Tuesday 12 May 2020

PAS To Increase Productivity by Wednesday 13th May?

It looks as if on Wednesday many of Britain's artefact hunters will be driving all over the country, getting their metal detectors out of the boot of their cars and, after checking it with the landowners, heading off to their "permissions" in masks and gloves to hoik collectables once again out of the archaeological record in the fields of England.

Is the PAS ready to accept the finds when the British government this morning (a day before) not actually released the guidelines agreed with the unions and employers on workplace safety? We are not actually dealing with small quantities of material and information. How much?

Let us say that half of Britain's c. 27000 detectorists are those who will be returning to work because they can't work from home. Most of the other half will want to be getting out there digging away.

Not all of them have their own "permissions", relying on club land and commercial rallies. Some of these, I have no doubt, will count on the farmers staying indoors and will find some secluded fields and try to stay out of sight and not bother to try and get permission to conduct their "exercise". But then will these finds be offered for recording with a true statement of where they came from?

So let us say that 12000 of them will be out hoiking legally over the next two weeks. At the (pretty minimal) recordable finds rate predicated by the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter (averaging out at 0.59 finds a week), the next fortnight's detecting could produce 14160 recordable artefacts for the 41 FLOs to deal with (173 a week each). Since up till now the whole lot of them have been averaging recently 7.7 a week each... the FLOs have quite a bit of catching up to do to mitigate the knowledge loss.

I am told that PAS is currently "working with DCMS on new guidance for finders that will replace the advice on our website". Will it be in place in time to put it into action tomorrow morning as FLOs arrive at work [since in such circumstances they will now be rendered unable to continue working at home]?

Maybe MP Tim Loughton should have responsibly ensured the PAS had the resources to deal with this problem and sudden increase of workload before he irresponsibly told the main UK metal detecting magazine that collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record was perfectly OK as long as it was done individually or in family groups. That would have been the "alert" thing to do.

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