Monday, June 6, 2011

Candy, Clubbers and the Archaeobozos

The bloke who calls himself "Candice" informs his readers that, despite a break of several months since the last post on the "People's Archaeology (sic) Blog", he has not given up in his quest to present the true face of artefact hunting and collecting (which is what he considers to be "People's Archaeology").

He writes:
"People in our club say to me "Why bother with your blog....why waste your time....Barford is no threat to the hobby...." Maybe they are right, and to be truthful having the views of the 'radical archaeologists' out of my life for a couple of months has been rather nice".
Now what "club" would that be Mr Candice? The blogger Candice has denied he is a metal detectorist (in the blog's profile which was later edited), but still admits to having friends that are. So one would presume this is not a local metal detecting club. This leaves the identity of the "club" concerned unknown. Or perhaps Mr Candice has not written on his blog so long, he has forgotten who he was pretending to be.

Anyway "Candice" is concerned to assure everyone how much "support" he is receiving, from hobbyists (sic) and collectors (who we therefore understand are not hobbyists?) and does not omit to say: "And thank you too, all my Turkish friends, for the virtual bouquets - you really are darlings".

As is frequently the case on his blog, "Candice" also goes out of his way again to mention all the support he's getting
from those archaeologists who tell me "not all archaeologists feel as Paul Barford does. I'm glad someone is speaking up. Paul is absolutely not representative of even a fraction of archaeologists...."
They would be British archaeologists I guess. I think in general, yes, these that support collecting are glad that somebody else speaks up for them - they are not very good at doing it for themselves. Neither are those that oppose collecting (I get mails from them, with pathetic wimpish excuses why they don't feel able to speak up and saying how 'glad' they are I do). So British archaeology is largely divided into three silent camps, those who write to "Candy", those who write to "Barford", and those who sit quiet and say nowt. Then there is the fourth silent group, the PAS who steadfastly refuses to actually engage with the wider debate and archaeological/heritage management issues.

Note that the anonymous supportive archaeologist quoted by "Candy" uses the word "feel" rather than "think". That's pretty symptomatic of the archaeologists one comes across who tentatively express a sympathy for artefact hunters and collectors. It seems to me that they must avoid thinking the issues through down to the level of the principles of archaeological resource conservation, and continually fail to make any attempt to articulate in any detail why they are not applicable in this case. The end result is glib and unreflexive archaeo-garble like that produced by UCL's Gabriel Moshenska in a recent debate.

So certainly "not all [British] archaeologists [think about this issue] as Paul Barford does" would be a more accurate expression of the facts I feel. The difference between us is I am perfectly willing to enter into debate with those who think differently on these matters, while the supporters of artefact hunting are notably silent, preferring to leave the dialogue up to the pigeons cooing in Bloomsbury Square and pseudonymous spokesmen like "Candice". So until they find a voice of their own, we'll have to judge whether "not even a fraction" is wishful thinking by an archaeologist desperate to believe their position ("feeling") is not mistaken, or whether it has a basis in fact. Maybe the IFA could seek and publish some of the opposing opinions and then poll the profession?

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