Friday, September 28, 2012

28th September 2012: Seeding the Record

To what extent are the PAS compiling at public expense a database full of false data caused by the constraints of being compiled in part in "partnership" with commercial organizations organizing artefact hunting rallies? 
A search of the PAS database reveals as many as 19 hits for "West Ilsley", a little place in Berks. The "heritage heroes" have been out there in force with their metal detectors it seems, indeed there was a "beginners dig" held there by 'Leisure Promotions' a while ago. The trouble is that the organizers announced that prior to this "we are going to be burying several hundreds of finds which will include Roman coins, hammered silver coins and masses of other coins and artefacts " (see here too). West Ilsley folks, the artificial archaeological site - and how many more have rally organizers seeding fields created, and (bearing in mind how important PAS attendance at rallies is considered for boosting record numbers) how many of those false findspots have got into the PAS record? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

19 September 2012: Question to the PAS About Commercial Artefact Hunting Rallies

Heritage Action wrote a text about the Polish artefact hunters' rally on Crown Estate land at Offley, Herts and published it in their online journal. The PAS Hertfordshire Finds Liaison Officer saw this text and added a comment saying he could put the preservationists' minds to rest because.... the finds were being recorded. He seems oblivious to the real point which was the propriety of holding a commercial artefact hunting rally at all when it results in the concentrated, but selective, erosion of the archaeological record.

So here is a question to the PAS generally, can the holding of erosive commercial artefact hunting rallies really be justified through the voluntary and selective recording of the "finds"?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

8 September 2012: What Outreach on Discarding Evidence?

In a post on my main blog ("Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Archaeological Iron, Hedge Fodder or Discrimination") I discuss what artefact hunters are throwing away:

UKDN Member "Hawyoo" (Sep 02, 2012 10:33 am) asks: "What should i keep[?]":
Hi all.I find a lot of what some people may call junk.I seem to keep it all.Most is just rusty old iron but some of it looks interesting. [...] i am thinking they may just be a little something in there. 
Obviously most of us can see that among the iron objects taken by artefact hunters from archaeological sites will be a number of fragments of iron archaeological items, hardly "junk". One UKDN respondent however calls these artefacts "HedgeFodder (HF)" implying he just throws this sort of material into the hedges (interesting that some tekkies are concerned about contamination of the rural landscape with metal in contaminated Green Waste, while others are quite happy to litter the hedgerows with metal fragments produced by the hobby). Another member admonishes: "Firstly you shouldn't be digging rusty old iron should you? try a little discrimination". 

This is followed by a series of horror stories on what people have "pulled from the scrap bins". Including this one from a "Puffin" (Sun Sep 02, 2012 5:46 pm):
Even after 7 years, a few months ago I had to pull a Saxon/Viking 4 way strap divider out of my scrap bin. Many because of a post on here, you really need to be 120% sure of what you are weighing in! 
"Weighing in" of course is tekkie slang for what artefact hunters discard from their artefact collections and sell by weight for melting down for scrap. How many tens of thousands of archaeological items end up that way as a result of this hobby each year?

Of course anything that made its way into a tekkie scrap bin, but is pulled out weeks, months or years later because it is recognised to have been something of significance has by then irrevocably lost the information about its findspot.

Carried out in this way the hobby of artefact hunting is destroying vast quantities of archaeological information because many of these people which current UK policy lets loose to pillage archaeological sites to gratify their collecting hobby are ignorant (or careless) of just what it is they are finding and what information they should be observing, collecting and recording. Having a Portable Antiquities Scheme has not made the slightest dent on this problem.

Now, if the PAS was doing its job, it would be on the UKDN forum  like a shot to give an answer to the question posted there.

In answer to "what should I keep [when rummaging in the archaeological record for collectables]?" the only possible answer is, "every piece of archaeological evidence". Anything less is destruction, and if you do not know what is and what is not archaeological evidence, then leave the archaeological record well alone. Surely, in order to instil 'best practice', this is the point they should be making EVERY TIME this question arises in the practice of ten thousand people in fifteen years. Why aren't they?

Friday, September 7, 2012

7 September 2012: Do PAS Take Money from Artefact Hunters' Pockets?

There seems to be a potential problem in the manner in which the PAS publishes online the images of objects owned by somebody else ("UK Scheme Gives Away Detectorists' Money").  According to the UKDN forum, the PAS are quite happy to let others use their images free of charge for non-profit-making purposes ("They are happy not to be asked for permission to use them if no money is to be made by the user").

This raises the question of whether that applies to photographs supplied by self-recording detectorists. As we have seen, some of the latter count on being able to make 500 quid a photo of some very mundane finds. Obviously in such cases they are losing out if they make the same photos available to the PAS who then make no charge for their use. Even though most metal detectorists will claim to "not be interested in the money" it seems that this is an obvious mechanism which would reduce their willingness voluntarily to record such finds with the PAS when doing so puts them out of pocket.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

6 September 2012: What is PAS Doing About Artefact 'Orphaning'?

Two recent threads on a metal detecting forum about an old detectorist who was in a 'sheltered residence' (old people's home) who'd given a heap of artefacts to a metal detectorist raised a number of questions. Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Carelessly Orphaning Artefacts :
Retired detectorist hands over some finds
by egon999 » Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:41 am 
similar story here:
 Veteran detectorist shares his finds
Postby egon999 » Wed May 30, 2012 3:00 pm 
In neither case is any mention made of handing over the information where each individual item came from, nor that the new owner is a bit concerned about this. Since the new owner is asking for help identifying them, I think we may fairly assume that they are not recorded on the PAS database (which would give that information).  Archaeological sites have been emptied of artefacts, no records made of what came from where, there is no possibility ever of marrying the "information" of a box or bag of loose archaeological artefacts and the archaeological contexts from which they came.  One "Clint" (Stansdad) muses: 
it does make you think what to do do with all the stuff we dig up when we are to old or ill to carry on detecting, what will happen to it, will anyone want it?
Not without any proper information they will not. Artefact hunters by their carelessness not keeping such information in a form which can be associated with each item have effectively "orphaned" them, as the collectors' terminology goes.

So, what is the Portable Antiquities Scheme doing to actively combat this problem?  Certainly not enough.

UPDATE 8.09.12
And the detectorists? Well, well what a surprise, following my links (which worked  when I wrote this post) brings you in both cases to:
"The requested topic does not exist".
What of course they mean is that they are pretending this issue does not exist. But pretending, censoring and deceiving does not make a problem go away. It just makes facing up to it all the more difficult.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

5 September 2012: Finds From Nationally Important Sites in Private Hands

There are reports about the prosecution of a nighthawk in Suffolk ("More Criminals Caught with Metal Detectors"). Two metal detector users have admitted stealing coins and other artefacts from a protected Roman site in Baylham (Baylham Rare Breeds Farm), near Needham Market.  (Colin Adwent, 'Baylham: ‘Nighthawkers’ admit theft of Roman artefacts', East Anglian Daily Times, Wednesday, September 5, 2012). In a subsequent post ("Focus on Metal Detecting: Baylham Done Over") I discuss another aspect of this situation, from the discussion of the case on the detecting forums, it emerged that nighthawks are not the only people that can have material from nationally significant sites now protected by law in their hands. One detectorist (a  fertlingjohn ) comments [Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:31 pm]:
"Brings back memories in 1976 we had full permission from the then landowner a lovely site in those days the present law on scheduled sites was not in force" 
[Presumably he means the site was not then scheduled, because the laws were certainly in place PMB]. In 1976 however the site was already a known Roman site of importance. It has a good set of cropmarks, had produced all sorts of archaeological evidence in investigations. Here we have a clear case of the targeting of a known site of importance by metal detectorists.  How many other known sites in the region have similarly been done over since the mid-1970s?

Maybe some attempt should be made to track down  those who had permission to hunt for artefacts at sites of national importance (ie subsequently scheduled) and document what was taken from them?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

2nd September 2012: Rally Finds Unreported?

A You Tube rally-flick made two years ago intended to convince people that "artefact hunters are not taking much out of the archaeological record" is worth revisiting ["Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Just Three More Years"] (warning: gratuitous stone-throwing scenes).

Add caption

My original remarks on this concerned the number of recordable finds made and the announcement that:
All finds have been recorded but will not be released to the PAS for 5 years at the landowners request.
This raises a number of questions, mentioned in my post. The Code of Responsible Detecting says that detecting without reporting to the PAS cannot be considered responsible detecting. Just three more years and two months to go.

There's now  under my original post an interesting comment by Nate Weizel about one of the finds (or was it one of the finds?) Apparently a silver annular brooch.

What steps are the PAS taking to make sure finds like this, bragged about in public media, are duly reported and recorded?