There is certainly an argument that can be made that the popularity of metal detecting is bound to have some effect on the resource. I can't see anyone being able to make a case against this point, in fact I would certainly go as far as to say this was one of the basic tenants of forming the PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme). The more detectorist that take from the ground (and this is an unquantifiable amount) the faster it will obviously diminish (stating the obvious I know), but the numbers that are joining the hobby during these past years is exponentially more than is leaving the hobby or just taking a break.
My concern has always been that if that resource is not recorded with the PAS to high enough national grid references then we are creating a black holes in the historic record. This is already the case where either some large rallies have been held, or more erosive, where some detecting clubs have detected for decades on the same land with no find-spot information at all, as has happened in south Gloucestershire that I know of. Of course there are those who do record and they should be applauded, but the phrase you'll hear more than anything from those who choose not to record their finds is that the PAS is 'voluntary!'
This may well be the case, but personally I don't think it's responsible when people fail to record their finds, indeed in many cases they'll refuse to do so because 'that's their right', so up yours! This attitude is rooted in the 1980's with the war of words that revolved around the 'Stop' campaign. Unfortunately we have some detectorist around today who went through all of that and they are determined to pass the baton on to newer members of the hobby; trying to stir up old arguments about how the 'Archie's are out to get us." Well maybe some are, but in my experience of 30 years as a detectorist and now an archaeology undergrad at Bristol, I can only say that my experience of working with archaeologist has been a positive one. For me understanding what the resource is and how we can best record and curate such things has been my aim and the aim of many many others within the hobby of metal detecting.
Do I feel that those within the hobby do enough to record this diminishing amount of material at a time of increased interest due to 'treasure' being found, or others just joining due to an interest in history, then a resounding no. Not only do we have material that is over 300 years old being taken from the ground (the age at which the PAS will record it), but we have a massive amount of material that is under 300 years of age that will not be recorded at all (except a small amount of material through the UK DFD), which means in future a whole group of artefacts won't even be around to be recorded as they were considered as 'too much work' for the FLO's who already have their hands full with the older finds. We are in fact creating an historical hiatus for the future at some point where small metal finds are concerned.
Just my thoughts, but this is a particular issue I have a very real fear for and although it's another metal detecting topic, it's one that we should all take note off and have an opinion about.
From: British archaeology discussion list [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Peter Clark
Sent: 01 September 2010 10:08
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [BRITARCH] Archaeology as a finite resource
A quote from Nigel Mills’ ‘Buckles 1250–1800: A collectors’ Price Guide’:
‘Although buckles remain one of the commonest of artefacts from the medieval period, the supply of fresh material from the ground found by metal detectorists is dwindling’
Are we really approaching the end of this particular ‘finite resource'?
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