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A massive statue of an heroic digger of black gold presides over Brownhills Town Centre while in a world famous field less than a mile away other diggers, criminal metal detectorists, are repeatedly mining for real gold.

by Nigel Swift

In the daytime this could be a Chartered Surveyor, a City Banker, a plumber or a detectorist. Why should only the latter be denied?

In the daytime this could be a Chartered Surveyor, a City Banker, a plumber, a priest, an archaeologist or a detectorist. Why should only the latter be denied?

BBC Inside Out East is screening another nighthawking exposé on Monday (Feb 18th). It’s a certainty they’ll trumpet that nighthawks aren’t detectorists. Yet logic strongly suggests they are a very obvious subset of the detecting community, not a strange, exotic species. There’s no shame in the fact as there are bad apples in all groups but what is shameful is that detectorists try to conceal it by constantly claiming that if you’re a thief you can’t also be a detectorist. The latest instance is a Comment on the Journal saying the recent intrusions on the Staffordshire Hoard field are “nothing to do with detectorists“! How the blazes could he know?! There’s zero evidence there’s anyone other than detectorists in the business. Equally wrong is archaeologists, magistrates, journalists and police perpetuating the fiction as it means the problem is not being addressed at it’s real source.

For me it’s clear most nighthawks are fully integrated into the detecting community for it would surely be almost impossible for them to operate without being members of detecting clubs and forums, attending rallies, talking to FLOs and being mainstream, jolly artefact hunters basking in official adulation most of the time. How else could they obtain knowledge, get identifications, apply for Treasure rewards and appear ordinary? I can’t prove it but I don’t need to. Off guard on their forums detectorists constantly admit it and have been doing so for 10 years to my certain knowledge. “We all know who most of them are”…. “up to a third of my club members turn their hand to it” and so on, regularly. (Take a look if you don’t believe me.) Yet for public consumption there’s a different mantra – “nighthawks are not detectorists, they’re thieves”. Worse, The Establishment endlessly repeats the refrain – “nighthawks aren’t detectorists, they are people who use detectors to steal”. Nonsense. They are detectorists who who use detectors to steal.

So I suggest this: let detectorists admit the criminals are in their ranks not in some sort of secret nighthawking club and let them start helping the police get more convictions. (Someone has put the situation in a nutshell in our Comments section: it’s “like a gardener not cooperating with a police investigation because the thief had used secateurs”!). The reputation of honest detectorists could only rise. And let The Establishment drop the pretence that they think the place to look for thieves with detectors isn’t in the middle of the detecting community. The conviction rate could only rise. I could count on one hand the number of detectorists thoughtful enough to know that would be in the interest of detectorists. On the other hand most of The Establishment know very well I’m right but won’t say so. Thus we have mass, sullen stupidity on one side and mass knowing silence on the other and the term “nighthawking” will continue to be used, thereby reducing progress towards combating that which it describes. Yet another unavoidable consequence of Britain plotting the wrong course in the first place.

If ever either detectorists or the authorities bring themselves to publicly acknowledge what I’ve been photographing on the Staffordshire Hoard field for the past two weeks (will they?) you should take note of their terminology. It’s a cert they’ll say it was nighthawks not criminal metal detectorists. Mass, sullen stupidity on one side and mass knowing silence on the other, see. Sad isn’t it?

                    ……………………………….. UPDATE ……………………………………….

bravo

The Inside Out programme has just aired. The item lasted about 10 minutes. Thieves were mentioned three times, illegal detectorists once and the term “nighthawks” was used just once, and qualified by the words “so called”. A big change compared with the programmes the same company made a decade ago and subsequently.

Of course, there was the obligatory reference to most detectorists being legal (true) but also the usual sleight of hand (or maybe failure of understanding) whereby it wasn’t mentioned that most of them don’t report most of their finds and thus destroy far, far more heritage knowledge than the criminals the programme was complaining about. So 2 out of 10 for properly informing the viewers and could do a lot better, and still far behind the rest of the world.

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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by Alan S

For those of us that have been in this hobby/profession/obsession for a few years it’s easy to forget that every single day new people are taking their very first step into the field and may well feel in need of a very basic outline of what it’s all about. So here, especially for them is an old newbies guide for new newbies. Standard Caveat: I am neither an archaeologist, historian or scholar.

Archaeology. The word comes from the Greek (arkhaiologia, ‘discourse about ancient things’), but today it has come to mean the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artefacts and other physical remains.

The beginnings of modern archaeology can be traced back to medieval times, where ploughshares would occasionally turn up the odd arrowhead, or worked flint. Often cited as elven tools and weapons, attributed to the little people or the gods, they were something to be wondered at, often feared. But they were also collected by more scholarly types, often displayed in a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities‘.

By the 1500’s, clerics and other ‘men of learning’ with far too much time on their hands began to get curious about the lumps and bumps evident in the landscape, along with the workings of the ‘old ones’; barrows, ‘Roman Camps’, dolmens, henges, stone circles and the like. In many cases this curiosity was fulfilled by sketches and fanciful writings of lost tribes, arcane druidic rites and other fantasies. This new pastime led to many scholars, later dubbed ‘antiquarians’ to visit, sketch and survey a multitude of sites, often recording them for the first time. Names such as Aubrey, Stow, Camden all belong to this initial period of modern archaeology.

The Rollrights as depicted by WIlliam Camden in his 'Brittania'

The Rollrights as depicted by WIlliam Camden in his ‘Brittania

By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, excavations were more and more common, with some gangs of labourers ‘excavating’ a dozen or more barrows in a day, in searches often motivated by a hope of ‘treasure’, with little or no thought by this time of other knowledge that could be gained. It was during this period that many features were lost – stone circles cast down and broken up or buried, barrows flattened etc. However, slowly the idea that gilded treasure may not be the only reward to be gained took hold, and some excavators took more pains to record their work, giving rise to the idea that the deeper something is, then generally the older it is. The science of stratification – dating by layers – was born.

In the early nineteenth century, this idea of systematic excavation rather than blindly ‘digging for gold’ signified the change from ‘antiquarianism’ to true archaeology as we know it today, and by the end of the century those such as Pitt-Rivers had almost entirely abandoned the treasure-hunt in favour of a search for information, and a means of answering specific questions about the past. Pitt-Rivers’ approach was highly methodical by the standards of the time, and he is widely regarded as the first scientific archaeologist to work in Britain.

pittrivers

General Pitt-Rivers

In the late 1800’s it was becoming increasingly obvious that we are dealing with a finite resource that needed protection, but it wasn’t until 1913 that the Ancient Monuments Act finally came into force. The new Act, replacing earlier, mostly ineffective legislation did three things.

  • It allowed for a compulsory ‘Preservation Order’ when a monument or building of sufficient ‘historic, architectural, traditional, artistic, or archaeological interest’ was at risk of demolition by a private owner.
  • It allowed the ‘scheduling’ of monuments, which involved compiling a list, or schedule, of monuments which were deemed to be of ‘national importance’. Once on the list, it became a crime to damage such a monument.
  • It provided the Office of Works with powers to take into guardianship monuments of outstanding importance. Public access was made a right for all new such guardianships. This year, English Heritage are celebrating the centenary of the 1913 Act.

The last century or so has seen an explosion in the scale of interest and public participation in archaeology, with the likes of Mortimer Wheeler, Atkinson and more recently the Time Team television series. But two major general trends have emerged: excavations take longer than in the past (Time Team excepted, although even their celebrated 3-day digs involve weeks or months of preparation and post-excavation activities), are planned and executed more meticulously than ever before, and specialisms in archaeology – or more correctly the branches of science involved in an archaeological excavation have expanded, and continue to do so. It’s less and less likely that someone describes themselves as just an ‘archaeologist’. Geophysicists, dendrochronologists, LIDAR specialists, aerial photographers, desk-based researchers, historians, botanists, oesteologists, Post-Ex Finds Specialists (with all the sub-divisions that entails) and even specialists in ancient breeds of snail, and more are all valid specialisms within the range of an average archaeology ‘dig’ today.

Consequently, the amount of information to be gleaned from a dig today is exponentially greater than that even from 30 years ago, allowing ever more insightful glimpses into a past that many of us can only imagine.

Yet despite all these apparent advances, it seems that some are determinedly rooted in the past, in more ways than one. As is evidenced from our recent exposé of the nighthawking activity at the Staffordshire Hoard findspot, the mentality of the treasure-hunting barrow-digger gangs is sadly still with us.

So to those people just discovering an interest in our past I say: Ignore the shiny things and concentrate on what is important. When visiting an archaeological site, look around, and use your imagination to immerse yourself in a world that is long gone. Our heritage is a finite and precious resource that belongs to all of us. It’s future is in your hands, take care of it!

At last the nature of the mysterious heart shaped feature next to Rob and Tracey’s henge in New South Wales can be revealed!

013(1) - Copy

Here it is…

pink

“I used dye” says Rob. “It took a while”.

Now why can’t English Heritage do stuff like that?! ***

*** Please note, that’s just a joke. Adding things on or near Scheduled Ancient Monuments is definitely a bad thing to do!

Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Avebury_2003

October 2003, Lord Avebury is pictured visiting Avebury with (on his left), the Ven. Khemadhammo Mahathera OBE, Abbot of The Forest Hermitage and Spiritual Director of the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy Angulimala, and two other monks. This visit followed a ceremony inaugurating the Buddha Grove at Erlestoke Prison, where one of the wings is named Avebury. The following week a trip to Buckingham Palace, where Lord Avebury would witness the Ven. Khemadhammo Mahathera receive his OBE from the Queen, then enjoy tea on the terrace at the House of Lords. Lord Avebury’s grandfather, Sir John Lubbock, the first Lord Avebury, purchased Silbury Hill and much of Avebury to protect the monuments, and introduced the Ancient Monuments Protection Act in 1882.

B.E.

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This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to theheritagejournal@gmail.com

For others in the series put postcards in the search box.

We’re pleased to be able to present a guest post by Peter Cornall, the Area Representatives Convenor for the Cornwall Archaeological Society, telling us a little about the Society’s “Monument Watch” scheme and its workings. 

CASHeader

The late Tony Blackman was President of the Cornwall Archaeological Society until his untimely death early in 2012. Highly regarded both locally and nationally, in particular for his work with young people, Tony felt keenly the need to offer members of a local Society the chance to play an active role in the archaeology of their area. Opportunities in excavation for amateurs are infrequent, even in a region rich in monuments of the past. Other openings were to be sought, one being helping with the care of  Cornwall’s ancient monuments.

Of these hundreds of monuments, scheduled and unscheduled, some may be found to be under no threat at all, while others may be neglected and clearly at risk. All stand to benefit from regular inspection, so it is no wonder that the development of Monument Watch across Cornwall came to seem a highly appropriate objective for the Society.  The idea is by no means new, and important groups of volunteers have for some time been active in the protection and sometimes also the physical care and maintenance of monuments in several areas of Cornwall, including the Lizard, Meneage, West Penwith, Newquay and Bodmin Moor. Monument Watch countywide is in debt to their pioneering example.

For many years, the Cornwall Archaeological Society had recognised volunteer ‘Area Representatives’ acting as archaeological watchdogs for whatever group of parishes each felt to be within their reach. The members of this small group met quite informally each spring and autumn to exchange ideas and to report significant items of archaeological news, which might prompt the Society to action, often in concert with the Cornwall Historic Environment Service, English Heritage and the National Trust. It was this group which could be developed into a countywide watchdog for monuments, although this would never be the whole of its work.

During the past four years the group has doubled to twenty, as new volunteers have been recruited from the CAS membership, each to ‘adopt’ a contiguous group of ‘orphan’ parishes which the new Area Representative feels able to cover. By the autumn of 2012 the whole of Cornwall’s considerable land area and all its numerous Scheduled Monuments were covered by the scheme. (We also have an associate in the Isles of Scilly, who works alongside us.) A Short Guide has been written to describe the role of Area Representative; this paper can be consulted on the AR page of the CAS website, and probably offers the best concise picture of what we are trying to do. Our Monitoring Report Forms can also be found on the website.

This group of monument watchers now includes a wide range of age, experience and expertness, with some of the local heritage professionals doubling as advisers and Area Representatives. After careful discussion, a format for reporting has been devised which meets the recording needs of both English Heritage and the Cornwall Historic Environment Record. Reports on monuments can be submitted at any time either by e-mail or post, and the steady flow of these new-style reports is now of key importance to the sadly shrunken group of professionals in Truro. Thanks to this routine process, monuments under threat can be identified and action taken, while those reported as comparatively safe and sound -happily the majority- need not take up precious time. In this manner, Tony Blackman’s original wish to offer Society members a chance to be more active has led to an important and most timely collaboration between volunteers and professionals, just when resources for heritage protection are under serious threat.

It is possible, I guess, that this account may come under the eye of enthusiasts in other parts of the country where no such collaboration as that described here yet exists. There is one aspect of our Monument Watch which we would not offer up as ideal. Ours has been an organic growth, with the untidiness  often associated with such a pattern of development. A group starting from scratch would certainly wish to achieve a more even distribution of responsibility for Scheduled Monuments than ours, which is numerically grossly uneven, reflecting the history of the Area Representatives group and its relatively rapid expansion. We have not seen fit, as yet, to attempt any redistribution of parishes in order to achieve a fairer sharing of burdens. Our answer has rather been to encourage the ARs to form support groups (where these do not already exist) or to recruit friends and fellow-members as sharers in the monitoring work. At the same time, we recognize the inherent difficulty of achieving even an approximate evenness of load, where the variables of terrain, distance, monument type and site distribution are so significant.

Our distribution of MW responsibilities to Area Representatives happens – somehow – to be based on the ancient ecclesiastical parishes of Cornwall;  church and civil changes over the years have sometimes complicated matters for us, and more up-to-date boundaries would obviously be easier to use.

Then there must be more exciting – and descriptive – titles for monument watchers than ‘Area Representatives’, even when their duties (like ours) extend further than simply MW,  and I am sure that they will be found and employed!

Any scheme starting-up elsewhere would certainly wish to ensure that all its monument watchers could at least send in their reports online, even if not all would be ready to deploy every possible gadget in the field, seeking their targets by GPS, making notes on tablets and taking their photographs on smart phones. Some of us in Cornwall still cherish the compass, the map, the notebook and the camera!

Peter Cornall

8.02.13

Our grateful thanks go to Peter for taking time out to put together this account of an important part of the Society’s work. If your local society has a similar or comparable scheme, please let us know and we’d be happy to give space to it  here on the Heritage Journal

Compiled by Sue Brooke

The following events will be taking place next month, why not add one or two to your diary and join in the fun?

Marchdiary

1st and 2nd March 2013 – LONDON – Current Archaeology Live – Two Day Conference.

Over two days this conference will cover a wide range of subjects, from the prehistoric through to early modern. Also includes the Current Archaeology Awards ceremony on the Saturday evening. Bonus activities, on a first come, first served basis will be taking place on Sunday 3rd March. This offer is being run in agreement with English Heritage and offers the opportunity to visit Spitalfields charnel house and Billingsgate bathhouse – absolutely free. For more information or to book tickets please see:
http://www.archaeology.co.uk/articles/current-archaeology-live-2013.htm

2nd March 2013 –BERKSHIRE – Berkshire Archaeological Society Lecture.

To be held in The Cornerstone, Norreys Avenue, Wokingham. The Society exists to protect and promote the archaeology, history, and architecture of the past and present county of Berkshire. The event will present work such as The Iron Age contexts in town life at Silchester, Neolithic houses at Horton Quarry and Boudica’s last stand. For more information please see:
http://www.berksarch.co.uk/

5th March 2013 – DERBYSHIRE – The Archaeology of Creswell Crags.

Morton History Group – MBA Archaeology Talks. MBA, based in Nottinghamshire are involved in community archaeology, education and research, offering the opportunity to engage in educational talks, walks and workshops on a whole range of archaeological topics. For information on this and other events in the area please see:
http://www.mbarchaeology.co.uk/current-projects/derbyshire

7th February – 3rd March 2013 – OXFORD – Miranda Creswell: The Didcot Dog Mile

Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot, Oxon. A collaborative exhibition of Miranda’s sketches, archaeological working drawings and historical photographs. Includes artwork by local artists. This event will celebrate both the familiar and the changing landscape of Didcot. For information:
http://www.cornerstone-arts.org/CornerstoneArtsCentreDidcot/EXHIBITIONS/36901.id

8th March 2013 – WELWYN – “70 Years of Archaeology”

A talk by John Smith of the Welwyn Archaeology Society, meeting at the Free Church Hall, Church Road, Welwyn Garden City. WAS are an active archaeological society working on a variety of sites in Hertfordshire. For further information on the work undertaken please see:
http://welwynarchaeologicalsociety.wordpress.com/schedule-of-events/

16th March 2013 – LONDON – Annual Conference of London Archaeologists, at the Museum of London.

London and Middlesex Archaeological Society (LAMAS) annual conference. LAMAS was founded in 1855 ‘for the purpose of investigating the antiquities and early history of the Cities of London and Westminster and the Metropolitan County of Middlesex’. This conference presents work on a whole range of topics from the pre-history of London through to post medieval, including displays of work and publications. An early bird booking discount applies until 1/3/13. For further information and to download the full event programme please see:
http://www.lamas.org.uk/arch2013.html

16th March 2013- BERKSHIRE – Lecture: The health of the Romano British children of Poundbury Camp.

Conference Hall, R.I.S.C, 35 – 39 London Street, Reading RG1 4PS, starting at 14:00.

The Berkshire Archaeological Society exists to protect and promote the archaeology, history, and architecture of the past and present county of Berkshire, for more information on this lecture and in relation to other talks, walks and events please see: Berkshire Archaeology Society website:
http://www.berksarch.co.uk/

MarchStones

16th March 2013 – WILTSHIRE – ‘Archaeology in Wiltshire’.

Wiltshire Heritage Museum has outstanding collections that trace the fascinating history of Wiltshire, its environment and its people over the last 6,000 years. A one-day conference exploring the recent archaeological work in Wiltshire, including developer-funded work is planned. A range of talks and sessions will take place throughout the day with speakers from Wessex Archaeology and English Heritage amongst others of note, organised by the Archaeology Field Group of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. For more information please follow:
http://www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk/events/

29th March-1st September 2013. WILTSHIRE – ’The Splendour of Stonehenge’.

Wiltshire Heritage Museum runs a large number of events, exhibitions and activities both for the general public and members of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. The’ Splendour of Stonehenge’ will be displayed from 29th March to 1st. September 2013, an exhibition from the Wiltshire Heritage Museum’s extensive collection of paintings, drawings, engravings, prints and photographs of Stonehenge. These date from the 18th century to the present day. For further details please see:
http://www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk/events/

19th. March 2013 – CORNWALL – Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network. Lizard area. 

CASPN/LAN Site Clearance. This event is a really good opportunity to get hands-on whilst helping to clear an ancient site in the landscape. This not only allows for preservation of the site itself but helps it to be kept safe so that others may enjoy it. Groups will meet at the Kynance Gate Settlement – suitable clothing is needed although tools or any necessary equipment will be provided. See website for details of the work of this group and for further information on events:
http://www.cornishancientsites.com/lan.html

OXFORD UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF CONTINUING EDUCATION

A variety of courses are available to adult learners; from more informal weekends to accredited distance learning. There is a cost and a real commitment to completing a full course of study but there are many varied courses available from Archaeology to Local History Studies. Please check Oxford University website which gives detailed information on the courses that are available. This offers a really good opportunity to engage in direct or distance learning in a subject of real relevance to your interest:
http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/results.php?Category=800#rightcontent

SOUTH WALES.

Static display – ‘ Origins – In Search of Early Wales’ National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.
An opportunity to view many varied objects that help trace the very early history of Wales. The stories behind the objects on display provide glimpses of these times, and help to gain a deeper understanding of Welsh origin, from the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic to medieval times. Cathays Park, Cardiff, open 10am–5pm Tuesday–Sunday (Galleries close at 4:45pm) Free entry throughout.
http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/origins/

15th February – 6th. March 2013 – Discover the secrets of Caerau Hillfort – ‘A Capital Hill’

An exhibition at The Cardiff Story from 7th February to 6th March. The Caerau and Ely Rediscovering Heritage Project (CAER) is run by Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, working with Cardiff’s Ely and Caerau communities, excavating and exploring an un-researched Iron-Age hillfort, building a detailed picture of the history of this area. In April 2012 the CAER Heritage Project invited Channel 4’s Timeteam to assist local community members and schools in exploring the archaeology of this amazing Iron Age hillfort in West Cardiff.

The Cardiff Story, The Old Library, The Hayes, Cardiff, CF10 1BH. Free entry throughout. For more information see:
http://www.cardiffstory.com/content.asp?nav=178,228&id=685

MarchCastle

Days out with a difference:
31st March – 1st. April 2013 – Knights of Royal England Jousting Tournament .
This is great fun and even the kids will love it. As it involves horses, fighting and lots of noise! The event is being run over two days at Knebworth House from 31st March.
For more information please follow:
http://www.knebworthhouse.com/

5/6/7th March 2013. The Re-enactors Market
Although essentially a market this is also a sociable event where it’s possible to see and purchase goods for re-enactors, historical interpretation and those in the heritage industry. Running from Friday 5th March for three days over the weekend it is to be held at the Sports Connexion, Ryton on Dunsmore.
For more information please follow:
http://www.reenactorsmarket.co.uk/

MarchKnight

Following last week’s report we revisited yesterday and it is evident that the recent intrusions on the western edge of the field are not the only  ones. We think there are probably eight holes visible from outside the land including this one that can be seen from the south…

356

and this one (together with footsteps) that is easily visible from the north – and indeed stands out very clearly as you drive past the site on the main A5 so must have been seen by countless commuters.

374

Despite a notice indicating it is protected by a security company, access to the site can be gained pretty easily in places and here is the short inviting route from the road that those who dug the above hole almost certainly took –

377

386

Meanwhile, the holes on the western side that we highlighted last week are now surrounded by footsteps. Whether those were created by archaeologists or artefact hunters or both we can’t say. However, while the suspected “marker” in the form of a stone placed on top of one of the fence posts (spotted by Paul Barford) has disappeared, this belt has now been left….

366

In summary, the following points seem relevant:

1. The intrusions we saw were not remote from the area where Treasure items have been found, quite the reverse.

2. Detectorists don’t dig holes unless they get  signals.

3. All the intrusions we saw have happened since the land was ploughed in November so the question arises: how many took place in the previous three years?

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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Rock art revealed
The highest concentration of ancient rock art ever discovered in the Highlands has been found on hillside farmland in Ross-shire http://www.ross-shirejournal.co.uk/News/Ancient-rock-art-uncovered-in-Evanton-31012013.htm

“Sado 81” reveals all!
http://www.metaldetectingforum.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=42491

“Does anyone of You sell or keep those-say sixpences and come to the landowner to give him the 50% of it? Well- I dont….. I cant imagine myself giving say £12.50 (50% value) (if I had a good day detecting) to the person who owns 2000 acres with 1000 dairy cattle….. My farmers will get 50% value of items CLASSED as TREASURE only. Am I doing something wrong here?”

Yes Sado, you are. The objects are 100% his not yours so if he hasn’t agreed then it’s theft. Think of it as nighthawking but far worse as there are far more of you than them. Your inconsequential £25 a week (100% value) could be £1200 a year and if just 3,000 detectorists do the same as you that’s an inconsequential £3.6 million being stolen from farmers by legal detectorists annually. Now, what was it you were saying about nighthawks giving detecting a bad name?

PS, Paul Barford has much more to add  http://paul-barford.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/focus-on-uk-metal-detecting-sixpence.html Concealing finds IS nighthawking says Glasgow University.

by Nigel Swift

Gold

They’re making a second series of Britain’s Secret Treasures? “Are you all completely insane over there?” asks my archaeologist friend in France. Here are 5 questions on the matter. No-one will answer of course but the silence will tell all and I’ll tell Philippe.

1.) Has anyone heard archaeologists disputing last Summer’s statement by Diana Friendship-Taylor, chair of Rescue: “We are, frankly, astonished, that the British Museum is prepared to lend its considerable weight to the furtherance of a method of historical inquiry which belongs in the distant past, and which has as much relevance to the practice of modern archaeology as the use of the cranial trepanation has to modern medicine.” No? So where did the push for a second series come from?

2.) Has anyone made an effort to find what effect the first programmes had on sales of detectors? Apart from us, that is. We visited Britain’s largest metal detector retailer and asked them. They said sales have rocketed since the programmes, especially of starter machines. So another question arises: if PAS was set up to mitigate the damage that metal detecting does, how can that purpose be served by increasing the number of people metal detecting?

3.) Cui bono? Who are the two big gainers out of these progammes? Metal detecting manufacturers and PAS, very clearly. Is that a good reason for making them?

4.) Have you seen CBA’s statement (retweeted by English Heritage) about the first programmes? “Archaeology is about knowledge, not treasure…..The best way to extract evidence from the ground is via controlled, high-standard archaeological excavation….. it is best to join up with a local archaeology group if you have a passion for history and heritage…… if you are thinking of rushing out to buy a metal detector to seek out your very own ‘treasure’ you should think again” …. and so much else, all expressing views that are far from supportive of the activities the programmes are inescapably encouraging. So it seems the programmes have had unintended consequences – they have widened the fault line within British archaeological opinion to a degree where it can no longer be concealed. Good. That at least is a plus.

5.) So will EH or CBA say they welcome this new series? I’m betting not. If they believe their own joint survey they’ll reflect that in the ten days the programmes are jubilating over 50 objects we’ll lose another 10,000 bundles of archaeological knowledge. It’s a juxtaposition that just can’t be represented as tolerable. CBA say it all: “Archaeology is about knowledge, not treasure.What other message should Archaeology be sending?

On the other hand, will they be tempted to lend their names to the programmes in exchange for being allowed to deliver a few home truths to camera – which will then be left on the cutting room floor? We’ll see.

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More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting

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