The “Stop Taking Our Past” (STOP) Campaign of the 1970s failed to align our laws with those in the rest of the world which curb unstructured artefact hunting. Hence anyone in England and Wales can still legally dig up and keep almost anything and tell no-one – and thousands do. It’s hard to see the status quo changing soon as it’s supported on three massive pillars: inertia, reluctance to admit Britain’s mistake and defence of vested interests. The first two have weakened in recent years but the third grows ever more blatant.
Doubtless things will change one day but meanwhile the damage that prompted the original STOP campaign continues unabated. Most finds still go unreported and our past is still being taken. So who can deny that for as long as Britain chooses not to regulate the activity a NEW “Stop Taking Our Past” campaign is needed – and which archaeologist could fail to support it if this time it calls not for an end to detecting but an end to non-reporting?
Here’s a flyer that says it all. If you’re a history lover, archaeologist or ethical detectorist please spread the word. Why wouldn’t you?
Update 7 February 2012:
The nSTOP Campaign (new Stop Taking Our Past Campaign) just got a big boost. Well two actually. Mr Shane Rear, owner of the (“premier”) UK metal detecting forum – Detectorist.co.uk – tweeted to the CBA’s Mike Heyworth, Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt and English Heritage asking: “Can you confirm you have given endorsement and ok’d to state endorsement on this flyer?” to which Dr Heywoth has replied “I’ve had no contact with Heritage Action re new STOP campaign, but I support the point they are making”. We confidently anticipate similar responses from the others since all the flyer says is that they don’t support metal detecting without reporting all finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is not un-adjacent to stating the Pope is against Sin.
So we can take some satisfaction from the fact that despite being nobodies and no-account heritage busybodies as we’ve been variously described, it is beyond dispute that our central complaint against artefact hunting equates with what official bodies believe.
But we mentioned TWO big boosts. Well the other one comes from the detectorists. We concluded the article with “If you’re a history lover, archaeologist or ethical detectorist please spread the word. Why wouldn’t you?” Yet so far we have seen zero support for nSTOP from detectorists. Which is quite a low number out of eight thousand. All we’ve seen is three detectorists (two in our Comments plus Mr Rear) clearly trying to undermine the nCampaign. So why do we see that as a boost? Well, PAS exists on the basis things will get ever-better whereas we have been saying no, a ceiling has been reached. The stats tend to show that’s true. But this is the worst bit: responsible, “ethical” detectorists display a clan loyalty towards their non-reporting colleagues that makes them unwilling to support serious action to improve things – even such entirely harmless, entirely beneficial initiatives such as this.
So that’s why we claim a second boost. The value of the nCampaign is being illustrated by the lack of support it is attracting from detectorists, indicating in our view a reality that The Establishment hasn’t been publicly acknowledging but which it now has to confront: a lot of (most?) detectorists will NEVER properly co-operate if at all, however harmless the request (such as this one) – and in addition those who DO believe in recording seem to rank group solidarity and the freedom of their colleagues not to do so above the interests of archaeology. Irrational yes, you can’t support recording AND support non-recording by others, but how else can their silence be interpreted? The mantra “it will get better in time” hasn’t been heard in official circles for a long time now so maybe the truth HAS dawned, but has yet to be admitted?
English Heritage have now tweeted their answer to Mr Rear: “We advocate responsible detecting & reporting of all finds but we are not aware of the new STOP campaign & have not signed up to it” to which Mr Rear has replied (still conspicuously anxious to get them to appear opposed to the aim of the nSTOP Campaign) “Thank you for your clarification, it is as I thought and will EH be asking for the endorsement to be removed?”
Er, no Mr Rear, they won’t be. They didn’t sign up to it as they weren’t asked to as there was no need. The flyer wording informs landowners of what the official bodies have publicly announced that they think (and EH has just reiterated it for you with admirable clarity) . So there is as much chance of them telling us to remove their name from it as there is for the Vatican to tell us to desist from saying the Pope’s against Sin. Get it? (Of course you do!) .
PPS, 11/12/2012…. writing in our Comments another detectorist, anxious to claim we were wrong to say our campaign reflected what The Archaeological Establishment believes, opined that he was sure that “some of those listed will be contacting you in the coming days asking you to remove reference to them in your flyer.” That was ten months ago and we have received no such requests.
To repeat, the campaign does indeed reflect exactly what The Archaeological Establishment believes is right. Landowners should treat with extreme caution any detectorist, forum owner, Metal Detecting Federation Chairman, Treasure Hunter or “Amateur Archaeologist” at their door who tries to claim otherwise for any reason whatsoever.