Wednesday, 31 July 2019

FLO Dodges Question and Approves the Emperor's New Clothes Because that Brings "Funding"

PAS propaganda of success
It does not really seem all that difficult to me... but an FLO... an FLO seems to be in a different world. Over here I posted a text commenting on what an FLO had pretty crassly said in justification of artefact hunting: "Also worth pointing out that a large concentration of finds on arable land probably means that you have a site being destroyed by intensive agriculture, the latter being The Single Greatest Threat to buried remains in the UK (not that the anti-PAS lobby mention that often...)". That in itself dodges a whole load of issues (some of which I referred to in my blog text). In response to the FLO-fluff, I asked a couple of pertinent questions about what is "saved" by hoiking loose collectables out of the archaeological record willy-nilly (as tekkies do) and pocketing them with minimal record (as tekkies do, and do not report vast numbers of what they take). This is a question habitually dodged by the pro-PAS groupies. In any case, what in the view of finds-fondling-FLOs are those  "buried remains" and how should "Our Portable Past" be recorded?

I tweeted a link to that post - and attached to it the twitter handle of a FLO (the Salisbury guy) that had "liked' that justification. The gentleman in question has now attempted to pick up the discussion. In the spirit of outreach, perhaps? (To save space I've run three consecutive tweets into one here)
PASWiltshire@PasWiltshire·3 godz.W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues i @findsorguk
Hi Paul, in response to your question, we create a record of objects that would otherwise ended up in an anonymous collection or destroyed by exposure. This is all happening anyway, regardless of whether we approve of it or not.// By engaging with detectorists we can encourage best practice, including encouraging detectorists to stick to the plough zone (it's the first sentence of the code of practice, pretty much).//Sitting in an ivory tower will perpetuate a counter-productive cycle of animosity between detectorists and archaeologists, missing out on both data and funding, which is often linked to the demonstration of societal value/impact.
Actually, it is NOT "pretty much the first sentence of the code of practice", is it?

As for "we create a record of objects that would otherwise ended up in an anonymous collection" that's a load of junksense as well, because the non-Treasure objects that are the subject of PAS recording (or should be, Treasure items, the law says are reported elsewhere) are mostly handed back to their anonymised finders and end up in somebody's collection - it is not recorded whose (or they eventually end up in a car boot sale or a skip).

The question is whether archaeological outreach would be about "doing it because it is happening anyway" or whether it would be opposing it happening in the first place, or where it cannot be stopped, reducing the impact. Merely "recording random stuff" is not doing that.

My parting question was about the actual physical response to some jerk hoiking stuff out of pasture ("where is the firm and strident PAS-castigation of those metal detecting artefact hunters who venture onto pasture land (some of it with unploughed earthworks) and hoik and pocket artefacts there?"). A limp-wristed reminder that the umpteenth sentence of some code that nobody much uses (as all my readers know, it can be amply demonstrated that UK tekkies like the shut-the-gates NCMD one and ignore the one the FLO should be promoting and measuring standards by until his lungs ache).

Weakly parroting the MikeLewisPAS mantra "By engaging with detectorists we can encourage best practice" does nothing to pull the wool over anyone's eyes that this is actually in any way achievable. There have been twenty years of expensive and futile PAS "engagement" to perhaps 27000 tekkies out there... and yet progress as a result of this "partnership" has been - I venture to say - minimal. It really is an ivory tower attitude to go against what close acquaintance with the social media resources of UK tekkiedom shows to be the real extent of what anyone would see as best practice in that milieu.

In fact this is testable, isn't it? The PAS database entries at the bottom have a "landuse" field and a "discovered by metal detector" one. It should be pretty easy for the PAS current IT team to conjure up a tabulation of annual find statistics that show the degree to which that "engagement/partnership' has reduced irresponsible metal detecting on non-arable land. Let's see some cold hard statistics and not glib, meaningless soundbites from the PAS. Let us see them actually measuring their performance and presenting that for public scrutiny.

As for contrasting an (my???) "ivory tower" approach with this FLO's own hands-on tekkie finds fondling, that really exposes an unhelpful "Fortress PAS" mentality. Surely there is, here in Europe, and over there in the UK too, just one archaeology, in which we all do our bit, but not in separate sound-proof cupboards. There is "thinking" and "doing", but they should be working together, surely. The PAS cannot afford to be (cannot offer anything by being) atheoretical, concentrated just on the pragmatics of weighing, measuring, imaging and identifying "things dug up" passively (and in retro-Kossinnist/ethno-cultural historical terms) regardless of the context in which it takes place ("because it's all happening anyway"). The PAS surely should be part (an integral part) of the heritage debate and so far is failing to be through its own self-representation only through a continuing propaganda of success ("WottaLottaFinds We Got in our Database"   1,428,348 objects within 918,392 records).

Yet reality could look very different, if there are 27000 tekkies and they are finding a pretty miserable number of recordable finds annually the number of finds the PAS have not seen since the beginning of the PAS could be somewhere in the region of 6 million (5,837,064). That does not look much like the postulate "By engaging with detectorists we can encourage best practice" is working, far from it, the number of recorded items is (still) about one in five. That's pretty pathetic return for all that money thrown at this foundering policy of engagement. And let the PAS instead of glib and unhelpful  Ixelles-Sixy denial, produce figures to show that these are way off - and by how much would they have to be way-off for the situation resulting from British archaeology's passive "engagement" with Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record be in any way regarded as anything other than an unmitigated archaeological disaster? By how much? Ten percent, thirty, fifty?

In what way is this "partnership" any less counterproductive when it comes to safeguarding the very subject of archaeological enquiry (which is sites, not the loose artefacts of the PAS-fans) from being looted away for collectables than the Salisbury FLO's "counter-productive cycle of animosity between detectorists and archaeologists"? At least calling a spade a spade does not dirty the hands as much as the tekkie back-slapping and pandering we see many British archaeologists engaged in when it comes to dealing with archaeologiically destructive (but shiny goodie-productive) Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record.

But then the FLO's next phrase is telling:
"missing out on both data and funding, which is often linked to the demonstration of societal value/impact".
So, we pretend that Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record is socially valuable (as "citizen archaeology" no less) and then we'll get the funding for the fifty or so archies to continue doing what they do at public expense while (see this blog) NOT informing the British public of what is what. The morality of that seems to me pretty questionable. Ugly, in fact.

The Salisbury FLO, should they feel the need (or anyone else from PAS for that matter), are - as ever - cordially invited to address these issues here in the comments, tweets are not a good way to communicate complex ideas.

UPDATE 1st Aug 2019
It seems that the FLO does not feel that exploring complex ideas is his forte, so we get a whole series of soundbite tweets. He's probably better at slapping tekkie backs and saying "you done well M8"  than discussing the nitty-gritty of the effects of current policies in the UK.  Still, if he changes his mind, we are waiting for his contribution here.


1 comment:

Hougenai said...

Come on Paul, 'Complex ideas' aren't fashionable in the UK at the moment, PAS are just leading the way, trendsetting.

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