Tuesday 24 May 2022

Archaeology, Wassat?

      "Exciting and accessible,        
and including a chapter
from the British Museum
on how to go about
treasure hunting yourself"

Another of those pointless discussions with the devotees of the  PAS-cult in British archaeology... It started off when it was pointing out that through one of the main directions of "public outreach" by archaeology, the man in the street (so not the people actively coming to archaeology for something) is through the PAS. This (public funded) body tells the public that (a) artefact hunting and collecting are not at all about damagingly exploiting the archaeological record for private pleasure and gain, but about "discovery", and (b) giving the impression that archaeology is little more than "digging up old things [that we can tell stories about]".*

The work of PAS focuses public attention on loose "objects" rather than issue of context and the specific range of methodology that uses it, the methodology that differentiates this discipline, as such, from merely "digging up old things". It may be argued that the short-sighted and blinkered object-centric way it goes about almost all of its "public outreach" are a really serious problem that in the long term (they've been doing it 25 years) has and does extensively impact public perceptions of the discipline. 

It seems clear from what we see in the public domain, that British archaeology has completely dropped the ball in getting over to public that archaeology is anything other than "digging up [interesting] old things", and that's because the main "public outreach" being done is by PAS (and museums full of "things"). The devotees are aghast about even discussing that:
Dr Simon Maslin@spmaslin 3 g.
W odpowiedzi do @howardmrw @PortantIssues i 2 innych użytkowników
I seriously hope you are not proposing that as a serious argument! That's like suggesting that the creation of the fire brigade led to the beginning of arson. The growing popularity of detecting is unrelated to the existence of the PAS. It's far more complicated than that.
Ummm, we were talking about wider public perceptions of the aims and purpose of the discipline of archaeology, not just "metal detecting". The problem here seems to be that many (no doubt busily) employed in the PAS have a severe case of tunnel vision. * The "we" being, "us the experts - archaeologists" (and is usually phrased as it beiung the objects themselves telling the story, just the arkies translating it to the hoi polloi). the problem is that with the current erosion of the notion of expertise, "we" tends to be read by the wider public, "you".

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