Monday 3 January 2022

Replying to Furness Metal Detectorists

       Detecting on grassland       

Just in case they disappear, here are the comments I made on a local newspaper under a story about an upcoming ITV series in which a local tekkie is taking part:
Paul Barford   User ID: 930068 2nd January 04:48 pm
Why is disagreeing with you considered "trolling"? maybe instead of ad personam comments and aggressively throwing down challenges, you could try to just address the concerns raised about this exploitative and damaging hobby being advertised by this projected series without resorting to the same defensive clichés that have been thrown about by detectorists for the last quarter of a century. 

A perfectly justifiable comment has been made from the point of view of preserving an important resource that that artefact hunting and collecting with the use of metal detectorists is damaging to the archaeological heritage of the North West. Maybe the "detectorists" of the North West can show why that is not so and exploiting of ancient and historical sites for "collectable" items is in some substantive way different from doing the same thing in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Italy, the jungles of Yucatan, or anywhere else where looting is damaging the region's archaeological heritage. Can we see the damage being done by selfish collectors to archaeological sites in the NW in a wider context than just "my mate's gonna be on TV, and you're jealous and to cowardly to talk about it"? Before unbecoming name-calling, please show that you are brave enough to talk objectively about the conservation issues involved. 
There was, of course, no answer. There IS no substantive difference. Though one is done by brown skinned folk with spades in foreign lands and we label it "looting", and the precise same thing done by white-skinned folk with spades in the green fields of England is called "citizen archaeology". In the article, the metal detectorist is quoted as saying that in terms of archaeology, Cumbria is a "lost county". 
I do not understand why "metal detecting" is supposed to be making Cumbria less of a "lost county", when it is simply emptying the archaeological record into collectors' pockets and onto eBay. 

 If you take PAS data for the last five years, the LANCUN FLO has been documenting only an average of 869 records a year from ALL members of the public, and yet - unless the proportion of detectorists in the region is substantially less than in other parts of the UK, there will be roughly 957 detectorists in the LANCUN area (reporting less than one object each for the last five years or more). It means that even if they each make only ten reportable finds per year (as per the official Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting), the majority of these people are reporting only a very small fraction of what they are pocketing. 

 The knowledge that these pocketed artefacts ("worth fifty quid on the market", eh?) belongs to us all, not a handful of selfish individuals that walk off with it. Pointing the immorality of that out is not "jealousy", nor can it legitimately be dismissively labelled "trolling", it raises questions "metal detectorists" and those who support them (the journalist who wrote this piece not leas among them) should be addressing. 

Raising these concerns is a natural reaction to behaviour that is downright outrageous. What is the difference between artefact hunting in Kendal, and Kirkuk Iraq in terms of the devastating effect it is having on the archaeological heritage? I'd like the media to be getting that message over to the British public, and it remains to be seen if Henry Cole is up to the task.

Why are journalists writing these things? For one thing, there is no press pack produced by any of the archaeological bodies such as The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, the Council for British Archaeology, RESCUE, Portable Antiquities Scheme or the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers on the wider context of Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record in Britain.  

And the reply from a local metal detectorist? He seems to be accusing me of being a space alien with an egg-timer and a "crush" on some artefact hunter or other

Absolute Prosser User ID: 3787507 2nd January 05:58 pm
ive heard of you a few times in certain circles, you seem to have a strange fascination with one or two detectorists which is bordering a school boy crush, your egg timer is running low and you know it, and the thought of this is tipping you to troll where you can, coward is called out and goes running to the mother ship of warriors behind a screen, laughable if it wasn't so sad!

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