Thursday 26 July 2018

Dr Hardy Responds to his Critics on Quantification of Damage through Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record

Dr Sam Hardy has responded to the Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang with a constructive article ('A response to a response on metal-detecting and open-source analysis' Conflict Antiquities [section on Illicit Antiquities, Research] posted on July 26, 2018). He points out some serious flaws in the logic of Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis when discussing his original text (including that curious claim that artefact hunting is not really all that damaging). In his text he also draws attention to some aspects of his research that the six of them, apparently so eager to intimate that his approach was amateurish, biased and ignorant, had obviously missed. 

Dr Hardy is one of those that thinks the debate needs proper terminology, and in his latest text he criticizes the use by the Six of the woolly term 'non-professional metal detecting' as inadequate to the actual problem being discussed, which is not 'collectors rights' or 'ownership of the past', but how much evidence of the past is being stripped from sites and archaeological assemblages through Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological Record. In other words the exact question which the Ixelles Six attempt to dodge by claiming it is 'complex'. No, it's not at all complex, looting damages sites, damages the archaeological resource. 

Dr Hardy also contrasts the problems he has had with British and foreign supporters of 'metal detecting' with some of his other work in a passage that makes interesting reading for somebody whose experiences are very similar:
In fact, I had actively avoided the subject of metal-detecting in my work because of the bitter divide between “pro-detecting” and “anti-detecting” factions; I only started addressing it because international institutions wanted data. Still, I am aware that, in this rancorous debate, I am categorised as anti-detecting [...] Since I started working on detecting in 2015, academics have accused me of being a propagandist, academics have implied that I need an apologist (because Paul Barford responded on Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues, while I was working on a piece about a colleague who is unjustly imprisoned in Turkey, a piece which I paused to get this post out of the way) and detectorists have intimated that I am going to get a knock on the door. So, I have to say (publicly, as I have said privately) that, although I believe that the study of metal-detecting can be insightful and I enjoy academic discussion (and although a sideline of work on metal-detecting is inevitable), I would like to devote my time and energy to (and enjoy the collegial atmosphere of) research into organised crime and political violence.
Which says it all really.  But it is the support of academics like Deckers et al. for collectors and collecting that empowers collectors to behave in this way towards others who are less compliant and complicit. These six heritage professionals are currently being feted in 'metal detecting' circles for the service they have done the 'detecting' community. 

We await, with bated breath, the response of the Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang, as well as the metal detectorists to Hardy's reply to their article. The latter milieu will have problems because it's 'too many words' and the former... well, it seems that they all consider reading a blog where the general public have access is apparently beneath the dignity of a scholar. 

Let it be on record though, when assessing the 'contribution' of Suzie Thomas, Natasha Ferguson, Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Stijn Heeren and Michael Lewis  to the debate on Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record, that Dr Hardy wrote a constructive reasoned article to develop discussion based on the points they raised. Will they now develop that discussion they promised? Like on those shocking figures deduced for England and Wales and concurrent the shortfall in PAS 'outreach' suggested massive non-compliance of the 'partners'? Don't bate your breath too long, waiting. 

Vignette: The Ixelles Six/Helsinki gang dug themselves into a hole (from HJ: 'Metal detecting and a mess born of professional arrogance')

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