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A question if you please
#1
Hi all, my name is Andy Baines and I'm a keen metal detectorist.

I run a blog located at www.diaryofadetectorist.blogspot.com which has a bit of a debate going on at the minute.

I'm sure you are nearly all aware of the constant criticism detectorists get from a man called Paul Barford, well the debate started due to Paul saying detectorists are damaging the archeological record by only removing metallic items from the top soil. An anonymous commentor calling himself Steve joined the debate and made a claim that professional archaeologists on a dig often use a mechanical digger called a 360 to scrape and remove the topsoil (up to 50cm) and put it on a spoil heap. He says this is done to allow archaeologists to get to the items they want to document and is the cause of not enough funding or a tight time scale. Now obviously if there is any truth in these comments it means that metal detectorists who find and record items from the topsoil are actually helping the archaeological record instead of hindering it.

What I was wondering is if this is true or not? Is mechanical excavation a used technique?

I hope by putting my blog link i have not broke a forum rule ? If so please delete the link and i will rely your comments from here to the readers of my blog.

Kind regards
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#2
No problems... and one should not put too much import onto Paul Barfords way of... shall we say reporting his truth. His attempts to goad... and I have received a few emails from him today -- are not going to work. I like being a fluffy bunny after all Wink


IN answer to your questions... it is nearly true. THis is where it gets technical and is important to understand that commercial archaeology is a tricky beast with no real one size fits all answer ( and I am sure others will confirm - or tell me I am wrong Wink )

What is being described is (in part) an evaluation phase, where the topsoil is stripped on a percentage of an area that may have archaeology present. this is usually on trenches 10 or 20 metres long and 1.5-2m wide. What is being looked for are features in the underlying subsoil... ( around 30-35cm down ) this is recorded, but often not dug other than to characterise what it is... a pit, a posthole, a wall... however... prior to this or during, the topsoil should also be scanned for lithics and or pottery that may indicate sites. metal detecting can take place. but as you know... most targets are junk and we don't have time to dig 3000 nails, shotgun cartridges and cattle tags... If the site needs more work... based on the results of the evaluation... then the site may be stripped, but only if you know what you are getting into. and often you will try preservation in situ. ie... build a house 4m to the left or put the cables over there... archaeology costs money to do. and breaks our heart, but people often would rather not pay for it, unless they have to. Funding can be tight - thanks competitive tendering.... but in the main you are trying to save the client cash. not carry out a lovely 3 year research dig.

So yes we do often strip topsoil but if there is a site there... we will get it. -- if the site is present on the surface as lithics scatter or pottery scatter we will get it. and then we would not go in with all guns blazing. but 360s can be delicate instruments in the right hands. the topsoil is often seen as a mixed context, but an indicator of what lies below ( circa 35cm below) SO... you are (in my opinion right... as detectorists that record and map locations of artefacts from the topsoil are helping. though often we are not allowed to know where these recorded artefacts were found, as many detectorists who report finds with PAS, don't want other detectorists to know where they found them, so the location is 'hidden' it can be difficult to get hold of this info ( has anyone ever tried? ) I do however know that Curatorial services have access, so would flag it to a developer/contractor ( again... has anyone had experience of that? )

In a nutshell... any recording is useful.. and noting pottery or flints. it also means we can all benefit.

phew! I rambled- but thought I should reply properly

David


( expect this to be (part)quoted in Mr Barfords blog = at least teh bits that can be turned to advantage.)

I am expecting "Connolly says theiving artefact hunters should dig everything" Wink
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#3
Now I'm no zoologist but you're an odd looking fluffy bunny Smile
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#4
Hi many thanks for that, a good informative answer. I see Barford has already picked up on this and is slating you for removing the question.

Thank you fior your time and great forum.

I will pop back sometime no doubt as i have just bought my first archaeology book, field archaeology an introduction by peter l drewett.
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#5
it is an undeniable fact that metal detectorists find important sites, often where no site was previously known. when finds are correctly reported archaeology will usually benefit from the work of metal detectorists. metal detectorists could be of more benefit if they gridded fields and recorded where they have been and not found anything.
archaeologists regularly machine off huge swathes of topsoil that would have beneffied from earlier metal detecting/surface survey. repreated visits after ploughing are useful. the old loss of context argument that is regularly trotted out by people who neither understand archaeology or metal detecting is mostly falacious but i do wish they would stop plundering 'known sites'. if you want to be useful then learn to recognise and record ceramic flint and cbm and search 'blank areas'
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers
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#6
With you there PP/ going over known sites is not really that helpful, given that it is more shooting fish in barrel, rather than benefiting archaeology for all.

Interstingly, was chatting to a digger today about Topsoil archaeology - and how it is often forgotten prior to the eval. that lithic scatter, the broken pottery or the concentration of stones. all give vital clues to what is beneath, and if done properly, can be a damn sight cheaper than the eval trench. to give an indication. Like anything it comes back to recording and reporting - and the will to do it and the ability to access the information.

oh and Bainsey... what question have I removed? don't remember doing that. though the forum is having a few weird issues just now, including images not uploading and even my own posts going to moderation... !

I do hope Mr Barford has taken a quote and twisted it... into. something like " Mr, D. evil In carnate Connolly says that detecting should be allowed to strip all artefacts from the world. " It normally is something like that - I would expect no less. Anyways... he is never going to be much use in a debate. and this is a fascinating discussion. Good luck with the new book Smile
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#7
BAJR Wrote:With you there PP/ going over known sites is not really that helpful, given that it is more shooting fish in barrel, rather than benefiting archaeology for all.

Interstingly, was chatting to a digger today about Topsoil archaeology - and how it is often forgotten prior to the eval. that lithic scatter, the broken pottery or the concentration of stones. all give vital clues to what is beneath, and if done properly, can be a damn sight cheaper than the eval trench. to give an indication. Like anything it comes back to recording and reporting - and the will to do it and the ability to access the information.

oh and Bainsey... what question have I removed? don't remember doing that. though the forum is having a few weird issues just now, including images not uploading and even my own posts going to moderation... !

I do hope Mr Barford has taken a quote and twisted it... into. something like " Mr, D. evil In carnate Connolly says that detecting should be allowed to strip all artefacts from the world. " It normally is something like that - I would expect no less. Anyways... he is never going to be much use in a debate. and this is a fascinating discussion. Good luck with the new book Smile



I may be missing something really obvious, but then this thread is missing something really obvious. Where is the original question? The thread is called 'A question if you please' but starts with what is surely an answer. I'm not suggesting anything has been redacted but you can surely see why it might be confusing.

As for topsoil - where you've got some the impact of metal detecting is perhaps debatable, where you haven't it is potentially devastating.

PS I'm only commenting on this thread on the off chance that Mr Barford might mention it on his blog. Will have to try something more controversial.
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#8
Quote:An anonymous commentor calling himself Steve joined the debate and made a claim that professional archaeologists on a dig often use a mechanical digger called a 360 to scrape and remove the topsoil (up to 50cm) and put it on a spoil heap. He says this is done to allow archaeologists to get to the items they want to document and is the cause of not enough funding or a tight time scale. Now obviously if there is any truth in these comments it means that metal detectorists who find and record items from the topsoil are actually helping the archaeological record instead of hindering it.

What I was wondering is if this is true or not? Is mechanical excavation a used technique?

Was the question.

unless nobody else can see that? in which case, that is very very weird!

but then.... the forum is playing up a bit. and I need some time to fix some issues. like this. ( moderated posts ( even mine) and non uploading images ) sigh... never ends...

So I can see the top post... can you?
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#9
ps... going to have to give a better quote to get a mention in the Barford Blog. Say something like I can't agree that artefact hunters should be allowed free reign on all of Britian's sites ... and you soon find yourself quoted on the ever popular wordsmiths site along the lines of

the appropriately cowardly Red Earth who hides behind his name on the so called BAJR forum says "artefact hunters should be allowed free reign on all of Britain's sites" which should provoke outrage and shaking of fists. though is a quote that is perhaps.. a leeeeeetle bit missing the first few words.

:face-kiss:
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#10
Well, how odd. The question is visible again now. Not that I actually care, it was just frustrating only being able to read the reply. I'm not stupid enough to wade into as loaded a question as that.
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