Saturday, 13 October 2018

PAS15 Conference, What DID CBA Director Have to Say About Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record?

Heritage Action comments on the 'PAS15' puff-conference in London ('Sustainable metal detecting: what did Dr Mike Heyworth say yesterday?'). Nigel Swift says that it would be good if the proceedings were to be published soon, although we all know that up to now the proceedings of these expensive* puff-meetings rarely are, but HA suggest that since Mike Heyworth of the CBA was there, maybe he’d publish whatever he said.
I’d love that, for I recall that in November 2011 in British Archaeology, he called for ….
“more research to be carried out on the damage to archaeological sites and lost knowledge due to rallies, to provide a counter-weight to arguments put forward by the vested interests of rally organisers. If CBA members and readers of British Archaeology hear of any examples of “treasure hunting” or detecting rallies causing damage to archaeological sites, then please contact the CBA director in York. It is helpful to build up a portfolio of examples across the country to present to the government when future opportunities allow.“
Well that’s something we can help him with! How many rallies cause damage? All of them surely (and there have been hundreds since he asked the question) – unless of course he can name a single one where the participants all reported all their finds and we bet he can’t. Wouldn’t it be great if it turns out he told the symposium that CBA supports what Rescue has just said about unregulated metal detecting (simply that it doesn’t yield enough knowledge to justify the damage).
This has long been the position of Heritage Action and myself. In particular commercial artefact hunting rallies (whether ostensibly for "charity" or not)
are never best practice, never responsible, never harmless, never sustainable, can never be rendered otherwise by the attendance of PAS, and also that it’s a national disgrace that the biggest rally this year had a majority of foreign attendees. 
It would be great - and in fact only right - if the Director of the CBA said all that, and that rallies should (along with other aspects of how collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record are being done today under the lax watch of the PAS and its regional 'officers') be legislated into the dustbin of history – and that he intends to say so in the next British Archaeology. As Heritage Action point out: 'at a time when Rescue has just come out so clearly in favour of action it’s surely not sensible for the CBA not to do the same'. Unless the CBA can show that the mounting evidence that the overall and longterm effects of British policies on artefact hunting are just "story-telling" of the wrong kind and "fake news", which seems to be the position of some in the PAS. Can they, when the PAS has not actually done a proper review of the overall situation that would provide basis for such claims? That by the way seems not to have been one of the topics discussed in the PAS15-puff-conf.
* (travel expenses for c. 40 PAS staff and other speakers, probably met by local authority 'partners')

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