by Nigel Swift

Someone suggested to Rescue that their Facebook page (26 January) shouldn’t have linked to my Heritage Journal article “How to set up a portable antiquities scheme” as doing so was “professionally disrespectful” to the PAS archaeologists. That would imply archaeologists shouldn’t be criticised on archaeology forums so I was glad the moderator resisted the notion. In any case the article had been misread – it didn’t criticise PAS in isolation, it suggested most archaeologists and heritage professionals publicly supported an overall damaging metal detecting status quo and maintained an embarrassed silence about many aspects of it.

But the incident has wider relevance to the Journal. Although we’re certainly not always “right” there’s a strong case for our voice to be embraced not marginalised. After all, we truly are a random set of “ordinary people” (albeit a tad enthusiastic about Heritage) and we have no vested interests, whether academic, financial or professional. We simply say things as we see them, right or wrong, sometimes wrong – and even when wrong we alert those who need to know that something needs clarifying to the wider public.

In addition (and back to detecting) we can sometimes bring useful insights to the table. I’ve personally spent over a decade studying the interface between detectorists and archaeologists so know a thing or two about it. On the other hand many professionals feel uncomfortable about expressing themselves about it or are simply too busy to get involved. But (thanks partly to Professor David Gill having discussed our article on Looting Matters) Google currently displays 2,100 results (and growing) for the term “Legal Fibbery”. It’s a vital issue that tends not to be explained to the public by an Establishment constrained by realpolitik and now it has been highlighted and named by “ordinary people”. It’s something that clearly should be in the public arena as it’s of major significance to both stakeholders and taxpayers, and now it is.