Sunday 6 January 2019

The Legacy of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record: Four Hundred Loose Finds Need Sorting [UPDATED]

Just some of many collections
The Dead Detectorist Dilemma ('Anyone want to ID around 400 finds? (gulp!)' by liamnolan Sun Jan 06, 2019 8:44 pm)
We have a person who lives 3 miles from Chippenham, Wiltshire and whose Dad passed away, leaving all his detecting finds behind. As you will imagine, its a very roman area (sic - PMB), so lots of roman coins and brooches, plus the usual other assortment. I have seen a couple of photos, everything laid out on a large table, though there could be more in a shed I am told! Anyway, the family is keen to have the collection sorted out so that they have some idea of what they actually ARE. Is there a good forum member who would be willing to visit the home and spend a few hours, over endless cuppa's and cake probably? The collection is NOT for sale [...] This is a job for someone who has the experience to roughly identify the finds and leave notes with the family on whats what. You won't need to be exact. Probably grouping finds together will be half the job. Its for someone willing to "give something back" to the hobby we love, on behalf of one of us who has spent over 30 years out in the fields and now departed. Anyone interested, please send me a PM. Cheers, Liam
Surely it's a simple case of just pulling out all the PAS records made over those three decades of artefact hoiking and shed-filling. How many of them are there? It is interesting that in 30 years of detecting, this dead guy managed to find only 13 'keepers' per year, what happened to the rest? And what has happened to the findspot data for each of those 400 (or more) items? What about the landowners, perhaps they should be contacted to see if any of them want their stuff back. This is the sordid reality behind all the head-patting of 'detectorists' that British archaeology does.

If there are 27000 of them (Hardy's figure - criticised, yet to be refuted) and half of  them have collections as big as 400 ancient objects (plus a shed full) that's 5.4 million loose (and probably for the most part unlabelled) objects currently above ground now, we come back yet again to that 'roughly-four-in-five-objects-unrecorded' ratio that so few pro-collecting archaeologists (like Alison Douglas) are in any way bothered about.

Now, why do the family not contact the local FLO to help deal with this legacy of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the archaeological record? Maybe some way could be found of funding the PAS to take on this unexpected workload on top of their other duties? As a generation of old-timer detectorists dies off, this problem is going to increase in frequency and the PAS needs to consider how to deal with it if vast amounts of information are not to be lost. 

UPDATE 7th Jan 2019
As is their custom, the moment something is mentioned on this blog - the forum owners have hidden or deleted this item, so that you (whose heritage it is this dead guy pocketed so freely) cannot see what artefact hunters and collectors are up to. They may hide this post - but the general issue that reflection on it reveals remains and cannot be swept under the carpet in a futile effort to 'maintain appearances'. If 'metal detecting' were indeed "responsible" (it rarely actually is anyway), these 'metal detectorists' would be debating about how to actually take responsibility for the effects of their hobby and how responsibly to deal with the issue they so IR-responsibly at the moment are trying to hide.

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