Many senior Swedish archaeologists are afraid of metal detectors and uncomfortable with the idea that the public might have access to such machines. Likewise with information about the locations, or even the existence, of newly made metal detector finds. “Keep it quiet or you’ll attract looters.”
To some extent I agree: telling the press you have discovered a ploughed-out silver coin hoard before you’re reasonably sure you have collected everything you can of it would just be stupid. But as often shown in my blogging, I don’t agree when it comes to copper-alloy finds. In fact, I favour easing the Swedish metal-detector restrictions. Let’s assume that any given detectorist is a responsible person until they prove otherwise! And I favour wide dissemination of new archaeological data as and when they become available. Good scholars don’t need to build their careers on keeping data secret. The true value of their work lies in their innovative and painstaking methods of analysis and interpretation.
The advantages to this open-door approach have become even clearer to me during the past week. Thanks to fieldwork blogging and a mailing list, my project made the national news media. And thanks to the participatory nature of blogs, I have had two important details of the Kaga foil-figure model pointed out to me: details that I had not seen myself. The lady in the picture is not wearing a disc brooch: it’s the disc of a huge and slightly indistinct disc-on-bow brooch. And she hasn’t just got a space-filling box beside her feet: she’s sitting on the box. Thanks, Margrethe W and Mats W!
This is collaborative research in overdrive: I make data available and everyone gets to take part in their interpretation. I make use of the bits that convince me and give due credit in print. Besides, I have amateur participants in nearly all my fieldwork. Everybody wins: both scholarship and the public. But you’ll notice that my blog entries name only the parishes where my sites are located, not the farmsteads or grid references. And there is rarely any mention here of precious-metal finds from my sites.