Thursday 11 June 2020

99.9% of British Public Underinformed about Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record

Don O'Meara (@don_o_meara·3 g) published this photo with the comment: "99.9% of the population might not recognise what this is, but for some of us dealing with the destruction of heritage is not dramatic, headline grabbing, or leading to outrage. It's just every bloody week". I commented asking "why is it, with a multi-million pound archaeological outreach scheme working for 23 years ( @findsorguk ) informing the public about portable antiquities matters, as you say 99% of the public have no idea about this issue? Serious question. Maybe @findsorguk could tell us?"

I think I was misunderstood as Dr O'Meara answered: "I think if you mentioned illegal metal-detecting to the public they would recognise/accept it as an issue. The point is 99% of people would walk past a scene like this and not click it was probably night-hawking. When you look with my jaded eyes it is all too familiar".

But it is not "just" collection-driven exploitation that is clandestinely emptying the accessible parts of the British archaeological record of thousands of unreported items, is it? Why pretend it is just "nighthawking" that is the problem?

Again, it seems the point was not made clearly enough:
Don O'Meara@don_o_meara·2 g. 
There is a whole complex issue with collecting activity. In this specific case a landowner was concerned about illegal access on their land. Ultimately I have no idea what the motivation for the person digging the holes was (private collector, 'professional' ebay'er etc) 
Gawd. It is not "complex" at all. Collection-driven exploitation (whether for money or just collecting) is doing a huge amount of unrecorded damage to the archaeological record. Illegal access is only part of the problem, and allegedly only "a few" detectorists.

And the point is that while the PAS spends the public money it is getting to do archaeological outreach to the public as a whole to concentrate on interacting with just a small fragment of the population (the metal detectorists), the public at large is unaware of what metal detecting looks like,* and what its effects are. And after 23 years of such activity, an archaeologist grimaces that the public are so stupid that they'd not recognise what that hole in grassland represents. Perhaps if the public does not understand archaeological issues after two decades of "outreach", perhaps we need to change how that "outreach" is conceptualised and done.

*of course one joker posted on the above thread a still of "Simon and Garfunkel" from the comedy show Detectorists.


Unknown said...

This is completely misrepresenting the thing he is trying to highlight. He was making a point that the evidence for nighthawking might not be easily recognised. The fact you are lifting his tweets and putting them on your blog, presumably (without telling him) is dishonest.

Paul Barford said...

I am putting MY reactions to what he said here. I do not know what he's trying to "highlight", he showed a hole that looks like one dug by artefact hunters with metal detectors and spades and says "99.9% of the public" would not know what it was. I think the point I made in response was a perfectly valid one, and if you thought your comment was a valid and fair one, you'd have the balls to sign it with your own name.

Paul Barford said...

It seems from Twitter that "Unknown" is (someone from) The West Cumbria Archaeology Society. I do not generally accept anonymous comments from metal detectorists or anyone else, if you use this blog because you have something to say to my readers, please do them the courtesy of letting them know who is speaking.

Paul Barford said...

"Zablokowano Cię"

Now it seems I am blocked by The West Cumbria Archaeology Society on Twitter, because I questioned some of their beliefs on collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record - wow.

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