Wednesday 4 January 2017

"Understanding the past": by Hoiking and Hoarding Hundreds of Spindlewhorls

North Yorkshire pretty empty; Mr Law's
collected whorls are which ones?
John Winter has a metal detecting pal who gave him for Christmas ' The Unique Gift of a Hammered Coin' (5 January 2017)
Last year I wrote a piece entitled The Altruistic Patrick Law. My title was derived from what he said in conversation, “Doing stuff for other people makes me feel good!” Tizer, his Patterdale terrier and detecting partner also featured.
I will not repost it here because Mr Winter will only moan, so you can visit his blog to see the disturbing picture of  'Pat’s collection of spindle whorls reached over 100 in 2016'. How many sites and assemblages have holes in them where once the archaeological record once contained these 100 objects and associated material and evidence? What has the information which they could have provided been replaced with? A personal collection of 100 - apparently unlabelled - loose artefact. In what way has Mr Law's collecting advanced our knowledge of the sites which those items came from? How many holes has Mr Law personally dug in the archaeological record on the sites where these objects were found to get this monothematic collection - and how many (and what kind of) associated items were not collected, pottery, loomweights, carding comb teeth, heddle elements, thread beaters, nap shears? In what way does Mr Law's collection not represent knowledge theft for personal entertainment on a massive scale?

According to Mr Winter, collectors Muddy Mick and Rodger Gamblin have similar accumulations of lead whorls, who else has been pilfering the archaeological record to get bragging rights.

What does a collector do with such an accumulation of duplicate evidence from which to "undertsnd the past"? What happens to them when the collector loses interest in them or dies? If they are sold off, how does the profit get back to the landowner if the objects are unlabelled with findspot? Or do the people who had permission to search think they can hang on to the profits later made from their sale?

I suspect these are questions we'll NOT see discussed on Mr Winter's blog.

UPDATE 9th January 2017
Indeed, the only comment the issue of why one has to personally hoik a hundred artefacts out of their archaeological context to 'understand the past' that one will find on Mr Winter's blog is: 'I see your article got an award – the MBE – (Mentioned in Barford’s Excrement)!'. Very droll, lavatory humour of the usual tekkie lowbrow oikish standards, The point remains though that this kind of collecting cannot be treated in any way as 'citizen archaeology', nor can a loose collection of selected items stripped out of a context be treated as any form of archaeological data. The artefact collectors may wish to dismiss the issue as so much 'excrement', but it remains a fact that these issues remain to be discussed.

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