untouched pasture and only reporting the Treasure items because you have to. Will you see general outrage of the massed Responsible-Detectorists-with-Convictions? Will you see two timid voices expressing disquiet and being silenced by the reaction, or will you see the whole jack-pack lot of them simply failing to notice such statements or see them as any kind of aberration from what the great majority of them do?

A metal detecting forum is only a mouse click away. PAS-supporters Go and see what a righteous lot they really are.   

[Ms Marsden, I am patiently waiting for a reply to the question about the rally. I'll add another one about Mr Brummel's find, why have you not kept him in touch with what is happening to it? No wonder he's disinclined to report anything else if your habit is simply to ignore people like this]

Vignette: Time's running out for England's past

1 comment:

Paul Barford said...

The anonymous account "Mr X" has attempted to highjack this discussion too:

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