Tuesday, 14 January 2020

How to Make it Seem UK Artefact Hunting is Not Damaging

We are waiting for the pro-collecting archaeological lobby and collectors themselves to come up with reasons why we should not be seriously concerned about the Treasure Trace Issue discussed in three posts here, here and here.

What is needed? There seem to be three options:

a) declare concerned people (like Paul Barford) insane, mistaken, not worth listening to, just ignore them and they'll probably shut up eventually, especially if they get hassled.

b) Trash the estimate of detectorist numbers

c) publish Treasure figures for 2019 that close the gap on the graph.

Option C seems quite difficult to do if the material is not there (unless Bloomsbury is going to publish an outright lie). These are official figures. If you look at the graph, it would actually require the numbers of hoards to abruptly rise from the last figure (1096) to something in the region of 3200 (blue line here). Is that what is going to happen? Looking at the trend over the last decade, that really looks unlikely, but hey, you never know.

Option A is the one they all adopt, its the easiest, requires no input from anyone. They probably lose no sleep over it. But it does not make the problem go away. The bottom trace is based on official HMG figures, which brings us to:

Option B. As everybody knows this is an estimate, based on evidence that is difficult to obtain and use. It could be wrong. Could be. But the problem is that it is the best we have, the PAS has not conducted any kind of a study to determine the size of the active metal detecting community in England and Wales. This in itself is suspicious.

So by how much would our figures have to be wrong for there not to be a gap when you plot one set of figures on the same graph as the other? The middle trace on the graph here shows what it would have to look like. It starts at the old estimate of 8 and 10000 as before, and rises slowly in step with the increase in Treasure cases. So in that model there would have been just 12000 active detectorists in England and  Wales in 2011, rising to 13000 in 2016 and staying somewhere like that for a few years (maybe, let's see what those 2019 Treasure figures are). Are there currently  just 13-14000 active metal detectorists in England and Wales? Really?

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