Saturday 25 October 2014

Wales and Syria

Nigel Swift of Heritage Action (Wales: like Syria without the guns. 25/10/2014) correctly points out: 
As the CBA says, the best way to extract evidence is via “controlled, high-standard archaeological excavation“. So it follows that the proper role for archaeologists to adopt towards metal detecting is to encourage people to mitigate their damage, nothing else. Yet the Welsh Museums (aided by PAS and the Lottery Fund) have just launched a project that effectively promotes artefact hunting providing it’s done well (or in their words, creates “a long-term collecting culture to underpin responsible discovery and reporting”.) The law of unintended consequences needs noting. Promoting detecting done well also promotes detecting as a whole, so what they regard as applying a conservation brake is actually pressing an exploitation accelerator
He then draws an analogy with what is happening outside Britain, most people will conclude that this is to be deplored:
“Images show hundreds of people, including gunmen, taking part in the excavations from dawn until night in many cases. Dealers are present, and when they discover an artefact, the sale takes place immediately”. That’s a press report about Syria.
 and yet: 
apart from the guns it describes exactly what has been happening in Wales (and England) routinely on unprotected archaeological sites for donkey’s years. PAS outreaching hasn’t stopped it (at rallies PAS often has a stall next to the artefact dealers, for goodness sake!) and nor will the latest stance by the Welsh museums. 
Is anyone naive enough to believe that any Welsh archaeologists and heritage professionals will be drawn to comment - still less attempt to take some action to protect sites from being subjected to collection-driven exploitation? Unlikely isn't it? What's Welsh for "apathetic jobsworths the lot of you"?

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