Steve Burch writes:
> I am sure that the general public, if at all interested woulf find in
> of the hobby...
The public has already expressed its voice (in response to the 1995 report
"metal detecting and archaeology") and the expression of that is the
creation of the PAS.The message of this is clear. Artefact hunting is
tolerated in England and Wales provided that it is done in a manner which is
of use to everybody by collaboration in the accumulation of archaeological
knowledge about the past and the archaeological resource. This is what the
thousands of public pounds spent annually on this Scheme are saying.
I think a public opinion survey will (as in most cases) only reflect the
picture presented by the media. Sadly the media coverage - especially the
more popular kind - is biased toward the "ooo-ah" aspects of yet another
piece of "treasure"and the human interest story of its discoverer. The PAS
also is extremely concerned to show that its doing the job it was set up to
do "very well" and this is what dictates the content of its own press
releases. Intended showcase prosecutions of "nighthawks" have evaporated as
the cases collapsed. The media however rarely considers the grey area of
artefact hunters in the UK who are not transgressing any specific law, but
are simply taking and taking from the archaeological resource and not
reporting anything. It is this "grey area" of unrecording artefact hunters
which is the problem. The question is to what degree the man in the street
is aware of this, as it is in nobody's interest (pro-detectorists, or the
PAS) to expose it in this way, and its not terribly newsworthy in itself.
Only an informed public can make an informed choice. We should strive to get
a review done of the actual effects of artefact hunting on the
archaeological resource and if the scale of this is as great as current
evidence suggests, publicise this problem. Let us proclaim loud and wide the
numbers of non-recording as well as illegal detectorists and the cumulative
and longterm erosive effects of their activity on the archaeological
resource (and therefore the common heritage which we are supposed to be
curating) and THEN do a public opinion survey. Based on informed opinion on
the actual conservation issues and not just the fluffy propaganda provided
by the media stories.
Actually I would have thought that doing such a review of the concrete
effects of a current policy or set of policies would be among our duties to
inform the public of what was going on, just as we would review the effects
of any other policy. (So far all we've got is another "review" of "how well
the PAS did last year" which is by means the same thing, even if it was
being carried out in an objective way, which it clearly is not - as we have
earlier discussed here).