We are pleased to have received a response from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) to our recent question.
“Has PAS ensured that every landowner is aware there are metal detectors disguised as walking sticks and a new generation of deep-seeking metal detectors that pose a potential threat to archaeology?”
Response by PAS:
“In response to your question dated 28th April 2011, Roger Bland has asked me to state:
Probes such as this have been on the market for several years. They are used to locate the precise location of a metal object within a block of soil once this has been located by the search head of a metal detector. We do not think contacting every landowner to alert them to existence of these devices is either necessary or practicable.”
Our response to the Response by PAS:
These are not “probes” they are metal detectors. The manufacturers refer to them as that and nothing else and promote them for use in scanning the ground and nothing else. There is in fact no confusion whatsoever about their intended or actual use. One does not require something “disguised as a walking stick” to use as a probe in conjunction with another metal detector. One does need something disguised as a walking stick in order to search in the way the manufacturers indicate – “in areas where you couldn’t with common detectors… without arousing public interest” and to “scan places you never could scan before”.
There can be no doubt these machines would be objects of desire for nighthawks (or to be precise in this case, dayhawks), people intent on detecting without anyone knowing. It follows that there is every reason to alert every landowner about them. To say that isn’t practical is unconvincing in view of PAS’s connections to other organisations and the farming press which could surely ensure a simple message could be very widely delivered in a matter of days. In addition, it is difficult to see how it can be said that it is not necessary in view of PAS’s support for the Nighthawking Report.