Monday, 25 June 2018

To One of the Authors of the Text-With-an-Overlong-Title

'Transnational' Babel
I'll do a proper response to the text Deckers, PS, Dobat, A, Ferguson, N, Heeren, S, Lewis, M and; Thomas, S 2018, 'The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and Practice: A Response to Samuel Hardy, ‘Quantitative Analysis of Open-Source Data on Metal Detecting for Cultural Property’ (Cogent Social Sciences 3, 2017)' [Open Archaeology, bind 2018, nr. 4] when I get my head above water with an ongoing project, but here are my first thoughts, addressed to the three of the authors that are also editors of the series of pro-collecting texts that it appears in ('Aspects of Non-professional Metal Detecting in Europe'):

To Mike Lew
Thanks for your reply, at least one of you did. But I am not sure I appreciate the tone of this:"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". an excellent example of the typical form of PAS 'outreach' there. Written in the usual dismissive style typical of a true metal detectorist!

I am sure we’ll come back to that another time.

"Our issue with the Hardy paper is in relation to poor methodology and some basic factual errors".

No it's not, it's because it raised the question of the figures that the PAS and its supporters in twenty years of trumpeting its Propaganda of Success have not been able to contemplate producing, the number of items that are removed from archaeological sites and assemblages by artefact hunters in the first place – quite obviously the only yardstick by which we can measure ‘PAS success’ in mitigating the damage caused. Hardy produced some numbers and you did not like them. That's why you (plural) wrote what you did and in the way you did.

And no, you (plural) do not so much show that there is a better methodology, but merely snipe at what he did, and throw up side issues as padding and a smokescreen dragging discussion off in different directions to avoid focusing on the one, uncomfortable point, which you try to dismiss, but do not quite manage it (and it’s not the one that you misidentify as Hardy’s ‘purpose’). Again - as I can say after a decade and a half engaging with them – this is a typical metal detectorist strategy.

A number of the issues you raise show that the six of you did not check back after you drafted it with Hardy’s text, to see if he did write what you impute. I did, and in several places you in fact totally misrepresent what he actually wrote. Yours thus become ‘emotive arguments’ (p. 322) rather than what one would expect as the joint product of several university academics and museum professionals.

You claim on p. 323 that your (plural) text is "not a defence of 'liberal' approaches to Collection-Driven exploitation of the archaeological record", yet on pp 328-30 of your response, that is precisely what you do. Section 5 has NOTHING to do with what Hardy wrote, but everything to do with justifying maintaining the status quo.

It is you [plural] that 'mix cause and effect' (p. 327-8) when it comes to the UK and US legislation. What you call 'metal detecting' developed within pre-existing legislative formats, and those forms did not 'arise' ... 'in contexts where metal detecting (sic) is openly and widely practiced' (p. 327). And – in a transnational context - legality is not just about ‘reporting’ (p. 325). Again, your approach is object-focused, while the core of most of the legislation you discuss is concerned with protecting ‘places’.

This text that has been belatedly added to the pro-collecting stance of the majority of the other ones in that ‘Topical issue’ collection two years after the deadline simply reinforce the impression that, as the sand washes from beneath your feet, you are more keen than ever to prevent any serious discussion on this topic, rather than properly engaging with it in any broader context. You call Hardy 'biased' on p 322 and 331, but nowhere justify that statement, neither do you show that the six of you are in some way 'unbiased'. I would say the tone and content of this 'response' illustrates very well indeed the specific position from which it is written - and that has nothing to do with Hardy's text and conclusions, but is primarily concerned with buoying up your own preferred model, the one your volume of collected papers promotes, and trashing any evidence that this is not working the way in which it is claimed to be.

Prove me wrong, Mike, and commit yourself to working with fellow author Dr Ferguson's TTU (part of the 'organisations and national and local authorities responsible for engaging with metal detectorists') [CCd here too] to do what you and your five colleagues agreed is 'the way forward' (p 331), through ‘ground truthing’ (after already twenty years of PAS liaison and partnership with artefact hunters and collectors), and proper research by your own 'flawless methodology' to provide more reliable 'quantitative analysis of metal detecting for cultural property' (ie Collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record). Can you do that? Commit to stop sniping at those of us trying to raise serious issues and concerns ('detractors', the 'old perspectives', 'biased assumptions') and actually get stuck into providing proper useable information about the scale of the problem that has yet to be addressed (PAS 2003 aim five was about this, and you said a decade ago that you’d 'achieved' this - let us see). Replace the traditional PAS puff-statistics (wotta-lotta-stuff-we-got) that you’ve been boring us with for twenty years with something more holistic, incisive and substantive. Can you?

I do hope also that when you do, this time you will not make pronouncements like that it is "fundamentally wrong" (p. 323) to say that collection driven exploitation of a site (for that, not 'objects' is what Hardy was writing about), ripping random diagnostic items of (just) metal out of the complex patterning of archaeological assemblages (I'm talking here about surface sites too) with inadequate record is damaging. Because you say you ‘argue’ it in the paper (p. 323), but in fact neglect to present those arguments. There are many of us who however are sure that to express concerns about this is not it is not a disproven 'old approach' or a 'biased assumption' that it is damaging sites the world over (that transnational approach). Just pop along the corridor and talk to your Museum colleagues worried about the damage being done by artefact hunters in post-'Revolution' Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen for a better perspective on this (sic) 'old approach'.

Thanks Paul Barford
He won't of course. The contribution of these six authors quite clearly aims at blocking discussion of what Hardy said, rather than enabling it. 

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