Can Detectorists be Archaeologists? News by Roy Goutté of an upcoming conference.
On the 21st November 2016, PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) are staging a conference at the Museum of London. It is headed ‘Can Detectorists Be Archaeologists?’ and features many speakers during the day.
Nowadays most archaeologists recognise that responsible metal-detecting has a role to play in archaeology, though there remain concerns about the (seemingly) haphazard searching techniques employed by most finders. This conference explores the various ways in which detectorists (working alone or with archaeologists) have undertaken archaeological fieldwork, and looks to a future of further cooperation for the benefit of archaeology and public interest in the past… Dr Michael Lewis (British Museum).
As a detectorists myself and an amateur archaeologist that has worked with qualified archaeologists where my detector was called upon, this promises to be a very interesting series of talks. Any form of education, as long as it is a balanced appraisal of the subject, is most welcome as irresponsible detecting without giving thought to the archaeology is without doubt a serious matter and hopefully will be discussed at length.
There are two types of detectorists apart from the many thousands out there that, in my opinion, are irresponsible in respect of their lack of concern for our heritage and unseen archaeology. One is the blatant ‘night-hawk’ who purposely sets out to steal artefacts from areas of known ‘hot-spots’ and the other is the genuine beginner/casual user of a detector who seem totally unaware that they could be damaging the archaeology as they have not followed the Metal Detector Code because, on the whole, they are not recognised metal detector club members. As a member they would have been well versed in the rights and wrongs of metal detecting.
This doesn’t make the latter a bad bunch – just an uninformed one that are venturing out for a day’s enjoyable and relaxing detecting with thoughts of finding the odd coin/ring/watch on a beach or local scrub land. They are by far the majority – the ones that have a day out occasionally and not the day in day out detectorists.
To return to the subject matter – Can Detectorists Be Archaeologist? – well of course they can, just as well as anyone else if they are interested in the subject… which undoubtedly some will be of course. If they used their obvious knowledge of our heritage for the good and not just for personal gain as a night-hawk would, then fine. But let’s be quite clear on this – the major hoards and finds in the UK are being made by your bog standard detectorists who report their finds and not night-hawks who don’t and in places not generally being looked at by archaeologists because that is not in their remit.
Another heritage website doesn’t seem to allow for this and offers no credit to the ‘good guys’ seeing the majority of all detectorists as stealing our heritage and the vast number of them not declaring their finds. So where do they think all the hoards and other antiquities found came from if not reported – out of fresh air! The dark or negative side is always highlighted by them and virtually no credit given to the huge amount of detectorists out there doing the right thing! They need to wise-up and smell the roses!
However, not wishing to linger on this negative side, I believe this conference is perfectly timed by PAS and should open up a few eyes and minds with the range of the talks they are encompassing at the event and the quality of the speakers enlisted for it. I hope it is well attended and appreciated by a level-headed audience and hopefully gives the naysayers something that will pacify them a little – but don’t hold your breath!
Here are some more details and the table and time of events:
Can Detectorists Be Archaeologists?
Portable Antiquities Scheme Conference – Weston Theatre, Museum of London. Monday 21st November 2016. 10am – 5pm.
10:00 Roy Stephenson (Museum of London): Welcome
10:10 Dr Michael Lewis (British Museum) & Dr Pieterjan Deckers (Vrije Universiteit Brussel): Working Together.
10:30 Dr Felicity Winkley (University College London): A Font of Local Knowledge: Metal-detectorists and landscape archaeology.
11:00 Dr Phil Harding (metal-detectorist and self-recorder): Metal-detecting in Leicestershire: Insights from detailed recording.
11:30 David Haldenby (metal-detectorist from Yorkshire): Detecting the Landscape.
12:00 Lindsey Bedford (erstwhile metal-detectorist): Detecting a Path into Archaeology.
12:30 Lunch (not provided).
14:00 Faye Minter (Suffolk County Council): The Use of Systematic Metal detecting in Suffolk as an Archaeological Survey Technique.
14:30 Carl Chapness (Oxford Archaeology): Metal-detecting and Archaeology.
15:00 Samantha Rowe (University of Huddersfield) Archaeology of the plough-zone.
15:30 John Maloney (National Council for Metal Detecting) The Future of archaeology and metal-detecting.
16:00 Dr Mike Heyworth (Council for British Archaeology) The Future of archaeology and metal-detecting: Building or burning bridges?
Worth noting that there will be no refreshments provided. If, like many others, you are contemplating taking up this wonderful hobby, the following link to a very informative Beginners Guide to metal detecting is a real must. Check it out!