You may remember the Twinstead Detecting Rally where lots of detectorists pocketed Treasure and took it home without a word to the Landowner. Well it’s happened again! Here’s what the organiser of “Amber’s Digs” (closed to the public) posted on their website the day after their recent event near Thirsk:

“I have just told the farmer that a hoard of twenty two coins were found on his field and that when the field is ploughed again there will probably be more. He was happy to have been told and I told him I will show him these coins next week as we are going back on the pasture around the farm and stubble further away. So please get them in to usyour name will be attached to your coin/coins.”

To explain:

  • On the day of the event the farmer wasn’t given the coins or even told they’d been found.
  • They were gathered together (well 22 were anyway) but then various detectorists were allowed to take them home. (Why?!)
  • How many took them home is unclear as elsewhere the organiser said “About ten” implying they’re not sure.
  • Now they’re appealing to the finders (“about ten” plus any others not known) to bring back twenty two coins (plus any others not known) to show to (not give to) the farmer at a further event next week!

Good luck with that! Surely that will strike anyone that isn’t a metal detectorists as no way to treat someone else’s property or potential national Treasure or ensure it is delivered in full to either the current owner or the Coroner? As we have said ad nauseam, if a potential hoard is found it shouldn’t be taken away (particularly in ten or more pieces to ten or more locations by ten or more people none of whom owns it!). Common sense and logic dictate it should be delivered as a whole for safekeeping to the one person that currently owns it and who can be easily contacted by the authorities.

How long must we wait until the archaeological establishment tells detectorists that is the only reasonable way to behave and warns every landowner to beware of people that tell him otherwise? There really is no excuse for official or professional silence on this. And of course, if detectorists dared to disagree or failed to comply it would blow their “only in it for love of History” claim sky high.


Update 25 April 2012:
First we note that the organiser posted on a forum that the (known) 22 coins were returned to be declared but “One new member who had never found a hammered before brought his back a little cleaner [big smiley face] than when he took it home He thought it was ok to give his a polish”
(That perhaps illustrates the “shambolic” nature of the stewardship).

Second he had posted on another forum…. “The coins will be going off soon as we have 14 days to actually hand them in, the farmer wanted to see them it’s the least we could do.” It is indeed the least they can do considering the coins aren’t their property!
(And that illustrates the “inappropriate” nature of the stewardship).

This whole incident begs a significant wider question that doesn’t deserve to be ignored: it’s a plain fact that the way Treasure and other significant finds are temporarily curated is a matter of national importance so should the temporary curator be a known landowner or multiple less known artefact hunters? The answer can hardly be in doubt, so the opinion should surely be officially expressed?  One has to wonder, if such an opinion was widely known and farmer Eric Robinson had  not allowed the Crosby Garrett helmet off his farm would much knowledge not have been lost and would the helmet now be on display in the museum?


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting