I’ve been told Britain’s portable antiquities policy is a conspiracy to misinform us farmers. So I checked. One lie might be an accident. I found two:
1. “The vast majority of detectorists are responsible and report all they find”.
Yet no-one can possibly see how people behave when alone in a field! All that’s known is PAS figures show most of them don’t report all their finds.
2. “The vast majority of detectorists have no interest in money”.
Yet tens of thousands of UK detecting finds get sold on EBay and not one detecting club forbids it and not one finds agreement says “we’ll pay you for the finds” or “we’ll leave them here for you to get independent valuations”.
Since people say I put words in his mouth I met up with fellow Salopian Nigel Swift for a raucous evening at a pub in Shrewsbury and secured a rare quote:
“Despite what they think, I don’t mind abuse from artefact hunters. What DOES upset me are those two falsehoods by professionals appearing in thousands of press articles. Sometimes it’s lack of homework, sometimes it’s done knowingly in defence of the policy and it’s institutions but either way it’s a fact that a large group of British archaeologists are the only ones in the world who facilitate unnecessary heritage damage by misinforming landowners.”
As we parted I ventured to suggest he goes on a bit, to which he replied “Yes, I even bore me. But today the detectorists’ greatest archaeo-supporter, Mr Badger, admitted he disliked rallies and wanted detecting licensed so I KNOW all archaeologists think the same and yet also today you farmers allowed the removal of another 800 bits of history most of which won’t be reported and Britain’s archaeologists know that but won’t tell you. So why wouldn’t I go on? Tomorrow it’ll happen again.”
And with that he reeled away down the High Street, telling everyone he met.