Saturday 3 April 2021

RAP 30: The Helsinki Gang and "The Normal Language of Peers Engaging in Scholarly Discussion or Debate"

The Ixelles Six/ Helsinki Gang

The latest volume (30) of the periodical of the University of Lleida "Revista d'Arqeologia de Ponent" is devoted to looting illicit trafficking and falsification of archaeological material in Europe and beyond. It has two texts critical of the approach of a little island off the coast of the European mainland, one is by this blog's author. This is preceded by Neil Brodie's "What is this thing called the PAS? Metal-detecting entanglements in England and Wales
" which is sobering reading. It starts from an interesting point:
In March 2017, Samuel Hardy published a quantitative, netnographic analysis of metal-detecting [...]  (Hardy 2017) [...] Hardy’s paper was an interesting though hardly controversial contribution to the literature concerning metal-detecting, and so it was surprising a few months later when a ‘reply’ paper appeared co-authored by six people from six different institutions in five or six different countries, each with a direct or indirect professional interest in the ongoing operation of the PAS or equivalent schemes in other countries. Several objections of method and fact were made against Hardy, but the reply paper was surprising not so much for its content, but because of the disparaging tone in which it was written.[...] (Deckers et al. 2018: 331). [...] A few years earlier, in 2010, David Gill had suffered in a similar way to Hardy when he had published a discussion forum piece on metal-detecting,[...] "Simplistic approaches", "old perspectives", "biased assumptions", "elitism", "class snobbery", and "zealotry". This is not the normal language of peers engaging in scholarly discussion or debate. 

Brodie argues that this is a symptom of exclusive mechanisms being undertaken by a professional group that feels its authority under challenge. This intends to set a boundary around a field or area of a field in which they have vested professional interests that impel this group to protect a theoretical or practical project while at the same time deter reflexive group judgments or actions against the project. This academic boundary-setting excludes rivals from within by using labels to define them as outsiders. Brodie raises the question

But if boundary-work of this sort is being undertaken, intentionally or not, seemingly aimed at protecting the perceived ‘good’ of the PAS in England and Wales, it invites questions about why the PAS is felt in need of protection, just what exactly it is that is being protected, and about the professional and social contexts of the PAS and metal-detecting more generally.

His paper attempts to answer this question. I wonder how many FLOs and supporters of artefact hunting in the UK will be reading it? (I am not sure if Dr Brodie will be putting it online, I hope he does). 


Brodie, N. 2020, 'What is this thing called the PAS? Metal detecting entanglements in England and Wales', Revista d'Arqueologia de Ponent 30, 85-100 (doi 10.21001/rap.2020.30.4).

Deckers, P., Dobat , A., Ferguson, N., Heeren, S., Lewis, M., Thomas, S. (2018). The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and Practice: A Response to Samuel Hardy, ‘Quantitative Analysis of Open-Source Data on Metal Detecting for Cultural Property’. Open Archaeology 4(1): 322-333. 

Gill, D. W. J. (2010). The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act: Protecting the Archaeology of England and Wales? Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 20: 1–11.  

Hardy, S. A. (2017). Quantitative Analysis of Open- Source Data on Metal Detecting for Cultural Property: Estimation of the Scale and Intensity of Metal Detecting and the Quantity of Metal-Detected Cultural Goods. Cogent Social Sciences, Volume 3, Number 1. 

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