Wednesday 20 April 2022

"British Archaeological Sites Damaged by Artefact Hunters": New TV Series Coming Soon

     Who do these people think they are?      
Great British History Hunters has teamed up with the British Museum (Portable Antiquities Scheme):
Episode 1x01; Apr 27, 2022
In this first episode a unique collection of Roman Bronzes make life-changing amounts of money at auction, mudlarks scour the Thames foreshore for treasures of London's past and a 3,000-year-old gold sun pendant stuns is discovered in Shropshire.
Their earlier press release gets the title wrong: "More 4 links up with the British Museum to learn more about our hidden history 3 November 2021. Surely, if the BM was involved, it should be a more public-spirited "to learn more about the destruction of our hidden history by thousands of artefact hunters and looters". But then the real issue seems to have got lost in a cloud of Indiana Jones-wannabe imagery and typically British archaeo-wafflyfluff:
Channel 4 has commissioned a new series Great British History Hunters for More 4 from Tuesday’s Child following the real-life detectorists and the journey their fascinating finds [ripped from the soil in England and Wales - PMB] make through the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure processes.

Britain is a land of rich history hidden beneath our feet, where millions of artefacts [lying in archaeological assemblages and contexts PMB] are yet to be found that can reveal the secrets of our past [if investigated and recorded properly - PMB]. This series will tell warm characterful stories about ordinary people that are out-and-about all over the country [trashing archaeological sites and contexts - PMB] making extraordinary discoveries every day [and some of them reporting these loose finds - PMB]. Whether metal detectorists, mudlarks or amateur archaeologists, they [are among a mass of almost 30 000 hobbyists who - PMB] all have a passion for finding [taking PMB] the missing pieces that [would - PMB] help tell the story of our past.

It's every detectorist’s dream to one day find “treasure” that ends up on display in the British Museum or a museum local to where they live [to bask in the kudos and pocket the reward, while archaeology struggles to find resources to conserve, analyse and publish this material in real time - PMB]. With unique access to the Museum’s dedicated team of archaeologists [, propagandists - PMB], curators, conservators, and scientists, the discoveries are filmed from soil to gallery, revealing more history from the objects at each stage. Since its inception in 1997, there’s been over 1.5m finds recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme – a project to record archaeological finds made by the public - and whilst some of these artefacts can reap financial rewards for the finders, more importantly they [would -PMB] also help shed light on the history of our nation [as well as the sites they were ripped from, if their context was better known and the subject of proper analysis and publication - PMB].
But of course it's not about archaeology, or even really studying and understanding the past. Taking its lead from the popular TV comedy series (which was not about the past either), 'Detectorists':
Against a backdrop of the Great British Countryside in all its glory - rolling fields, stunning coastlines, hillsides, vast mudflats, breathtaking archaeological excavations, and the London skyline at night - we’ll meet a colourful mix of finders, including an 11-year-old YouTuber finding Bronze Age gold, an Indiana Jones enthusiast, female detectorists giving the guys a run for their money, war vets, devoted dads and a host of other finders that illustrate the camaraderie and companionship that detecting can bring, and the important role they all play in the British Museum’s mission to involve people in archaeology and share an appreciation of our shared past. [...] Sarah Saunders, British Museum’s Head of Learning and National Partnerships, said: “The British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a unique partnership, that brings together archaeologists, museum professionals, landowners and finders, to better understand, appreciate and protect Britain’s rich past. [...] We are delighted that this work will be highlighted by this new series which will showcase the hard work of the Scheme and exciting discoveries made every year by the British public.”
But (from this) apparently not actually highlighting too anything about the issues involved in treating what is left of the archaeological record of "Britain" (read: England and Wales) as merely a bottomless quarry for collectables for private collecting and profit by a minority of selfish people that want to dig it all up and dispose of what they can find for themselves as they like and how that actually relates to the underlying principles and ethics of heritage management and archaeology with which this activity is hereby partnered. 

From past experience, this program almost certainly will NOT be telling the public about the relationship after quarter of a century of operation of this public-funded detectorists' scam between the number of finds that are recovered 'responsibly', i.e., reported and recorded, and the vastly greater numbers that are not, and what this means in terms of the overall destructive effects of this exploitative hobby. 

By not telling the public about this, the object-centred ivory tower eggheads of the British Museum will (again) not have to bother about telling the viewing public about the realities behind the silly publicity-spin 'expedition' jeep parked in front of their faux-classical façade aping imperial grandeur with the numpty in Indiana Jones garb standing next to it trying to look cool. 

After all, why in Boris's Britain would one expect any public-funded authority to actually tell the public how the unregulated trashing of archaeological sites by people "out-and-about all over the country" to build up scattered ephemeral private collections is (allegedly) "protecting" the archaeological record of Britain's (or even Europe/the world's) rich past?*

* And of course we should take into account that the eggheads in a "museum" would not actually be thinking about the dirty, grubby, archaeological record itself at all, but only about the gawpworthy artefacts extracted from it that in an object-centred view are themselves sufficient of "the past" for their own institutional needs and "mission". Equally obvious is that not a single one of the opinion-forming (ha ha) archaeological bodies of the British 'establishment' will utter as much as a peep about this manner of presentation of archaeological material in a public press release (or even draft a letter of protest to the PAS), will they? 'Course not.

(See also "The British Museum Did Not Bin This One" PACHI 4th November 2021)

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