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The admirable student-run archaeology journal The Post Hole has a poll this month. It asks a good question, how can relations between archaeologists and detectorists be improved, but it offers some strange options:


1. Better education about detecting for those who want to get involved?
Well! We’ve been paying PAS millions to do that for 16years!  Should we ask for our money back?! Maybe, as most detectorists still don’t report all finds. Interesting that 23% of respondents answered YES to that option.

2. Make it easier for the public to report finds?
Eh?! How could it possibly be easier? PAS has a national team you can take finds to. They’ll even come to you or your detecting club or rally and give you a free ID to boot. What other hobby is so mollycoddled by the state?

3. Acknowledgement of the good that can come from metal detecting?
But everyone acknowledges that already! It’s the downside that matters. How can yet more praise and talk of heroes make non-reporters start reporting? (A wild thought – did a detectorist advise on the contents of this survey?!)

4. Find common ground, i.e. projects that all parties can work together on?
To clarify:  random, selective, unstructured searching for personal benefit is antipathetic to archaeological ethics so the ONLY “common ground” possible is in projects under strict archaeological control as defined by EH in Our Portable Past. That may shock endless bangers-on about common ground (detectorists and PAS) but it’s true!

5. Stronger regulation of metal detecting
Yep, that’s the one certain way – for how could relations NOT be improved if all detectorists were compelled to behave instead of being given a choice about it, as now. (BTW I see only 13% of respondents went for that option – could that be a clue to which group is piling in to answer this survey?!)


If the York Uni students don’t know how archaeologist-detectorist relations can be improved (which I doubt) they could pop over to CBA HQ where they’ll be told this  (in no uncertain terms). It adds up to:  “Metal detecting is fine providing it’s conducted in  the public interest”. To which I’d add: “since after 16 years of persuasion it mostly isn’t,  it’s high time regulation was used to ensure it is!” The effect on relations will be that every archaeologist will then adore every metal detectorist (as will I) and it don’t need no poll to see that’s true!

Update 24 Feb 2014
A metal detectorist asks
“Is it not time that he came to the conclusion that his work too force his own thought out regulations upon metal detectorists is not working and could actually be having a negative effect on what he aims for?”
The claim that we (and Paul Barford) are the cause of detectorist misbehaviour is more than a decade old and turns out to be decidedly irrational when examined  – so doesn’t need discussing.  As for forcing my own opinions, the above-quoted summary of the CBA’s opinion – Metal detecting is fine providing it’s conducted in  the public interest” is one that is shared by just about every archaeologist on the planet so he’d better take it up with them.

(Yah boo to PAS for not explaining it to him!)


More Heritage Action views on metal detecting and artefact collecting




February 2014

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