Sunday 23 January 2022

Barford Allegedly "Shouting from the Sidelines" of a Debate that is Simply Not Happening in the UK Profession


     Liaison Officer Peter Reavill      
Since the "Noble Pursuit" Hodnet fiasco has drawn attention to the West Midlands, I was reminded that just over a year ago the FLO for Herefordshire and Shropshire, Peter Reavill had a go at me ('Rebuke from PAS FLO Reavill: Be Careful What You Wish For' PACHI 30 January 2021). He accuses me, based here in Warsaw, of "shouting from the sidelines" of the UK heritage debate. It however is a fact that there really seems to be an almost total silence from the "6000 archaeologists" (Profiling the Profession) of the UK about the majority of the substantive issues that are raised here in this blog (and several papers that I've written down the years that have been bypassed by the UK's archaeological community). So I would ask, "sidelines" of which "debate"? 

Indeed, a few months earlier, Mr Reavill was confident that he could prove that the issues I and other have recently been raising about collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record were non-issues, not worth bothering about. He said he'd write a response ("A Pragmatic Approach to Artefact Hunting Works and has Benefited the Heritage of the Country Greatly" PACHI Saturday, 11 July 2020 ). He agreed to answer some of the points I had raised, he wanted to hedge it around with conditions, but then pulled out (Communicating Archaeology: FLO Backs Down from Defending Claim PACHI Monday, 20 July 2020). He is quite welcome to change his mind and address those points right now if he likes. Mr Reavill also was one of the PAS FLOs that received a link to my (23 July 2020) efforts to produce an archaeologically-based fuller definition of what "Responsible Artefact Hunting" might be... ('Archaeology and Responsible Artefact Collecting' July 23, 2020). He has so far refused to comment on this too, and it is unclear whether this means the FLO agrees 100% with what is written there, or is so negligent of the ambiguity of the sole alternative definition so far produced that two years later he's not even bothered to open it. Yet this question has complete relevance to the issues raised by the practices we see being rehearsed by "metal detectorists" at Hodnet. 

The Code thought sufficient by Mr Reavill's employer does not (as we see here) define as "responsible metal detecting" enough that would fulfil in full the opening postulate:  "If undertaken responsibly metal-detecting can make an important contribution to archaeological knowledge". Even if those axeheads were 10 cm down, hoiking them out like this would still not "contribute to our understanding of the history of" that site, still less therefore "England and Wales". As for this simplistic code comprising "guidance on accepted best practice" that is just laughably naïve faced with a case like this.

As I said, I am perfectly willing to discuss this in writing, here, with any FLO even if they think they are entering the sidelines. I personally would say dealing (and 'partnering') with artefact hunters is itself a pretty massive sideline to real archaeology as a method-based discipline.

As I am sue Mr Reavill will claim he's "too busy" liaising with public finders to actually write anything about these issues, it's worth noting that according to PAS statistics, he's managed to record just nine objects (for the most part easy-peasey coins) since 1st July 2021 (compare that with countrywide results). I would say talking in the public domain about collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record to the wider public (who pay for it) is as important part of PAS' public outreach as talking directly to metal detector users. No? 

Vignette: screenshot edited from 'Interview with Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer at the British MuseumJan 19, 2021 

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