Wednesday, 22 March 2023

More Skewed Figures in PAS Database [Updated].

Archaeologist  Nathalie Cohen writes (21 mar 2023) of
" Day 2 metal detecting survey in Forstal Field @SmallhytheNT - total finds now located = 1400+ - mostly ferrous…"
The site is by the 16th century Smallhythe Place at Tenterden in Kent. This sort of survey puts the (ahem) "achievements" of the object-centric Portable Antiquities Scheme in context in terms of real in-the-ground-archaeology. We need more of this. The statistics of the PAS database containing "1,632,882 objects" reveal that only 6,964 of them (in 4615 records) are ferrous, so how representative is what is being recorded of what is being taken out of sites and the archaeological record by 40000 greedy artefact collectors from under archaeologists' noses in England and Wales? (spoiler alert - it ain't at all). The PAS database is not anything like a record of the archaeolgical evidence removed from archaeological sites during artefact hunting. It is not mitigation of the damage done and the vast amounts of information lost (knowledge selfishly stolen) from searched sites - even if we have the hallowed x-marks-the-spot "findspot" beloved of those that support this kind of artefact-hoiking. The "data" there are not evidence of the archaeology of those destroyed sites and assemblages.

And how many coins are there from this survey's 1400+ artefacts? The PAS database is 61% (796409) coins at the expense of other artefact types:
Nathalie Cohen @Nathalie_Cohen 2 min
One 1984 pound coin.
I doubt we'll be seeing any real open and public discussion of the issue of the representativeness and significance of these data that goes much beyond Kossinnist typological mumbo-jumbo and dot distribution maps by the PAS and its FLOs or cultic supporters.

Update: Also note that in subsequent discussion, it emerged that those 1400+ finds in that survey had been located by one bloke, detecting in two days. The figure used in the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter is just over thirty artefacts a year's detecting. If the same bloke goes out artefact hunting on his "own permissions" just a few weekends in the year, at that rate (if they are "productive" sites), he'll be locating ten thousand or more artefacts a year. How many, and what, does he report to PAS a year?

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