Saturday 14 May 2022

Comedy "Detectorists" Back

I have mixed feelings about the announcement that BBC Four's comedy series 'Detectorists' is coming back for a feature-length special (11th May 2022). On the one hand, I really enjoyed the original series as such and the brilliant array of characters portrayed by some excellent actors. On the other, I think its casual treatment and legitimising of the whole issue of exploiting archaeological sites as a source of collectables (together with a culpable lack of public discussion of the issues from the British 'archaeological community' on its back) awfully damaging. That the same series could have been made about some other rural hobby, such as train spotters or clay pigeon shooters, but was not. When the three-series show ended in 2017, the author of the screenplay said he had no plans to return to the topic, it seems he's changed his mind:
Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook are reuniting in a new Detectorists special The one-off programme will be feature-length at 75 minutes It promises to "bring viewers up to date with the lives of Andy, Lance, Becky and the Danebury Metal Detecting Club" [...] Production on the new special of the triple BAFTA-winner is understood to begin shortly, made by Treasure Trove Productions, Channel X North and Lola TV.
No doubt it will be good TV. No doubt our British colleagues will once again fail to step up to the mark, no doubt a new wave of new people will be out there making their first metal detector purchases and looking for somewhere to use them. And mno doubt an additional few thousand archaeological artefacts will get hoiked out of Britain's already-depleted archaeological record to end up as loose decontextualised pieces of old metal in countless pockets for a while until they get lost. For what?

In the course of the three series members of the Danebury Club found a number of metal items, some modern, others older. An 'aestil' (Alfred-Jewel Lookalike) was found by Lance, but its context was never determined, the same with the hoard at the end of the third series. A ship burial was missed. Maybe a detectorist-supporting archaeologist would like to pen a paper about what the fictional artefact hunting we see in the programme would add, in the way we see it being done, to our knowledge of the archaeology/history area where Andy and Lance are searching that goes beyond a trite, triumphant "the Romans/Saxons/Medieval falconers were here too". Yes, we have that 2020 book "Landscapes of Detectorists" but I'd like to see artefact hunting archaeologists take us through the aspects of 'knowledge making' in anything but a narrow sense from collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record using what this programme represents as a starting point of discussion. they won't of course, British arkies also seem to think that archaeology is basically all about just "digging up old things.

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