PAS is staging yet another conference praising metal detecting. (Why, when they were set up to cope with it not promote it? A biscuit to anyone who knows!) It’s titled “Can Detectorists be Archaeologists?” The answer is simple: NO, for the nature of the activity precludes its participants from adhering to the archaeological practices, aims and ethics developed to maximise knowledge and minimise cultural loss which real archaeologists have to! Why would you need to stage a whole expensive conference to explain that, unless you were trying to pretend short changing the community is acceptable?
The title of the conference is all the more perplexing because the BM specifically told us recently that they’d endeavour to ensure “misinterpretation cannot be inferred from our use of language in the future” and for our part we highlighted Rule 1.4 of the Institute for Archaeology: “A member shall not undertake archaeological work for which he or she is not adequately qualified”. No, metal detecting can never be Archaeology for a multitude of reasons. It’s endlessly claimed by both metal detectorists and PAS that archaeologists shouldn’t be elitist. They’re right. But Archaeology should be.
If it’s not, and if it isn’t done right, it’s one of many inferior ways of interacting with the past of which metal detecting is merely one. By what right does our national museum, uniquely in the world, imply otherwise? The whole bloody farce reminds us of 2011 when Diana Friendship-Taylor, chair of Rescue, wrote witheringly of a previous similar attempt:“We are, frankly, astonished, that the British Museum is prepared to lend its considerable weight to the furtherance of a method of historical inquiry which belongs in the distant past, and which has as much relevance to the practice of modern archaeology as the use of the cranial trepanation has to modern medicine.”