Saturday, 8 November 2014

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Recording and Ranting

The Portable Antiquities Scheme, as part of its outreach and partnership activities, has recently released what it calls a "Guide for Researchers" for archaeologists, trying to persuade them that the PAS database is worth using as a source of data for archaeological research (yeah, yeah.... dot distribution maps you mean). Of course detectorists, not understanding that this is not a document addressed to them, are giving it the once-over. Forum member 'Stratman' (Sat Oct 11, 2014 6:21 pm) "is not a third in yet" (slow reader perhaps) "but have noted some glaring inaccuracies" but does not enlighten us as to their nature. But member 'geoman' (Wed Nov 05, 2014 10:15 am) takes the biscuit with his comment (as noted elsewhere by Silas Brown):  
I note that in the reproduction of the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting at the end of the document that is omits the basic fact that is a VOLUNTARY Code. Once inaccuracies such as that are in the public domain so to speak and this report is referenced in further academic papers, it will be perpetuated.
geoman cannot tell the difference between guidelines and a report, and assumes academics cannot read for themselves around the code written for simpletons. Now if you look at the actual text of the Code any fool can see that it is not headed "this is the entirely voluntary code of practice of responsible detecting...". Any fool can see what it is called, and any fool can see that there is no difference between the texts as printed (see the Guidelines, pp 86-8) . What is Geoman on about and why?  Whatever it is, the majority of the membership of the UKDFD (3381) detectorists out of 7125  seem to agree with him, many record finds on the UKDFD and do not take them to PAS.
Certainly I agree that this is something PAS-supporting (and PAS-using) archaeologists need to keep in mind, "responsible collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record" is not only entirely voluntary (meaning lots who cannot be bothered simply do not report more than a fraction of what they hoik and cart off in their pockets year in, year out), but also there are a large number of individuals like Geoman who irately defend the right to irresponsibility (a right which is more formal than moral). The archaeologist presented with a find made by detectorist XYZ in order to interpret it needs to know the degree of responsibility it represents, did XYZ report more than a token artefact or two of the site assemblage from which that artefact comes? How can that be known? (It cannot). Archaeologists cannot assume that - even though they are told by PAS that "most detectorists are responsible" that the finds recorded in the PAS database all come from people understanding "responsible artefact collecting" in the same way (or even at all). In other words the whole "database' is corrupted by an unmeasurable bias based on a personal trait (and remember the 'finders' are anonymous).

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