This all started over Paul Barford and friends saying that detectorists are destroying the historical record by digging finds from out of the topsoil of a site.
A frequent commentator on this blog known as Steve stepped up by saying that we actually help the historical record by finding and recording such items from these areas because when archaeologists do a dig they scrape up to 50cm of topsoil away (that's a lot deep than any of our metal detectors go) and then put it in a spoils heap and carry on.
Paul Barford strenuously denied this is the case and challenged us to ask the members of the bajr forum which is a large archaeology forum. Pauls challenge can be read here
So off I went and posted the question, is Steve right in what he says? David Connelly the man behind bajr respond sharpish. here is what he said.
"No problems... and one should not put too much import onto Paul Barfords way of... shalll we say reporting his truth. His attempts to goad... and I have received a few emails from him today -- are not going to work. I like being a fluffy bunny after all
IN answer to your questions... it is nearly true. THis is where it gets technical and is important to understand that commercial archaeology is a tricky beast with no real one size fits all answer ( and I am sure others will confirm - or tell me I am wrong )
What is being described is (in part) an evaluation phase, where the topsoil is stripped on a percentage of an area that may have archaeology present. this is usually on trenches 10 or 20 metres long and 1.5-2m wide. What is being looked for are features in the underlying subsoil... ( around 30-35cm down ) this is recorded, but often not dug other than to characterise what it is... a pit, a posthole, a wall... however... prior to this or during, the topsol should also be scanned for lithics and or pottery that may indicate sites. metal detecting can take place. but as you know... most targets are junk and we don't have time to dig 3000 nails, shotgun cartridges and cattle tags... If the site needs more work... based on the results of teh evaluation... then the site may be stripped, but only if you know what you are getting into. and often you will try preservation in situ. ie... build a house 4m to the left or put teh cables over there... archaeology costs money to do. and breaks our heart, but people often would rather not pay for it, unless they have to. Funding can be tight - thanks competitive tendering.... but in the main you are trying to save the client cash. not carry out a lovely 3 year research dig.
So yes we do often strip topsoil but if there is a site there... we will get it. -- if the site is present on the surface as lithics scatter or pottery scatter we will get it. and then we would not go in with all guns blazing. but 360s can be delicate intruments in teh right hands. the topsoil is often seen as a mixed context, but an indicator of what lies below ( circa 35cm below) SO... you are (in my opinion right... as detectorists that record and map locations of artefacts from teh topsoil are helping. though often we are not allowed to know where these recorded artefacts were found, as many detectorists who report finds with PAS, don't want other detectorists to know where they found them, so the location is 'hidden' it can be difficult to get hold of this info ( has anyone ever tried? ) I do however know that Curatorial services have access, so would flag it to a developer/contractor ( again... has anyone had experience of that? )
In a nutshell... any recording is useful.. and noting pottery or flints. it also means we can all benefit.
phew! I rambled- but thought I should reply properly
( expect this to be (part)quoted in Mr Barfords blog = at least teh bits that can be turned to advantage.)
I am expecting "Connolly says theiving artefact hunters should dig everything"
So there you have it Steve who Paul was slating all along was right and has shown Paul well and truly up! well done Steve
Paul has just found out about all this and realises he has made a fool of himself, he now cclaims David connelly is "patronising us without giving us a voice" however yet agaim paul is jumping the gun and twisting it. My question from the bajr was removed as I told the admin they could do if it was breaking the forum rules because I linked my blog url