The following is John Howland’s take on yesterday’s post….
You Could be Drinking in The Last Chance Saloon
I and Dick Stout have been fighting arkies and their bonkers archaeo-politico drivel for over three decades and I can tell you that were I on their side, I’d have the hobby – especially in the US – nailed down with the sale of metal detectors governed by licence along with laws in situ to imprison erring hobbyists.
I’d have the hobby firmly under archaeological control to the extent you couldn’t fart without a crack across the knuckles. How come? Simple. In the main US Tekkies are – unlike other hobbyists or sportsmen – slow to respond to danger and mostly display symptoms of mass apathy. The US hobbyists – if the arkies fully realised the advantage they have – are a pushover. I could knock out metal detecting in the US inside of eighteen months.
In the UK the reverse situation exists; here Tekkies were smart enough to put mouthy arkies to the sword in debate – and still do – especially where a loony fringe of politically motivated archaeological boors spend an inordinate amount of time attacking the Government-backed Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) that works closely with Britain’s hobbyists in bringing detector-found antiquities to the fore and is a world leader.
The fringe opposition to the PAS is understandable, since it confers a much-hated respectability on the hobby of metal detecting, which in itself is a punch in the mouth for those individuals and archaeological organisations that have spent decades trying to have the hobby outlawed. The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) is typical; even to giving credence to oddball calculators, graphs, and other schemes based on supposition and guesswork. When it comes to metal detecting the CBA doesn’t know whether its asshole is punched or bored.
Out manoeuvred in debate though not by the feeble National Council for Metal Detecting, the CBA changed tack:
“In many cases it is better to leave objects and other evidence in the ground where it has been lying safely for hundreds or thousands of years. Here it remains safe for future generations to investigate with better techniques and with better-informed questions to ask.”
To use the patois of the streets, this is of course, utter bollocks.
Running out of arguments to outlaw our hobby the smug CBA with its usual po-face, then played the ‘no-dig’ card, meaning that only they or those with their support will be allowed to dig in their Brave New Archaeological World, in effect a cartel. Unbelievably, this sewage is spewed by those who choose to be identified as ‘scholars’. Proof if proof is needed, that archaeology cannot, and MUST NOT be left in the sole hands of archaeologists who have little compunction in twisting the facts to fit any particular fabrication.
With their passion for being seen as holier-than-thou, the CBA’s website carries this; which is just about as smug as smug gets:-
“Throughout its history the CBA has played an active and influential role in campaigning for reforms of legislation, policy and practice in relation to portable antiquities – most especially in seeking to combat the illicit looting of archaeological sites and the trade in illegally removed cultural objects. The CBA continues to play an active role in this area.”
Er…aren’t we all against the illicit looting of archaeological sites? Of course we are and we deplore those so-called ‘educated’ archaeologists who have looted and stolen the heritage record common to all of us for personal gain.
The outlook is stark and what US hobbyists should strive to attain, is to have ONE national organisation RECOGNISED by federal government as the mouthpiece for the hobby. Governments like to deal with organisations and national bodies if only to garner possible votes. Therefore the WWATTS, The Task Force, and the FMDAC, are NOT cutting the mustard federally.
In order to achieve ‘single national body recognition’ a bloodbath is in the offing as each of these organisations scratch and gauge for sole recognition. While this internecine war carries on, the smart money, if there is such a thing in archaeology, will go for the jugular.
The hobby in the US is years behind that which exists in the UK – the problems you are experiencing now, we had over a decade ago. Mass apathy and bumbling inefficiency will lay the US hobby to rest and on present form, is well deserved. Then again and bearing in mind the US is a zillion times bigger that the UK, so organisational and administrative problems in setting up such a single body are magnified. Nevertheless, any regulations foisted on the US hobby will reflect the amount of protestation put up by hobbyists.