Monday, 2 February 2015

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Pirate Flags and PAS

"Pirate Flag John", Peter Tompa's treasure hunting BFF made a few comments in the thread begun by a local metal detectorist about why Cyprus does not replace existing laws with new ones allowing artefact hunters to pillage archaeological sites on the island so archaeologists can "see more stuff" a la PAS. Like most metal detectorists, the pirate sees no difference between discussing an issue and a personal attack
Barford's still hawking his anti-metal detecting propaganda campaign to anyone daft enough not to question his LACK [of] fact and figures. The Portable Antiquities Scheme in the UK is world class...however it does have it's [sic] vitriolic enemies [...] Over 1,000,000 objects are on the PAS database and are the foundations for on-going and valuable, academic, and archaeological research, all supplied by metal detectorists.These are checkable facts...not slanted propaganda.
My answer to his crass outburst:
The facts are that the Portable Antiquities Scheme "data" are certainly not, contra to what "John" suggests "all supplied by metal detectorists". All members of the UK public can contribute information on finds to the PAS database.

The actual 'value' of the information obtained for proper research is limited, see the forthcoming document of a Leverhulme Fund project on this which points out the huge and largely unquantifiable biases which the current form of the record contains.

Seventeen million pounds spent on the Scheme however are failing to record an estimated 186000 objects a year found by artefact hunters alone (PAS' own figures, published last year - not mine). That means that another million objects disappears undocumented every six years straight into the pockets of collectors or onto eBay. That is (by PAS figures) 4,522,000 since the scheme began, and they have 658000 records of just one million of those objects. The rest are lost forever.

Those are the costs to the UK heritage of this Scheme and I think that is good enough reason, whoever you are, to question the motivations of those who attempt to argue otherwise.

Those who do question the facts and figures about the Scheme find many areas for concern and once again it needs emphasising that no other country in the world, looking at its effects, feels any desire or need to repeat this experiment. That is significant.
Of course Cyprus has been ordered by the US NOT to do this. Readers may remember that Peter Tompa thinks that metal detecting is allowed in Cyprus, but when invited by me to meet me there with his metal detecting equipment to demonstrate the truth of that claim ('Proposal for Peter Tompa' PACHI Wednesday, 18 January 2012), he had second thoughts ('Rebuffed by Peter Tompa', PACHI Sunday, 5 February 2012). Maybe he and John Howland can go there together and John can tell the Cypriots what a good thing it would be for them to set up a PAS so collectors can plunder local sites in person.

UPDATE 3.2.15
The Ambassadors for British Detecting John Howland and Andy Baines continue their onslaught on common decency - ignoring the fact that this was supposed to be a thread posing the possibility of changing the antiquities laws of Cyprus. Note how they are trying to deflect attention away from the facts and figures, Mr Howland by claiming archaeologists are stealing finds instead of reporting them to the PAS like detectorists, and Mr Baines by telling Cyprus Mail that Paul Barford is "not a very nice chap". Nice or not, these buffoons are trying to deflect attention away from the figures:  according to the numbers published by the PAS,. a discrepancy between 80 000 public finds recorded  and another 186000 taken by artefact hunters without record.


Sam Ofnett said...

I looked at the thread and do not see where the one with the pirate flag backs up his claim of archaeologists stealing the finds. Did you say that Mr Barford?

Paul Barford said...

No, of course I did not, he (Trolling John Howland that is) as usual is twisting what was said and making it into something else. He is unlikely to ever provide a proper reference to support anything he says. The man is a menace and is best ignored, he's only doing it to attract attention.

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