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The latest newsletter of HAPPAH (Halte au pillage du patrimoine archéologique et historique) contains an article titled Quand le British Museum fait la promotion de la chasse au trésor.
Here’s a translation of some bits of it –
The attitude of the British Museum is outrageous. As a public body, it does nothing to try to reduce the scope of the metal detecting phenomenon. On the contrary, it constantly enhances it using its status. Its media impact is a serious counterweight to the voices of archaeologists who rightly oppose the looting caused by thousands of treasure hunters. By promoting treasure hunting the British Museum encourages the public to engage in an activity that is highly detrimental to the preservation of buried archaeological heritage. It is indeed commonly accepted that treasure hunting using metal detectors is a grave danger to the integrity of archaeological sites. It is well established that the British Museum serves the financial interests of metal detecting dealers in promoting the treasures and metal detection.
It’s not pleasant to hear one’s country subjected to such withering comment from abroad. Yet where is a defence? It is beyond denial that the majority of metal detectorists act entirely for their own benefit not ours and don’t even report their finds to PAS so the French are expressing no more than the plain truth when they say Britain’s regime of unregulated, laissez faire artefact hunting using metal detectors is “highly detrimental to the preservation of buried archaeological heritage“. You will never, ever hear the Portable Antiquities Scheme or the British Museum denying that simple statement, only avoiding admitting it. The French and the rest of the world are right, it is “outrageous“.