Today our Artefact Erosion Counter reaches 10,500,000.
This is 500,000 more than when we last highlighted it just one year and nine months ago. It suggests that ten thousand metal detectorists remove 29 artefacts each from British fields each year, mostly without telling anyone, and that this process has been tolerated for more than 30 years.
Of course, the exact figures are unknown. But one thing’s for sure. If ten thousand people are constantly flocking to the fields, undeterred, to peck at the ground (some of them for three or four decades) they are finding an awful lot more than the derisory five items a year each that they are reporting to the authorities (as reflected in official figures published a couple of years ago).
A year of searching, probably 250 hours, rain and shine, for three bits of flint and two corroded Roman coins – who would do that? Well the average detectorist apparently, according to what they claim and what is reported to the authorities. In fact they suggest half of them find even less than that each year!
There is a huge gap between what is being shown and what is even remotely credible (only a minority of detectorists has reported anything to the Portable Antiquities scheme ever!). The difference is stolen history, plain and simple.
We can do no better than repeat what we said last time:
This is not heritage protection. In fact it is uncivilised behaviour towards heritage and it doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. It’s time to call time on the erosion.