Thursday 22 October 2015

Hypocrisy and twisted Argument in UK metal detecting

UK metal detectorist Dean Crawford manages to fit so many twisty-turney arguments into his latest piece published by Canadian collector-blogger John Hooker (Dean Crawford — Living among the Dobunni: fragmentation) that it is a veritable mine of egregious examples of the sort of dodgy deflective tactics of those that want to maintain the status quo. That's why it is worth reflecting on what he says.

Crawford admits he does not record his finds with the PAS, because if the did the sites he wants to hoik collectables from could well be taken into conservation stewardship, meaning no artefact hoiking (see my post "Mr Crawford's Pockets"). He is therefore claims to be miffed by, as he says: "the way that those (often detectorists) who contribute greatly towards identifying these areas for preservation are treated afterwards", that is after they've reported a site which is identified as sensitive is asked responsible to stay off a sensitive site to avoid damaging it further. I guess he'd like to be told:
"yes this is a highly sensitive site and we'll be paying the farmer lottsa cash to farm it in a way which causes much less damage, but you carry on damaging it yourself by hoiking out of it what you want, just strip away, take all the diagnostic artefacts, fill yer pockets mate. The farmer can't damage it, but you go ahead".
He thinks the reason why nobody is happy about him filling his pockets with bits of the archaeological heritage is personal, and like the other underdog artefact collectors he is the "victim" of unreasoning prejudice. To Mr Crawford, it seems this is part of some, as he puts it:
"negative archaeological stigma toward us amateurs". 
He cannot see that artefact hunters are artefact hunters, they are not amateur archaeologists and non-reporting collectors are a long way from being amateur conservationists. Any negative attitudes expressed about non-reporting is aimed at the negative attitudes towards those who will take-take-take without a thought for the consequences. Mr Crawford of course refuses to see it that way. He is, after all a "victim".

He develops his victimisation complex further. He postulates that the reason why detectorists are "misunderstood" is that archaeologists are ignorant, they do not know where artefacts come from (after two decades of highly expensive PAS mediation between them and artefact hoikers). He says:
"If these archaeologists fully understood where 99.9% of our finds come from (the horizontal context that they strip off and dump to one side) they would understand why they should promote recording detectorists as much as possible".
Well, if one looks at what the critics of the current status quo on policies about artefact hunting are actually saying, it is not they that look to be the morons in this exchange. Mr Crawford assumes that nobody who is not at the blunt end of a metal detector can possibly understand what a surface archaeological site is (Orl that book larning, and only the chip-on-the-shoulder artefact hunter noes wots wot. Innit.)

The "strip off and dump to one side" argument which he then employs is a favourite paper tiger argument of this crowd, totally avoiding the question of surface survey of rural sites as a form of archaeological research just as important as excavation, and it is the destruction of surface evidence by hoiking that is as much of an issue in discussion of policies towards artefact hunting as destruction of below-plough stratigraphy.

If he'd read what is actually said, he'd find that every single critic of current policy applauds recording detectorists when that recording is properly documented and archived in such a way that it provides archaeological information which is useful.  The trouble is that present best estimates of the PAS themselves is that in their heyday they were getting only about 20% of what was hoiked, and not all of the documentation of those 'finds' is to any degree a replacement of the information lost when a collector stripped the field of collectables. That is what the problem is. Nobody is criticising those  detectorists sincerely trying, what is the subject of critique is the insincerity of most and their failure (after two decades of highly expensive PAS outreach)  to actually produce anything of much use other than n "x marks the spot where I sez I found it". Another issue is their general total lack of effort in trying to understand where the problems lie (despite that very same highly expensive PAS outreach for two wasted decades).  As we see very clearly emerge from what Mr Crawford says. 

His text is ostensibly about fragmentation (of otherwise collectable artefacts) and [again] why artefact collectors are misunderstood "victims" of stereotypes. I discuss the actual "evidence" for this presented by Mr Crawford in a separate post below.

Finally, Hooker, cites an Oxford Archaeology report "Trials to Identify Soil Cultivation Practices to Minimise the Impact on Archaeological Sites (Defra project number BD1705) Effects of Arable Cultivation on Archaeology (EH Project number 3874)" to uphold his case about 'fragmentation' [You'll find the whole series discussed in the upcoming book by Nigel Swift and myself, not just one appendix taken out of context without even reading it]. Quite apart from the fact that it does not say what the hoiker-apologist seems to think it says, note that its purpose was to identify the minimal cultivation techniques that would benefit the stewardship schemes. The very stewardship schemes artefact-collector Crawford wants to avoid being applied to the sites which nhe wants to continue hoiking from - and which while he's not reporting them are reportedly getting damagesd in the way he describes and pretends to be concerned about. What hypocrisy.

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