BAJR Federation Archaeology

Full Version: To metal detectorists, we're all a bunch of pinko commies :p - a pointless rant
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2 3
geo Wrote:Mmmm, shall we also seek to ban invasive agricultural techniques in case they damage those precious things and then what about development archaeological briefs which only allocate a maximum of 10 % excavation of some features ? Should we ban that as well and go for 100 % excavation from the grass roots down and then what about those areas in a development that are not the subject of archaeological evaluation ?

Lets get back to the real world and stop ranting on its getting boring.

Don't be ridiculous. Obviously you can't ban those things, nor would I advocate that level of over reach. You can, however, take measures to combat the antiquities market that fuels desire for metal detectorists, first by banning the sale of metal detectors. That's my point and the cultural benefits for such a law far outweigh the costs. There are other ways to have a family outing.

And yes, I do believe archaeological / historical material is precious as there is only so much of it - I get the sense that we might view archaeological material differently.
Yes a finite resource destroyed daily by a lot of factors beyond your control so you go for the one easy option and jump on the " lets ban metal detecting" bandwagon without ever considering of how best to utilise that interest and resource to a mutual benefit. Seems to me that you would be happier in the utopia you seek where the commercial world can destroy the archaeological resource and particularly the casual loss one without record just so no one else without the right degree or background can find it. Its easier to blame someone else and for many detecting is always seen as an easy option rather than taking a closer look at the whole picture of loss and damage.

Ah the old antiquities chestnut again - i have been around long enough to know that the market was well supplied with material long before the advent of and common use of metal detectors. I suppose there are different perceptions today with collecting of antiquities now available to the man in the street and is no longer the preserve of the academic elite.
Yes we do see things differently and for me i take a more pragmatic view based on experience.
geo Wrote:I suppose there are different perceptions today with collecting of antiquities now available to the man in the street and is no longer the preserve of the academic elite.

I'm interested in studying them not collecting and I would prefer the glass cabinet/shoebox in which they're kept to be available for anyone to peer into, not just the 'owner'.
Yes i agree that the best should be available for public viewing, but most items acquired by Museums reside in the basement or external storehouse and dont see the light of day except when a researcher wants to examine any if ever. We see this with the proliferation of archive material over the last few decades from developer lead excavations and the problem of what to do with it never mind store it. Some see the on site cull of material as a way forward so that only a representative sample of some material reaches the archive. What happens to the remainder ? Probably backfilled with the rest of the excavation area as the developer moves in.

Yet humans are an acquisitive species and i am sure that some of this material ends up in "teaching" collection shoeboxes. Scholarship of small finds is the way forward in respect to detector finds, (which was the target of ZSilvia) and once that information has been gathered by recording what is the problem with finder/landowner retention. There seems little point in adding fresh "run of the mill" material to an already overburdened museums service which has probably already got hundreds of similar items in store.
geo Wrote:Yes a finite resource destroyed daily by a lot of factors beyond your control so you go for the one easy option and jump on the " lets ban metal detecting" bandwagon without ever considering of how best to utilise that interest and resource to a mutual benefit. Seems to me that you would be happier in the utopia you seek where the commercial world can destroy the archaeological resource and particularly the casual loss one without record just so no one else without the right degree or background can find it. Its easier to blame someone else and for many detecting is always seen as an easy option rather than taking a closer look at the whole picture of loss and damage.

Ah the old antiquities chestnut again - i have been around long enough to know that the market was well supplied with material long before the advent of and common use of metal detectors. I suppose there are different perceptions today with collecting of antiquities now available to the man in the street and is no longer the preserve of the academic elite.
Yes we do see things differently and for me i take a more pragmatic view based on experience.

On the contrary, I too am opposed to archaeology being confined to the ivory tower. Thats precisely my point earlier about vetting new archaeologists and opening up the field. What I didn't make clear was that I prefer an increase in community involvement alongside an experienced archaeologist. I think this should be a point of pride for Britain as there is far more of this here than back home in the states, where there is almost no concern/ educational initiative for awareness.

You mention the commercial world, I assume you mean commercial archaeology. Maybe it is my lack of experience with commercial archaeology, but I have always been of the impression that commercial archaeology is quite systematic but lacks in its concern for publication. Technically there is no loss here as the material should be stored and kept safely with records kept somewhere. You can't possibly argue that metal detectoring is good for the safe recording and upkeep of artifacts as 99% of what is found end up horded in a box tucked away in someones house. Compared to the amount of detectoring done on any sunny day in Britain, publicized finds are rare. How is this better?

It just occurred to me that you think I mean metal detectors should be banned even for use by experienced archaeologists - which of course would be foolish. Perhaps the issue could be resolved by a mandatory course leading to an issued license for those interested. Regardless, you aren't going to convince me that amateur excavations done for profit are a good idea.

And re: the antiquities market. Just because there already exists a market with items in circulation with no provenance for years before metal detectoring, doesn't make it alright. Its fundamentally unethical and plundering has been the result of a huge loss of information throughout the years. I dont even know what you are trying to prove by bringing experience into it.
I can see we are going to enter into a long trail of correspondence on this one, but here goes. I will take your points in order and hopefully explain what goes on in the UK and how the ethical American model is not applicable.
Community involvement and the role of the amateur has a long tradition in the UK though in recent years regulation and those terrible twins Health and Safety have made participation more and more difficult. I can understand your wish to contrast this with the situation in your own country. It is a point of pride as you say that we can do this and be supported by like minded professionals more than willing to give up their time to ensure that amateurs have a role to play in understanding the archaeology of this nation. I was lucky enough to be able to help on a number of amateur excavations in the 70's as an undergraduate and the experience it gave me of procedures and the way of the archaeological world as it was then was valuable, so very far away from the commercial haste that it has all decended into now.

By the commercial world i was referring more to that of the developer which is both the feeder of the contract archaeologist and the destroyer of the archaeology they seeks to preserve by record. Now you have mentioned the commercial archaeolgical world i would add that this is not the panacea it was expected to be. Remember what is finally excavated is a compromise between cost and time with nearly all tenders awarded to the lowest bidder and all the pitfalls that brings with it. The quality of units varies greatly and as you say does the publication rate. However excavation is akin to looking at the plums in the archaeological pudding and sacrificing what is in between because it is either periferal to the main areas of interest or has been negotiated away by the intervention of the dreaded archaeological consultant. Now i will say little more on this aspect as i am sure i will be treading on some toes and besides there are many others on here who can better discuss these points !!!!

You seem to have a very selective view of the hobby of metal detecting in the UK and i mean that in the best possible way. Metal detecting has its merits and the expertise that has been developed by its practitioners. More and more this expertise is being harnessed by contracting units to aid recovery of metal work, but mostly within the excavation area and, because it is not a common condition applied by Development Control Archaeologists, the material that resides within the topsoil and subsoil machine strips is rarely looked at yet ask any competent detectorist where the majority of metal small finds will be and they will say in the spoil heaps.

I would argue that there is a huge loss of material from excavations simple because percentage values for excavation are set for each feature and so on and in this way stratified archaeology having been evaluated by sample is then destroyed when the developer moves in . Metal detection looks at the casual loss resource most of which exists in the homogenised ploughsoils and so lack any real context except in a areal sense. This is the very material which is machine excavated and dumped in the spoil heaps to uncover the stratified archaeology. As one archaeologists put it too me " we dont look for artefacts" when i mentioned the loss of material to the spoil and tellingly he was from a Scottish unit. If that is the opinion of some what is the problem with looking for unstratified items with a metal detector ?

Yes there are those who will seek to add items to the shoebox, but it is unfair to use the tarbrush approach to all. You may be unaware of the Portable Antiquities Scheme which was set up to record items before they ended up in that shoebox. It is not extant in Scotland and despite the inevitable comments from detractors it has been successful in what it does under what have always been difficult operating conditions from its various controllers and funders. Inevitably we still hear the charge from some axe grinders that detectorists are not recording their finds. The PAS cannot cope with what it receive presently because of resource implications so that is a very unfair accusation. As i have said before recording is the key to providing lots of data albeit in a random manner to add to the archaeological landscape. You cannot tell me that such data is not a component part of the desk top research carried out by units up and down the country. So yes i do argue that detecting and the information it produces is a valuable contribution. And yes their are those who will not follow the rules and not record finds or simply see using as metal detector as a way to make money - there are also some archaeologists that do not follow the rules as well.

Amateur excavations for profit - thats a new one and far from the truth. In England and Wales all non Treasure items belong to the landowner and so it is up to them to allow the decontexturalised material to be recovered and as their private property to be sold. That is the law of this land. Similarly as long as UK laws with respect to the sale and collecting of antiquities are followed it is allowed and i know it may not seem ok to the ethically challenged that is the real world we live in. The alternative as an autocratic state controlled system would be a smugglers paradise where the top class items are lost to record and never seen again whilst the lower grade material is simply melted down for its bullion value. Not the road i would like to see followed.

I would suggest that the biggest blunder archaeology ever made was trying to ban metal detecting in the 80's using a mix of lies, propaganda and elitism which simply backfired and little was reported or recorded. That is how the information was lost instead of realising that there was an opportunity for education and co-operation to secure data. That period lasted in many areas for 20 odd years and it was a shameful episode for all concerned. That is what i was meaning about experience which you lack and i mean that respectfully, by your limited knowledge of what has gone before and i suppose why we are where we are.

And on a final point just to stir things up : nighthawking was caused by archeological policies in the 1980' by putting in place negative access policies where ever they could without attempting to understand the opportunity they were presented with. Answers on a big postcard to ........

To be continued i am sure unless i get banned - sorry that ony happens on a certain tekkie forum for those who disagree with the operators. David wont do that will he ?
I wrote a reply, but then clicked the long button and alas it was all gone. Very disheartening.

In short. Excellent post and reply. I take that with full respect. I do have some responses but not the energy to rewrite them...will get there :face-approve:
Just a quick interjection to first apologise that you lost you post (I somehow fel personally responsible) and second to say I am glad that that this is turning into what is a reasoned debate... with - dare I say it people listening and treating each other with a bit of respect...

so... SORRY and RESPECT.

(NOTE: I am also worried about losing long replies, so I often copy first... ctrl-c folks! and if it goes pear shaped,,, I still have it... )

Quote:David wont do that will he ?
Of course he won't.. Smile even allows himself to be slagged off. Smile

I must get back to the detecting forums... I did like the banter there as well..
I see some mysterious elves work behind the scenes here at bajr
I edited the wrong blinking post, when I added the bit at the end :I oh the shame.

Ah... the power of the moderator! Smile
Pages: 1 2 3