We Can Dig it or…

…leave it for the next turn of a farmer’s plow, the next shopping mall, highway, used car lot, tornado, flood or earthquake.  We can dig it or let it succumb to the elements, the next fracking well, quarry, man-made lake or for all eternity.  Then again we can dig it and share it with the public, or wait for that government-funded archaeological expedition to discover it, dig it, analyze it, write about it, then store it away in a university or museum basement.

Frankly I am tired of hearing the archaeological community talk about context i.e., nothing should be disturbed less all things historical will be destroyed.  Check!  Got it! Over and  out!  Bottom line…they do not want you, I or anyone to bother an as yet unknown, unidentified, undesignated, nameless and “what just might be” historic site.  You see, only they can do this and only when they have the time and money.  Of course no one knows when the hell this might be but you know, “sometime” in the future?

Question!  How many visitors to a museum do you think really give a rat’s ass about context?  What percentage…50%, 10%, 2%?  What do you think?  I am guessing that the only folks who care about context  are archaeologists.  Yes they have gone to school, studied hard, earned their degrees, but by and large their profession is based on a lot of guesswork and assumption.  Better than nothing?  Sure it is but let’s not pretend it’s an “exact” science.

Second question!  Should we litter our planet with bottlecaps, pulltabs, gum wrappers, plastic and styrofoam so that two hundred years from now archaeologists can determine that we lived in the “slob” era, circa 2014?  Given the definition of context I guess we should….

Okay, my take and one that I am sure will put me on the archaeological hit list…

As detectorists, we can enjoy our pastime, find things of historic significance, share them with the public, make them known to the academics or we can all just disappear.  That of course is what the archaeological community would prefer. They don’t like us because we disturb the “context” but more to the point, they hate it when someone without a degree, someone who  perhaps never even graduated high school, someone just having fun, finds a Staffordshire hoard or Crosby Helmet.  You see these things should be left where they are in the hopes that sometime in the future an archaeologist (with a government grant of course), will somehow, someway, inexplicably, accidentally stumble upon them.

Hmm, yeah, right….



Almost a month ago to the day I was chatting up Allyson Cohen’s plan to do a calendar of women detectorists, and she is indeed working on it.  So if any of you gals are interested please read the Detecting Diva’s latest blog post here….




Filed under Metal Detecting

30 responses to “We Can Dig it or…

  1. Preach on! Government needs to find a way to make money on artifacts, not waste it on bunch of slackers taking 6 months to move 10 yards of dirt with a paintbrush. (ouch)

    • Jamie I don’t have a problem with that so much as I do with them trying to paint us as looters, thieves, etc.. Those that don’t you can count on the fingers of one hand.

  2. Before commencing an excavation, arkies usually employ a mechanical digger to remove the first three to five feet of topsoil — the same topsoil — in which metal detectors find casual losses. When the metal detector appears on the market that will find a coin at even three feet down, I shall beat a path to the retailer’s door.
    ‘Context’ is a useful Red Herring when applied to detecting. Any contextual evidence present in the mechanically- dug topsoil is destroyed. What the arkies should be doing to preserve ‘context’ is to brush their way down the three to five feet. Failure to do this, is by their argument against detectorists, wanton, professional vandalism.

    • Lisa MacIntyre

      FYI…I have never had the pleasure of employing a “mechanical digger”. Every single grain of dirt I have removed has either been by shovel or trowel and every load of dirt is screened. I have also found a lot of “context” within a foot of the surface.

      • Look out John she is on your case now…

      • My God Lisa…are you trying to give archaeology, especially British archaeology, a bad name? Shovel? Trowel? Screening spoil for artefacts?
        Found a lot of ‘context’ within a foot of the surface? Never used a mechanical digger?

        Are you out to cause trouble? You radical!

        Lurve and XXXX’s

        John H

      • Lisa

        Oh John. You have me all figured out. Truth be told I first rent a bulldozer and scrape off at least the top three feet. I then employ the use of a backhoe and start digging the crap outta at least 14 square miles from where I located the first artifact. The soil I excavate I dump in a nearby stream, lake, or swimming pool. Or sometimes I make a new mountain. Then I take anything I find, pull tops, nails, pottery, bones, and dump them in a box, take back to the lab, and shove the box in the deepest, darkest corner of any closet I can find. Then I write a remarkable paper detailing my discovery of some old guy of Polish decent that appeared to be living a double life because he was found buried with a trowel in one hand and El Dorado’s treasure in the other. then I dribble over all the dribble.

  3. I knew when I wrote this that it would provoke the master troll in Warsaw, but then again I love to visualize him pounding away on the ole keyboard with smoke coming out his ears and nose. I also find it rather amusing that in his response to the above he is trying (for a second time) to goad Lisa MacIntyre into responding. Not sure why but I suspect it bothers him that she can associate with us and talk about our differences. Me also thinks she has better things to do than waste time talking to Mr. Piss and Moan.

    And so it goes in a dark room, somewhere in Warsaw, Poland.

  4. Arthur-Canada

    I don’t know anyone with a metal detector who goes around digging up graves. Archaeologist do it all the time. Put that in context!!

  5. Lisa MacIntyre

    You most certainty have that correct, Dick. It does amuse me to occasionally read his dribble when I am bored. I get an image of a little troll, sitting in a basement somewhere, as you mentioned, pounding on a keyboard, and muttering, “Maybe this will get her attention! Maybe now someone will talk to me and praise me for being the all knowing, almighty, keeper and saver of the earth”. It also amuses me how he loves to refer to me a “recent grad”, or “fresh grad”, like I am some kind of naive baby. Even if I had just graduated, or was a young’un, what difference does that really make? I’ll bet Ken could put this guy under the table with the knowledge in his young brain.

    As for the “context” issue. We will have to agree to disagree. Without beating a dead horse, I am very PRO context. Maybe I’ll catch you after a few and mold your mind to come to the dark side on that one.

    • “Maybe I’ll catch you after a few and mold your mind to come to the dark side…. ”

      Catch me after a few? Who’s been talking to you?

    • Robbie

      “Dribble” and “drivel” originally meant the same thing: drool. But the two words have become differentiated. When you mean to criticize someone else’s speech as stupid or pointless, the word you want is “drivel.”

      This (above) from the master dribbler himself…..I can just see him dribbling all over his keyboard looking for anything to discredit anyone who posts anything at all. He forgets some words are spelled differently stateside than in the UK or other countries that have English speaking population. (ex.– color vs. colour, artifact vs. artefact)

      • Robbie, Wally used to be a bear when it came to grammar and I thought he had gotten over all that, but apparently not. Perhaps too he resorted to that in lieu of any intelligent response to Lisa, which is much more likely.

      • Lisa

        Thank you, Robbie, Dick, and John. Funny how something as trivial as dribble is the only attack on me that he has. And I used dribble on purpose because that is the most productive things that falls from his mouth. Dribble. I bet that is one wet keyboard.

    • Robbie

      Lisa, you surely can’t compare with such a knowledgeable person who devised an artifact “hoiking” counter for a country he doesn’t even live in, and has vast knowledge of the people who metal detect all over the world.

  6. Hey Lisa:

    Don’t sweat it! YOU are the arkie, NOT him! He can’t handle you (metaphorically speaking of course!) as you have seriously undermined his authority — such as that ever was!

    Remember, he hides his antecedents. He hides his past. YOU DON’T! He’s not so much a lost cause, but a never was!

    He’s the kind of ‘pseudo-whatever’ the CBA is falling over itself to support to denigrate the PAS and detecting in general….and that says more about the CBA than it does of Barford.

    Just look at his disciples….. sums him up really…don’t it? Length and breadth but no depth.

    Happy mechanical digging

    Lurve & XXX’s

    John H

  7. Lisa

    And one more thing. I will never back down from my convictions that we should be working together not against each other. No matter our differences I will always stand by the idea that detectorists can help our discipline immensely. Wally can sit in his basement in whatever land he chooses and sling his insults, bullying, and BS until the cows come home and I will still always be, not only a better archaeologists ( I can provide documentation of my top honors degree, can he?) but a better human being! So if he wants to attack my grammar, go for it. I’ll be doing productive things like trying to solve problems that matter and helping to write history.

  8. Arthur-Canada

    There is a farm site up near me in Canada (sadly a subdivision under construction now!) where the arkies came in a few years ago for their assessment and bulldozed several feet down in search of their “context”. Since we had prior permission to detect at this farm we went in after they finished their work. At the location where they had dug down to the foundation on the old homestead my buddy found an old token by the front door and I found one about 6 inches off the corner of the fireplace. They also created two huge mounds of dirt (from sifting I presume?) that we swung and we found at least another half dozen old coins and tokens and lots of flat buttons.

    About a month later they came back in and bulldozed flat all that dirt into a nice flat terrace that we swung again one day. That evening in the span of about 2 hours we each found exactly 6 old tokens each…a dozen old coins in one hunt!!! I have no idea what the hell the arkies went in this site to look for but obviously they were not the least bit interested in the stuff we got all excited about. Which leads me to only one conclusion…we are not looking for the same things as an arkie or they would be using metal detectors as well in their research. If anything, they made it so much easier for us to find what we wanted.

  9. Robbie

    Just saw where 3 detectorists found an ancient 30+ gold coin hoard……again in the U.K.

    I imagine the Polish grammar correction officer of the internet will have lots to say about it.

  10. supernova1c

    On UK’s “Time Team”, a so called archaeology program, I’ve seen extensive damage to artefacts and burials by their JCB digger. This was just dismissed and made light of and what about “context” then? Yet they complain if we dig a hole 10″ deep??? They are blind!
    Cheers Dick

    • Hi supernova1c:
      Yes indeedy….the evidence is there on video! They can’t have it both ways; either the top three feet has contextual layers (in which we detect) or, it doesn’t.
      If topsoil is dealt with as per ‘Slime Team’, context has no bearing on anything. It’s all an imaginary stick to muddy the waters. If — yes, if — it does have contextual layers, then what they are doing is professional vandalism, and causing damage far greater than an army of detectorists ever could.
      John H

      • supernova1c

        I’m in total agreement and thank you John. Good to meet you on here, I’ll keep in touch.
        Regards James 🙂

  11. Robbie

    So wouldn’t digging up the ground in any specific location make the remaining area dig spot results ineffective, as the context in one dig area was disturbed and the surrounding areas are unlike the rest of the ground???

    • Lisa MacIntyre

      not necessarily, Robbie. We have found native villages in areas that have disturbed surrounding areas. It’s a his or miss type thing. There was site in England where archaeologists did testing in a grid pattern and found nothing. About ten years later another team can in and did another grid but moved over and found a whole row of houses undisturbed.

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