Friday 8 January 2021

The Times on Rallies (2)

UK tekkies have announced an intention to bombard the Times and its readers with the reasons why Portable Antiquities Head Mike Lewis (quoted there by the author Mike Bridges) is wrong about commercial metal detecting rallies. One even suggests that Prof. Lewis should be punished "We need to get him in the back of a van and gone" which sounds like a threat to me. 

Anyway, let's have a look. "Metal detector rallies (in general) are causing damage to archaeology". I'd say that was indisputable. That damage is "irreversible", again indisputable. The numbers of hobbyists doing this is "growing" - it would be difficult to contest that. And yes, a prime attraction is access to land where the individual artefact hunter does not need to go asking for access, but somebody does it for them, they have a fresh new search site handed to them on a plate with all the paperwork done. and that's what they pay for. 

Yes, hundreds of rallies are held each year, if we count 'club digs' and all the rest (and let's not forget commercially-organised 'metal detecting holidays'  either). There are now people that make a living organising them as a full-time 'job'.  

 So basically, I cannot see why tekkies have any issues with what is written there by Mr Bridges. Substantive comments welcome below. 

The next bit, introducing the actual article on which The Times piece is based (and quoting from it), is downright lyrical. I love the imagery of the "darkening fields" reference (instead of Thugwit, the author is citing perhaps Chuzzlewit). Anyway, I think I've found inspiration for a future article on "metal detecting".  "Detector-wielding clients" is exactly who rally organisers are making their money from. And of course the types of "Rambo-wannabe" outdoor clothing favoured by many British artefact hunters is pretty noticeable.  

Moving on. So this is where that nice man from the PAS, that has spent the best part of two decades pandering to artefact hunters, is quoted. "Most detectorists" searching the extensive sites made available by rally organisers "do not report finds with the Scheme". And that leads to "the loss of valuable data" . Digging them out of their context in general leads to a loss of valuable data. Full stop. Anyone who wants to context that is welcome, but please do us all the courtesy of reading why I say that here: Artefact Hunting and Archaeological Responsibility  (sections 1-7)

Do most report what they find at rallies? Well, in the advanced search, it just so happens that this is one of the filters, finds from rallies account for just 17,510 records (out of a total of on the PAS database). Yet PAS has (it says) attended 546 of them between 2005 and 2018 (and a few before and later). That's an average of 32 finds from each rally. That sort of figure does not suggest that many tekkies are coming forward with many of their finds at such events (which may have several hundred participants). But, yes, let's have a decent breakdown of the figures from the PAS.  


Brian Mattick said...

It's pretty perspicacious of them to twig that a big attraction is "access to land where the individual artefact hunter does not need to go asking for access, but somebody does it for them." The reason is blatantly obvious on the forums, which I don't think they frequent enough: a minority always get permission and most hardly ever do, being less socially presentable or unable to write a letter and they're endlessly asking their more talented mated for tips on what to say to farmers, what to wear and how to write "permission letters" etc.

So the important upshot, given that so many can't approach farmers, is that rallies have a disproportionate number of less educated people, hence the well-known higher propensity of rally attendees to not report. Harsh, but blindingly obvious to anyone that looks, and considering the damage that results, well worth telling the Government about.

Paul Barford said...

Yes, and that's what the PAS should have done yonks ago. Still, at least there is now a title for their official publication: "Darkening the Fields, Hiding the Evidence: Commercial Heritage Stripping - A Survey"

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