Bettany Hughes stars in Britain’s Secret Treasures (the second series of which starts in October). The damage done by the programmes in terms of (a.) causing a massive boom in detector sales and (b.) failing to offer a “responsibility” message is beyond honest denial (ask an archaeologist in the pub) yet no-one has told her it seems. In fact, someone has told her some utter nonsense which she has repeated to the public. Her words, like the programmes, damage archaeology by misinforming the public. They’ve just appeared in the Telegraph. Here they are:
“For centuries archaeology was the preserve of well-to-do amateurs. Then came the democratisation of heritage-hunting via the metal-detector and the skills that come with extreme sports such as caving. Initially archaeologists were suspicious. But those Italian archaeo-speleologists incarnate a global shift in both professional and public opinion. The volunteer foot soldiers of archaeology are now, by and large, informed individuals who work hand in hand with the authorities.
Here in the UK, 90,000 finds are uncovered every year by Joe Public and handed in to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. There are still a few self-seeking tomb-raiders who operate illegally – and are rightly vilified. But the dedication of a network of non-professionals adds hugely to our total sum of knowledge.”
Joe Public reports 90,000 finds a year and works hand in hand with the authorities … that’s the reality is it Bettany? And what about the 290,000 finds per year made by metal detectorists, the vast majority of which they don’t report? Didn’t PAS mention those to you when they asked you to front their message? It seems not. Shouldn’t you be asking yourself why? Ask an archaeologist in the pub.