This really is my last go at this thread, promise!
You make some good points, as you usually do, and please don't think
that those of us who work at the sharp end of the PAS do not think about
the sort of issues you raise, because we do. I don't pretend the PAS is
perfect (show me the organisation that is) and neither would I want to
deny you the right to criticise and examine what we, a publically funded
body, do. But we are trying our best with the resources available to
Regarding the Anglo-Saxon brooches, I'm sorry that they are 'showy
ethnically-labelable small find type artefacts'. My academic background
happens to be the early Anglo-Saxon period (see my BAR on the
Anglo-Saxon cemeteries of Kent) and these brooches seem to me to offer
some new insights (and numbers count in this instance, hence the
contribution of detectorists vs. 19th century ploughmen) which I hope to
bring out in a paper which I would hope to publish next year. Why not
wait and read it, then judge?
Regarding the membership of Kent clubs, we can quibble about the
figures, I use 'about 400' as a rough figure, and its hard to get a
completely accurate one as some people are members of more than one
club. Certainly many people don't record finds with me. I have a
feeling though that in many cases its because they honestly haven't
found anything worth recording. Some people just aren't on the right
bits of landscape, some just aren't lucky, and could improve their
detecting techniques! Clearly some people are choosing not to record,
but to be honest I think with most people (80% at a rough estimate) they
would record anything I asked them to, but lack of time on my part
prevents me from going around everyone saying "I want to see everything
now". We are making progress, and that is what is important. Give me a
permanent assistant or a second Kent FLO and we'll make yet more
progress, I promise. We do have volunteers helping with the recording
in most clubs by the way, so the detectorists themselves are taking some
responsibility for this.
Paul, there is no problem debating any of this. I agree the metal
detecting hobby as a whole still has a way to go on its journey towards
mainstream archaeology, but it is making progress, and it needs help on
this journey, not hostility. Also I agree we have yet to really get to
grips with what these artefacts have to tell us about past societies,
but again, this is a work in progress; all help will be gratefully
That really is me done on this debate.
From: British archaeology discussion list
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Paul Barford
Sent: 17 July 2006 14:13
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] PAS strays from its remit ( was Bill Wyman's
light metal )
Andrew Richardson writes:
> If you have issues with the PAS why not talk to some
> FLO's ...<
well, one problem is that FLOs are not so keen to discuss these issues
in a purely archaeological context with all of their archaeological
The FLOs very obviously kept out of general discussions on the PAS
Forum, they habitually avoid this one too. In my experience when I have
addressed a request for information or query to an FLO, in many cases
the question is referred to head office in London where the answer is
agreed before I get it. I've not worked out whether that is individual
FLO paranoia, or corporate paranoia, but it hardly suggests I'm getting
the FLO's own spontaneous take on things. One or two FLOs (no names)
have given me the impression that they'd really rather not talk about
some of the issues I raise with them, which rather hinders gathering
So its nice that you are game to talk to us. Thanks.
> it will help you get a clearer picture of what is actaully happening
> than any amount of official statistics
> ever will. <
Ahem, well that's my "song", that the PAS statistics are fluff. I dont
expect you meant to say that !!
The "PAStexplorers" website which we were discussing is an important
enough component of PAS outreach in one of its key areas ("education")
to get launched personally by Estelle Morris. It has potential wide
impact. So I dont see why you are uncomfortable that we comment on it.
Is there ANY reason why it should not be better as archaeological
outreach than it is? Is there ANY real reason why this was not
brainstormed a bit more to bring out these problems before it was
launched? Is there any REAL reason why all the time we are asked to be
satisfied with "better than nothing" from archaeology's "biggest
But the problem that has been highlighted is not just a feature of this
website, what we see on the "PAStexplorers" webpage is just a symptom of
the wider problem of the PAS' attitudes to artefact hunting, or rather
to be more accurate the attitude it projects.
And what is so wrong with us as archaeologists discussing that or even
Nobody whatsoever of course is questioning whether metal detectors are
useful tools, or whether responsible detecting incorporated in a wider
structured approach as "Our Portable Past" lays down, can be useful. The
problem is that the majority of people using this tool have no intention
of doing it by the book, but "self-determining" the way they are going
to exploit the common heritage for their own personal use.
> Should we promote metal detecting? <
well, I too would welcome a PAS answer, your own or consulted with head
office, on that one !! But the point being made was that to all intents
and purposes (and on our behalf) you already do. Where in the whole of
the material produced by the PAS is the other side of the argument
Have a good look and tell us where on the PAS website or literature the
confused member of public (the man in the street) having heard that some
of those nasty archies dont like "metal detecting" and have problems
with the antiquities market, might find out why. Because without that,
it seems to me that there are indeed grounds for saying that the general
tenor of the PAS website is that it promotes artefact hunting and
personal collection in general.
> 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.
I really dont see what PAS brooches have to offer that ploughman's finds
of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries dont - except there are
now more of them perhaps? I note the two main PAS flagship projects,
your Kentish brooches and VASLE are geared towards showy
ethnically-labelable small find type artefacts. Why? Forgive me but
until you publish the results for us to assess, it seems to me that this
type of fibulology is precisely the "traditional" artefactological
archaeology which most of us moved on from decades ago, and its
difficult for me to get awfully excited about "more" cruciform
Numismatists can rewrite history using coins bought on e-bay, they dont
even need a context of finding, but that is no argument that eBay is a
good thing for archaeology. Its good for collectors, but digging all
this stuff out of sites does not do them too much good... talk to your
colleagues in Bulgaria and the Balkans about that.
> As I said, in Kent I have yet to encounter a detectorist (and I visit
> all the clubs in Kent, combined membership
> 400+) who opposes the CoP. A completely different
> picture to the one you paint Nigel.
well, that's funny, the last PAS Annual Report tells us there are only
385 metal detecting club members in Kent (page 100, table 7b) but in the
same period only 102 of them were reporting finds to the PAS (page 100
So three quarters of the metal detector users in this alleged
archaeo-detecting Nirvanaland were in fact not coming forward with finds
as the CoP presupposes. Or is this another of those "official
statistics" which we will now be told mean nothing?
> But I would question why metal detecting, alone amongst the various
> sub-disciplines of archaeology, should be singled out for not being
> promoted, even when responsibly done?
Pardon? Artefact hunting with metal detectors is a "sub-discipline of
archaeology"? No, I dont think it is, its something quite different. It
feeds on archaeology, the finds it throws up can be used by archaeology,
but personal artefact collecting is not in itself archaeology. Surely no
more than stamp collecting is social anthropology. What you call "metal
detecting" (why?) is just the first stage of the whole activity. The
point of it is not merely the "detecting" of the artefact, but what the
"detecting" is for and that is to supply collectables for personal
collection and sale. So could I rephrase that question Andrew, do you
promote responsible collecting of and dealing in of archaeological
artefacts? And do you extend that to all artefacts, whether from the UK
or Iraq, the Balkans, Italy, Egypt, Greece or totally unprovenanced?
Where and how would you have us draw the line?
> So as long as it is promoted within a wider context of appropriate
> methodologies for understanding past landscapes and societies, what is
> the problem?
But it (artefact hunting/metal detecting) is not, not by the PAS anyway.
Your boss two weeks ago wrote in Rescue News that he's happy that 40% of
metal detecting artefact hunters are showing the PAS their finds. The
PAS does _nothing_ beyond making a record of lots and lots of
detector-made finds to promote metal detector use "within a wider
context of appropriate methodologies for understanding past landscapes
and societies" (OK, show us what it does). I agree with you that as
archaeological outreach, that is what it SHOULD have been doing for the
past eight years.... but instead we get the naked artefactology of the
database. On the website are guides on Roman coins (typological series
based on emperors) and medieval coins (ditto only kings) and little
else. As for how to structure metal detector use to study landscapes...
well, you'd have to go to Corinne Mills' website for that, not the PAS
one. Where is there the hint of the merest mention on the PAS website
that finds are used to understand societies - or more to the point how?
That was precisely the point I made about the "PAStexplorers"
stuff, it shows the finds you can find, says what they are, but does not
explain how you go from that to the community which produced, used and
discarded them - in other words how to use the "detectorists"
collectables as archaeological evidence. And surely that is what it
should all be about.
Its part of PAS aim number two.