Dear Colleagues,

I’ve just seen this Heritage Journal Comment from a member of the public, Andy Heaton, about a press article, Mystery of Shropshire Iron Age coin hoard detectorists :.


Bonkers Britain indeed ! Take a look at the ‘facts’ – of which there are few! Two detectorists ‘Andrew’ & ‘Charlie’ and ‘possibly from Kent’, dug up a number of coins and kindly gave them to the farmer. Realistically, they could be called anything and they could be from anywhere; oh yes, the mobile phone number that they gave to the farmer doesn’t exist. Take note, that they ‘gave’ the coins (that they didn’t own in the first place) to the farmer – was that all the coins, or just a few? we shall never know.


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But of course we all DO know. People called ‘Andrew’ & ‘Charlie, possibly from Kent, with a non-existent mobile number are not there to help any farmer or Britain. Nor are any people with any name from anywhere who claim to be amateur archaeologists yet put finds in their pockets.

It’s simple, friends:
Ask the Portable Antiquities Scheme or your local archaeologist or museum to vouch in writing for anyone wanting to metal detect on your land. If they won’t, don’t allow it. How can that possibly not be fair and sensible?

Regards,
Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow,
Worfield,
Salop

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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English Heritage’s renovation of the Iron Bridge is marvellous!

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And the National Trust’s care for Lindisfarne Castle is superb

And Historic England’s Conservation Advice and Guidance is exemplary …..

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So how come all three are now cheerleading for massive new damage to be created for a mile across the Stonehenge Landscape against UNESCO’s wishes?

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As already announced by the National Audit Office, the project will deliver “£1.15 of quantified benefit for every £1 spent”, which is “a significantly lower benefit-cost ratio than is usual in road schemes” and in their experience “this ratio could move to an even lower or negative value.”

You might think that’s bad enough but now it transpires that the £1.15 figure was reached because Highways England included a monetary value for “cultural heritage” in the costings and they worked that out “by asking the public how much it would pay to have the road removed from the site”. Yet that’s a false and misleading approach: it’s not just that a road is being removed, it’s that a mile of new road is being constructed, causing vast new damage. You can be sure Highways England didn’t stress that to those it canvassed, or the fact that UNESCO says that cultural loss is unacceptable.

In any case, cultural value can never be reduced to monetary terms as the value depends entirely on who you ask. In anticipation of that criticism Highways England said they had used “approved methodologies” to get to the figure. The National Audit Office politely said “calculating benefits in this way is inherently uncertain.” We prefer to call a spade a spade: it’s baloney. If it isn’t, let’s see them use their method to calculate the cultural value of The Pyramids, Hamlet or a sunset.

If a positive cultural benefit has been falsely represented in the figures then the “£1.15 of quantified benefit” must be lower and the project is already in a negative benefit situation.

So says the National Audit Office :
In pure economic terms, because of the high cost of building a tunnel, the Amesbury to Berwick Down project, at £1.15 of quantified benefit for every £1 spent, has a significantly lower benefit-cost ratio than is usual in road schemes. Given our experience of cost increases on projects of this kind, this ratio could move to an even lower or negative value. It will be even more important therefore that the Department and Highways England ensure that the project meets its strategic and heritage objectives, and that Highways England manages the project well.”.

But there’s simply no scope to improve the existing proposals by good management. The problem isn’t “management” it’s the concept, about which they were warned. As the Stonehenge Alliance said in September 2017:

“The proposed scheme …. would cause severe and permanent damage to the archaeological landscape of the World Heritage Site in direct conflict with international advice to the UK Government earlier this year.”

So the trouble isn’t that the tunnel’s heritage objectives won’t be achieved, it’s that they will – severe and permanent damage in direct conflict with internationasl advice. If now the strategic objectives aren’t achieved either, that will be irrelevant for it will be an additional failure on top of an existing one. Two solutions still remain: lengthen the tunnel by 100% or shorten it by 100%.

In September there’s to be a Metal Detecting Fun Weekender– £50 a head, 300 detectorists, which adds up to £15,000! Plus there’ll be rent/takings from a variety of trade stands and a licensed bar suggesting a total of about £20,000. Nothing unusual, the farmer will presumably get a few thousand, plus (if you believe in fairies) half the value of all finds over £500. So quite an income for simply saying yes!

But even more so when you read this from the organiser: “This land is on the Higher Level Stewardship scheme, which means for us, it is strictly forbidden to detect on grass margins around the fields, or on the camp-site pasture.”

So welcome to bonkers Britain where a farmer is getting paid by English Nature to look after the grass margins and by a bunch of detectorists to damage the rest!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Here are a group of American detectorists in a Norfolk field ten years ago. They paid £2,200 excluding air fares to be there. Numerous similar “detecting holidays” have been held throughout Britain for nearly 40 years.

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 “The experts are keen to have the help of responsible detectorists to help them piece together Norfolk’s history said one organiser, although we haven’t heard any archaeologist or archaeological bodies saying that and we’re confident that Chuck, Errol and Arnie are there to help themselves more than  Britain.

In any case, the group of people who have benefitted most from selling about 100,000 heritage prospecting days over 4 decades are the salesmen. We calculate they’ve taken about £20 million. It’s to be hoped the pending metal detecting reforms will involve the discouragement of this unique-to-Britain trade.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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The previous 34 yowling moggies (i.e. the sound of truth being tortured) show the pro-tunnel agencies bending reality to justify inflicting massive new damage on the Stonehenge landscape against UNESCO’s wishes. Mr Hunter of Highways England has outdone them all, telling the world: “What we have shown, what archaeological remains there are, are nothing that one wouldn’t expect. As the World Heritage Site goes they are a bit on the dull side.”

For his information, the Stonehenge Landscape contains the densest concentration of prehistoric sites in Europe. Wherever archaeologists look, they find. Recently hundreds of new features have been found including 17 previously unknown circles, mounds and pits, a Neolithic causewayed enclosure and a unique double henge.

And the basis of his “a bit on the dull side” claim? 514 trial ditches and 1,800 test pits, (many not on the line of the proposed access roads), perhaps totalling 10,000 square feet out of the 1,500,000 square feet they intend to tear out of the landscape – so a derisory 0.66% sample! To then imply to the public who pay their wages that only “dull” archaeology will be lost is a national scandal.

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It would be crass for finds made in work time and the law precludes it. But what about in their spare time, as happened recently? At present, yes, they’re eligible. But should they be detecting at all? We think not, as ethics aren’t portable. PAS clearly agrees, which is presumably why you’ll have never, ever seen an image of a Finds Liaison Officers detecting! Only ex Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey didn’t get that memo!

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Comfortingly, a poll on the ethics of the matter on the BAJR Facebook group reveals that of 464 archaeologists only 6% thought an archaeologist getting a reward for spare time detecting was OK, and then only if he acted like an archaeologist. That sounds fine at first, but we do wonder how you can act like an archaeologist if, as happened in this case, the archaeologist was part of a detecting rally?

PAS tells landowners that most archaeologists (all?) think rallies are damaging and for our part we wonder how the blue blazes random digging and artefact selectivity in anticipation of personal wonga has anything to do with scientific endeavour worthy of respect and reward?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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A detectorist has claimed those who want detecting regulated are incapable of seeing they’re wrong. We confess it’s true: we think people shouldn’t steal heritage knowledge by not reporting finds and we’re certain we’re right.

But he’s wrong about one thing: we wouldn’t prefer to live under a dictatorship than democracy“. However, anarchy isn’t democracy and there’s overwhelming evidence that unrestricted mob rule is massively harming our nation’s heritage!

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anarchy
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Actually, we don’t know ourselves!

It’s an oil painting by Alphonse Marx (1853-1918) owned by our Chairman, and he’d like to know!

(Possibly Saint-Jeures Menhir?)

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