Sunday, 12 January 2020

PAS's Preliminary Figures for 2019 Treasure Finds Shockingly Low [UPDATED: Don't Worry, It's Just a Lack of PAS Transparency]

The Scream of Nature (British Museum): 
Given the importance of the general trend of reported Treasure finds over the past few years in determining the effects of artefact hunting on the archaeological record of England and Wales, we are all impatient to learn what the real figure for 2019 is. The online database of the PAS also records Treasure finds (this is NOT what it was set up for) and therefore can keep a running tally of those thought noteworthy enough to be part of the public record.

What is profoundly worrying is that although in 2017 there were 1266 reported Treasure finds and the initial figures from 2018 were 1096 of them, a search of the PAS database for Treasure records created from 1st Jan 2019 and 31st Dec 2019 gives a result of just 258 records. I almost feel like putting an exclamation mark there. I really hope, this time, that the PAS database is wrong. If that is anywhere near the actual figure, that would be a shocking result.

UPDATE 13th Jan 2020
Bloomsbury is playing this one close to their institutional chest. here's the reply I got this afternoon:
Treasure Registrars @TRegistrars W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues i @findsorguk
The number of Treasure cases reported in 2019 will be officially provided in the DCMS statistical release for the 2018 Treasure Annual Report. Treasure finds on the PAS database are not made visible to those without research access until they have been through the legal process.
 Hmm, well that's not exactly in accordance with the facts for a start, click on the first one that the search results above bring up:  NMS-7709E2 found "Sunday 13th October 2019 - Monday 11th November 2019" [sic, they must have dug it out really slowly] "Subsequent action after recording: Submitted for consideration as Treasure" [but no T2019 tracking number], so when was this inquest then? The next one:  NLM-0D3D8E "Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder" (eh? What's going on here?) [again no T2019 tracking number]. So either there is something wrong with the PAS database and 'data' are missing, or the BM's Treasure Registrars are taking their readers for idiots who cannot click a mouse to check what they assert. I'll leave it up to you to decide if that means they are hiding something. So if "not going through the legal process" is in fact NOT the reason why there are no more than 258 public records of 2019 Treasure finds that may or may not have "gone through the legal process", then what is? What are the facts about what happened to the archaeological sites and assemblages in the fields of England and Wales in 2019? 

Also, I think the Registrars' apparently supercilious comments on 'those without research access' are out of place here.  It seems to me Treasure finds are, whatever their legal status, archaeological finds made by members of the public, so if they are* going on the PAS database, why are they "not made visible" to that public (whose heritage it is and who pay for the PAS record)? I think the PAS need to confirm, whether that database is for the benefit of the general public (who pay for it) as public transparency or for the exclusive benefit of the 734 vetted and approved "researchers" categorised on the PAS website? Why are they the only ones that - according to the Treasure Registrars - can see the 'hidden records' of the latest Treasure finds?

You will note that the gatekeeping BM Registrars neglected to inform us when the scheduled release of the 2018 report will be.

*and readers who are following this blog will know my opinion on that. 

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