Friday 4 January 2019

Astonishingly Bonkers from Glasgow

Public engagement with archaeology in northern Israel
Glasgow archaeologist Alison Douglas:
"[Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record] as a means of public engagement has had an incredibly positive effect".
Wow. There are however many that would say the overall effects of both the artefact hunting and the object-centric public outreach to the artefact hunters are fundamentally negative.

Public engagement, Ms Douglas
In response to me saying that, Dr Douglas calls upon authority "Really? I bet @DrTashaFerguson would beg to differ." Very probably, but Dr Ferguson (one of the Ixelles Six) is not very good at arguing her stated position. Well over two years ago when I (once) challenged one of her glib statements on the issue of the 'benefits' of artefact hunting she immediately blocked me on social media and blocked my emails. So she seems rather sensitive about avoiding proper debate, at least with me - perhaps is is in some way 'beneath her'. Certainly, none of the Ixelles Six/Helsinki Gang has expanded on the issues raised about their attempted demolition job of Hardy's research on precisely those negative effects of policies of appeasement on artefact hunting as "public engagement".

Dr Douglas says that in suggesting that a fluffy survey needs a closer definition of what they mean by 'participation in archaeology' when they introduce the idea of 'metal detecting' as one of its forms (which is what this came from), that this is 'irrelevant': "By irrelevant, I mean, you are clearly of the theoretical positioning that metal detecting = BAD. Not all of us look at metal detecting this way". That they do not in no way makes me wrong. This is interesting coming from Glasgow where just a few blocks away from the School of Humanities we have the Trafficking Culture research consortium that takes a more nuanced view of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record . When I ask her whether she'd see all forms of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record as 'participation in archaeology' (giving the examples of the Ortiz collection and Ali and Hicham Aboutaam) she says 'parallels' are 'extreme in the least', but that they are participation and that 'metal detecting' has an 'incredibly positive effect' . My response was
They are not "parallels" they are part of the same phenomenon. You cannot hedge off one little insular part of a wider phenomenon and say these (our) guys are OK [having a positive effect], the rest are damaging the record. Can you?
Her response was pretty odd:
Well yes I can. Legislation is not perfect I agree, but exists nevertheless. This legislation is there to protect liberal freedoms whilst protecting the archaeological record. Who do you think owns the archaeological heritage of this country? A private collector perhaps?
But thousands, probably now tens of thousands are pocketing (without any record or mitigation of information loss), random bits of the British archaeological heritage as if it did, to them personally, six million bits of it if some estimates are not mistaken. I do not see how anyone reflecting upon the situation could represent that as in any way 'an incredibly positive effect'. I really do not.

Her 'yes I can' answer suggests that Ms Douglas sees artefact hunting as an 'us' and 'them' situation. The white guys in Britain are exercising their liberal freedoms to 'participate in archaeology in an incredible positive way', while the grubby foreign subsistence diggers (with metal detectors) have no such higher aims, they merely 'need to feed families etc...

Furthermore  in the UK system (or does she mean Scotland only?) 'legislation is there to protect liberal freedoms whilst protecting the archaeological record'. Quite obviously in neither England/wales or Scotland do the laws that exist actually protect the archaeological record from Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record, nor information loss that accrues if the 'liberal hoiker at liberty' who's pocketing stuff but refuses to participate enough to even communicate that fact to anyone. That goes for Scotland too where what the TTU sees annually is a derisory fraction of what artefact hunters with detectors are in fact probably finding and pocketing (again see Hardy for some pointers - as yet unfalsified by the Izxelles Six or anyone else).

 Dr Douglas, it seems, has a bit of a 'history of picking fights on social media.

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