Why has the Polish flag been flying over rural England for the past few days?
It was an artefact hunting rally for Polish people. Intrigued, we sent two moles to see the Poles at Lilley Bottom Farm. Here’s their report:
Let us say, first of all, they struck us as generally a step up from many of their English counterparts. More polite, better educated and by all accounts keen to do the right thing. (Does the European approach of having rules attract more thoughtful people than the British one of no rules? Could be.) Still, we should also say no-one was there to increase Britain’s archaeological knowledge, they were there to take things – otherwise they wouldn’t have been there, they’d have been at the (non-existent) Polish Amateur Archaeology Club of Britain!
Still, it was a lovely picturesque spot and everyone was obviously very happy at Lilley Bottom Farm. But we noticed this…
The farm is owned by the Crown Estate. So that means Her Majesty! Presumably they had her permission to be there and she (or someone on her behalf) signed a Finds Agreement saying they could take her stuff home? Maybe the organisers will publish the text.
The Queen is of course as entitled as any other landowner in Britain to flog off non-treasure artefacts. On the other hand, she probably shouldn’t cite the defence “Its legal, innit?” as legal it may be but right it isn’t – after all, she’s letting them do what they’d be jailed for at home and even though we’ve let her keep her head and a lot of land with artefacts in it it’s still OUR history not hers. In France she’d have neither her head nor her land nor the artefacts nor the legal capacity to let a non-French group of people hoist their flag in rural Aquitaine and spend five days stealing French history.
In the end though neither who the landowner was nor whether there was a finds agreement are the main issues. The real point is that the archaeologist isn’t born that will say random extraction of this nature is a good thing yet there they were, a big crowd of foreign artefact hunters digging up our history and taking it home. Something is wrong.