A message on Upton Upon Severn village Facebook: “EARN BETWEEN £200 AND £1000 CASH per day” by allowing metal detecting on your land. They’ll “record any treasure trove items to British museum” but crucially there’s no mention of the other 99.9% of recordable finds. So make no mistake: it’s an attempt to buy access that will result in extensive cultural knowledge theft.

And it’s not just Upton. The company behind it, Let’s Go Digging, is massive and currently has 10 identical appeals to other communities on Facebook alone, including at Avebury (Heaven help us!).

Let PAS take note: THAT’s how you do effective outreach to farmers. It’s called taking a professional, 21st Century approach to communicating and giving a strong, unmistakeable message. If only they hadn’t spent all those years ignoring our constant pleas for them to give their message in full page adverts in the press then they’d be winning the conservation war, not him. We look forward to them messaging those ten Facebook pages and a large number of others imminently.


Upton Upon Severn, Middle England, site of the Battle of Upton, home to five famous music festivals, current Britain in Bloom National Gold Medallist and nominated by the Sunday Times as one of the best places in Britain to live. But with a shortage of sufficient residents willing to steal cultural knowledge from the surrounding fields so one of them is going to import hundreds of people in cammo gear to do it.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

As autumn draws to a close, and winter moves in, so the archaeological world moves indoors and the lecture and conference season begins.

One weekend at the start of next month looks to be quite busy and a popular date for one-day conferences.

Saturday November 10th sees several lecture events around the country.

Firstly, at St Fagan’s National Museum of History near Cardiff, there is an event; Archaeology in the Severn Estuary. Tickets and Agenda are available on the Eventbrite website.

Meanwhile, in Truro, The Cornwall Archaeology Society is holding a symposium on the same day; Archaeology in Cornwall. Tickets and programme available from the society web site

Across country in Surrey, the CBA South East are holding their AGM and Conference in Chertsey, with a range of talks themed around Structured Deposits.

Much further north in Stirling is Scotland’s Community Heritage Conference, again bookable via EventBrite.

Meanwhile, in Norwich the Prehistoric Society is co-hosting a lecture with the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society; Living with Monuments: settlement, monumentality, and landscape in the Neolithic.

And finally, in Devizes the Wiltshire Museum are presenting a lecture; the Scandinavian Flint Axe Type in Britain by Dr. Katharine Walker, discussing the connections between Scandinavia and the British Isles in the Neolithic period.

I’ll be at the Truro event, which one are you going to?

Hey National Trust, could that be a fox? 



How embarrassing if it was – when this year they aren’t allowing a vote to reverse last year’s PR blunder of continuing to allow trail hunting on their land.

Plus, just this week the RSPCA has called for animal welfare to be taught in schools so when children like those in the picture are adult National Trust members they’ll vote against trail hunting in disgust in their thousands. Public sentiment is moving in one direction inexorably so why not announce at this year’s meeting that you got it completely wrong and you’re banning it?

[And on that subject: is there anyone inside the National Trust who still believes the short tunnel at Stonehenge should be supported? We sincerely doubt it. What a strange, strained atmosphere it will be at the meeting on Saturday! Unless of course the Trust suddenly does the right thing on both fronts].


The penultimate card in our Tarot draw is card X of the Major Arcana, Wheel of Fortune.

Wheel of Fortune: “Change, Destiny, Good luck, Lifecycles, New direction

Previous sites in this series have largely had an obvious connection to the drawn card. Our site this week is a very personal choice, and possibly the most subjective one in the series. Some years ago I managed to get my mobility-impaired wife to this site (with some difficulty).

After visiting each of the stones in turn, she told me “this used to be a court!” On further questioning, she insisted that each stone had a particular feeling and that judgements or decisions over disputes would be made at each stone for a particular issue.

The stone circle at Boscawen-Un was erected in the Bronze Age. A Bardic group (Cornish: Gorsedd) may have existed in this area, because in the Welsh Triads from the 6th century AD, a Gorsedd of Beisgawen of Dumnonia is named as one of the big three Gorsedds of Poetry of the Island of Britain. (Wikipedia)

The feelings that she received from each stone (clockwise from the quartz stone in the west) were as follows:

  • Court/Legal
  • Fishing
  • Love/Honour
  • Home
  • unreadable/odd
  • Children
  • Wealth
  • Crops
  • Sun
  • Sight/Visions
  • Pentagram/Star
  • Tin Mines
  • Comfort/Safety/Ownership
  • White/Brightness
  • Revenge
  • Cattle/Livestock
  • Birth/Infants
  • Travel/Protection

If the circle was used for such purposes, it would certainly have lead to change or new directions for those involved in such decisions. A true ‘Wheel of Fortune’!

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

After so many years of  us being blaggarded by detectorists and derided by PAS Rescue has published its Policy for the Future conforming with much that we and Paul Barford have been saying! Their central assertion, the absolute game changer, is that Rescue believes that unregulated hobby detecting and other fieldwork does not contribute sufficient value or information to our understanding of the past to justify the damage caused to the wider archaeological resource”.

Revelling in being entirely vindicated is childish, so we’ll refrain.

Their message couldn’t be clearer: unregulated metal detecting isn’t sustainable so Britain shouldn’t tolerate it. That’s perfect timing in a week when we proposed that “sustainable metal detecting” is the only metal detecting that is justifiable in a country which respects its own heritage and that new phrase has generated a rise in Google hits in a few days from zero to 1,670. It seems like a concept whose time has come, but only if the CBA gets on board too. But why wouldn’t it? Here are some more things Rescue said that we’re virtually certain CBA agrees with:

  • We have concluded that the current system for regulating the recovery of archaeological evidence by non-professionals in the UK is inadequate.
  • The PAS has been unable to sufficiently advocate for archaeological methodologies and rigorous survey practices to underpin artefact collecting
  • Rescue calls for a national investigation into the feasibility of a licensing system for all archaeological work, including metal detecting.
  • We will advocate for all metal detecting, fieldwalking, excavation and other intrusive survey to be subject to prior authorisation
  • Rescue will also advocate for the introduction of legally enforceable compulsory reporting of all recovered archaeological material
  • We will support the creation of antiquities legislation for England that requires all offered for sale to be fully and legitimately provenanced….

It’s to be hoped the CBA will confirm that it DOES indeed agree with all that Rescue has said on this matter because for the Council for British Archaeology to be at odds with the Council of The British Archaeological Trust would surely be an intolerable situation for British archaeology?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Yesterday PAS held its annual symposium. I’d have loved to go but age, infirmity and a conspicuous lack of an invitation precluded it. The most memorable bit, for me, was reading that a FLO had said “it will take time to change culture – it’s gradual.” I nearly fell off my peacock throne for I remember the early days of PAS, 15 0r 20 years ago and a thing called the PAS Forum (all records of which have now disappeared) in which that very same FLO said that very same thing to me weekly, over and over and over. Now there are as many or more non-reporting ignorami stealing knowledge as then so “gradual” has turned out to be a word not a process, as Rescue has finally come to see.

It would be good if the proceedings are published soon but neither I nor the stakeholding public should hold our breath on that. Still, Mike Heyworth of the CBA was there, maybe he’ll publish whatever he said. I’d love that, for I recall that in November 2011 in British Archaeology, he called for ….

“more research to be carried out on the damage to archaeological sites and lost knowledge due to rallies, to provide a counter-weight to arguments put forward by the vested interests of rally organisers. If CBA members and readers of British Archaeology hear of any examples of “treasure hunting” or detecting rallies causing damage to archaeological sites, then please contact the CBA director in York. It is helpful to build up a portfolio of examples across the country to present to the government when future opportunities allow.

Well that’s something we can help him with! How many rallies cause damage? All of them surely (and there have been hundreds since he asked the question) – unless of course he can name a single one where the participants all reported all their finds and we bet he can’t. Wouldn’t it be great if it turns out he told the symposium that CBA supports what Recue has just said about unregulated metal detecting (simply that it doesn’t yield enough knowledge to justify the damage). We certainly think so and in particular that rallies are never best practice, never responsible, never harmless, never sustainable, can never be rendered otherwise by the attendance of PAS, and also that it’s a national disgrace that the biggest rally this year had a majority of foreign attendees.


It would be great if he’d said all that, and that rallies should all be legislated into the dustbin of history – and  he intends to say so in the next British Archaeology! At a time when Rescue has just come out so clearly in favour of action it’s surely not sensible for the CBA not to do the same?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Here’s what the new view will replace forever …..


English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust say the tunnel will “enhance appreciation” of the Stonehenge Landscape. In a Joint Statement they have said:

“Our priority is to care for and conserve Stonehenge for future generations. As part of this, we would like to see the stone circle returned to its intended landscape setting so that it can be understood and appreciated in context, without the experience being ruined by traffic.

and English Heritage has added:

A tunnel won’t remove the stones from sight. Removing the busy and noisy road means that there will be more opportunities for people to get out of their cars and explore the world heritage landscape that has for years been severed by the road.”

The public is being misinformed. You can’t “enhance” something by hiding it from 99% of those who usually see it. For free. By any rational assessment, that’s heritage theft by those whose sole function is heritage preservation.

…. which English Heritage
[“We bring the story of England to life for millions of visitors each year“],
Historic England
[“We are the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment“]
and The National Trust
[“We look after the places you love“]

are working so hard to create?



Only three cards left in our weekly draw and this week’s is card 00 of the Major Arcana, The Fool.

The Fool: “Carefree, Foolish, Important decisions, New beginnings, Optimistic

The Fool is considered a powerful card associated with new beginnings and the closure of old ways. With this in mind, today we look briefly at one of the major changes between the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, that of funerary practices.

In simple terms, during the Neolithic the remains of the dead would often be dismembered and the bones collectively held in chambered tombs such as West Kennet Long Barrow, Wayland’s Smithy etc. As the Bronze Age began this trend for communal burial began to fade out, to be replaced by single (crouched) burials and cremation practices. So rather than chambered tombs holding the remains of many people jumbled together, the dead would be placed individually in barrows such as those found at today’s site: the Winterbourne Poor Lot Barrows.

© Google Maps

This Bronze Age barrow cemetery, dissected by the modern A35 road in Dorset, consists of some 44 separate barrows of different types including bell, disc, and bowl barrows, and can be easily viewed in passing from the main road. Many of the barrows have never been excavated.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

By Nigel Swift

Smash a display case in the British Museum and it would be front page news. Do the equivalent in a field and it’s pretty much a secret. How come? The answer is simple: PAS. It was set up simply to educate yet from the start it has minimised the public’s awareness of the damage and its scale. As a result the public’s knowledge is stolen daily on a massive scale and the public isn’t told. No PAS, it isn’t enough to say “Yes, the use of the excavator was pretty poor...” it was legal knowledge theft from the rest of us by ignorami without consciences who the farmer should never have allowed past his gate. How dare you not say so for 20 years?

We first said so in 2005 when 480 acquisitive people told an elderly Lord close to Avebury don’t worry we all report our finds to PAS. It was a lie that has been repeated ever since. Yet PAS attacks us for saying so – we don’t understand, we exaggerate, we should “get on the train to Liaisonville”. (Yes, seriously! Many times!) Just last week a FLO said our article  is “fake news”, “a sham”, “click bait” and “full of half-truths and outright lies”. (Please read it. Is it?)

As always I am resentful: we’re member of the public and stakeholders and hold that our mantra “ordinary people caring for extraordinary places” applies not just to visible monuments but to buried archaeology. Plus we DO know what we’re talking about, I’ve studied detecting for 2 decades, far longer than most FLOs. Here are 450 articles, 3 million words I’ve written about it, not because I hate detecting or my mother was frightened by a detectorist but because I’m hopelessly infected by a conviction that mass non reporting is mass knowledge theft. It’s happening every week, entirely legally, a British cultural scandal and cultural loss and someone ought to highlight it weekly if PAS won’t.

And no, PAS, praising the good guys does NOT change that reality, or convert the others, it hides it and provides the perfect environment for it to flourish as all can see.

I may not be able to keep it up much longer so that FLO will have the field more to himself, but for the record nothing I’ve written has knowingly been what he claims about our latest article, “fake news”, “a sham”, “click bait” or “full of half-truths and outright lies” (as anyone who reads a few of the articles at random will see.) We believe the large scale damage and the ignorance should be known to every farmer, every taxpayer and every stakeholder – as it’s their cultural knowledge that is being silently destroyed and nothing detectorists or PAS say will change that truth. The detecting that’s owed to buried archaeology is sustainable metal detecting not responsible metal detecting. I respect the understanding of those who work for PAS sufficiently to be certain they all agree with me. But they need to say so.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


October 2018
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