Sunday 18 April 2021

The Entangled PAS: Neil Brodie on Metal Detecting Finds from England and Wales (II)


Neil Brodie's paper referenced above concentrates on the appalling behaviour of our colleagues, attacking a critic (not even criticism) of some of the ideas that the PAS-approach to collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record embodies. For this reason, when discussing the "entanglement"  (Hodder 2012) of which this behaviour is a symptom, he centres it on the PAS itself (treated as a Hodderian 'thing'). Doing so leads to some interesting conclusions. 

One of the most interesting is seeing it in the context of the developments in archaeology (p. 90-1) from which Brodie concludes that archaeologists use information about finds compiled by PAS not so much because they believe them to be particularly high quality or reliable data, but because they are in effect handed them on a plate and don't have to go and look for them (p. 90). It's all about laziness. Of course that's something I've been saying a long time. 

As somebody who for a long while has struggled with putting it into Polish, I find Hodder's book (2012) frustratingly fluffy, vague and badly-written. In the context discussed here, I read Hodder in a different way to Brodie. Possibly part of the problem is that the latter refers in his article only to the 2016 'studies' open access volume by Hodder, rather than the source volume. 

Surely the people-thing entanglement that we should be considering is that between the items found by artefact hunters and other members of the public and the various stakeholder groups (including "metal detectorists", other members of the public, collectors, dealers, archaeologists, museums and the PAS staff). I am puzzled by the fact that Brodie devotes much attention to the antiquities trade, yet not the collecting with which it interacts. If they are not hoiking them for sale, what is the social function  of the artefacts metal detectorists find, if not to collect? Treating the entanglement as around the artefact-hunted fiinds (the "things"), I think, puts a different perspective on PAS and the nature of the entanglements both practical and ideological and perhaps I'll explore that a bit later on. Something to think about. 


Hodder, Ian  2012, ‘Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things.’ Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell: currently available online:  

 Hodder, Ian  2016, Studies in Human-Thing Entanglement’, Open Access work, available online only:


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