Sunday 2 May 2021

The Evan-Hart Artefact Collection


This is number three of a series of videos where Julian Evan-Hart shows off parts of his collection (and his kitchen). The previous two mainly concerned coins.   

He wants to do a show and tell. I'm more interested in the rare glimpse it gives into what collectors do with the artefacts they hoik out of the ground like potatoes. The first most obvious thing is that none of them are labelled. Not even by a numbered tag attached to them, let alone a full finds label. In showing-and-telling he sometimes says from memory in very general terms where something was from. That information is very ephemeral. I also note the state of these objects, most of the items on display are complete artefacts (the buckles for example) or substantial fragments - with ancient breaks. This tells us two things, first the old story that by hoiking them willy-nilly like this, artefact hunters are rescuing objects from plough damage. Not a single item he shows has any recent breaks 0or even damage due to agricultural machinery (or those much-vaunted "chemicals"). The second thing this tells us is the assemblage we see here is not representative of the 'partifacts' (collectors' term for broken artefacts) that scatter archaeological sites and assemblages in the British countryside. This is a very selective group of items removed from all the broken artefacts that his metal detector and spade brought up from the soil. What happened to the rest? Did they go in a "scrap bucket" and sold as waste metal for melting, as many detectorists do? Also, check out how many items of iron were recovered. Very few, and yet for most of the periods represented here, iron was the most commonly-used metal, yet the collectors' not generally interested in it. That's what archaeologists do. Also each site pilfered here would have had artefacts of other material, pottery, tile. Where is that? What relationship were these diagnostic items in with the pottery and tile scatters before they were rudely hoiked? 

This video shows the loss of information, objects stripped out of a site, pocketed and then scattered as decontextualised trophies across a kitchen top to boast about. And then leave all that metal dust in the air and on the surfaces (there's lead there lying on the unprotected kitchen top!) to get into the family's food. 

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