Sunday, 16 December 2018

'Arguments' for "Bringing Fair laws" for Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record to Sweden

Archaeology supports MD? Really?
The "" webpage gives you the opportunity to see the names of some of those who have signed the petition 'Bring fair metal detecting laws to Sweden' that now has more than 1K supporters and an interesting free comment box where signatories can give their 'Reasons for signing'. It's an eyeopener.

The first thing that one notes is the small numbers of people with Scandinavian-sounding names and writing in Swedish. Let's note the odd fact that the petition itself is written in English - so obviously they are counting on brotherly help from foreigners. Note also the verb of the title of the petition, 'bring'. Bring from outside, and bring from you-know-where. As Britain slinks off from having any meaningful position in Europe in March next year, perhaps this will - to its shame - be the only place where Britain has any influence at all in the world, poisoning the heritage debate with the unreflexive narrow object centric view of many of its archaeologists.

So there's a Russian, at least two Danes, a Pole (Igor Murawski, settled in Britain), Mr Nolan from Ireland and lots of Brits. The latter dominate the comments. This means that rather than getting an insight into what Swedish tekkies think, we see rather the standards of adult literacy that the British education system is turning out which manifests itself in the number of people commenting who cannot manage much more than an "OK", one gives his email address as a comment. One thing is clear, very few of the people signing have actually read much of the explanatory text accompanying the petition, a number of people are writing as though they think (despite what they've just been told) that 'metal detecting' is forbidden in Sweden.

Others stress how 'healthy' the hobby is (a mental throwback to DIG and NCMD propaganda from the 1980s and early 90s). Many of them stress how they are 'rescuing artefacts' from: the weather, fertilisers, bulldozers and building, the plough, and other artefact hunters. None of them mention documenting the context, the loss of which turns archaeological evidence into a loose decontextualised collectable. And that is interesting that the two archaeologists I spotted commenting (no PAS FLOs among them, yet) do not mention it either. They come from the 'other' archaeology. The first to comment was Martin Rundkvist of Umeå university in Sweden.
Martin Rundkvist 7 days ago
The current rules are dysfunctional and based on faulty assumptions. As an archaeological research scholar, I want rules that allow Sweden's law-abiding hobbyists to contribute freely to the knowledge of our country's past, while on the other hand keeping our heritage safe from agricultural erosion and nighthawk crooks.
He sees a permit system as based on 'faulty assumptions', the same ones that underlie the 1992  European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage and sees blind artefact hoiking as a way of 'keeping [objects] safe from agricultural erosion and nighthawk crooks'. He represents 'our heritage' however as the objects that artefact hunters hoik out, because context is destroyed by ploughing and nocturnal diggings by looters whether or not they come home with something in their pocket or not. Simply illogical and failing to address the main issue with Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record.  This was followed a day later by remarks by one of the Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang, Andres Dobat of Aarhus University:
Andres Dobat 6 days ago
Responsible metal detectecting is just another way of entering into a dialogue with the past. @Riksantikvarie: Don't build fences. Educate and facilitate instead.
Relativising Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record as 'just (sic) another way of entering into a dialogue with the past' is not terribly helpful. The two people that scaled the pyramids the other day to pose naked and engage in simulated sex acts there (also Danes) seem to me could also be argued as as 'just another way of entering into a dialogue with the past' and no doubt the symmetrists would say 'why not' allow anyone else just to climb the pyramid to do what they want there? Facilitate, Dr Dobat? Likewise people that find images left by previous inhabitants of the territory they now occupy offensive should surely, Mr Dobat, not be castigated for 'entering into a dialogue with the past' with a sledgehammer and explosives. But then Dr Dobat brazenly recently added his name and reputation to the object-centred assertion that pilfering archaeological evidence from sites with metal detectors and spades is not a form of damage ("In order to be considered 'cultural damage', a find and/or its associated information would have to be irretrievably lost."). I think he is totally wrong on that when we are talking about any form of  Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record.

Yes, we need to educate and facilitate, but instead of going along with the easiest option (shoulder shrugging about knowledge theft due to Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record  as most supporters of relic collecting are doing) we need to facilitate other, more helpful, ways by which the public can start entering into a dialogue with the past.

In Britain there used to be an amateur archaeology that was based on amateur landscape survey, earthwork surveys, hedgerow species counting, mapping, recording standing buildings, collecting oral history in their neighbourhood. Totally benign, useful, non-intrusive and non-destructive. The PAS has in effect basically destroyed that in the UK and now the English disease is spreading.

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