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Subject:

Re: Sustainable archaeology - was archaeology v. treasure?

From:

Paul Barford <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Thu, 26 Jun 2008 19:17:45 +0200

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 Pete Twinn wants to share the positive news as a "front line user" of the 
PAS (whatever on earth that is)  and writes
> I now have over 1000 records recording the details or nearly 1500 finds<

Good for you.

1) Roger Bland admits there are 8000 metal detector-using artefact hunters 
in England and Wales (I think the number is slightly higher, but let's 
accept his figures for a moment). Now, if _each_ of them has personal 
artefact collections of a similar size, that means there are potentially 
eight to twelve million _recordable_  artefacts out there which have come 
out of the archaeological record and into their personal collections in the 
period you've been detecting. (Phew, I don't know how many artefacts the BM 
has in its stores after nigh on two hundred years of collecting, but I'd not 
be surprised if the figures are of a comparable order of magnitude).

After ten years, the PAS database has about 340 000 (some 60% come from 
detectorists) of artefact hunters - so how do you see that as a success? 
What about the 7660000+ other ones?

How big _are_ these personal artefact collections? I've seen one that fills 
a substantial shed. Another member told me of one that fills one wall of a 
garage (in sacks !). Wouldn't it be useful to have some statistics on this? 
Why actually do we NOT have statistics on this after ten years of close 
liaison (who is hiding what from whom)? Is that not actually something that 
is in fact vital to understanding the Effects of Artefact Hunting on the 
Archaeological Resource and assessimg how well our policies are coping with 
the erosion? I would say so.

2) Furthermore, if (as we now learn) Pete Twinn has single-handedly 
contributed one third of a percent of those recorded finds, does this not 
mean that among the loudly trumpeted successes of the PAS annual report 
figures there are by comparison an awful lot of 'token recorders' among the 
4000 detectorists reputed to be contributing to the Scheme? This emphasises 
how much we really need to know about patterns of detecting and recording 
activities rather than the simplistic "statistics" we are constantly fed by 
the Scheme.

3) >  and the majority of people who do detect will/are
> coming around to a recording ethos<
well once again we are coming back to the (false) picture that the PAS is 
only set up to deal with 8000 detectorists. It is there to outreach to the 
whole public, isn't it?

So that's still another 54 million people to go. Actually since it went 
"national" in 2003, according to the annual report figures, it seems PAS has 
been in direct contact with some 126600 people at some 3350 events. (So at 
that rate it will take another 213 years to get round to even half the other 
53.87 million. That'd cost about 170 million quid at today's prices.)

What message should the PAS be conveying to them about personal portable 
antiquity collecting? Would it be encouraging them all to take it up to "get 
involved in archaeology"? (that'd suit the MD dealers of course). Or would 
it be discouraging them in order to protect the accessible parts of the 
archaeologicsl record from being totally depleted? What do you reckon Gary, 
Pete and Steve? What do the quiet archaeological Britarchers think the PAS 
should be encouraging in the case of 54 million brits who all see the PAS 
database and want some too - just up to 1500 recordable artefacts each? 
After all, if its 1500 bits of "our past for all" then that means all, or 
are we going to be discriminatory?

> So to say that the PAS is so detectorist orientated is just > not true.<
It should not be, but that is most certainly (despite the finds days) the 
way it has turned out.

4) > I offer my time in any way that will help in
> outreaching the general public,<
Well, that's great, archaeology being represented to the public by a metal 
detectorist. And what do you do Pete?

5) So maybe you would like to tell us how you present the answer to the 
general public of the eight million pound question:

"When is portable antiquity collecting 'archaeology for all' and when is it 
not?"

Are Shelby White, Georg Ortiz and  Martin Schoyen "archaeologists"? Are the 
patrons of Helios Antiquities (near you I believe) 
http://www.heliosgallery.com/ archaeologists too?
What about Bron Lipkin's clients http://www.collector-antiquities.com/10/ ?
Or Mr Paraskevaides' http://www.bidancient.com/ (definitely one to watch - 
was discussed here a while back).
Or is it 'archaeology for all' only when you go and dig up your own stuff 
before pondering its deeper meaning? Where actually do we draw the line, and 
why please?


6) Also if you really are representing archaeology to the general public in 
the framework of the PAS, what briefing were you given by the PAS to deal 
with questions like this? (Did they present you with a copy of their 
"survival guide for FLOs" before they sent you out there so you'd say the 
"right things"? A fascinating and _very_ revealing document).

7) Steve B on the other hand writes:
> Everything you have stated is merely a personal opinion,<
I'm sure there is no point in discussing anything with people who've not 
looked for themselves and are merely mouthing somebody else's opinion.

Is there anything wrong with my having an opinion that does not correspond 
with that of the three vociferous metal detectorists here? This is (nota 
bene) an archaeology forum, the PAS is archaeological outreach to the 
general public (of which metal detectorists and collectors are a _Minority_ 
interest) and we are all entitled to take a good look at what is going on 
and form our "own" opinion of it and how well it is doing archaeological 
outreach and what picture of the discipline it is projecting.

8) > we in fact MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC same as any
> other UK resident.<
Indeed. But you are a minority fraction which has a totally different use 
for the archaeological record from the rest. I do not see why this means we 
have to adapt the PAS all the time just to suit the tekkies, which is 
precisely what is the main reason behind the "campaign" they conducted, as 
the postings on the MD forums clearly indicate[d].


9) > Not only is the finds data base a unique source of
> information but it is an extremely useful outreach tool in itself.<
Is it? And what important message, pray does it convey about the conduct of 
archaeology? Can you use it to learn about the "value of finds in their 
context" (PAS Aim 2)? Why, no, because none of the finds there are given 
_any sort of_  context (!!!). Does the database "increase opportunities for 
active public involvement in archaeology" (PAS Aim 3)? I'd like to hear how 
our advocate Pete Twinn explains that one. As far as I am concerned as 
archaeological outreach there is little substantial difference between a 
series of pictures and texts of contextless artefacts on the PAS database 
(or UKDFD) and the one on eBay. Collectors can at least find out "ow much 
its werf" from eBay. Let us differentiate between archaeology and mere naked 
artefactology which is not the same thing by any means. Which brings us back 
to the question posed at the beginning, what is the difference between 
archaeology and artefact hunting?

Can we get an answer to that maybe in the next round?

As I said at the beginning, to understand how seried rows of loose finds 
relate to (real) archaeology would need the PAS website to contain some sort 
of introductory text about what archaeology is, how we go from loose finds 
(or rather finds in their context) to interpretations of the social past, 
and where archaeology differs from mere "stamp collecting" as Wheeler put 
it. Where is the split between archaeological research and mere collecting? 
That is what, after ten years, is still missing from the PAS archaeological 
"outreach"  to the public. Given the nature of the "database' and the manner 
in which most of the "data" are collected, I would have thought that in the 
case of an archaeological outreach, this was a question crying out for an 
answer the moment the whole thing was set up. Wouldn't you? Instead the 
Scheme and its supporters have been busy dodging this _fundamental_ question 
for more than a decade. Haven't they?

10) Steve's > cross information<
Are we talking about the same database? :>)

Go on, show me. The (in)famous Fulstow, Lincolnshire "Lead curses" 
LIN-57B091  LIN-57F021  and LIN-5806B6.... what else was found in that field 
and from that site? Is there anything there to show the site would have 
contained votive objects? There's no cross referencing to speak of is there? 
No context for these finds. Like most of the rest.

[Steve]
> I challange you that the PAS more than fills it remit of public outreach, 
> in ways you have not even stopped to consider Paul.<
My reply is that it is NOT doing so in so many ways of which it would seem 
artefact hunters and collectors are unwilling to even take into 
consideration Steve.


11) [Pete]
 > We do have a finite resource and yes we do need to
> get it recorded,<
Jeepers. Some of us feel instead that we should be doing all we can to 
preserve it and not use it all up at once for short term purposes, like 
somebody's personal entertainment and profit. The Valetta Convention must be 
wrong then.  Oh and the IFA and the EAA not to mention the AIA. They are all 
wrong. Maybe the PAS should tell them, and why.  I'd be interested to see 
them try.

Paul Barford


 

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