Wednesday 10 September 2014

Conservation vs. Metal Detecting - Part Two

Continuing on from my previous blog post about a debate on conservation, here is a copy of my latest comment sent to Andy Baines's blog ...

*NOW ANSWERED*? No, Andy. As I said, Paul Barford "answered your question in his very first reply" - 54 minutes after you asked it. It's just that you failed to realise it. A more accurate correction to your post title should read *INSTANTLY ANSWERED - NOW ACKNOWLEDGED*.

You found my reply "personal", "condescending", "derogatory"? It seems your ego is easily offended. While I simply shrugged off the withering sarcasm in your own pointed questions, you get upset at my accurate description of your points, not you, as "shallow and utterly unconvincing" without even a hint of sarcasm. I have no wish to offend you but please try to distinguish between criticism of your arguments and criticism of you.

"I am talking about detecting on areas which are not known sites of archaeological interest ..." 
There are many "areas which are not known sites of archaeological interest". The argument for conservation is that we do not know which places may turn out to be sites of archaeological interest in the future. As I said, why the frantic rush to dig up every bit of metal evidence that may have helped to interpret them? And, quite apart from potential excavations, why the frantic rush to destroy the traces used in surface surveys?

"... all my finds including non metalic finds are recorded, grid referenced, photographed, the landowner is then informed/shown and the items are then handed over to the relevant authorities be it my local museum or in most cases to the TTU in Edinburgh." 
That is commendable - but it is still the opposite of conservation. However you may try to justify your actions; ultimately, you are digging things up for your own pleasure. I am not convinced that society needs yet more hundreds of crudely dug-up and largely decontextualised Anglo-Saxon brooches and Roman buckles cluttering up museum display cases or shoved away in storage; those of us who genuinely appreciate history would much rather have a few sites with enough evidence left intact to allow a more meaningful, more intellectual interpretation.

"Problem there is when is the right time if archaeological and conservational techniques are constantly improving at what stage do we say to ourselves this is the point to do it and not wait for say another year, ten years, or even a hundred years ..." 
But you are NOT "doing it", are you? Crudely and selectively digging up all the metal bits is largely destroying evidence that may have been vital if any archaeological exploration is eventually done.

"... in hindsight should for example the Mary Rose have been lifted, could it not have been protected on the sea bed at the time ..." 
No, the lifting of the Mary Rose came within what is described as an emergency 'rescue operation'. There were fears that that area of the Spithead seabed was about to be deep-dredged to create a new shipping channel into Portsmouth. There was also the threat of amateur divers destroying the integrity of the site while scavenging for bits of treasure and souvenirs. Some of those divers may have deluded themselves into thinking they were 'saving history' - sound familiar? 
Excellent explanations of why the old "topsoil/ploughed" carte blanche argument fails can be found on Paul Barford's blog (just one example of many).

" didnt mention PAS in your intial post." 
Why would I need to? The whole point of both Andy's post and the post he was responding to on Paul Barford's blog was about almost 1 million objects recorded by the PAS. I don't want to upset your ego again but it would help the credibility of your arguments if you took the trouble to find out what you are commenting on before you comment.

"Have a nice day at the rock festival, try and avoid the head banging Dave." 
Thanks. I did actually say "for a few days" - a minor point but again, please read what you are commenting on. The only head banging I'm doing seems to be against a brick wall trying to get you guys to read. :) 
Go ahead and do metal detecting to your heart's desire. I can't stop you. It's all perfectly legal in England and Wales under minimal conditions. But at least spare us all the bullshit and be honest about it: it's just a selfish treasure hunt you pursue for your own pleasure, whether you give your finds to museums or not. Please don't try to delude yourself or try to convince others that you are somehow altruistically 'saving history' for everyone else. You're not. There may be occasional exceptions but more often than not, you're wrecking much of the evidence of history just to satisfy your own need for entertainment. As I said, that is NOT conservation. 
David (not "Dave" - nor, for that matter, some cryptic four-letter acronym hiding my real identity)
That's really all I have to say on that topic. Now to move onto other things in my next post ...


UPDATE: Oops! Did I say "Now to move onto other things in my next post"? Scrub that! Here is Part Three.

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