by Nigel Swift, Heritage Action

Not content with flouting archaeological guidelines at their Foxham rally  the members of Colchester metal detecting club are holding one at Boxted which seems equally unheroic. It’s strictly members only and there’s no mention of it being in aid of charity this time – in fact it seems more of a help yourself, surprise buffet type of event with only the members benefitting.

“Finds over 300 years old and over £300 in value and items subject to treasure trove to be divided 50/50 with the land owner.”

That’s nice. So we can deduce that if a find is worth £300 or more then the finder gets £150 or more (up to utter oodles, one assumes) and if it’s worth £299 (and who makes the assessment?!? Guess! Go on!) then the finder gets £299 and the farmer gets nowt. Such love of history! Such lack of interest in money!

That's £299 for me and nothing for the landowner. And there's another £299 for me and nothing for the landowner. Oooh and there's another £299 for me and .......

Ironically, a National Council for Metal Detecting representative recently characterised the CBA Portable Antiquities conference as….“all a part of a sustained attack on the hobby which the CBA and their seedy band of followers view as an easy target.”  But when it comes to making themselves easy targets and acting in an utterly seedy way the Colchester Metal Detecting club seems to take the heritage biscuit.

Are they typical? Well that’s a ticklish question in search of a British heritage professional or resource protection agency with the pluck to ask it! Ten million seven hundred thousand artefacts dug up since 1975 and the landowners who own them not getting a penny for any of them that are worth less than £299? Can that possibly be right? Or even partly right? Even at an average value of only £20 per artefact that suggests farmers have had more than two hundred million pounds worth of goods removed from their fields and not been paid for them (except for a very grateful “bottle of whisky at Christmas”)!

Is this the process British archaeology is in partnership with because it’s mostly “responsible”? I think I must have missed the train to Liaisonville so remove my critical faculties and beam me up Roger!

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