Going TOO Far: Paul Barford Blog

I don't read Paul Barford's blog because I can't be bothered to deal with anger - and he does come across as angry. It's a pity, because he makes a great deal of good points, but that's where the Cultural Property debate has gone - to the very extremes, with both people attacking each other. I genuinely believe that if we could all work together we'd get more done, and that we're mostly in the shades of grey when it comes to collecting - very few people want to ban collecting, just as very few people believe that looting is acceptable.

Barford tends to attack people, sometimes making personal attacks. He's obviously angered some people, as they've set up an anti-Paul Barford blog: "Paul Barford - Heritage - The Truth" - my guess is that it's a group of pro-collecting 'radicals' behind it, based on the language.

I will however defend Barford, because I think this sort of attack is despicable.

Barford may not have completed his PhD, but neither have many of some of the best archaeologists in the field - I make a play on words of my PhD in my blog title, but many field archaeologists who've done great work don't have one. I don't know if he's any good or not. I did ask a couple of people about him, as he seemed to have come from nowhere and be making a big splash. One had little good to say about Barford, having been the butt of his ire via the blog. The other is a leading archaeologist who specialises in the Slavs, and thought that Barford's book - P. Barford,  The Early Slavs. Culture and Society in Early Medieval Europe. Cornell University Press. 2001 - was a very good account that he recommended to people and made the subject easier to teach. Barford did his undergrad at the Institute of Archaeology, which is a very well regarded institution. He may no longer wield a shovel, but he's entitled to have opinions, and many archaeologists no longer do active field work, or have digs where workmen do the lifting (me).

I don't have much time for Barford and his attacks, but setting up a blog just to attack the man and dig into his past is disgusting.

(We all have skeletons in our past, and archaeologists should have more than most - I certainly do.)


  1. One can only also hope your post (which Mr. Barford has noted with approval right after yet another series of posts trashing others), will prompt him to rethink his approach as well.


    Peter Tompa

  2. Agreed, PhDiva.

    Although you certainly have a point about 'anger' over at Paul Barford's site, personally I think he performs an important service by questioning aspects of the treatment of portable antiquities that the mainstream media, at least, virtually always take for granted. Maybe it takes a degree of anger to say so many unpopular, uncomfortable things about so many well-established, apparently reputable institutions and practices? At the same time, though, there are plenty of points at which I think he'd be well-advised to tone down the personalised attacks and the general tone of fury, if only for the tactical reason that these undermine the seriousness of the points he is making, increasing the likelihood that many people will dismiss his arguments without really engaging. And that, in turn, would be a pity.

    There's an extremely interesting discussion to be had about portable antiquities, metal detecting and archaeology. I think Paul Barford often goes too far in appearing to assume that all metal detectorists are motivated by greed, callousness or some inexplicable urge to destroy the archaeological record. Other critics of metal detectorists exhibit social and intellectual snobbery of the most tedious, embarassing sort. Then there are the attacks on the PAS, which has the in some ways unenviable job of mediating between the demands of archaeology and the present-day reality of perfectly legal, largely respectable metal detecting - counter-productive assaults on decent people, doing the best they can in what is sometimes a very difficult position. Would it be better if the PAS didn't exist and hence that none of these finds were recorded? Sometimes it sounds as if Barford thinks this is the case - which I find baffling.

    No, what's needed here is a discussion carried out with a degree of tact, patience, good humour, pragmatism and tolerance. Your post, at least, points the way towards how that might work in practice.

  3. In Scandinavia in particular there are often quite productive and legitimate collaborations between local metal-detectorists and archaeologists, which have aided in the investigation of a number of large sites, notably Uppakra near Lund, where there is a lot of metal but in very low concentrations.

  4. I came across your blog quite by accident and felt compelled to add a few words.
    Mr Barford, tends to attack anything and anyone who does not share the same opinions as himself, now, while to have one's own beliefs and ideals, is fine and shows that the individual is just that, you cannot take one part of society that contains the people whom you deplore and tar them all with the same brush..... There are both good and bad in all vocations and walks of life.

    Secondly, when you start to jabber on like some Muslim Jihadist, the gist of the topic in question is lost and all thoughts on the original theme are replaced with the same personal hatefulness being delivered by Mr Barford.
    Mr Barford may or may not have completed his PhD, but the fact remains that he IS an intelligent individual, who should be adding more to the discussion other than anger and ridicule at both the establishment and the general public, does he forget that most Archeologists in this Country are paid for by us ? and in so being, to a certain degree, are beholden to the very same people to whom he opts to brandish his viperous tongue.

    There will always be thieves in this World, as there have always been and
    Archeology contains it's fair share of these unscrupulous individuals, as a quick Google search will prove.

    Be more constructive Mr Barford and then you may just be listened to by someone who cares.

  5. I actually made my peace with Paul Barford quite some time ago - I thought the simplest thing was to drop him a comment and try to sort things out. I read his blog and leave comments. I also should clarify that I don't think "anger" is necessarily a bad thing - sometimes one needs to be angry things, and we have a perfect right to be.

  6. I have "dropped" Mr Barford several comments over the years and as to yet he has not published a single one ?
    He only ever publishes well vetted comments, which either agree with his rantings or those that make the Metal Detecting fraternity look like some ignorant, course, uneducated, gutter snipes.
    Hardly honest, huh ?


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