Lord Renfrew’s famous statement “Collectors Are the Real Looters” is surely unassailable – yet some antiquities dealers say it’s untrue. Here’s Paul Barford’s diagram of what they effectively claim goes on …..


But in Britain things are different from the whole of the rest of the world. Here the main source of cultural losses through artefact hunting isn’t looting but legal detecting. So here’s a diagram that illustrates things here…..

Clearly, hundreds of thousands of dug up British artefacts aren’t being sold by just a hundred detectorists, that makes no sense. Thousands of them must be involved. That entirely discredits the “in it purely for love of history” claim and exposes as unjust PAS’s invariably uncritical press statements on the activity.

Official British policy on artefact hunting seems to be based on concealing two crucial realities from the public that they really wouldn’t like: that most artefact hunters don’t report their finds and a lot of them flog them. Imagine the government constantly stressing the positives about smoking and not mentioning the overwhelming negatives! “Smokers are heroic and contribute much to our understanding, we need to educate them – not to stop doing it but to tell us about it…..”

In fact of course, smoking is bad for you and the government says so. But artefact hunting (including what is labelled “responsible” or otherwise) unnecessarily destroys the archaeological record, the whole world says so, and mining finds to sell is morally grubby – yet PAS hasn’t said either of those things to the public in fifteen years! Why is it only the likes of us that have to point out the realities? Let’s see PAS serve the public alone, not the interests of Wayne who just wants to keep doing what he does. It’s not Heritage Action or Paul Barford who are getting £1,500,000 a year from the taxpayer to tell the public the full, unadulterated truth and to defend the public’s archaeological resource, it’s them.

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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