Wednesday 24 December 2014

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Spot the Sock-Puppet

Written style - and spelling - indicates a lot about an author. In reality, despite the so-called "partnership" and alleged "common ground", you will find very few real archaeologists reading metal detecting blogs - so the metal detectorists have to make them up to bolster their image:
I am an Archeologist ( shock horror ) and i was invited to join two local detectorists on a dig one day , the one thing that i was impressed with was the accuracy of their machines and also the accuracy of their recording. Every item they found including lead bits were recorded on note pads, including the exact spot using hand held GPS units . After they had finished they went off and did all of their homework and plotted out the finds. They sent me a plan of the finds and had worked out that the area was a one time Roman settlement , this was a settlement that was not recorded but now it is. All of the finds were recorded with the PAS overall i was most impressed with them. I will admit i was skeptical about people with metal detectors and their intentions , but after watching and talking to these two chaps i now think very highly of this hobby.This settlement and many others would never be discovered without their help, we do not have the funding to pay for the whole of England to be surveyed but with chaps like these we can rely on a lot of it being surveyed for free.
Who can spot the lexical giveaway that this imaginary "chap" was never in a field in England with these two fictional metal detectorists?  We are seeing a lot of this sort of thing, metal detectorists writing as sock puppets to create a misleading public image of the hobby. This is exactly what Mr Putin's Internet Army is up to and like them, this type of activity by metal detectorists trying to subvert the debate is an enemy of balanced public discussion underlying the democratic system. This is one reason why anonymous comments should not be allowed (and I do not accept them).

This small thread of comments however exhibits in microcosm other features of the part of the heritage debate which concerns detecting. Look at this detectorist's reply to the above:
John H 23 December 2014 at 18:15 If you really are an archaeologist, then I fully understand why you choose to be anonymous, Anonymous. I am just so sorry that you and your colleagues are weighed down with the garbage from the fellow from Warsaw. The irony is that while he questions the veracity of the PAS, he's the prime architect of arguably the biggest nonsense foisted on the public since the Hitler Diaries debacle... the widely derided, and discredited, Artifact Erosion Counter. John Howland
There is a problem isn't there? If an archaeologist wants to give professional endorsement of these "two chaps" with their exemplary recording, he or she has no reason not to do so in this case under their own name. If these people really are recording every scrap of material on the surface exposure of this site - even the stuff other detectorists throw away or send off for melting down, and every recordable find actually is recorded with the PAS, then there is no possible reason on earth to hide the names of these exemplary fieldworkers (who should be held up as a model for others to follow for their willingness to collaborate with archaeologists in building up a picture of this site).* That's what this is all about, this is what we need from artefact hunters. There is no reason for any British archaeologist to feel any professional shame for expressing the view that what is described here is the way forward. It certainly is behaviour which is the complete opposite of that which is criticised on the pages of the blog of the "the fellow from Warsaw" who the detectorist cannot quite bring himself to name.

Once again, in the light of dullard lack of comprehension of what is written, I am required to explain that although fully endorse it, I am not the "prime architect" of anything produced by Heritage Action, I contributed some thoughts to their Artefact Erosion Counter, but I am not its creator or curator. If I were, it would now be ticking away somewhat faster. Whether or not metal detectorists comfort themselves by claiming that this Artefact Erosion Counter is  "widely derided, and discredited", is immaterial. There is no archaeological publication anywhere that I am aware of which indicates that it is fundamentally wrong, and that the questions it poses are not valid ones. Indeed imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after over a decade of resisting doing so, the PAS has recently tried to produce a comparable estimate. Mr Howland, intent on rudeness and attack, 'conveniently' forgets this fact. Although the PAS made a total pig's ear of the job (we await the corrected version with the completion of the project in the New Year), their estimate comes out at about the same range as Heritage Action's. Enormous numbers of archaeological finds hoiked by artefact hunters and collectors are indeed not getting recorded under the current voluntary system. So all those that were "deriding" and claiming the HA counter "discreditable" will now be queuing up to apologise to Heritage Action I guess. 

But, to return to the context, please note the discussion on a metal detectorist's blog to which all this is appended. It's about the discrepancies in the story of the findspot of a coin that a metal detectorist sold (note that the thread originates not with me pointing it out on Janner's blog, but John Howland stirring in his usual rude manner). This again is a trend worth noting, it falls into the pattern that is inevitable in any discussion with metal detectorists. A substantive point is made (and made in a civil manner) and it becomes clear that it does indeed require resolution. First we get the insults from the tekkies (pretty unbelievable name-calling like "Mr Commie Barford the detecting forum troll" from a cowardly Anonymous who may or may not be the same one who then pretends to be an "archeologist"). Then we get the "going-off-on-a-tangent" comment from another Anonymous, intended to deflect discussion away from the original topic (a substitute for saying, yes good point, we must do something about this). This is then turned into yet another personal attack by the aggressive yapping of Mr Howland. Presumably the aim of this is to anger the person to whom it is directed into some reply drawuing discussion even further from the original point.  Thus it is that the problem of the PAS  not verifying findspot reports (for example through documentation that the landowner has released the find and allows its recording) is deftly buried in yet another discussion among metal detectorists. This is what always happens (look for example at the many threads on CBA's Britach forum). This is why we will never get to do any "negotiation" with this lot.

Finally, if the Anonymous archeologist "chap" from this thread wishes to enlarge on his comment about these two exemplary fieldworkers here, he or she is perfectly welcome to, but - unlike metal detectorists - I do not accept anonymous comments.  If you are endorsing them as an archaeologist you an at least indicate which archaeologist is doing the endorsing. I'd be glad to hear more about how metal detecting adds to our knowledge of a Roman surface site. Tom Brindle had enormous problems illustrating that was the case in his thesis - you could see he wanted to, but the information from tekkies just was not there.

* Except if they did, as past events show, they'd have problems of being attacked (like Andy Baines and detectorbloke) by other detectorists like for example John Howland who writes scathingly of archaeologists and collaboration with archaeologists in his "Malamute Saloon" and "Stout Standards" blogs as well as in his consistent contributions to Peter Tompa's "Cultural Property Observer" blog. The constant attacks from other detectorists might be a good reason for these good guys to want their names kept off the detecting blogs and forums. By the way, Howland's known antipathy to all archaeologists rather makes his "I am so sorry" comment look at the least a tad hypocritical.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are at least four "tells" in the "Mr Commie Barford" posting that enable me to say, with absolute certainty, it was penned by Mr Howland. He puts comments on the Journal on a regular basis as do a number of other detectorists, very often posing as archaeologists (but leaving all sorts of clues that every archaeologist would be ashamed to exhibit) and frequently changing gender - which of course signals they are hiding rather than enables them to hide.

This always makes me smile as it is reminiscent of one of them, a sad old man, who for many months pretended to be "an attractive young blond lesbian" and posted a mixture of ant-archaeologist and sexually explicit messages for months! Not exactly a credit to artefact hunting then. Who on earth could that have been?

Merry Xmas Paul, you Commie rogue you, over there with your family far away from twisted old twerps!

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