Monday, 1 February 2021

Speaking Truth to the Self-Deluded Supporters of Artefact Hunting [Updated, ASMB identified]

I see from Twitter that a nameless supporter of metal detecting (who I can't see as for some reason they've blocked me) over there has suggested "unfortunately there is no clear way to work out the true numbers" [of metal detectorists taking selected artefacts out of archaeological contexts]. What I can see of this discussion is that to offset whatever points this individual made, a colleague replies:
Well, both Heritage Action and Paul Barford have expended much effort on the question and arrived at estimates that PAS hasn't disagreed with and which suggest "outreach education" hardly touches the surface.
All of which is true. And it is expressing truths like that which makes people like ASMB ("Anonymous Social Media Blocker"), archaeologists and artefact hunters, not want to talk with people like myself and the Heritage Action conservationists that have gone to that effort and as a result will not accept glib fob-off statements and pseudo-justifications involving unsubstantiated wishy-washy quantifiers such as "most detectorists". How long will this go on? British archaeology can do better. And shame on the Blockers who don't want to take part in discussing the effects of British policies on the archaeological record and public perceptions. Shame on them for shying away from facing up to a discussion of their beliefs. 

Update 1st Feb 2021
I am informed by a colleague who can see the whole discussion that the person concerned is Rebecca Ellis a PhD Researcher in ancient animal pictures at Hill University. 

If that is so, and we go to her tweets (Ms Ellis, you do realise there is a cache?), we can see that here we have another archaeologist whose research is object-focussed. Here we see her actually thanking an artefact hunter for recording the part of the archaeological heritage that interests her and that they have pocketed.  An object has been ripped out of an archaeological context (presumably a surface site) "somewhere in Welton" the "unmasked grid reference is accurate to a 100 metre square" and  "Method of discovery: Metal detector, General landuse: Cultivated land" ("Recording Institution: PUBLIC, Created: 4 years ago"). So, actually bugger all archaeological information there, except "we got this thing from about 'ere". But Ms Ellis is grateful because she can use this "thing" in her research - and hang the site that was damaged to get it for her to "love". 

And this is the problem, there are archaeologists that are chasing their own personal benefits, for some a chance to get hands on some goodies to research, for others to get grants to research them, that they deliberately block out any elements that would suggest this is questionable behaviour. I do not know if they have a 'research ethics' department at Hull University, and what they would say about research based on material deriving from undocumented destruction of archaeological sites - or whether they've even been asked. 

Ms Ellis should be aware that, whether she chooses to ignore it, block out the idea, deny it, there is now a lot of evidence that artefact hunting is destroying huge swathes of the archaeological record without any form of documentation or mitigation. Merely cherry-picking a few "interesting artefacts" for personal benefit and patting artefact collectors on the head is not addressing this problem. I would say the ethics of archaeological research should not permit ignoring it - or even encouraging it. I really do not understand this attitude, why a whole group of archaeologists feel they can simply dismiss the arguments raised (and evidence presented) by others, without showing where that evidence is mistakenly interpreted (if it is).  Just to shrug shoulders and say "unfortunately there is no clear way to work out the true numbers" should not be acceptable as a response to this issue. 

I'd like to draw the attention of Ms Ellis and those of her colleagues that behave in the same manner in defence of their "partnership" with artefact hunters to something else we can see on her own twitter feed: 
She may have blocked me on social media so we now cannot discuss it there. I am perfectly happy for her to come here (comments underneath) and discuss these points here. 

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