by Nigel Swift

Paul Barford has rightly highlighted The Searcher magazine’s contents which exhibit, beyond reasonable denial, a massive interest in money. Buy a copy he says, “to see what these people get up to, what they think is worth talking about and what they don’t”. He’ll be called alarmist but he’s only asking people to look at the source material and judge for themselves, advice that PAS never gives.

He suspects PAS and most archaeologists that accept their line can’t have looked closely at the magazines or forums. Their stance would indeed be incomprehensible if they had. Only lack of looking could enable “Artefact Hunting is a cousin of Archaeology” to become the central tenet of Britain’s portable antiquities policy. If you’ve ever wondered if it’s true or just a convenient stance to rationalise the failure to legislate you can put a test question to any archaeologist you meet: are Archaeology’s defining traits “random”, “selective”, “limitless”, “pocket”, “profit”, “reward”, “self” or “secret”?  No? ……. Q.E.D!

ABOVE:Augustus Pitt Rivers, dubbed the Father of British Archaeology for expressing the importance of thorough site excavation through stratigraphic observation and recording. His most important methodological innovation was his insistence that all artefacts, not just beautiful or unique ones, be collected and catalogued.  

The see-no-problem stance serves the public ill as it aids “archaeoposing” – and archaeopozing meanz permissionz. It’s a word that’s begs to be coined, archaeoposing. If you hunt artefacts but object to being called an artefact hunter you’re archaeoposing.  If detecting clubs always say they’re pro-responsibility  but not one insists on members complying with the only Code that defines it they’re archaeoposing. If EBay is full of  finds and money is a huge forum and magazine topic yet every finder tells the press they’re in it purely for love of history they’re archaeoposing. And if The Establishment says not a word they’re accessories to a con-trick committed against the landowning public.

Small wonder that PAS ignores all we say and we get weekly threats or obscene messages from artefact hunters. It would be easier to just go with the archaeoposual flow but for the compelling evidence we’re right. A minority of relatively “good” guys do not a beneficial activity make and they can’t be painted as doing so as long as the likes of The Searcher magazine are there to be read. The day we see artefact hunters without pockets or FLOs metal detecting at rallies we’ll accept Artefact Hunting is a cousin of Archaeology and The Establishment believes it – but not until.

But don’t waste your time reading this. Go out and buy The Searcher or Treasure Hunting magazines and look at some forums (especially the closed sections if you can manage it) and then decide for yourself.


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting