Robert R aka Edward Thompson:
> Ref. Paul Burford reply.
The name is Barford.
> Field walking I think you would have to be extremely lucky to find
> any thing metallic, perhaps the odd horse shoe, etc.
well, believe it or not but there are archaeologists who use metal detectors
in fieldwalking, but do so in the search for information about the
distribution of objects across the site and not just to hoik them out of the
ground to put into private collections. Some very important results have
emerged from such surveys. The more techniques and approaches to surface
investigation the more potential information you will gain.
> Many artefacts are disregarded during the investigation of
> archaeological when the topsoil is removed either by hand or by
> machine. This is a fact.
and is of course a fact fully appreciated by those who carry out those
investigations. In some cases the project design requires the collection and
study of this material. As an example I could cite a Cotswolds villa site I
was a supervisor on some years ago where we removed the ploughsoil by hand
and obtained a large artefact assemblage which on analysis proved very
different from that stratified below the ploughsoil. In other cases the
project design is not geared towards the analysis of the 'unstratified'
material from the topsoil.
> Why not enlist the help of people extremely experienced in the use
> of metal detectors to recover these so precious artefacts.
Believe it or not, some archaeologists are actually intelligent enough to
learn to use this tool themselves - and do. Others do indeed invite the
local metal detector enthusiasts to do precisely this. Here however lie
several problems. The first is of course the question of the manner in which
these people became "extremely experienced in the use of metal-detectors",
which has been the exploitation of other archaeological sites to enrich
artefact collections or the antiquities market. I have problems to that
approach to the heritage. The second is this problem of legitimising in the
public eye what I see as an activity which I have already made clear why I
would not like to legitimise. Of course one of the fundamental issues is
this attitude about "these so precious artefacts". It is NOT the artefact
which counts in archaeology, its the information it imparts and this
complete difference in approach seems to me to be the main problem in
establishing any contact with the collecting fraternity, even those who want
to "help" us. We have heard isolated tales on this discussion list of
'conversions' of former metal detectorists to an archaeological world view,
unfortunately I have the impression that this phenomenon is neither as
extensive nor as complete as would be desirable.
> There is an army people out there ready to help given the chance.
Well, the establishment of FLO appointments in recent years is doing exactly
that isn't it. Let us see what effect this will have on metaldetecting in
Great Britain. It is worth pointing out that we are now in our fourth decade
of co-operation with metal detectorists, even in the more active
anti-detectorist stance of the Rescue years, there were those who were
willing to extend a welcoming hand. What however is notable is that despite
all this, as one correspondent wrote "the problem of metal detecting will
not go away". And here I stress that the problem is the idea of the
destructive exploitation of parts of archaeological sites merely to enhance
> I have no knowledge of you Paul you sound to be a bit of a
> dinosaur, perhaps a new career would help.
The trouble with the dinosaurs like me however is that after everybody
thinks we've died out, we later reappear - as birds, and when looked at from
a bird's eye view, it may become more apparent what those old dinosaurs were
getting at. Thanks though for the advice.
> Nothing in life lasts forever its time for archaeologists to
> realise that they do not own our heritage. The man in the street
> does and he wants to be involved.
and I am like many of my colleagues all for it. As you quite rightly
observed, we archaeologists do not own the heritage. All of the stuff I dig
up and study is either already in a museum or destined for a museum where
you and the other men in the street can look at it, handle it and write
about it if you so wish. The results of my studies are published in journals
and monographs which you and the other men in the street can read and write
critical reviews of if you so wish. As for how to "own" the heritage, I take
an interest in wildlife too, but I exercise it in various ways but that does
not involve me going out to the forest with a rifle to kill the little
beasties to stuff and hang on my wall as a trophy or sell on ebay. Metal
detecting is just another kind of trophy hunting. That is not "involvement
in the heritage" it is destructive exploitation of the heritage for personal
man in the street also owns the flowers in the public park, which does not
mean that he can go out and pick them to put in a vase at home, nor tear up
the paving slabs from the pavement of which he also is a common "owner" to
build a garden wall. That is not ownership but anarchy. You also are a
part-owner of the municipal bus service which does not mean you can just get
into a bus and drive off in it - you have bus drivers for that. Think of us
archaeologists as bus-drivers into the past, tell us where you want to go,
pay the appropriate fare and we will try to get you there. The problem is of
course with all those who want to drive the bus themselves without doing the
appropriate training course first and not pay the fare.
Unfortunately Robert did not let us know what he thinks about the question I
posed yesterday about his position on the issues that were actually being
discussed. Does his concept of the "ownership of the heritage by the man in
the street" also mean that certain individuals can make money out of buying
and selling bits of it ripped out of context to other men from the street?
It is unclear whether this is the kind of "participation in the heritage" he
supports, since he fails to tell us what he thinks happens to the arterfacts
dicovered by those who are already "extremely experienced" with the use of
metal detectors on archaeological sites.