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BRITARCH  July 2006

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Subject:

Re: PAS strays from its remit ( was Bill Wyman's light metal )

From:

Rob <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Mon, 17 Jul 2006 10:37:21 +0100

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Andrew,

Not so much the negativity of the PAS but its visual approach to the 
community.  It seems to me and a few others I spoke with that the impression 
given is that it is there for the MD fraternity and one i have tried to get 
over is untrue.  If that is the view of non Archaeologists and non 
detectorists I know ( only 5 people) then whats the real state of affairs?

As for your AS studies.  How can you be sure that the brooches recorded with 
the PAS were not part of a grave?  This is where the context is gone.  In 
Kent the top soil os no more than about 3 inches to 4 inches deep.  Can you 
say with any degree of certainty that the finds you have had to record didnt 
come from below this depth?  You can't.  Yes I do know the depth of top 
soiol in Kent and Sussex because I have dug in both places on numerous 
sites.  Even the two Saxon coin hoardes that were found came from below the 
top soil.  Ok granted not much below but still below.

I know for sure that if I read your report it would be on these arguments I 
based a critique

Rob
http://acorngenealogy.co.uk
http://www.enchantedtimes.co.uk
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Andrew Richardson" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2006 9:07 AM
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] PAS strays from its remit ( was Bill Wyman's light 
metal )


I wish these regular episodes of 'yah boo' between anti-detecting 
archaeologists and detectorists on here could be a little more rooted in 
reality than they are.  This is my personal view of the matter as someone 
who works as an FLO (in Kent).

Firstly I think some people are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill 
(and if anyone has found any finds on a molehill I am of course very happy 
to record them ;-) ) with the PAStexplorers site.  The detector survey is, 
as has been pointed out, one field survey technique, along with fieldwalking 
and geophysics, used on the example (labelled by Paul as 'romantic') of an 
Anglo-Saxon village.  I would say it is trying to show that responsible 
detecting can be a valid field survey technique. But it is one minor aspect 
of the site, and should not be made to stand for the whole scheme.

Should we promote metal detecting?  Look, if metal detecting under any 
circumstances is wrong, and damaging to the archaeological resource, then it 
should be banned.  But this is actually a ludicrous position.  Most 
archaeological units now use detectors on excavations, and they'd be mad not 
to.  English Heritage has just produced a code of practice for detecting on 
its sites, and of course there is the new national code of practice backed 
by the CBA, English Heritage and others.  Responsibly done it is a perfectly 
valid landscape survey technique, along with fieldwalking, geophysics etc. 
Furthermore, it is the only practical method for large scale examination of 
material contained within (as opposed to on the surface of) the disturbed 
ploughsoils that actually make up so much of Britain's archaeological 
resource.  Metal artefacts in these horizons are not resting safely in situ 
in a stable context, they are subject to continual threat from weathering, 
agri-chemicals and damage from agricultural machinery.  They are also of 
course, vulnerable to detection by criminals armed with metal detectors who 
will never record their finds.  Therefore, recovery by responsible 
detectorists who will recored their finds with the PAS is probably the best 
result.

Somebody in this debate (was it Rob?) suggested that unstratified artefacts 
have nothing to tell us archaeologically.  So why the fuss about digging 
them up?  But actually that view is completely wrong.  These artefacts do 
have important things to tell us about the material culture of past 
societies.  If you can't imagine what, then you clearly haven't given the 
matter enough thought.  I'm working on a study of early Anglo-Saxon brooches 
recorded by the PAS in southern England that is producing some pretty 
profound results, notably the contrast between brooches deposited in graves 
and brooches deposited as a result of loss or discard.  In this instance, 
metal detected finds are opening a new window on early Anglo-Saxon material 
culture, one which traditional archaeological methods had failed to open.

Furthermore, in Kent I do have contact with Archaeological Groups and 
Societies, as do the county's responsible detectorists.  Indeed, the 
divisions between detectorists and archaeologists in the county are rapidly 
evaporating.  There has long been a detecting representative on the 
Fieldwork Committee of the Kent Archaeological Society (of which I am now 
chairman) and many clubs are affiliated members of the KAS.  Further direct 
linkage with the KAS is under discussion.  The local clubs have also formed 
the Kent Archaeological Metal Detecting Support Unit (KAMSU) which provides 
volunteers for archaeological projects across the county, and this has been 
very well received.  Volunteers participating in such projects are happy to 
do so, with no expectation that they will keep the finds.

I could go on, but this post is already too long really.  But I'd just 
appeal for people not to always focus on the negative.  If you have issues 
with the PAS why not talk to some FLO's; it will help you get a clearer 
picture of what is actaully happening than any amount of official statistics 
ever will.

Andrew Richardson
FLO, Kent



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