For ages The Establishment’s main defence of artefact hunting has been that ”artefact hunters find new sites”. But no longer, not since “Old PAS” conceded in its final days that 70% of finds don’t get reported. There’s no public benefit in the finding of new sites if the public doesn’t benefit. Perhaps with that in mind the Twitter entity “Portable Antiquities” has this week offered a second defence: “Obviously we believe responsible metal-detecting makes a useful contribution to archaeology, highlighting sites previously known.”
But this doesn’t stand up either. If they’re “known sites” they hardly need “highlighting”. Even if they meant the sites can be “better investigated” that’s not true either if no-one is told about them (or the evidence is eroded away forever). It’s hard for the public to credit it after so many years of pro-detecting dialogue from PAS but it’s mandate is and always was just to maximise the reporting of artefacts by existing detectorists, not to defend, praise, promote or expand metal detecting. Doing so is bad enough (ask most archaeologists abroad what they think!) but the fact it is now doing so using arguments which it has itself admitted are 70% invalid is a step-change worse. “New PAS” should grasp the nettle.
Coincidentally, this week someone has written : “Historical research and Natural Scientific research have the same aims. Both history and the natural sciences seek to form evidence-based understandings about a particular subject area”. With all due humble respect, how dare PAS say things in public that will lead the public and the taxpayer to think that most artefact hunting, 70% of which damages or destroys the library or laboratory where research could have been carried out, resembles those two laudable processes?