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In a story on the website of Culture 24 (who, of all organisations, should know better!) we saw this, inserted in the middle of an otherwise heartening story about the growth of the voluntary archaeology sector:
Together with the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which records the finds of metal detectorists, voluntary archaeology is a growing phenomenon and a cornerstone of archaeological investigation and discovery.
The juxtaposition and implied equivalence of metal detecting and voluntary archaeology is quite unsupportable in our view and potentially damaging. Metal detectorists (the 99.9% that aren’t working within an archaeological framework anyway) are NOT voluntary archaeologists, they are the opposite. Voluntary archaeologists do not act in their own interest. Voluntary archaeologists do not pocket what they find as their own. Voluntary archaeologists do not sell what they find.
It is surely incumbent upon the CBA and Culture 24 to make those differences crystal clear, both to ensure the excellent reputation of genuine voluntary archaeologists is not damaged by unjust association and to ensure that any farmer who gets a knock on his door asking for access to his land understands precisely who he is dealing with. As our headline says, Careless words cost history!
It is sad it is left to the likes of a set of amateurs – us – to defend the reputation of another set of amateurs, voluntary archaeologists. Can’t they just be given the full unadulterated exclusive praise they so richly deserve without being bracketed with others with whom they have zero practical or ethical connection? Is it because all the professionals are frit of publicly standing up against PAS? No need to answer, it can be taken as read!