Sunday 14 December 2014

Detecting and its Non-contribution to Archaeology

It would seem that "Geoman" (Sun Dec 14, 2014 10:33 am) has seen Heritage Action's latest comment on the thread "Detecting and its contribution to Archaeology" on a metal detecting forum near you and the confession that a detectorist would record things with PAS but "none of his landowners has asked him to" (sic!). He attempts to explain that away first
Mind you the PAS can't cope with many finds anyway so they have to be very selective in what they take in for recording. The cherry picking that goes on will inevitably lead to a large volume of less interesting finds going unreported, even if the landowner agrees to their property being recorded in the first place. [...] The PAS has always been under resourced and therefore this has inevitably resulted in a limited capacity for recording finds made by members of the public.
So apparently the "contribution" made is not valued enough to devote sufficient resources to take advantage of it. The main reason "detecting" is "contributing to" archaeology is that archaeology devotes an enormous amount of resources to making it so - quite against the natural instincts of many artefact hunters. Obviously, the criterion of "interest" in archaeology is somewhat different from that of a collector. PAS has been stressing that even the items dismissed by collectors as "Roman grots" should be recorded - so on what basis are PAS conducting this extensive "cherry picking"? In his continued attempt to make excuses for the artefact hunter, Geoman then attempts a two-wrongs argument:
still, some material is being recorded which is very much in contrast to the vast areas of housing development and so on where equally vast numbers of small finds are bulldozed away unrecorded year on year [...] the act of bulldozing away the small finds in the soil layers on a development site, is seemingly mandatory as it is on most commercial archaeological excavations and evaluations.
So, if the aim of metal detecting is altruistic rescue of 'small finds' that would be bulldozed, why not concentrate detecting activity to only those threatened areas where there is the possibility of adding to archaeological knowledge of those soon-to-be-bulldozed areas by recording the evidence, rather than those where the aim is to fill the finder's pockets only? 

OMG, on the original forum they’re now trying to defend their non-reporting by trotting out that PAS can’t cope and the Code of Conduct is only voluntary! Yet PAS says they want all recordable finds brought to them so both those excuses are pitiful. One thing is for sure: these aren’t bright or moral people and their selfish, self-serving wriggling is evident to all.

While HA have updated the original post today too:
As usual the thread to which this article refers has disappeared. Everyone can draw their own conclusions. At the same time, THIS has appeared on another thread (about nighthawks) on the self-same forum: “for every One Hawker People should be taught to understand there are Hundreds of Good Decent Enthusiasts more than willing to Record our Heritage with almost every piece of History we Unearth. There’s always a Rotten one in almost every Barrel, it’s just a matter of sorting them out from the Good ones” So detectorists say not recording on the part of thousands of their colleagues is perfectly excusable on the grounds that “recording is voluntary” whereas they say nighthawks who don’t report their finds are “Rotten” !!!.
Once again the simplistic black-versus-white "we are not nighthawks so we are all angels" deceit is trotted out. The problem is that the rest of us know that for every 'black'' practitioner and every "white" one, there are an unknown number of damaging 'grey' detectorists out there not reporting unknown (but potentially - according to the PAS - huge) numbers of hoiked finds from the archaeological record which are just vanishing into their pockets.  These people are doing as much damage to the archaeological record as the "nighthawks", yet detectorists try to avoid discussing the topic, or deny the problem exists, or as we see above, make excuses for it ("Well, m8, it is only voluntry innit? LOL").


Anonymous said...

There'm so many birds eggs the hornithologists can't cope so we keeps 'em (or sells 'em). The hornithologists are under-resourced see, so it's the gub'mints fault we take the stuff and tells no-one. Hanyway, the landowners tells us don't tell no-one what eggs you found in case the natr'lists come a -knocking. Let's keep it confidential between us. Hextinction's better than hofficial hinterference.


The point of the above very unkind micky take is to illustrate a basic truth - that the only need for law is to put a brake on people who won't or can't understand how to behave properly and my goodness it's needed in British artefact hunting.

Anonymous said...

"These people are doing as much damage to the archaeological record as the "nighthawks" "
Far, far, far more.

Nighthawking and not reporting is something carried out by "a tiny minority" innit? (If every detectorist and every FLO and Dr Bland are to be believed.)

Whereas a massive number of "legal" detectorists opt to exercise their right not to report all their finds (as detectorists happily admit and PAS's statistics clearly indicate.)

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