Most people on Britarch will be looking at the PAS as part of
"archaeological outreach". That is what it is funded for.
Rob Burns writes that the PAS is "primarily aimed at the Metal Detector
Fraternity". But (whatever metal detectorists like to think and perhaps have
even been led to believe) its not.
The PAS was set up to promote recording of finds made by ALL members of the
public and only secondarily to create a database by which to carry that out.
Very quickly however (for political reasons) it got deflected from that to
seeing the rapid enlargement of the database as being their
be-all-and-end-all. Hence their interest in courting artefact hunters who
could bring in a constant flow of artefacts to boost those all important
"numbers". It was only in 2003 that the five aims of the PAS were modified
to mention (metal detector using) artefact hunters.
So if a ten year old with an interest in the past comes across the PAS
website, are they encouraged to turn to archaeology as a hobby - or are they
encouraged to see the past as represented by serried rows of collectables?
Steve Burch suggests that
> Youngersters with an interest in their heritage will
> be coming into the hobby anyway, many of us see
> this as a way in which the PAS can grab the interest
> of the kids and thereby lead them into practising
> responsible detecting. <
well, actually, to be more accurate, its youngsters who are looking for
something other than stamps and phonecards to collect that will be coming to
artefact-hunting. Is it the aim of the PAS as archaeological outreach to
encourage them to do ANY kind hunting for and collecting artefacts from
archaeological sites? Or should true archaeological outreach be steering
them to other activities more sustainable (and to my mind more rewarding)?
From a purely archaeological and ARM point of view, should kids be taught to
believe artefact hunting is a legitimate manner of exploitation of the
fragile and finite archaeological resource, or would we archaeologists
expect the "outreach" done on our behalf to be putting over the opposite
message, that it is something we should be doing our best to protect from
The "PAStexplorers" webpage is not primarily for kids who've already started
collecting mementoes of the past taken from archaeological sites. It is for
school use and intended to be the basis of a history lesson within the
National Curriculum. Since the PAS is doing outreach on behalf of
archaeology, one would assume that it should be aiming to show how the
"archaeological sources" are used. In this it fails. The webpage is rather
badly conceived as a piece of "archaeological outreach". What it actually
presents is a romantic vision of the past (a reconstruction of an
Anglo-Saxon village) and then the scattered disjecta that are left to be
found to evoke it. Despite purporting to be an element of ":archaeological
outreach", what PASTexplorers does NOT present is how we (anyone can) take
the information [which of course includes but does not consist solely of the
finds] and come to the interpretation. Does it "encourage" metal detecting?
Possibly, but it certainly does nothing to DIScourage it - or inform
teachers how we would expect them to approach the topic in lessons.