Thursday, 3 April 2014

Bizarre twist on a "scandal"

I see John Howland, a metal detectorist who I mentioned in an earlier post, has kindly included me in distinguished company in a comment to his latest rant. The rant itself uses the recent revelation that thousands of archaeological items recovered in Northern Ireland are lying unclassified in storage facilities as an excuse to slam British archaeology. His comment concludes:
"This scandal has made utter fools of Messrs Barford, Swift, Knell, and Gill, not to mention the Council for British Archaeology I am delighted to say, and gives lie to their the slur that metal detecting damages the heritage."
Apart from a cringeworthy use of the tired idiom "not to mention" to prefix a mention, the non sequitur twist in his attempt at logic would tie a steel girder in knots. According to Howland, the fact that the storage of archaeological items has been insufficiently funded means that metal detecting does not damage our heritage. Huh? Sorry, I'm still trying to get my head round this one. I'll get back to you when I work out what on earth he's been taking.

I suspect from the BBC article that the items remain "unclassified" because museums lack the funds to process and store them but Howland unhesitatingly lays the blame on archaeology itself. His answer to the critical shortage of financial resources in the cultural sector is to starve archaeology of money altogether (he comes to the startling conclusion that the "last thing archaeology needs is more money") and instead to plough it into the PAS so that it can do a better job of "properly recording and classifying OUR heritage". The word "heritage" here of course means not the fruits of scholarly research but the decontextualised bits of metal that detectorists like Howland reap a reward from by digging them up out of the ground.

Yeah right, who needs archaeology and academic site interpretation? A whole load of recorded and classified bits of metal ripped out of the landscape is going to do our heritage far more good. I can see other countries such as Italy or Greece gasping in envy and admiration at the sheer genius of our priority.

But wait, didn't he say "OUR heritage" (with "OUR" in capital letters)? Does that mean that apart from a few thousand detectorists, the rest of the over 63 million inhabitants of the UK also get a say? You know, the over 63 million people who democratically choose to pay wages to archaeologists but not to detectorists? Those people? He might find that a large proportion of thinking people would feel that the "scandal" is that cultural institutions such as museums and archaeology are severely underfunded, and that of course was the point the BBC article was actually making.


detectorbloke said...

One could argue that at least they are waiting to be classified unlike artefacts in people's homes which arent

David Knell said...

Totally true!

Paul Barford said...

Of course the purpose of the original news item was to put pressure on the purse-string holders by generating concern among members of the public who genuinely care about the past, and get them asking why this situation exists. And look at the reaction of the 'members of the public who say they are interested in the past'. In fact all they are concerned about is their own selfish concerns (gimme gimme) and using this information in their nasty vendetta against preservation. They are not really a bit concerned about the state of British museums, if they can use it against "the archaeologists".

Of course, none of these numbskulls has the slightest inkling that museums and their infrastructure are not financed by archaeologists, or even from the same source of finance, but from the budgets of local authorities for 'culture', budgets which are perennially being cut.

Do you think any of the metal detectorists crowing about this are at all concerned about cuts in local government budgets for culture? From this reaction, I would think not. Philistines.

heritageaction said...

It's worth bearing in mind Mr Howland is writing on an American blog to a largely American set of detectorists who are largely clueless about the situation in England. Or Walesland. So he gets back slapped for writing complete rot. (It's also notable that when he and 2 others have posted on British detecting forums they went down like lead balloons.)

Anyway, Mr Howland says responsible detecting comprises adhering to the law. Which is all that needs to be known or usefully discussed about him I'd have thought.

David Knell said...

Absolutely! The detectorists posting and commenting on that blog are clearly so consumed by hatred of archaeology that they will cheer any twisted angle to attack it.

David Knell said...

Thank you for your insight. I have to completely agree with you. He clearly represents an extremist element and his blog posts really aren't worth bothering about.



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