Sunday, 20 May 2018

A Distaste for Knowledge Theft by Artefact Hunters

Nigel Swift, Chairman of Heritage Action has written a text on 'A self explanatory Detecting Glossary' (Heritage Journal 20/05/2018), referring to John Winter's efforts to compile a glossary of coin collecting and Treasure hunting terms. In it, he identifies the mistake made by the metal detector user of 'confusing agreement with sycophancy'.
 For me, metal detecting without reporting all of your recordable finds, which is demonstrably what the vast majority of detectorists do, is the action of a selfish ignoramus. If Paul shares that view and is determined not to pretend otherwise what can I do but agree with him? 

MDWreckers rool
There are others who share that view and are determined not to pretend otherwise, but it seems that  the majority of the so-called "heritage professionals" in the UK apparently prefer not to rock the boat with metal-detecting 'partners' because there are some who'll show them stuff and the rest will just get personal and sometimes abusive (like we see in the comments under John Winter's blog post). They prefer that over their actual professional obligations to encourage preservation of the archaeological record. But it is good that a few lone voices will put their head over the parapet and say what they think, even if the rest would not dare.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Identifying sites at risk from Collection Driven Exploitation

Louise Grove, Adam Daubney & Alasdair Booth (2018) Identifying sites at risk from illicit metal detecting: from CRAVED to HOPPER, International Journal of Heritage Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2018.1475408


Archaeological sites are at risk from acquisitive crime: this paper focuses in particular on illicit metal detecting. The effects of theft in this context are not merely financial, but have devastating impact on our knowledge and understanding of the site. Even where items are later recovered, we lose the vital clues about the precise context of an object. We therefore need to reduce the risk of theft occurring in the first place. This paper draws on case studies from England and presents a new methodology to assess which archaeological sites may be at risk from illicit metal detecting: ‘HOPPER’ identifies the characteristics of sites likely to be targeted by offenders looking for antiquities. In brief:
History (a history of finds at the site);
Open (the site has physical public access, and/or is documented in the public domain);
Protection (protected status can act as a beacon for offenders);
Publicity (site is known about or receiving new attention);
Evasion (there are known ways to escape apprehension); and
Repeat victimisation (The site has been a target before).
The impact of HOPPER will be its use in the field to develop a pragmatic risk assessment applicable both in a local and international context.
Since the prior existence of 'protection' is one of the factors that increases the probability that a site will be exploited as a source of collectables by metal detector users acting illegally, I am not clear what the practical benefit is of this formula in protecting th threatened sites. Is this another call to put 24/7 guards or electronic surveillance on vulnerable sites? In fact what the authors in fact present is a checklist of sites which are vulnerable to damage and destruction due to  Collection Driven Exploitation in general (what they coyly call 'metal detecting' - which of course is only a fragment of the wider phenomenon).

Friday, 18 May 2018

How PAS 'Partners' Perceive the PASt: A New Glossary of Metal Detector Users' Jargon (1) [UPDATED]

'Kings and battles history' of
the collector (Wolsey groat from eBay)
Senior artefact hunter John Winter has created on his blog ' A Metal Detecting Glossary' but feels a little insecure about it:
What follows are some of the terms often used by detectorists and accompanied by a brief definition. Be aware that the compilation of such a glossary is very subjective and not definitive. It may be viewed as ‘a work in progress’. There are bound to be omissions you think should be included and maybe changes to be made.  
I think its candidly subjective nature is a very useful pointer to the way some of the people emptying the common heritage into their own private pockets sees what they are doing. One thing we learn about the author, he's not one of the technically-minded geeks who'd put in his glossary terms like 'ground balance', and 'coil-matrix interface interference' or 'elemental nanovibrations'. This glossary is not machine-focussed but unashamedly object centresd. This glossary is not about detecting (as an activity involving a machine) but about pocketing, acquisition and cseriating a collection.We have heard so manty times the PAS-promoted mantra that these fiolk are not just collectors, but they are in some way (allegedly) 'citizen archaeologists' (sic) who are 'passionately interested in the past (which is why they dig it up and hoik things out)' and are only interested in learning about the past and the way people lived. It is therefore informative to look at this glossary to see what its author considers to be 'the terms often used by detectorists' in discussing the hobby and how well that reflects the 'citizens learning about history' model that PAS and its supporters are using to justify support of this activity. Is it true, or are we all being misled by this glib use of a model?

The first thing that strikes me is that this text consists largely of material in the 'Metal Detecting Glossary' referring to coins, In fact about eighty percent. Here this can be shown by the extent of the purple text (ignore the yellow) in the accompanying screenshot. the purple is the extent of the definitions and discussions of coin finds, the black is every other kind of artefact and everything else.


 The PAS database also reflects this bias. If you search for 'coin' you learn that in the database there are 409,702 records for coins, yet the database as a whole contains 1,344,750 objects within 859,938 records so that means that of the vast array of artefact types representing the daily activities of millions of people through the millennia, artefact hunters are selectively picking from the resource, to hoik out what interests them, the other artefct tyopes are being selectively ignored and discarded. The UKDFD also shows the same patterm. This is almost never discussed (wonder why?) by the supporters of artefact hunting partnering.

What kind of 'learning about the past' is just picking out the coins anyway? It'll tell you nothing about the Bronze Age and much of the Iron Age. Nothing. Coins are 'easy' because they have pictures and weriting on them, any fule can read a hammie or a 'Roman grot', though UK metal detectorists - not generally belonging to the group of folk one would label literate - have problems with even that, witnessed by the number of pleas for help 'ID'ing (a term missing from the glossary which defines big-words like 'annular' and 'ferrous') a coin on the 'metal detecting' forums. Coins refer to an episodic (courte durée ) kings-and-battles histoire événementielle , rather than one of general processes and daily life. This is not the way history is generally studied by the rest of us any more, amateur or professional. The collector's is a history of Ranke and Kossinna rather than that of Braudel and Collingwood. 

Also instead of  the airy-fairy notion of'citizen archaeology', probably what many of the metal detector users encompassed by the John Winter Model of artefact hunting might be legitimately described as 'cheapskate coin collectors' - too stingy to actually go to a reputable dealer to build a collection according to certain criteria, but relying on what random material they can find for free and persuade the landowner to relinquish ownership.  

Also let us note this definition:
Hedge Fodder – A slang expression referring to detecting finds that are not worth keeping
How much of this material (discarded) will be not-coins? Cf. 'Keeper – A slang word for a good metal detecting find', obviously coins form a large proportion of what the detector users that the glossary's author mixes with would consider 'keepers'. But of course we are all losers from what these folk individually decide are not 'keepers' in the field.

Note also how the glossary differentiates:
Artefacts – Referring to the finds made by detectorists. We usually refer to buckles, buttons, spindle whorls, etcetera, but NOT coins as artefacts. (See Partefact)
and  on what grounds, pray, do these folk decide that coins are not artefacts (but fell from the sky ready formed, maybe)? The reasons behind this collector-specific terminological aberration is nowhere explained. Coins  not only are artefacts in every sense of the meaning of the word, but also, like the items collectors attempt to separate them from, archaeological evidence. 

In fact, the 'metal detectorsts' definitions' given in the glossary are easily found among others in many entry-level books on 'the joys of coin collecting' or the such-like. In passing I would note that coin collectors in general would give a broader definition of the term 'wire money', though I understand that the coinage of Muscovy is beyond the scope of the British 'dirt-fisher' (sic) if he stays where it is (still) legal and does not venture abroad with his machine.  

What the glossary's author has 'learned' about the PASt' (and in particular about the metal items that he searches with his noisy detecting machine to represent and make tangible that PASt) can be revealed by a couple of lapses such as where he 'informs' his slackjaw readers (none of whom seems yet to have corrected him) that silver is gilt only by a 'leaf technique' (when even checking with Wikipedia would have disabused him of that notion).  . 

I would also draw attention to a rather significant omission, there is nowhere the metal detectorists' own definition given here of 'responsible detecting'. What is it in their eyes? 

Indeed the term 'detectorist' is taken as a given and not defined in the glossary at all… which is odd. Who or what IS a “detectorist” and who or what are not (serious question – deserves an answer from the metal detecting community - and the heritage professionals that support and partner them).What is the difference between an ‘archaeologist’ and a ‘detectorist’? Are they the same or not? Interesting, the only reply that question has had so far from Mr Winter is:
John 18th May 2018 at 10:17 AM 
Paul – [...] This just just a bloody list. Take it for leave it, but don’t use my blog promote your anti-detectorist views.
I do not think anything like this is 'take it or leave it'. One of the (unofficial) Codes of Conduct tells 'metal detectorists' that the and their behaviour are all 'ambassadors for the hobby', and that is how we, the rest of us, should take it. Mr Winter surely should be 'telling it like it is'. In that case, I would like to know what it is that, in asking for closer definition of what exactly 'metal detecting' is thought to be by those who engage in it, one is expressing anti-detecting (recte, this is not an ad personal concern) views.   

Finally, why are the majority of the illustrations the author uses taken not from the public PAS database of artefacts found by members of the public, but the privately-run UK Detector Finds Database made 'by detectorists for detectorists' as the hobby's reaction to the publication of an official Code of Practice for Responsible metal Detecting?

UPDATE 20th May 2018
Although the poor old thing claims he 'did not understand' my text above ('too many words'), I note he's scrabbling now to add some more artefact types to pad out the dominance of the information on coins. Perhaps he could look at the Glossary of Metal Detecting Terms ' of Metal Detecting World and 'Metal Detecting Jargon Glossary' of Metal Detecting in the USA – Kentucky Unearthed for inspiration. Or maybe Joan Allen's Glossary of Metal Detector Terms or Kellyco's 'Metal Detecting  Terminology' World, Hobby Hour's brief text of the same name, and at last a dozen others which a simple Google search will bring up for anyone willing to look. So what is the point of Mr Winter's?

And indeed, he really did not get the drift. I wrote about his providing a definition of so-called 'hedge fodder', and I would have thought it was clear what I thought about it. This blog is about artefact hunters and collectors and not for them, so I really am not bothered (or suprised that those who are of that ilk simply do not follow - they have the PAS to explain it to them, that's what they are paid for).  Mr Winter therefore protests that Nigel Swift also mentions it:
Swift [sic] also objects to the phrase ‘Hedge Fodder’ and says it’s not a phase used by archaeologists and I got it wrong. What he fails to understand is that this is a list of words that may be of use to detectorists, not arkies. The phrase deserves a place in my glossary.
The point both of us are making is precisely that, there is a huge difference between the world of the hoiker-collector and that of the discipline of archaeology. Yet the model of 'partnership' which is de rigueur in the UK is based on the facile assumption that artefact hunting and collecting are 'citizen archaeology' (sic). Mr Winter has confirmed the utter fallacy of that convenient trope, which in discussions of policy I would argue needs to be discarded and replaced by a more nuanced fact-based characterization of what artefact hunters do.

Also, as we see with the example of Mr Winter's response, time and time again, we see collectors are unable to grasp the sense of the concerns being raised about the effects of their hobby, so it is totally naive and unrealistic to see them independently adopting any effective measures to rectify the problem or do more than pay lip service to various notions, but their facadism is not the answer. The decisions have to be taken outside their hobby.

And John Winter, Baz Thugwit, John Howland, all the heritage hoikers and Peter Tompa will never understand that.

How PAS 'Partners' Perceive the PASt: A New Glossary of Metal Detector Users' Jargon (2)

Megan Fox has old-timer
 detectorist enthralled
In the post above I analyse how some PAS artefact hunting 'partners' perceive the past based on a new glossary of metal detector users' jargon (Winter 2018). I think this document reveals a lot about the mentalities of some of the people that go 'metal detecting' to pocket bits of the archaeological heritage and add it to their personal collections. Through the Portable Antiquities Scheme these people are considered in some way 'partners' in the 'creation of knowledge', though this model lacks the subtlety of admitting that far more knowledge is stolen from us by the lack of proper records of what is taken from where and from what associations (context of deposition and context of discovery are both generally lost through the activity of collectors).  This glossary is also highhly revealing of mentalities and attitudes of these people towards the archaeology that extends them the hand of partnership, in return for them doing what they do according to 'best practice' and those who question examples of bad practice. The glossary contains headings for both 'archaeology' and, rather surprisingly, 'Barford', just below a picture of 'Rob's (sic) Annular Brooch':

First of all, how interesting it is to see just one name of an archaeologist who writes about 'metal detecting', is this 'Barford' a lone voice in the field? If so, why? I leave that up to the reader to judge how many British archaeologists are speaking their mind about artefact hunting in the UK, the way it is actually being done (as opposed to merely being presented), as well as the effects it is having on the archaeological resource and public perceptions of the discipline. How many are saying what needs to be said, and if they are, why are they not singled out in this glossary too?

It is disappointing to see Mr Winter going in the same direction as the likes of the two disgruntled detectorist has-beens that generally have little to say other than bashing fictional characters 'Warsaw wally' and 'Heritage Harry' to make their frustrations go away.

If there are faults in my arguments, or mitigating circumstances to concerns raised here in the broader context of collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological resource, then let those who see them argue them out [with supporting evidence and case studies that prove to be more than the exception] in the public forum of the social media (that's collectors and archaeologists/heritage professionals too) instead of then name calling and distortions which help nobody's cause. In fact, is it not the case that the absence of such reasoned argument suggests that there are indeed serious questions that the supporters of collecting (that's collectors and archaeologists/heritage professionals too) really should be addressing? And if that is the case, it is worth considering why they are not, merely dodging the question, ignoring them, failing to focus their though, or trying to deflect discussion onto other topics?

I do not know what leads the artefact hunter to consider Megan Fox as an authority on archaeology. Let us see what she actually has to say on the matter when (if) her proposed (see here (John Winter's citation),  here and here for example) TV miniseries trashing archaeological interpretations of the past comes out. I expect a full and detailed review of the Fox-Travel Channel-mega-anti-archaeological-extravaganza from Mr Winter, a peer review of one 'citizen archaeologist'  (sic) of the efforts of another. 

How PAS 'Partners' Perceive the PASt: A New Glossary (3): Oregon Detectorist Claims He's making a Difference

'Joseph from Oregon' (18th May 2018 at 1:41 AM) wrote that he expected that John Winter would have written
A glossary with a Barford twist. Words like ”detectorist” or what we might see as it’s [sic] true definition[,] or ”archaeologist”[,[?]] to raise the hackles of ones that are ignorant of our contribution to history. I can see the glossary is much more serious than a few puns [sic] at Paul.
 This was followed not so much by puns, but the usual low-brow and as personam baiting one sees in 'metal detecting' circles, referring to my recent operation.

Oregon, a state in the Pacific Northwest region on the west coast of the US, only saw desultory European settlement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the establishment of Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River in 1811. The establishment of the Oregon Trail in 1842–43 brought more settlers and the creation of a state in the 1840s. It should be pretty clear that this is not the byegones-archaeology that this blog is primarily concerned with. In that case, I really do not know why any metal detectorist from Oregon (unless he's also digging up Native american burial sites or something) would have interest, let alone quarrel, with what I write about Collection-Drtiven Exploitation of the (mostly pre-Victorian) archaeological record.

While one is to some extent thwarted in understanding what 'Joseph from Oregon' actually means by his somewhat inarticulate expression, I think we can assume that in some way it is connected with a belief among detector using artefact hunters that the true definition of  'detectorist' would (be intended for some reason to) 'raise the hackles of ones that are ignorant of our contribution to history' (sic, he probably means historiography).  It is less clear whether he was trying also, in his Oregonian backwoods way, to express the idea that the true definition of  'archaeologist' would also (be intended for some reason to) 'raise the hackles of ones that are ignorant of our contribution to history', or perhaps he meant that he feels that archaeologists do not, in fact, contribute to history. Who knows? 

 'Joseph from Oregon' seems to regard it as a criticism that some 'are ignorant of our contribution to history'. And what might that be? I have discussed here a couple of times the looting of the Oregon trail by metal detectorists.* What 'contribution to history' does targeting these sites actually make? Metal detector-made finds without a context may be used to 'rewrite' history, but whether or not that is in any way justified is another matter (see here for just one case). I do not see what 'contribution;' one can make by selectively removing material from archaeological (or historical assemblages) and pocketing it, or even under-reporting it. That is simply grabbing and not contributing.

Then we have the reaction to  an attempt to make sure that artefact hunters actually contribute by introducing a permit system ('Petition on State Of Oregon Senate Bill 64', PACHI Wednesday, 6 May 2009): 

"Say "NO" to State Of Oregon - Senate Bill 64" urge the petition organizers. Certainly one for the ACCG to get involved in, surely it will not stand idly by while moves are underfoot to compel US finders by retentionist and "nationalist" laws to hand over relics to the state to be made available for study and archiving in public collections so everybody can enjoy them? [...] So basically what these people are all saying is that they do not want anything like the UK's treasure act or portable antiquities scheme, they just want the ability to claim the right to pick up, or dig up and carry away whatever they want without sharing it with anyone else.
And what became of this initiative? In what manner do collectors and artefact hunters and collectors want to 'contribute to Oregon's history' now? 

Vignette: Coin commemorating the Oregon Trail
*  ('Treasure hunters with metal detectors damage Oregon Trail', PACHI Thursday, 29 August 2013; 'More Metal Detecting Along the Oregon Trail', PACHI Saturday, 31 August 2013; 'Focus on Metal Detecting: Metal Detecting Oregon - Barlow Trail Explorations',  PACHI Saturday, 31 August 2013; more insulting comment from the tekkies - 'Oregon Trail Wreckers Find This Blog: "Archie crap gone awry... with a little logic and perspective, they fall apart"...', PACHI Saturday, 28 October 2017).

How PAS 'Partners' Perceive the PASt: A New Glossary (4): Detectorist 'Seagoon' Suggests a Definition for 'Lead Artefact'

As an amendment to the 'Metal Detecting Glossary', Seagoon (18th May 2018 at 2:32 PM) tells us what happens to the metal after it has had the misfortune of being 'detected' by these folk, and then dug up:
[...] If only you’d listed, in its own right, Lead (Pb) and all the wonderful manifestations in which it awaits the enthusiastic coil, and its subsequent transmogrification into sea-fishing weights! Such joy! [...]
The lead of course that is found on ancient sites just fell from the sky, it's not in any way 'archaeological evidence' (as would be accepted by detectorist authorities such as Megan Fox) or even artefacts/partefacts, is it? I mean it's not 'important' to an artefact collector.

Yep, they throw stuff in hedges, theymelt other artefacts down and some numpties in Bloomsbury, ignoring what these folk actually do, try to kid us that this is 'citizen archaeology'.

Vignette: some destroy stone artefacts (evidence of the past) others lead ones, but it's the same.

FLO Dodges issue, quelle surprise

It is everyone's history, not
for private pocketing

A PAS FLO attempted on Facebook to criticise a post by Heritage Action but seems not to have really read it, or at least understood what it was saying.. He's the same one who had a go at them earlier, calling raising heritage concerns "bullying" and did not really seem to get it when an attempt was made to explain it to him. This time is no exception, he gets totally lost trying to deflect the argument onto a tangent. The bottom line is that the PAS does not say to landowners that to allow artefact hunting of sites on their land while forbidding the recording of the finds made is allowing the clandestine destruction of the record by collecting. I do not know if Mr Westwood will get what is being said - which is sad, because he's the one being paid (unlike Heritage Action) to do this outreach, which should - bloody well should, Mr W. - involve saying just such things, loudly, clearly and repetitively.  Who is standing up for the archaeological evidence embodied in so-called 'portable antiquities'? FLOs who pat tekkies on the back as they bring in more and more decontextualised stuff? 

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