Monday 2 January 2017

UK Metal Detecting: "Using Spades Lets the Side Down"

Alan Ross decided to take issue with my comments on the British Museum trying to claim that collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record was some kind of 'citizen archaeology'. First of all he tried ad personam comments, but when challenged came up (only) with
You know as well as I, that the majority of detector users use hand trowels not spades. 
Eh? To change any kind of digging into "archaeology" all you have to do is use a trowel? What kind of woollen thinking is that? Well, let us take a look at the kinds of trowels sold by a major metal detector supplier and see which of them would be suitable for use in order to observe and document archaeological information during blind recovery of a metal artefact from above when a metal detector screeches.  Basically none of them. Some of the smaller spade-like "trowels" (eh?) might be good for trimming the turf along the top of the baulk to get a straight line, but nothing here really usable for any other purpose in proper archaeological examination of a findspot. In any case, Mr Ross has confused archaeology with merely "digging up old things".

So basically what Mr Ross is saying is that all the metal detector users pictured on the web, making You Tube videos in which a spade is visible are the ones doing it wrongly. Is that so? The PAS needs to have a word with them then, letting the side down like that. If Mr Ross is right, the NCMD needs to ban them and add that to their code of conduct.

Getting it wrong in Norfolk, eh, Mr Ross? Lots of spades here:
Not Doing Archaeology by Digging Blind with Spades in Norfolk
 Vignette: and Gary's metal detecting 101 feature has a damning logo - 'spade alert'!

[Post updated to take into account Mr Ross's indignation that - though he did not introduce himself - I assumed from what he was writing he was a detectorist, instead of one of the many UK archaeologists who sees artefact hunters as their 'partners'. It turns out he has an archaeology degree, which makes his failed attempt to present an articulate case look even more curious].



Unknown said...
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Paul Barford said...

Frankly anyone who says that artefact hunting is archaeology "because they use trowels to dig" looks very much like he has the mentality of a metal detectorist. If it quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. I suppose, though, it could also be a parrot which makes the same sounds as a duck.

"I believe strongly in public involvement in [...] detecting etc.". Well, as is clear from several thousand posts here, I have severe reservations about that kind of statement. Collecting is not archaeology, any more than pheasant shooting is ornithology. They both involve birds, but that's where the connections end, no?

So, if you have a degree in archaeology as you claim, persuade my readers using archaeological arguments that you really can justify that "detecting" is "citizen" archaeology. But by this I mean what "detectorists" in general do, not a pars pro toto claim based on a few tekkies you have worked with.

Paul Barford said...

Mr Ross, your comment is rejected, on the basis of infringement of guidelines 4, 5 and partly 3. I was anticipating a more substantive contribution from an archaeologist.

Instead of insulting me, you might have given your own definition of "public archaeology" since we obviously differ on what that term means. But I think you are missing the underlying point, I am not just talking about artefact hunters who work with archaeologists, I am talking about artefact hunting in general AS a form of archaeology, these are two different things. This is the 'context' you accused me of ignoring in my presentation.

Unmethodically removing selected artefacts from individual areas of plough soil depletes the archaeological record of that site or assemblage. Your simply denying that really does not advance any kind of discussion. And "recording" some of (or even all of) what is hoiked is only the tip of the iceberg involved in trying to turn a collector's pickings into archaeological data.

You may dismiss that argument as 'trash' if you like, but I'd like to see some evidence that in doing so you actually understand what is being said. My suspicion is that you do not.

Paul Barford said...

Mr Ross, I really do not know what part of 3, 4 and 5 you do not understand. I want to discuss what you, an archaeologist it now appears, think "citizen archaeolology" is. You seem intent on telling me what an "unqualified", "unelightened", ignorant, idiotic "bastard" and nuisance I am for wanting to address issues that you clearly are unable/unwilling to discuss properly from the point of view of the archaeological aspects.

ALL of those tangential points you make are addressed elesewhere in this blog, and if you want to make substantive (substantive, Mr Ross) comments on what I say about plough damage, artefact movement in surface sites and all the other glib and weak staples of the pro-collecting arguments, then find what I say there about them, read it (understand it) and then feel free to comment there why you think I am wrong.

This post is about what "citizen archaeology" is, the use of the term. Let's keep the discussion of individual facets of the discussion of collection driven exploitation of the archaeological record in the same place, not clustered under random posts which people just happen to have seen on Facebook, months after it was written. Can you do that, please?

Paul Barford said...

The archived text of the comment at the top of this thread which Mr Ross subsequently deleted proudly set out his 'qualifications', questioned mine and railed against eBay and redevelopment which he suggests I 'should' be writing about rather than the broader issues surrounding Collection Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record.

It did not contain anything substantive on what "citizen archaeology" might be and how that relates to artefact collecting.

Paul Barford said...

Mr Ross, what part of the (simple) question "Is artefact collecting citizen archaeology" do you have difficulty comprehending?

If you do not recall what you wrote in your previous comment, I suggest thinking any further ones through more carefully before pressing send. You might then have better recollection of the names you called me in it, and yes you did indeed say I was 'being a bastard'. Rejected comments are automatically archived and its there in black and white, along with the other abusive remarks instead of an answer to the question you seem unable or unwilling to engage in discussing in a normal manner.

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