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Paul Barford on East Anglia

Questions at UCS © David Gill
The UCS Heritage seminar welcomed Paul Barford to give a paper today. It was a good opportunity for me, and for those attending, to hear Paul articulate his views on the unrestricted hunt for portable archaeological objects. There appeared to be a mix of attendees from the archaeological service, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, museums, and the metal-detecting community.

My colleague Dr Ian Baxter and I were tweeting some of the key points. Here are some of them:

  • lack of clear conservation policy for the archaeological record
  • critical debate on artefact hunting missing from the archaeological community
  • the forum paper for the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology
  • under-reporting may be as high as 80% (though Norfolk may be as low as 25%)
  • the development and methodology of the Heritage Action counter
  • the disturbance of deep stratigraphy due to metal-detecting
  • the increasing use of metal-detectors that detect deeper and in a range of conditions
  • the intellectual consequences of loss of context
There was an extended time of questions, discussion and debate.
  • What could be done to improve the situation?
  • There seemed to be widespread dislike of the term 'treasure'. We were reminded that the focus is often on the metal rather than the archaeological importance.
  • Is legislative change important? Should reporting be compulsory?
  • Comparison was made with Greece where there are stricter controls and recording of finds. (This perspective was provided by Cambridge researcher Christos Tsirogiannis.)
  • Is the legal framework now outdated where once it was world leading?
  • 10% of archaeological sites in Suffolk known from metal-detecting.
  • The importance of the 30 year relationship that had been developed between the archaeological and metal-detecting communities in East Anglia.
  • The impact of potato crops on archaeological sites.
  • Should PAS-style reporting be introduced for countries like Iraq?
  • English Heritage advice on metal-detecting.
  • Representative collections to be held by museums; acceptance of private collections.
  • Where should financial resources be directed in the present financial climate?
  • Positive media coverage of PAS.
  • ITV's 'Britain's Secret Treasures'should be seen as 'entertainment' rather than a factual programme.
  • The Crosby Garrett helmet and the failure to close loopholes in the present system.
  • The amount of money paid for treasure finds (and apparent lack of transparency).
  • The scheduling of archaeological sites (and areas around 'hoard' findspots). This led to a short discussion of the area where the Staffordshire Hoard was found.
These points should give a flavour of the paper as well as the subsequent discussion. They do not necessarily cover all of Paul's points or all of the questions.

I felt that the seminar brought together a range of positions in the debate. Paul offered a voice that is so often marginalised, overlooked or silenced. I very much hope that he will turn his notes into a published version.


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Comments

Wayne G. Sayles said…
Your words are well chosen. The "voice" of Paul Barford IS often marginalised, overlooked or silenced. This is true not only in Britain but internationally. That does not have to be the case. However, the way forward is most certainly not the way of the past, as Mr. Barford himself seems to have alluded in a recent blog post.

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