Wednesday 17 June 2020

Metal detecting at CIfA in Leeds (4) The Past and Future of "Metal Detecting" in Scotland

This post follows on from the ones above and takes a look at the videos resulting from the session on "metal detectors" that for some reason, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists decided to have at  their Leeds meeting (see above for the setting).

The third one we find online is a presentation by Warren Bailie of 'The Current State of Hobbyist Metal Detecting in Scotland – Where do we go from here?; (20 mins)
My paper would summarise the results of the recent research and reflect on the relationship between those who metal detect and the heritage professionals in the various areas across Scotland. The paper would look at where co-operation has led to mutual benefits and would also look at the techniques used for metal detecting survey. Ultimately a set of CIfA standards and guidance is required to ensure that the metal detecting surveys being carried out by Archaeological Units (whether employing skills from metal detecting groups/clubs or otherwise) are consistent, systematic in their approach, and are using appropriate equipment. More generally, the paper will highlight that work needs to be done to encourage closer working relationships between metal detecting clubs, groups and individuals and heritage professionals. 
It's a little bit rambling, the first five minutes is an introduction.  The talk is related to this project, and the 2016 publication resulting from it. In fact this is more or less a presentation of the book. Bailie estimates there are 520 detectorists, mostly older white men (14% women) but only about 313 were insured through the NCMD. In Scotland, the first metal detector find to be reported was in 1981, and it was only in 2010/11 that the first clubs were formed and metal detecting started to come out from underground with 300-400 finds being reported annually. But this includes items found by archaeologists too, so clearly there is massive under-reporting. In this talk Bailie sets out the negative results of the project's survey more starkly than in the 2016 volume (because those colleagues that present only positives are 'not painting the right picture'):

He then talks about heritage professionals' opinions about artefact hunting, noting that the negative assessments were "mainly from people that don't engage with detectorists" but noted that one who had in fact had no idea what was happening in the detecting community.

he then asks and answers, where do we go from here?

The first two are more 'rediscovery of the wheel' stuff.   But then the speaker makes the point that should be the most obvious from this session, ONLY the adoption of the same standards of action by "hobbyist metal detectorists' engaged in their collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record avoids damaging sites (point three in his slide). Anything else is simply looting. The final two are just the usual waffle. The 23 years of operation of the PAS that treats artefact hunters as collaborative partners shows the utter hopelessness of the pious wishes expressed in the last two points. Experience shows pious hopes that things will get better are not the way forward.

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