Kevin Leahy spoke at the Current Archaeology event yesterday, he was supposed to present an assessment of 'Twenty years of the Portable Antiquities Scheme' which seems a great opportunity to make some substantive points. Here is my reply to somebody who wrote to me about it afterwards (work out the context yourselves):
Hi, I am not sure where you think he ‘diverged from the party line’, it was surely the same old, same old crap. That talk would basically have looked the same in 2003 in its basic aspects.The ‘achievements’ presented are object-centred kossinnist retro-culture-historical archaeology. I note with amusement how he dropped the tone of his voice reverentially whenever he quoted a big number. Its all about numbers innit? The ethics of collecting is nowhere touched upon. I note that he says that commercial artefact hunting rallies are a ‘nightmare’, not because of the issues related to commercial collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record but because of the work involved in FLOs getting to all the finders in time.
What a cheek mentioning the Lenborough hoard in such a context without commenting on how it was dug by the FLO (and tipped out on a tabletop) and then a bit later discussing the Frome one and the prehistoric hoards and gaily mentioning that they are ‘structured’ and should be recorded accordingly. I noted that there was a total lack of a critical approach to themselves – totally in character for the Bloomsbury boyz, sadly.
This was all very revealing about the intellectual fruits of twenty years liaison with collectors – I would say small berries rather than water melons. He says we should be ‘grown up’ and wait longer for us to ‘get there’ – hmm. Twenty years of a failed social experiment is not enough to see where it is going? As an archaeological presentation, pretty annoying fluffy spin – as usual from the dumbdown PAS.Paul