As Paul Barford says in his blog: “The “partnership” between British archaeologists and the country’s band of takers of the past continues to do its damage abroad. On the 7th July this year in what appears to be a coordinated action, the metal detectorists of France banded together and sent a synchronised packet of questions to Frédéric Mitterrand, the French Minister of Culture and Transport. They want a “pact” like the Brits have, they want “respect”.
Strange… that people that have been defying the law should be asking for acceptance and respect. Whence comes their encouragement? Clearly they are inspired by Britain, nowhere else, where their Anglo Saxon pals are legalised, praised, paid for finds and called (by the British Culture Minister) “unsung heritage heroes”.
Well, Thatcherism and “grab-wot-yer-can-as-it’s-everyone’s” seems to hold no more charm for the French thinking classes in matters of history than it does in anything else. In France, like in Ireland, archaeologists regard resource conservation as their primary duty and see no reason to compromise on that because someone “really really enjoys digging it up M8”. In France there is no PAS to paint metal detecting to the government and public as somehow positive in order to ensure its own continued funding. And in France the Minister of Culture is not driven to sacrifice the resource in order to pursue his own inclusive social agenda relating to certain elements of society. Oh no. Minister of Culture Mitterrand is not ex-Minister of Culture David Lammy. See his answer and his assessment of the British system delivered to the National Assembly with no nonsense and (to our ears) infinitely refreshing Gallic panache:
“If these measures have in fact permitted the number of declarations of the discovery of metallic archaeological objects to increase, they have in no way allowed a reduction in the number of attacks on the heritage caused by the use of metal detectors. All the same, they allow a more exact measurement of these attacks”
The Portable Antiquities Scheme will be holding a pan European conference shortly – to explore how its ideas are great and can be exported to Europe we hear. Minister Mitterand has not been invited. Nor anyone from France. And so Britain persists in harming its history and pretending otherwise for how else can PAS justify itself? The process is well known and is called Quango creep.
Compare and contrast our good friend George. Out in the fields all weathers. Finding new rock art. Adding to everyone’s history….. and no question of damaging it. No question of concealing it. No question of taking it home. Or laying claim to it, God help us! Or selling it. Or being given a reward. Or having to be begged and flattered and pursued and educated at great expense for ten years to report it.
It’s time Britain handed over care of its buried heritage to people that gave a damn. To George maybe. Or the Irish. Or the French.