Tuesday, 26 June 2018

PAS 'Fights Crime on Hadrian's Wall'

Brunton Turret, collectable-extraction
 hole, what have PAS done to eliminate
the object from it from their database? 
I remarked to the editor-authors of the long article defending liberal laws on Collection Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record that it was unfortunate that their dismissive attack on Sam Hardy's conclusions that such liberal approach and the archaeological response it engenders in England and Wales came out on the very day that HE began a campaign using metal detector holes appearing near a section of Hadrian's Wall at Brunton. Oh, that does not matter one of them says, and claims I am so 'ignorant' to not know that the PAS 'works very closely with HE on this issue'  but 'I don’t feel I need to say more to you on this, especially as you don’t really understand or appreciate the role of the PAS in the fight against heritage crime'.

Well! I'll just put this map up then. It is generated automatically from the PAS database for Roman finds from Northumberland (the county where that bit of the Wall is). It shows a linear cluster of artefact finds going west from Newscastle (lot of metal detectorists there) towards Haltwhistle. Now, I am not 'so' ignorant not to realise what else goes west from Newcastle to Haltwhistle and which obviously is attracting these artefact hunters preferentially to the areas more distant. My question to the PAS is this:
to what extent can they show us that before handling these objects, they obtained documentation (finds release protocols) for each of them verifying the finder's claims to have title, and confirming that each of these objects actually came from the property of the landowner they say they did?  Do they archive copies of this documentation so future researchers can recheck their validity should they so wish?
It would be easy for a piece of (say) showy cavalry equipment dug up from one of the Roman forts in northern Britain to be presented to the PAS as from a farm (say) 52.91 kilometres  to the west, well away from the site of discovery and in a landscape context where such a find is very much out of place. Without any documentation confirming that declared findspot, nobody would be any the wiser, the detectorists could display the objects to their admiring mates and dispose of them by sale safely, but a fraud would have been committed (with the PAS complicit) and any researcher using the false data would be using fake data.

This after all was one of the recommendations of the Nighthawking report. So are the PAS actually implementing it in their 'fight against crime'? Or are the objects and unverified data being entered willy-nilly onto a database in which one can therefore place very little trust? Just saying. And what about those odd out-of-place finds? Is there a secret archive of "I recorded this but suspect the finder is lying" (or maybe "A finder brought this to me but I refused to record it because I suspect he is lying, watch out for this one")? How big is it?

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