Friday, 3 September 2021

UK Artefact Hunting: What is the Source of the Confusion?

Cutting down trees
 means deforestation
I made some comment on the announcement that some archie was involved in a really exciting project ("one of the archaeological discoveries of the CENTURY") that they could not tell us about, adding what they did not say, that the reason for this is that somebody with a metal detector and a spade might attempt to visit the site and see what they can find for themselves. That archaeologists in Britain are so afraid of calling a spade a spade is the reason for what happened next.

Kirsty Logan @RabbleChorus · 17 g.
W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues @theAliceRoberts i @BBCTwo

Um, lots of us who use metal detectors are not criminals thanks, we work WITH archaeologists and the portable antiquities scheme. The people who steal from sites are thieves. Simple as that. The detector is just a tool.[*]
Now, I really don't understand this, if you look at her profile, this Tweeter claims to have been involved in archaeology in the past, is a former teacher, sings in a choir, is an avid environmentalist, climate-concerned, if not an activist (I did not scroll far enough down maybe) - in short, normal decent person all-round. Yet... She seems to be getting confused about what is, after all, an environmental issue.

Her tweet was followed by the usual crop of uncomprehending numpties regurgitating press reports about a load of past Treasure finds by metal detector users to show how 'helpfully' metal detector users are emptying the archaeological record of finds there are no resources to study or publish properly (one of them tried to correct my terminology: "Detector*ists*" - ask him why he thinks it matters and you'll see my point)... 

Fortunately, at least one Twtter user ('Juamei of the Deep Woke @juamei') seems to be a bit more clued up about what the problem is.[**] Juamei engages Ms Logan directly: "Coolcoolcoolcool. reporting rates from legal detection are atrocious. A simple comparison of detection volume vs reporting rate is horrifying". Ms Logan seems not to have been following the discussion, so curtly responds: "Citation needed". Juamei obliges by posting a link to and contrasting that with the PAS database numbers, adding "other estimates of number of metal detector finds are higher and the PAS is not all metal detection" (and also mentions the problem of non-reporting at today's massive commercial rallies). Without reading the introductory text to the Counter itself (it would seem), Ms Logan blurted out " Sorry but what on earth is this ‘counter’ actually measuring?!". Then expanded on that:
Kirsty Logan @RabbleChorus 8 g.
W odpowiedzi do @juamei @PortantIssues i 2 innych użytkowników
But what is the so-called counter actually measuring? This just isn’t evidence, its made-up. I KNOW there are nighthawks/thieves, anyone can see that from what comes up for sale on EBAY, I’ve definitely met one too, but tarring us all with that brush is incredibly insulting./ And yes, actually some rallies are just utterly boring and no-one finds anything but buttons and Victorian stuff which the PAS doesn’t bother recording. The ground isn’t THAT full!
One tree here, another there,
      and a chunk of the forest is gone     
A bit of a giveaway. Yes the archaeological record is not infinite - and that is the whole point, if thousands of British artefact hunters keep pocketing thousands of artefacts, then that archaeological record is being emptied, like every time a tree is cut down in Indonesia, the forest gets smaller, and the cumulative actions of people wanting to cut down "just a few trees more" leads to deforestation, Ms Logan can surely see that. And it does not matter if that logging is done with government permission (or by the government) or the activities of private individuals acting clandestinely, the deforestation is the same.

And all the PAS aficionados will be queuing up to tell us that all we need to do in the case of the rainforest is get an "x-marks the spot" findspot record accurate to one metre of where the tree was and the forest can exist in the database and the logger can have the wood. Yes, it looks like a stupid argument like that doesn't it, now explain the difference between an ecosystem stripped of trees and an archaeological record stripped of selected finds.   

So, actually that is the point that people like her are (wilfully?) ignoring. The argument "we are not nighthawks" is like a logging company waving their permits around and carrying on cutting down the forest to plant palm oil plantations.

And just so it is crystal clear, if Ms Logan had gone to the effort of reading the introductory text to a counter that she dismisses as  "made up" without really finding what it is about, she'd see that it is not an estimate of "nighthawking" activity, but non-reporting including from metal detecting that is otherwise done by the book (and in accordance even with the NCMD shut-the-gates code of practice).

As for it being in some way "insulting" to  actually call collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record "Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record" ("because we're not orl nighthawks") is a lot less insulting than people like Kirsty Logan and her metal detector using pals (who've not read the blurb that precedes it), saying somebody else's research is "made up". For goodness' sake. That's the easy way out, the palm oil producers will say the environmentalists modelling is also "made up", which does not change the rate the rainforest is disappearing.

As for the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter, going strong all these years... and all the time receiving regularly exactly the same kind of insulting dismissal by metal detector users like Kirsty Logan... it is worth noting that, after all those years absolutely NOBODY (ever) has actually produced any alternative figures to show that what the creators of that Counter say is untrue - that speaks volumes. 

 As for more "citations required". I added to that Twitter thread a couple of papers, not that I expect any metal detector user, no matter how "enviroonmentally conscious they claim to be) will ever read them. It's easy to throw out loose accusations "citation required" than actually do the footwork yourself and find out what environmental impact a hobby (your hobby) is having. Just for reference the four papers (just for starters) were:

1) Barford 2020: Some Aspects of the Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record (pp 106-7) in England and Wales,

2) Neil Brodie 2020: What is this thing called the PAS? Metaldetecting entanglements in England and Wales (pp 91-2),

3) Sam Hardy 2018, 'Metal-Detecting for Cultural Objects until ‘There Is Nothing Left’: The Potential and Limits of Digital Data, Netnographic Data and Market Data for Open-Source Analysis',

4 Sam Hardy 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.


[*] There is some misunderstanding here. If the site where this discovery has been made is not a scheduled site or protected in any way (or there has been no Coroner's inquest on a Treasure find), the archaeologists can ask the farmer not to let people metal detect there, but if the farmer's nephew turns up with his two mates all three with metal detectors and ask to go onto the site - there is no illegal act committed. The landowner is within their rights to let the artefact hunters onto the site and the artefact hunters who have the landowner's permission to search and take are not committing an illegal act. The Treasure Act says nothing about this. British antiquities legislation is basically crap.   

[**] Just to give honour where honour is due, 
Andromedary @Andromedary123 · 16 g.
W odpowiedzi do @RabbleChorus @PortantIssues i 2 innych użytkowników
Oh I thought the issue was the digging and scattering and lack of process.

1 comment:

Brian Mattick said...

Juamei has summed up the problem: "A simple comparison of detection volume vs reporting rate is horrifying".

So sad that PAS, EH and BAJR never use the word horrifying.

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