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BRITARCH  October 2009

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Subject:

Re: another museum faces the chop

From:

Mike Weatherley <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Sat, 3 Oct 2009 17:47:24 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

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----- Original Message -----
From: "Nick Boldrini" <[log in to unmask]>

>We do know more about this period - but not as a result solely of the
detectorists work - >there was also the PAS FLO, British Museum, etc who
were involved and all of whom >had to be paid for the work. So is it really
that unreasonable that a proportion of the >reward not be used to offset the
cost to the taxpayer in these cases?

That's one suggestion. Though of course, nobody was suggesting that the
finder (or the landowner) were the only ones to thank for our increased
knowledge of the past. Simply that they were essential in the process of
discovering it - as the PAS, FLO, BM and any other apposite acronyms
would still have nothing to do unless alerted to the location of the new
discovery in the first place. It's a bit like the components of a car: we
may wish that the thing could still run without either fuel, oil, water or
brake-fluid, but the absence of any one of those things will bring it to a
halt (or not, as the case may be). Everyone involved has to work together
 - which is, after all, what we all want... isn't it?

>You could argue thats what they're paid to do, but you could also ask what
weren't they >doing that needed to be done because they were dealing with
this, and how will that work >now get done ie funded?

Or you could arhue that - by not doing what they weren't doing because of
this - they can say to Government (of whatever colour): 'Look how much our
workload has just jumped because of this new discovery - we need to employ
more archaeologists, just to catch-up!' and then hope that you get them
funded by the taxpayer. Or alternatively, the increase in visitor numbers/
booksales due to this find being displayed in Birmingham or London might
pay for the extra staff all by itself.  The free-market isn't really such a
bad thing, so long as you harness it properly (and we don't go back
to the kind of unfettered capitalism which caused the present Depression
 - I though it was long past the point of calling it a Recession, but those
 tricky politicians shy-away from using that word, as it sounds... well...
depressing).

>Theres also the point that (I am not sure about this particular case) but
often Contractors >are brought in to dig the site of a find, at taxpayers
expense, so again perhaps some of the >reward could be used towards funding
these works?

It could. But then, as I undertsand it, some members *within* the
professional heritage community can be as guilty of the destruction of
our joint heritage as those outside it. I'm reminded of the construction
of the final length of the Channel Tunnel rail-link through the Ebbsfleet
valley in north Kent a few years back. Whether as a result of competitive-
tendering or of a desire not to allow local archaeology groups to handle
all the PPG16 work before a major construction proceeds, the local group,
based in Gravesend and Northfleet, were appalled to see the company
hired by the contractors (no names, no pack-drill, except that they're
one of the biggest groups in the country) from outside the county virtually
'rubberstamp' the go-ahead for the railway cutting, so as not to hold-up
construction longer than necessary. In the process, a Roman villa - whose
location was well known to the locals - was apparently 'buldozed-away',
and this is still cited as an example of how the process ought not to work
in future. So I don't know what the answer is as regards contractors; but
I certainly don't think the villa would have been destroyed had it been
any of the groups in Kent given the contact, rather than somebody
from another county, whose concern for the archaeological heritage of
Kent isn't as great as that of - say - Oxfordshire.

>I think the idea has merit, and I also think many taxpayers might see the
merit in such a >scheme, which wouldn't see finders get nothing, but perhaps
a bit less.

I suppose it's a balance. The law currently demands that 'treasure' - or
anything of a significant national historical/cultural content - be reported
to the authorities for possible rescue and conservation. That's fine,
but I think it's as far as the law should ever be allowed to go when
dealing with private land. Obviously, if it's owned by EH, NT, the
Crown or local authorities, then it's different. But there has to be an
incentive for both the private landowners and the finders not only to
report/surrender their current finds, but to continue to search for
more finds like this, which do increase our knowledge of the past,
and thus increase visitor numbers/booksales/employment-
opportunities for archaeologists etc. If the potential reward for
finds such as this don't reflect their true market-value - or even
pay the cost of travel-expenses over a ten-year period spent
looking for such finds during the worst days of winter during one's
own time (I'm not a detectorist, but that's probably what those
dedicated to the hobby go through) then either those involved in
the search will give-up (and we all learn nothing more about the
past than we do from entirely random research digs that just
happen to stumble across something interesting) or the hobby
might get driven underground (or further so than it is already).

But then, if metal-detecting, itself, were to be driven underground, I'm not
sure how you would go about excavating it again...

One last thought: The PAS/FLO system has worked incredibly well in some
cases. The former FLO in Kent, Andrew Richardson, cultivated a working
relationship with the various MD clubs which has shone a lot of light on the
subject of his original PhD: the Jutish colonization of Kent. And not only
do the spread of finds of Jutish brooches confirm the location of
Jutish/Frisian settlement in Kent, but the dating of it as well. And
you'll all be glad to know that this work confirms what Bede said
about Kent. It also confirms a later Jutish presence on the Isle of
Wight (Bede mentioned that, too, but he didn't know - or didn't
specify -  that it wasn't concurrent with the arrival in Kent).
Anway, I'd better not spill the beans on any more of Andrew's
work, as he's doubtless planning to publish all these revelations
in due course.

Cheers,

Mike

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