Tuesday, 6 December 2022

A Decontextualised Spearhead "Saved from Rot"?

Diverting from the topic of a former post here on a crap British TV show, Digging For Treasure (PACHI Friday, 19 August 2022) an anonymous person, who I can only assume is a metal detectorist, has a series of comments that illustrates some of the problems arising from the British approach to collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record. They write:
Unknown said...5 December 2022 at 13:47 A very nice Bronze-age spearhead came to light on Graeme Rushton's popular Cumbrian digs, would you have preferred that it remained there and rotted away completely?
This is the usual junk-logic, totally oblivious to what I had written in the text to which they are ostensibly commenting. I replied: "Where is the evidence for the use of the word "rotting"? Presumably it has survived some 3200 years intact without "rotting" why would it start "rotting" only after the invention of the metal detector and in Graeme Rushton's lifetime? Serious question, please provide a link to the PAS database entry so we can see what state it actually is in. What was the soil?" and I added that the latest item found in Cumbria reported to the PAS was this one, which "does not look "rotting" to me". I repeated the challenge to provide information that was "evidence of it being saved from "rotting" and oblivion"? Of course here is the issue, it's not about preserving the artefact, but "me preserving it in MY own collection" that is the real, unspoken, issue. The anonymous commentator writes [hyperlink added]:
Unknown said...6 December 2022 at 06:24
Regarding the PAS database, due to all the suspected illegality surrounding the organization at the moment, and despite many attempts, I have been unable to contact any of the personnel there, resulting in said artifact remaining in my possession. If the facility were available would post a picture for you to see the evidence of corrosion on the socket which, if left would eventually destroy the whole piece. Once again I ask, would you have preferred it to have lain undiscovered until it became undiscoverable?

Unknown said...6 December 2022 at 06:54
Incidentally, regarding your disparaging comments regarding 'Digging for Treasure,' I am in full agreement, as are a great many involved in the metal detecting fraternity. Graeme Rushton, after his appearance, was asked to appear again but due to the frivolous, game-show impression generated by the presenters flatly refused. Even though you find it incomprehensible, we do have our standards.
Yes, the comment section of my blog is not set up to carry photos of "detecting finds". However, with there being some 78+ detecting forums, Facebook pages and uncounted social media accounts out there devoted to British "metal detecting" and other collectors' resources, I find it hard to believe that any detectorist actually wanting to post a photo up in a place that we can all see to demonstrate their point cannot do it.

In my comments about the TV show involving archaeologists, the "gameshow atmosphere" was the least of the problems I wrote about.

The collector does not explain how they and the landowner have obtained (and funded) qualified professional conservation treatment dealing with the "corrosion on the socket" that allegedly "if left would eventually destroy the whole piece" (for this and any other objects in their collection in the same state). Frankly, I doubt that the writer of this comment has any qualifications at all in corrosion science to put them in a position to make such a definitive statement. 

As for the accusation that "despite many attempts" this finder was unable to contact any of the personnel of the PAS database "due to all the suspected illegality surrounding the organization at the moment", I find that a rather puzzling statement. How would that prevent a "responsible detectorist" acting responsibly?

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