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Thornborough "debate"

Quote:quote:I supported the archaeologists working on the site, even when not supporting the application

You did, and your even-handedness in that regard was much appreciated, but still disagree on the wider issue...

m300572 - I just wonder about who is going to seek to do the persuading (the area is not even within EH's conservation plan for the Henges) and what they will do if the farmer says 'no'. I am not an expert on the stewardship scheme, but from all I have read about it, the financial compensation is insufficient (i.e. the farmer could make more by continuing to plough).

Quote:quote:Originally posted by BAJR Host

Its OK merc... Paul is not wanting to agree or disagree with us... he just wants to have a go at detectorists . Wink
Eh? It's not about detecting, its about watching sites being ploughed into oblivion and being happy we can pick up the finds afterwards, whether using a metal detector or our eyes. I argue that this is not the way forward in mitigating plough damage and do not think that until we take real steps to mitigate this and any other kind of damage due to landuse, we are justified in calling it "preservation in situ", or "heritage management". And suggestions of "help" picking up the pieces readlly does not make it so in my book.

Quote:quote: after some of us have forgotten what being an archaeologist is..
I hope that was not a personal comment aimed at me just because I do not agree with your opinion on artefact hunting and collecting.

I think there are very serious limitations on what one can "learn about the past" or even an individual site on the basis of artefact hunting and collecting. Especially if (in the case Gary Brun picked up on) the site is Neolithic and the main artefact types being sought are metallic items that are detectable at variable depths by an electronic tool. As you point out, the only way we can find the pot and flint by fieldwalking is if they are in the upper few milimetres of ploughsoil which is not a viable sample of the patterning of the whole topsoil assemblage at any one time.

Quote:quote: Preservation is situ is very important..
Hmmm. The ideology of PARIS is fundamental to a lot of thinking which underlies the way archaeology is done and organized today, and not just in the UK. Its the balance between this and the "digitupnow" or "useitupnow" ideology which is where I part company with the pro-artefact hunting lobby among others.

Quote:quote:Originally posted by BAJR Host
I intend to fund it as mcuh as I expect Paul to organise it.
Hmmm. well, it seems to me that - ironic or not - conducting a proper survey of this topic is not something one guy can finance or another individual organize alone. Its more something that should be tackled (and urgently) by some larger concerns and by putting some more serious thought and resources into it. EH made a start, but seem to have stalled in recent years (where's the Owmby report?).

I have my problems with the details of the Nosterfield experiment (there's a long post in Britarch about them), but I think they are an important element in the discussion of which "Ripping up history" and MARS etc were the well-overdue harbingers... There is a problem here much more weighty than just how (with or without a metal detector) to comb the debris field after destruction has occurred to a site allegedly "preserved in situ".

Nosterfield raises [u]that</u> question which has nothing whatsoever to do with metal detecting.

Paul Barford
Can a metal detectorist record those archaeological deposits from under an opaque level of ploughsoil before they are plouged, or merely recover the metallic component of the debris afterwards? Anyway, at the least if you were only just going for the artefacts, what a "detectorist" would need to do the job properly on this (primarily Neolithic) site would be non-existant 'potsherd detectors' and 'struck flint detectors'. But then, as we keep saying, its not the artefacts alone that is the important thing, but in their context, as is expressed in the Second Aim of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (though Ido not see UKDFD making any reference to it).

glad you aren't talking about detectoristsWink

you are a bit sensitive Paul, that comment was directed at all of us... we ALL have to remember

and phew... look like I am off the hook with financing the project Wink

Now lets see if we can talk about the site without any sly digs at anyone.

The farmer is indeed making a living, but should we rush into recording everything or take stock, give the options to the farmer for set aside and land management, come up with a long term strategy, etc etc.

Thanks for recognising my position Real Job, and I will be the first to agree that I am not always right, and can be persuaded either way. In this case I tend towards the attitude of Newcastle and English Heritage.

This issue has sparked off again, however the offers of help are in no way suggested that that is the way forward, I took it at face value... an offer of help... however in this situation, As we all know, the Neolithic and Melolithic scatters are such that only intensive and detailed recording and field walking would pick up further patterns... Not my preffered option, my preffered option would be a sustainable long term project looking carefully at the lanscape and sites over a decades long period, using multi disciple technology and people.... very much like what is happening... so... keep studying the past around the Henges, in an unrushed, methodical way.

Another day another WSI?
Quote:quote:Originally posted by BAJR Host

glad you aren't talking about detectorists [...] Now lets see if we can talk about the site without any sly digs at anyone.
Well David, if you look, you will see that the paragraph you quoted was my answer to the initial suggestion of "Is this a good argument for bringing in the metal detectorists to help out??
", I then went on to explain there and in subsequent posts why that seems to me to be a very superficial approach to the deeper problem which Nosterfield has here highlighted. No "sly dig", just trying to point out that for some of us at least the word "preservation" should mean that and not mean letting sites be bashed to bits and then picking up the pieces afterwards. It makes no difference whether you pick up the plough-dislodged finds with a metal detector or not, the whole approach to "mitigating the damage" seems fundamentally flawed to me.

Its not a case of "Paul [...] just wants to have a go at detectorists", I rather think that was a criticism which is addressed to an entirely different milieu.

Paul Barford
I thought there was a specific section for detector bashing Hosty?

For all your detecting needs.
Perhaps a new section for Paul could be set up... Wink don't take it personally

It seemed to me like a perfectly reasonable offer, which we could have said thanks but owing to the nature of the site... blah blah... but nope... a simple "thanks but.." would have sufficed...

SO the serious question of Pres in Situ / Plough damage, settings, long term project goals etc etc... public opinion/perception, agendas and contracts, consultancy and politics...

I am already wanting to go to Thornborough before the BAJR conference... any archaeologists willing to work with me, and aid in the understanding and documentation of non metallic ...

however... the real issue, which Paul is quite right to ask, is attitude to sites which are threatened by plough damage and the best way to mitigate.

I would like to hear Paul's views on this topic, as I honestly think it would be worth listening to... over to you Paul... I ealise it might take a bit to gather info... but I would like to hear your suggestions - and as we are on Thornbo... what would you go for here. (and no this is a serious non ironic/sarcastic request)

Another day another WSI?
Quote:quote: the real issue, which Paul is quite right to ask, is attitude to sites which are threatened by plough damage and the best way to mitigate. I would like to hear Paul's views on this topic, as I honestly think it would be worth listening to... over to you Paul... I realise it might take a bit to gather info... but I would like to hear your suggestions - and as we are on Thornbo... what would you go for here. (and no this is a serious non ironic/sarcastic request)
I think Thornborough is a difficult case to discuss on its own as the plough damage has been brought into the discussion of the quarrying application. But rightly so, because the argument is all about what we mean by "preservation in situ". OK, so the site's not going to be quarried away (a decision arrived at at a large cost to everybody involved), but what's left of it being "preserved in situ" looks from present evidence as if its going to be damaged if not destroyed over the next few decades of ploughing. And that is a site which is being "preserved" because its been declared by our representatives as "nationally important".

To what extent can those figures be extrapolated to other sites which are also being "preserved in situ"? I think there are problems with the interpretation of the Nosterfield experiments (even in their modified form) which I think even their designers will allow, but they do provoke thought and should provoke discussion which goes further than how to pick up the pieces after the damage is done.

And of course, let us recognise that this is a problem with a European dimension - not to say a problem occurring worldwide. This is I believe going to be one of the things discussed at the EAA conference here in Cracow in the autumn.

Yes, some sites should be (and of course are) taken from under the plough totally, some should be taken under CS schemes and suchlike which are intended to reduce or halt plough damage. Financially though we cannot afford to keep up compensation payments on doing this for all sites which need it on a sustainable basis.

But in order to operate some kind of programme of selection, using the resou4rces to safeguard the most worthy and most threatened sites, we need to be able to understand the processes involved more closely than it seems we do at the moment.

We still have very little idea about the effects of ploughing (and use of agricultural chemicals - and indeed organic fertilisers) on buried archaeological deposits and their contents. We've done some work on what happens to wetland sites as a result of falling water tables (another unstoppable disaster to the heritage), but our work on plough damage has seldom gone beyond the anecdotal and incidental. We need a proper programme of study of the effects of slope, soil type, ploughing regimes and so on in order to produce regional models of just what degree of damage is occurring.

And yes, looking at the corrosion products and breakage rates of MD finds brought in for recording is one of the tools that can be used for such a study - except... no such study has ever been carried out and published (there was a talk last year on this at the AML, but I was unable to get any details of what was said and whether the results will be published). Fieldwalking material from Poland has been examined from this point of view (breakage and erosion of potsherds), but I have not seen comparable work from the UK (any references anybody?).

We have discussion documents such as "Ripping up the Past" which follow on from CBA and other (RESCUE?) material produced a decade or more before that about this problem, but it seems to me that this is another of those problems that we as a milieu tend to say "tut tut, yes its terrible, but what can we do? The farmers need to make a living"... and leave it at that. But still insist that preservation in situ is the only option - because its the only one we can afford. We then cross our fingers and hoping that nobody notices that this PIS is nothing of the sort, and that maybe future generations will find when they have to investigate one of the sites we "saved" for them, that by some fluke, something has survived in the subsoil for them to ponder over.

I think those generations of archaeologists of the future will be more likely pondering over the double-speak of the archaeological milieu and policy makers of our times when they look (as we look back at the work of our predecessors) at what we were writing about what we do, and what we were actually doing - or failing to do. I feel sure we will be accused of at the least unjoined-up-thinking and probably blatant hypocrisy in more than one area of the way we go about doing archaeology and especially ARM. And I think we will be castigaed for the blind way many of us unthinkingly put policies into action without careful and critical discussion of how they all relate to each other. Preservation in situ as a banner under which we gather but not a proper joined-up concept for example.

And this I think damage to "preserved" sites is one of the problems we have singularly failed to address properly. There has been some criticism of PARIS (the Museum of London seminars being some eye-opening examples), but where has this been taken by our theorists? To what extent has any of this thought penetrated ARM practice in the UK (or any other country in fact)?

But although Thornborough is the origin of this part of the thread, I think this is a subject which goes beyond just that site and also detracts from the main topic of the thread which was the evaluation and the quarry planning application. Maybe if you want to discuss this, you could move this whole block of posts to a thread of their own, as I have a feeling given present company we may be hearing the hackneyed "disc-harrow" argument here very soon.

Paul Barford
Steve.. I have edited your post to reflect the editing of the post that you mentioned. - as this post would not have made sense then... if that makes sense

I hope you will find that acceptable.

god I'm strict! Wink

For all your detecting needs.

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