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Subject:

Re: UKDFD - What does it mean? [three minute version]

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 4 Sep 2005 13:31:32 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (331 lines)

Nigel,

> John, I don’t wish to criticise FLOs. Doing it that way was a good idea
–
> rubbing shoulders and making converts. The problem is, it hasn’t worked,
not to the expected degree, as their stats show. The lack of willingness
by
> the detecting majority to participate in the scheme is far worse than could
> have been anticipated but that’s not the fault of FLOs or PAS.

So essentially, they experienced the Winnie the Pooh effect:

"When you are a bear of very little brain and you think of things you find
sometimes that a thing which seemed very thingish inside you is quite
different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at
it."

The question is, if a good idea does not work then was it a good idea?

> My only criticism has been that more than liaison with detectorists was
needed – the landowning public should have had a strong message about
the
> difference between “good” recording behaviour and “irresponsible” non-
recording behaviour so that, as arbiters of who got to detect their
fields,
> they would have made a big difference to what goes on. Liaison with the
public has been left to the FLOs – and this has put them in an invidious
position, since any such message is seen as prejudicial to their
relationship with detectorists. Nevertheless, it’s a valid message and
should have been delivered centrally. It hasn’t happened, which is why
Heritage Action is trying to do so. Detectorists object strongly, as
does
> David Connolly, all on the grounds it’s devisive. So what, say I. Only
recording detectorists deserve praise or societal blessing.

To a certain degree, I can agree with you on this, but one has to
understand that anything that requires some extra effort is not going to
be universally adopted. All you can really do is to make the reporting of
finds easier and provide incentives to do so. If the rewards are worth the
effort the numbers will increase. Another problem is that many
archaeologists commonly make derogatory remarks about detecting,
collecting and dealing. Often with no clue as to what these activities
actually do. They see only their own side of things and are blinded by the
propaganda that they are being fed. I mentioned Sir John Evans to Rob.
Read what Colin Haselgrove had to say about Evans:

"A firm and secure foundation": the work of Sir John Evans, 1860 - c.1910.

What was still lacking was a reasoned chronological framework and a
detailed arrangement of individual types in space and time. It was Evan's
enduring contribution to supply this in _The Coins of the Ancient Britons
(1864), a meticulous study of the different types, their probable
inter-relationship, and all the previously collected information including
provenances. The accurate engravings of the significant types were a
factor in the rapidly increased reporting of finds, such that by 1890,
Evans could publish a _Supplement_ including many more unrecorded types,
and many new finds (from 240 new provenances, compared to 252 before
1864).

Evans personified the values of the Victorian era; a polymath and an
F.R.S., his interest extended beyond coins to many other aspects of
archaeology, from Bronze Age artefacts to Roman villas. Much of his work
was based on his own coin collection, which passed on his death either to
the British Museum as the nucleus of the national collection or to the
Ashmolean Museum in 1941 in the bequest of his son, Sir Arthur Evans.
Evans had the means and the contacts, practical as well as social, to
obtain "first refusal" on many finds and information about others from
fellow collectors such as Latchmore and Kennard. Recognising the
information which Evans amassed through these contacts is a crucial factor
in assesing our knowledge of Iron Age coin deposition e.g. our record of
the nineteenth century coin finds at Braughing is largely the product of
Evans' direct intervention."

Haselgrove, BAR British series 174, 1987, p 2-3.

After Evans, the tradition passed to D. F. Allen and it took two forms:
the gazetteer of Celtic coin finds in ALLEN, D. F. 1960: The origins of
coinage in Britain: a reappraisal. In S. S. Frere (ed.), Problems of the
Iron Age in southern Britain (London, Institute of Archaeology Occasional
Paper 11), 97-308. and his work together with Frere in building the Celtic
Coin Index -- a card file record started in 1961.

Haselgrove continued Allen's literary tradition by publishing a number of
supplements to the original gazeteer (1978, 1984, 1989) and also, together
with John Collis, published:

HASELGROVE, C. and COLLIS, J. 1981: A computer-based information storage
and retrieval scheme for Iron Age coin finds in Britain? In B. W. Cunliffe
(ed.), Coinage and society in Britain and Gaul: some current problems (CBA
Research Report 38), 57-61.

This is where I come in to the picture. After reading that paper and also
being in communication with Haselgrove (he provided me with some good
information when I was starting my own research) I could see the value of
such a thing. I had sent Haselgrove a copy of my "quick identification
chart for Coriosolite staters which was the paper prototype of my expert
system and he suggested that I shoud attempt something similar for the
British series. I realized that the scale of such a project would be well
beyond my means and was so copmplex that it could not possibly work as new
types show up all the time. I did start thinking about the computer system
though. I expanded on Haselgrove's ideas and came up with the idea of an
on line Celtic Coin Index consisting of static pages that would be
absorbed into the greater WWW and thus serve an interdisciplinary function
that reflected the original purposes of the WWW. I was lucky to have
Carrie for my wife as she was really brilliant in designing and building
very elegant databases.

One of the results of all of this is that about 35% of all known Celtic
coins have provenances and this percentage is increasing. Chris Rudd, the
Norfolk dealer in Celtic coins soon realized that recording everything
with the CCI was well worth the effort and a coin that is not registered
and has no provenance has a lower financial value than one that does.

Of course, if you throw out the whole tradition and say that there should
be no collectors and no dealers, then interest declines, studies are not
done and nothing gets recorded. Perhaps that doesn't really matter. I see
that the real situation is not the advancement of knowledge but merely an
expresion of socialist politics applied to archaeology. People seem very
willing to accept any mediocrity that expresses the party line and to
actively fight other creations that do not -- even if they are of good
quality.

Being largely ignorant of the situation on an international level lead to
various "fools paradises". There is the idea that laws will solve any
problems. There was nothing more rigid than the regulations imposed in the
former Soviet Union. Everything "belonged to the people". My friend Robert
went to london after the fall of the Soviet Union. He saw a parcel of
coins for sale that had been accumulated and hidden for a long time,
obviously from a much bigger parcel, it contained a quarter of a million
coins of the Roman emperor Probus. These coins and many other objects had
been hidden from the authorities who could claim that everything was being
reported -- they were too scared to try and smuggle them out under that
regime, but individuals held them as "treasure".

 > PAS as a whole is in an impossible position.  Archaeology and society
see
> it’s function as one of resource conservation, detectorists see it as a
body that ought to be very pro-the whole hobby. It’s hard to be both
since
> part of the hobby is most certainly exploitative. Liaison and doing
what’s
> right for the resource aren’t always the same. Hence PAS is silent about
our campaign. Hence they don’t have many up front clear statements on
their
> website saying non-reporting is depriving society of it’s due. Hence
they
> told me to lay off the “record, record, record” mantra as it was causing
upset!  (What else is PAS about but that?!) Hence they go to rallies,
knowing most don’t report, in order to report the finds of those that
do.
> Hence they turned up to the Marston Moor battlefield rally, knowing it
was
> damaging and would cause no end of criticism. What else can they do? A
number of times this past year there has been talk of detectorists
withdrawing from PAS because PAS isn’t actively pro-detecting. UKDN has
a
> thread entitled “PAS Ingratitude”.

A resource is something that gets used. Conserving things, like protecting
various species is a different matter. We are not trying to conserve
animals and habitats because we think they might come in handy as food and
housing developments later. A resorce conservation program balances the
use and the sustainabilty of the resource. The problem with artefacts is
that what has been made and survives is what exists. They do not breed!

As a religious icon -- which is how many actually see them, they serve no
function other than as monuments to that religion. Most people do not know
what a religion is, in the west, certainly, it is thoroughly tied into the
ides of a soul, a god, and an afterlife. It is really not that. You can
have a religion that contains those things, but they do not define
religion. Religion is really a metaphor-based system of faith -- of
belief. Atheism is as much a religion as the Roman Catholic faith. They
are both based on belief. Agnosticism, on the other hand is not a religion
as it demands evidence or proof and does not rest on belief.

In primitive societies, the general experince of life is also the
experience of religion. When religions became more organized, laws existed
that often interfered with the more political side of things and there
came about the separation of Church and State. This is not a natural stae
for the human mind to find itself in and it requires these symbols and
metaphor to function properly in a healthy manner. Jung was keenly aware
of the problem and saw that what had served the mind in metaphor and
symbols was being replaced with, as he called them "wretched isms"

The polarities of Church and State led to a backlash that expressed iteslf
in "The Age of Reason" Jonathon Swift (any relation?) expressed this with
his satire, like "the big enders and the little enders" and thinking
people started to take better control of their own minds. The culmination
of all of this free thinking lead to the height of the amateur revolution
of the nineteenth century and Darwin was perhaps the best of all of them.
Evans was very much influenced by Darwin, not just in methodoloogy, but
more importantly, in spirit.

Nowadays, sadly, the pendulum has started to swing backward. Despite the
technological advances we are heading to a new sort of dark age. You see
the big enders and the little enders embodies in the governments of the
world wielding vast amounts of economic and miltary power. Organized
religions have taken hold and attempt to even gain ascendancy over their
states. Free thinking becomes taboo. The priests of this religion are not
really clever, they fail to recognize the metaphors and symbols. For them
it is all reality and historical truth.

There is a mythic creature called "the people". What, hundreds of years
ago, had been "good in the eyes of the Virgin" (who was the latest
metamorphosis of the Ephesian Artemis) has now been changed to what is
good in the eyes of the people. There is a psychological transference from
the minds of the high priests of this new religion to "the people" Just as
the Virgin was supposed to have the deeds of all of mankind under her
gaze. The priests belong to many different sects that coexist, mainly,
becase they do not have much to do with each other. Their rites are their
disciplines and their deity is "the people".

> A prominent detectorist said a while back: “The archaeologists do not
have
> a god given right to what is in the ground, neither do they have the
right
> to the infomation. The information is given by us, and they should be
grateful for our co-operation, not trying to write a rulebook for us to
follow.” … Try liaising with that!

What you are seeing here are the fledgling individualists, people who are
attempting to take back their minds from the control of the cult. This
process is the "individuation" that Jung speaks of. It is an attempt to
free the mind from the harmful collective consciousness that is
responsible for most of the ills of the world and allow the interplay
beteen the individual unconscious and consciousness. It is a move toward
sanity amidst an insane world. They will do very well with it and attempts
to counter it will be met with a ruthless response. Among these people, a
few "John Evans" are already starting to appear.

> This new database is the product of that tension. The exact sequence of
it’s hatching is written into the PAS forum record for anyone who cares
to
> read it. I must reiterate, dissatisfaction with the actual PAS database
played NO part whatsoever and was never mentioned. The cited reasons
were
> PAS failure to fully support the hobby against the criticism of the bad
bits of the hobby (not the liberal praise of the good bits) – from
people
> like me and Paul, and the precipitating factor was the moment a FLO had the
> temerity to say Paul had made some good points! That’s when it happened
–
> you can read it for yourself. Who gets to write the rules, that’s all
it’s
> about.

Then you should be able to see from this that your method is flawed.
Rather than criticizing in the name of "the people" -- remember they are
not members of this organized religion and do not recognize the status of
its priests. You ask them, specifically, "How can we best deal with this
data in order to gain a better knowledge of the past?" It is about
techniques to a mutual end and not about rules. I keep trying to tell
everyone that if you want something done very well then get an amateur to
do it. They love their subject in the same way that a good mother loves
her child -- they will do it no harm. The ideas that come from this love
are its offspring. It can be a long pregnancy -- twenty years or so is
common. only a small percentage of them will succeed, in reality, but this
is what nature is about. They do have the ability to succeed and it is
really mostly up to them. Now, when you get in between a mother grizzly
bear and her cub, don't be surprised when she bites your face off -- she
will do this.

> Your thoughts about the need to improve the database really aren’t the
point John, and you’re alone and late in putting them forward. You may
very
> well be right but I feel you’re aiding a larger but ill-thought out and
dangerous agenda.

All the best ideas are solitary. That doesn't bother me at all. The
database is being used as an icon and, as such, it it not required to work
at all. This has been made very clear. It is merely a religious relic or a
statue. a monument that costa lot of money and supports the tenets of the
religion. It is a cathedral that is not even pretty -- now that is really
sad.

>What if you got your way? No FLOs, no persuasion, no community control or
rule-making ability at all? Control of what’s best for
> the resource by ten thousand people most of whom have shown they think it’s
> just theirs for the taking? Surely not? There are two hobbies. The
smaller
> one is entitled to a big say, though not the only one. The rest deserve
no
> say whatsoever in my view – though they’re welcome to change whenever
they
> want.

Stop thinking "resource" and start thinking about the methods of gaining
knowledge. The collective "resource" contains no knowledge, it is an
amorphous mass. When every single artefact is given the same importance as
every other artefact, then you are just wasting time and money. It is the
relationsjhips that are important. the statistical methods can be used on
samples -- you really don't need every single object. This is the
scientific method. If you think that good tests on a good sample is
inadequate and that another sample would deliver completely different
results then you are not following the scientific method -- in fact you
are just throwing science out of the window and saying something like the
laws of gravity only work on the objects that we use to test the laws of
gravity. without testing every object then we canmnot determine the truth
of gravity as a law. In a practical manner, I find that the provenances of
a number of objects with only the foucus of "near..." is more than
adequate. If you study Haselgrove's methodology then you will see that
where the sample is small for a set he reccommends increasing the criteria
for that sample until you have enough for a proper statistical analysis.

It was only by grouping together various classes of Coriosolite coins that
I was able to see the distribution patterns and monetary economical zones.
It was invisible before that because because the data had been divided so
much that the patterns vanished. Simply put, they couln't see the forset
for the trees. Often, even provenances listed by "near..." are too focused
to reveal patterns. Only by seeing the patterns of broader regions can you
see what difference certain types of sites exhibit.

The practical side is that collecting and recording everything
promiscuously, is next to impossible and is a very heavy and needless
drain on the economy. How about that quarter of a million Probus coins? --
I doubt that there was a type that did not already exist in the published
literature among them. Do you think that spending 10 million pounds to
record each one would be worthwhile to try to disprove my hypothesis?

You can limit the sorts of things or restrict the numbers, or both. You
need to record enough to deal with the data properly and no more. What you
do need are more individual minds and less group think. Discoveries are
made by individuals, and the best discoveries are made by individuals
following their passion. I have heard that not one important scientific
discovery was ever made by someone who was paid to so. Remember, DNA was a
"hobby" discovery, Einstein was a patent clerk and Darwin was paid only to
gather samples.

Cheers,

John

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