Friday 8 January 2021

The Times on Rallies (3)

Continuing the discussion of the Times article on rallies that UK detectorists got annoyed over (Robin Goodwin "[...] That is disgusting [....] The man [Prof. Mike Lewis] is a disgrace. He should not be in that job. I don’t think I have been this upset about an article in a paper for a long time [emoticon]". Hmm. Perhaps he should read the text in British Archaeology and not a Times journalist's attempt to summarise it. Anyway, there seems nothing contentious about the earlier bits. 

The next section refers to something "metal detectorists" should know something about anyway (it's on the PAS website). 

Then Prof. Lewis refers to why the way these rallies alienate detectorists from landowners is important. I do not see how this can be contested, given how the forums are full of texts (especially around Christmas time) emphasising the links that artefact hunters build up with "their" farmers.  

Likewise, the same forums are full of stories about how in order to keep returning to the same fields rally (and metal detecting holiday) organisers seed sites with artefacts that are later found by clients.  Detectorists talk about this among themselves behind the closed doors of their forums. They are less happy to hear the same stories being told by others about the hobby.

As for the evidence, we have the brooches skillfully spotted by the late David Williams, from a rally (one with a plastic coating and another with numbers written on it). Prompted by that, I was working a while ago on gathering material in the PAS that looks suspiciously like traces of bulk buys of Balkan artefacts scattered in some fields (I must get back to that and finish that article, but there was quite a lot of stuff and a lot of questions to be asked of it). I am sure the PAS has their own suspicions, which is why (anon. pers. comm.)  there are certain commercial operation organizers that the PAS FLOs will not now record finds from their 'digs'. 

In their article Lewis and Heyworth argued... I think it is very difficult if "we collectively" should send a "clear signal" to anybody if the organization involved in liaising over portable antiquities matters is not shouting from the rooftops at every opportunity what the problems are with current policies, instead of pussyfooting around the issues. There are British archaeologists who think everything is hunkydory, and part of the reason for this is that the PAS is telling them, for the most that it is. The public are unaware of the issues, they've seen the comedy series "detectorists" and that's basically (now the Time Team reality show has gone) where they have got their knowledge from. Edutainment (and it may be argued that, in its present form, the PAS is providing little more than precisely that) has replaced education. The public is confused by the very same ambiguity that fills public life in Britain today.   

The Times article is to be welcomed. When will we see the next one like it from the British media? 

1 comment:

Brian Mattick said...

We should send a clear signal to detectorists that rallies should be avoided?!
Shouldn't the Government and APPAG and every farmer be told that urgently? Like 15 years ago?!

Incidentally, for the information of those who don't read the forums, and should, I'd say 99% of detectorists know and have said that recording is very low at commercial rallies and 100% of detectorists have said some rally organisers and some detecting holiday companies seed the fields. It's pretty annoying to find those obvious facts being cited after so many years as if they are recent developments.

If they are going to admit finally that rallies are malign it would be good if they could add "and have been for many, many years".

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