Friday 6 August 2021

Where are the Resources to Deal Properly with England's "Responsible Metal Detecting Problem"?


I wrote a comment in response to a tweet by a lady that excavated a hoard "very responsibly" reported by an artefact hunter. I seem to have touched a nerve pointing out that such ad hoc responses should not be being needed a full 25 years after England and Wales embarked on the PAS-reporting-adventure.  I suggest that if British archaeologists just play along with a demonstrably bad and try and make-do all the time every time, nothing will change.  I seem to have found some people who think they will. Tweet just now from Mike Pitts (@pittsmike 8 g).

You are of course entitled to your views. I'm of the opinion, however, that substantial progress has been achieved in this field by seeking to help, advise and work with others, and that broadcasting negative assumptions about people without investigation has never been fruitful
I don't suppose I'll get an answer to my query: "Care to enlighten us on those "assumptions" actually made in my post?", just the same as we'll not hear what Dr Wendy Morrison (the original tweeter) has seen here that apparently makes her think I'd "ban metal detecting", when I have consistently said here that I think the best way forward is a proper project-specific permit system. Anyway, what's the point of discussing with the "substantial progress has been made" devotees? 
You may have your opinion, I think that huge damage has been done by current policies on artefact hunting and the unfulfilled hope that "huge progress" will "one day" be made if you all just grit your teeth and wait long enough. As what we can see on the forums and through the blossoming of commercial digging firms, it's just not happening. I see nothing wrong with pointing that out. I see everything wrong with just trying to ignore it, and pointing to a few poster-boy exceptions to the general picture as if they show that the problem is just a matter of waiting a little longer while being as nice as possible to the artefact hunters stripping the fields and hopeful that they'll show us more stuff UK archaeology (PAS etc) is unresourced to deal with. 
Which is the point I started with. if there are 27000 artefact hunters with metal detectors alone (which I believe there are), all going out looking for stuff, how actually is Britain in any way prepared to give any of them proper archaeological support should even 15%  of them actually requested archaeological help, maybe twice a year each, with recovery of a below-ploughsoil assemblage, or plotting a complex surface scatter of evidence (metallic or otherwise). How much would that cost if the UK was not expecting archaeologists like dr Morrson to go out there and do it for free? 

Has the UK actually made "substantial progress" in reaching that "15%" (4050 tekkies, asking even one time a year)? Has the UK actually got the spare resources in place not only to recover the evidence, but properly analyse it and then write up and publish the results? 

In Poland, in the 1960s, Adam Rajewski of the State Archaeological Museum here in Poland set up the so-called "Pogotowie Archaeologiczne" (archaeology rescue) which consisted of a van parked in the Museum courtyard packed with tools and equipment ready to move off with a group of archaeologists from among the museum employees to any place in the country where a fresh discovery had been made in agriculture or development. Other museums (such as Konin) also set up similar services.  Where is the British Museum's van parked? 

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