Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A FLO Flails and Fails: Blogged Tweet Thread

The latest Twitter discussion with the mouthy but uncomprehending PAS Durham FLO concerned the archaeological damage represented by the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, a point he picked up from a post by Heritage Action. This text had mentioned a FLO (in fact the same one!) that had insultingly called what they wrote “fake news”, “a sham”, “click bait” and “full of half-truths and outright lies”. In the text they referred to them having every right (as indeed they do) 'to be resentful of the vast quantity of knowledge theft which lies behind the decorative PAS database'. The accusing FLO pretended not to understand the issue, despite several of us having written about it many times before.
Durham FLO Ben Westwood‏ @FLODurhamFLO 27 paź
And can you explain how a 'vast quantity of knowledge theft...lies behind the decorative PAS database' Because I simply don't understand. The Db is represents the opposite of knowledge loss: a 'preservation by record' of archaeological data that would otherwise be unavailable.
Since it had been raised I decided to explain (once again, because this guy has been attacking HA and myself for the past several weeks now). I said that as has repeatedly been emphasised (most recently by Hardy, Karl, HA and the British Museum themself ) in UK's England and Wales there's vast shortfall between recorded items and what is taken during Collection-Driven Exploitation [CDE] of the Archaeological record (colloquially "metal detecting") without record - but the scale of the latter shielded by a self-serving myth of  a majority of  'responsible artfefact hunters' promoted by PAS and its supporters.  That seems a pretty obvious point. I even gave him the links:
Karl: https://... /2018/08/public-knowledge-theft-accusation-by-uk.html
Hardy: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23311886.2017.1298397
Heritage Action http://www.heritageaction.org.uk/erosioncounter/  (see here: https://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2018/07/blog-post_33.html … )
BM https://finds.org.uk/documents/guideforresearchers.pdf … p. 14
A whole lot of stuff is being ripped off during CDE by the "partner" artefact hunters of the PAS and no record of what they have taken is preserved. That means that however-million artefacts the 'partners' have recorded between themselves, this only obscures the real scale of the knowdge theft that is going on. A huge amount of archaeological data are removed from the ground all over the country, sites targeted and trashed and none of those data are in any way recorded or available anywhere, and never will be.

Without actually answering that (typical), the Durham FLO then attempts another tactic:
Durham FLO Ben Westwood ‏ @FLODurhamFLO 27 paź W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues
Define 'recorded items' and those taken 'without record'? Many finds shown to me are unrecordable. Milled coins, post 1750ish items lacking sufficient historical/socio-cultural value, modern buttons, bits of tractor/fencing. Are you saying we should record those?
This is an old argument applied against the HA Artefact Erosion Counter, and we explained it many years ago, but it seem there are some know-it-alls fresh on the scene who start arguing before familiarising themselves with what the discussion is about.  I had to explain it to him (it seems he'd not actually used the links I had previously posted to see what we are talking about - again ignoring the context): What all the people discussing the number of items taken by artefact hunters that are not recorded (such as the HAAEC) refer to are items that should be recorded - so NOT 'ringpulls'- archaeological evidence that is destroyed without record. This what refered to in the recent Rescue policy document. The response was pretty telling:
Durham FLO Ben Westwood‏ @FLODurhamFLO 20 godz.20 godzin temu W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues
Not necessarily being destroyed, rather extant but unknown. Unless there's an (unlikely) change in the law to force mandatory reporting (which I would support) and consequential increase in funding for the PAS, we're never going to record everything
The first point is that the FLO is singing from the same damaged songbook as the Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang the site has been damaged by unrecorded removal of evidence, but the FLO thinks that is OK, because the loose objects remain.

Secondly, note the tacit admission from a man on the ground that the 'voluntary' recording simply is not working, for the PAS to actually mitigate the knowledge theft and data losses through CDE in England and Wales, only mandatory reporting and a huge injection of tax-payers millions will work to deal with the fallout of current policies on artefact hunting nd collecting. So a PAS employee is saying the same thing as Rescue.

Thirdly, if we are not going to be able to record everything the artefact hunters take, they are still going to take everything they can. The result is that under the noses of the FLOs and those that support them, the archaeological record is being trashed irreversibly and they are unable to prevent it. Perhaops instad of mandatory reporting a better solution wioyold be mandatory no collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record without an explicit permit - and then only what can be recorded will be removed by these hobbyists. Like shooting big game. 

It is really rather disturbing that an FLO (responsible for public outreach on archaeology) should need it explaining to him that the term 'archaeological evidence that is destroyed without record' does not mean physical objects, coins and brooches that disappear, but that the damage others are talking about is the effects of digging them out of a site or patterned assemblage that is, and always has been, the issue. (!) To say otherwise is simply to pretend to be unaware of what we all are talking about, I replied:
Paul Barford‏ @PortantIssues 20 godz.20 godzin temu
But that is a collector's object-centred view, NOT a context centred one of (real) archaeology. Contexts/assemblages are destroyed daily all over country by thousnds of artefact hunters removing material from them and the information lost. What is there not to understand there?
It seems that what seems pretty clear to anyone who's done any reading about what is called 'looting' in other countries, may not be so clear to a archie from up in the North of England. I really cannot see how an archaeologist would not see that. Has the PAS-brainwashing penetrated that far? Moving on from my reply, the Durham FLO takes umbrage: 'To pretend there's a 'real' archaeology that is some how above and beyond what I/PAS does or can achieve, is not only professionally insulting, it's ludicrous', he protests. I say an object centred view is the way collectors (and dealers) approach the archaeological record. The Durham FLO disagrees:
Durham FLO Ben Westwood ‏ @FLODurhamFLO 18 godz.18 godzin temu
Of course its archaeological. I'm an archaeologist, not a collector.
Data is (sic) not lost when objects, recovered from arable plough soil, are reported. Rather these finds/data are saved from certain destruction
Uh-oh. First of all, I said the archaeologist was writing in the same object-centred way that a collector would (and he is). This in fact - if you look - was precisely the point Heritage Action were raising in the post that the Durham FLO questioned. He's almost QEDd it himself. And once again, the issue is not that 'objects' are not recorded, it is that by them being hoiked blindly with a metal detectorist with a spade, even the ones that do come in for recording are decontextualised (as are the ones that are simply taken and nobody even knows where the tekkie was with his spade and what he pocketed - which is what the PAS database actually records).

As any first year textbook on archaeology should state, removing archaeological artefacts  from their context and associations does destroy their value as data carriers for archaeological research (and any site from which they are removed without record).

Thirdly, it cannot be denied that not a few artefact hunters remove the items logged in the PAS database from non-ploughland sites. The rally held, under PAS supervision (I use the term loosely) at Lenborough on permanent pasture with earthworks is a case in point. The reported findspot of the so-called Crosby Garrett Helmet is another. There are many more cases of this.

As for whether archaeological evidence is lost when a site is exploited as a source of a few collectables that are taken without regard to their context among other mterial evidence, that I discuss in another post, below.

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