Monday 24 August 2020

PAS Dealing with Issues of Trust: A Little Birdy Told Me


Two FLOs are having a go at a commentator that questioned the number of artefacts recorded on the PAS database that might not be from the place the finder claims he found them. That seems to have touched a raw nerve and the two of them have been thrashing around trying to avoid the question of whether they do in fact demand documentation (such as a protocol assigning title from the landowner as recommended by the 2009 Nighthawking Report). I suspect that we all know the answer to that... this would mean that PAS handles antiquities with no proof that they are not stolen.  If they can't do it, why should we expect dealers to? 

Anyway, something emerged from this. Baz Thugwit comes to the FLO, "...'ere mate, found this anchint broach in this field, 'ere" [stabs map with flabby finger]. FLO looks at him, "We trust you to always supply honest information, based on us building relationships of trust, and obviously Baz, old pal, if there was anything dodgy in what you say, I'd immediately see it as clear as day. but I trust you, good fellow, come again soon, bring me more stuff". More stuff I say! Happy Hunting!" And Baz turns on his heel, and off he goes, smiling to himself, "fooled the stuck-up arkie again", he thought. But no. Felix the wily FLO has a little secret... "It's a good job Baz does not know about my secret naughty-box. Now I'll just put this on the database, 42 this week!... There! and now, Baz..THIS is for lying to me!". Baz does not know there's a special box for Baz-finds: "there's a little info box we can fill in on the Db if we've any spatial doubts, and there's plenty of examples where this is used. And even in these few cases, at least there's a record of an object where previously it would be unknown, advancing archaeological knowledge". Make your mind up Felix old boy.. either there's "plenty of examples where this is used" or they are few. Few-plenty, plenty-few? (Oh, I feel a FOI coming on).

Now, forgive me for asking what kind of "data" are decontextualised artefacts that nobody is sure where they are from? What kind of "database" is it that has "grounded" artefacts alongside artefacts of doubtful provenance? I'd like to see the official PAS-exegesis on why an artefact of doubtful provenance (like the Piltdown skull, or Sevso hoard) "advances archaeological knowledge".

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