Another open letter to The Archaeology Forum  taf@archaeologists.net



loDear Sirs,

We have been writing to you since February 2011 about the threat to archaeology posed by the new deep-seeking metal detectors – see here and here. We have even suggested they may well have been used to steal part of the Staffordshire Hoard – see here.  We wonder whether you have decided to make representations to the Government?

Please be aware there’s a current TV series, Hoard Hunters, that appears to be aimed at promoting Minelab’s new deep-seeking models. It features two detectorists (one of whom runs Minelabowners Forum and Minelab TV) who visit known hoard sites with “the latest technology” in order to find any “treasure” that may have been missed. The detector in question is the Minelab GPX 5000 which is shown being used while it’s virtues are spelled out: “I’ve got new equipment” …. “the latest technology that can go deeper“ …. “mineralisation is invisible to this machine so it gets a lot, lot deeper” …. “coins further down are in better condition with this deeper machine and that extra depth is thanks to this machine” …. “I’m going to encourage everybody to find Roman Coins” …. “one in ten signals like this is a hoard”.

It’s hard to see it as other than an extensive sales pitch, one that will generate sales not only to those who might use them illegally but to a far more numerous and therefore damaging group – those that would use the machines legally but unethically, ignoring the official code with it’s caveat about not digging below the plough soil. Since “Britain’s Secret Treasures” created a sales boom in ordinary metal detectors it seems probable that this series will do the same for the GPX 5000.

Official silence about deep-seeking machines is hard to understand. Is it that there’s a concern that if detectorists are displeased those that co-operate will cease doing so? If so, perhaps it’s time the issue was confronted. The National Council for Metal Detecting recently issued the seventeenth threat of a recording strike. How much longer must conservation policy be dictated by artefact hunters?

Yours faithfully

Heritage Action


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting