Paul Barford has produced an article here http://paul-barford.blogspot.com/2010/03/scottish-archaeologist-soothes-on.html that really ought to be required reading by DCMS, PAS, EH and everyone concerned with heritage conservation.
What has happened is this. Heritage Action has produced, with Paul’s help, an Artefact Erosion Counter intended to illustrate the impact of metal detecting in terms of the number of recordable items removed from the fields, mostly without recording. Mr Connolly went onto a detectorists forum and asked people to tell him what they found in a single session in order, as he told them, to “show that all current statistics are flawed” and achieve a situation where “the only people with stats will be us” (“us”, Mr Connolly??)
Anyway, he presented the results to the recent Portable Antiquities conference. But remarkably, despite his extraordinary partiality and gyrations, mercilessly exposed by Paul, it turns out that his results are very similar to what the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter has been saying all along!
Let this be an end to the knee jerk criticism of the erosion counter by detectorists, Mr Connolly and others. We never said it was definitive, only that it was a fair broad brush picture based upon multiple sources all of which are far less partial, far more authoritative or on a far larger scale than Mr Connolly’s submission to the conference based upon the figures from six or seven detectorists who were pre-primed about the purpose of the exercise! Just under thirty recordable items per detectorist per year is NOT “dodgy statistics” (as Mr Connolly described our Counter to the conference) and both we and Mr Connolly are now united in thinking that’s about right, based on our respective evidence.
More to the point, let DCMS, PAS, EH and Parliament take note that this translates to 3,852,687 recordable archaeological artefacts removed from the fields of England and Wales by metal detectorists (the great majority without being reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme) since the scheme started. In no country but ours is this considered acceptable and something really must be done. “All my fields are hammered” translates as “Britain has allowed me and others to remove a portion of its history, mostly without trace“. Let the Portable Antiquities conference be remembered as the moment when truth inadvertently replaced spin thanks, amazingly, to Mr Connolly.