Friday, 8 July 2016

A Self-Proclaimed UK "Priscan-Archaeological" Artefact Hunting Team

John Aubrey from
archaeology's priscan era
The story behind the strange name of the "Priscan Archaeological Survey Team" run by metal detectorist Paul King [finder of the apparently snapped-in-two-St-Ursula pilgrim badge] can be found in an online dictionary webpage: "I wanted a unique word to use a major part of our website name: 'Priscan Archaeological Survey Team' as it is going to be quite fundamental to our build up as the site gains credibility....". It is clear from UK detecting forums that creating an image of credibility and decency is fundamental to persuading landowners to give access to land so artefact collectors can pocket pieces of valuable evidence of the past and add them to their personal collections.

Another element in that attempt to fake credibility for their artefact hunter webpage is the word "archaeological" in the name they have given their band of enthusiasts. In what manner was is it used? Is it the "the application of an archaeological methodology to the study of the physical remains of the past"? Pretty unlikely. Although they claim  "the discovery of previously undiscovered, and unexplored, historical sites that include Romano-British and Medieval settlements", what they show when you are invited to look at "High Definition images of the recoveries to date|" are row-upon-row of loose decontextualised collectable artefacts. This is not archaeology. Neither do I see how they can claim to be any kind of an archaeological survey team that does not present their work in the form of maps and site plans. This is not survey, it is artefact hoiking for collection. 

This is not recovering of the evidence of the past in any way that can be used to write history. These people are pocketing history and not recovering it. Indeed, it seems in the search for a catchy posh-sounding name for themselves, these collectors did not notice what the dictionary says. Priscan is an adjective meaning primordial. So yes artefact hoiking for the sake of the artefacts alone is a very primordial, atavistic form of proto-archaeology. If John Aubrey had had a metal detector he would have done much the same as these guys are doing and calling it "archaeological survey".  Paul King and his sidekick  Stephen Mason both claim to be "experienced and enthusiastic semi-professional archaeologists". In what way is somebody half-professional? Is that a financial qualification or one of ethics? Or the financial aspects of what they do with half the things they find perhaps? Some explanation is afforded by the phrase:
Together, we have amassed over 55 years' worth of fieldwalking experience and artefact recovery utilising state-of-the-art metal detection equipment.
So 55 years (2860 weeks, really?) of walking around fields with a metal detector. That is not "archaeological experience" any more that walking around the same fields with state-of-the-art  shotguns blasting the heads off rabbits would be "ecological experience". What rubbish. As is:
The 'PAST' have been extremely fortunate in recovering and recording a broad range of artefacts from a bespoke permission portfolio, nationwide.
"Bespoke permission portfolio" - he speaks as if these are the assets of a Treasure hunting company. There is no mention here of "bespoke" (site-specific) research designs. They forget one word: "recovering, pocketing and recording a broad range of artefacts", funny that. This is more pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo intended to impress and flatter landowners.

To see what they really do, one only has to look at their blog. Please do. Here they are on one of their atavistic "surveys-of-the-artefact-hoiking-kind":
Sunday 3rd July 2016
Well, here we are in July and quality detectable land is fast running out. We were on pasture  [...] to try and locate any Medieval evidence there. There is reputedly a deserted Medieval village in this locale. Alas, nothing Medieval was to be found [...] Experience has shown that land (ie pasture) that hasn't been ploughed since before 1800 will be a challenge to recover anything older than Georgian. 
Well, there you are, these "archaeologists" are using their "archaeological experience" and targeting known (or suspected) sites and hoping just to hoik the kind of finds that interest them from it. They apparently found no nails, no iron scrap, no smithing waste, no lead, no pottery, charcoal or animal bone. They want some non-ferrous medieval bits to add to their growing personal collections, so they target a medieval site. No matter that this site is in permanent pasture, unploughed by modern machinery - in other words the very type of site the Code of Practice for RESPONSIBLE Artefact Hunting says "responsible detectorists" would keep away from

The previous weekend one man was detecting on two days with a long lunch break. HD images of the weekends' removals from the archaeological record can be seen here. Over thirty PAS-recordable items were hoiked by one man in just one weekend. This makes the algorithm of the HA Artefact erosion counter look positively generous (it postulates about that many hoiked and pocketed on average in the course of a year). Obviously some artefact collectors are taking FAR more than that in a year from the archaeological record.

Finally, in order to look even more intellectual, these people lifted a quote from  The Journal of American History, apparently without reading much beyond the first line of the text they took it from.There professor Thelen talks of recording oral history, rather than the sort of destruction of the physical evidence of it which willy-nilly artefact hunting represents. They say they "suport the PAS" does the PAS consider these folk their "partners" and support what they are doing here? Can they point their FLO to this post and get an official endorsement from the PAS? I really would like to see that, because maybe there is something I am missing. Come on FLO, do some public partnering.

UPDATE  31.10.16

Robert Hamer (see comments) : 'Your snapped in-two
accusation offends me and makes
 a mockery out of you as this
is a blatant lie'

The Guardian certainly seems to present it as snapped-off. Nevertheless, this is another pars pro toto fluffed response from the artefact hunters. In the post above I made at least twelve substantive points about what a group claim, 'Mr Hamer' addresses none of them, focuses on two words concerning a find made before this 'group' was constituted. But this is typical of this milieu, they half-heard somewhere (probably at some dumbass-dumbdown PAS 'conference') somebody say that artefact hunting is some kind of "archaeologists' help" and before working out what really is the situation, run off shouting loudly about how what they are doing is some kind of "archaeological survey" by hoiking artefacts from the ground. When a voice is raised cautioning that they may have misunderstood something, instead of debating the substantive issues raised, all they do is dismiss them, while claiming victimisation, deception and "slander".

As I say, it is time for the FLO to step in and set the record straight - and I mean about artefact hunting and not a single loose metal object.  That is what they are paid for. Does the "Priscan Archaeological Survey Team" have a FLO who can come here and answer the twelve points for them? (Go on, defend your 'partners' and what they are doing in the name of  'archaeological survey', please).  At last one of them (Hamer) is a self-recorder, what does that mean for 'liaison'? Mr Noon?

If Mr Hamer found the Ursula badge (which seems to be his claim in the comment) why is Mr King the one indicated in the press release supplied to UK media? Curiouser and curiouser.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

More assumptions Mr Barford.


Paul Barford said...

Robert Hamer has left a new comment on your post "A Self-Proclaimed UK "Priscan-Archaeological" Arte...":

Dear Mr Barford
Many of your assumptions are simply untrue.

"snapped-in-two-St-Ursula pilgrim badge"

This is currently on display in it's as found state (bent in half) at The Museum of Lancashire in Preston.
Your snapped in-two accusation offends me and makes a mockery out of you as this is a blatant lie and an attempt to discredit us.

and yes donated not kept in a "hoikers" private collection along with other items we have recovered.

All our finds are recorded on the PAS database and available if any archaeological body would like to research them further.

if you could edit your Blog and remove the slanderous comments that would be much appreciated.



Paul Barford said...

Robert Hamer has left a new comment on your post "A Self-Proclaimed UK "Priscan-Archaeological" Arte...":

More assumptions Mr Barford.


Paul Barford said...

I do not see where there are any unwarranted 'assumptions'. A mr Hamer writes to me and says he is personally offended about what I wrote about what photographic evidence suggests the finder did - that rather suggests that he is claiming to be that finder. This is odd, because the finder's name is given differently elsewhere. So who found this object and where?

Anyway, this does not excuse not addressing the other twelve issues I raised. Are any of those "Priscan" "semi-professional archaeologists" going to come on here and discuss what they are doing and calling "archaeology"? Or their FLO?

I doubt any archaeological body would like to "research" the material of this "archaeological group". It is up to the Priscans to process their own finds and publish them. Otherwise they should not be accumulating them.

Paul Barford said...

And how typical of the artefact hunting milieu to post a comment accusing a critic of 'lying' and then when the evidence is shown and the issue discussed - simply deleting the comment and scarpering. I do hope all those people who the Priscans are trying to impress by their 'professional' approach are watching. Pathetic.

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.