PAS is to revise its Guidance for Landowners, substituting its weak comment “landowners may wish to see the objects” with a strong warning: “ask to see all archaeological finds”. We (and Farmer Brown) have called for this for ages but they’ve been frit to upset detectorists. Well, they will have now! The NCMD model contract has 4 magic words,  “over the value of” which allow detectorists to mentally “value” finds and on that basis take most home unshown.

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over the value.

So the hitherto obliging cat is about to inconvenience the pigeons. Thousands of detectorists have got farmers to sign away their right to see most of what’s found but PAS will now be telling farmers to ensure they see everything! Interesting times. Will NCMD amend its contract in line with PAS and say members must now show ALL archaeological finds? Or will they (and their members) say “no, we prefer things just as they are”? We’ll soon see!

What we won’t see is PAS estimating how many artefacts (some cumulatively very valuable, some individually very valuable) have been taken home unshown during the time it hasn’t grasped this nettle. Nor will we see it saying we amateurs were right all along (although this change is a clear admission of that). But it would be nice if they at least acknowledged that notional, octogenarian farmer Silas Brown was correct. It would be consistent with this new (and actually historic) stance of protecting the interests of farmers not others.

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Silas: "Why has it taken you 18 years to advise us farmers to make sure we see ALL archaeological finds?"

A massage from Silas:  “Why has it taken you 17 years to advise us farmers to make sure we see ALL archaeological finds?

 

Update Paul Barford has highlighted an intriguing additional aspect of this significant change of heart on the part of PAS…… “They’d do even better if they were to advise them [landowners] also to sign off each object, so that the new owner’s title to sell is documented – something nighthawks cannot do. This would be in line with the recommendations of the April 2009 Oxford Nighthawking Report (page 110).”

In fact it seems to me this affair has a very intriguing implication: since PAS is now saying it wishes the landowner to see all archaeological finds then it is also saying it now wishes its database to comprise fully provenanced finds……

Update 2
Paul suggests that: “to establish legal possession of the artefacts they bring along to the PAS, the searcher should in each case present for checking a signed agreement (a) to access and search a given area and (b) a signed document releasing the individual find under consideration. Otherwise the FLO could be handling stolen property, and in the event of false data getting placed on the public record, laundering an illicit antiquity, also be liable to charges of fencing”.

There’s little doubt FLOs unwittingly record stolen and falsely attributed artefacts – and hence launder them – but I’m personally no fan of finds agreements as a solution. Their advice to landowners that agreements “avoid future disputes” is without foundation as agreements add nothing to the landowners’ rights under the good old law and actually act as an opening to bamboozle them, nothing more. A simple “bring all my archaeological artefacts to me, irrespective of value” is all that’s needed – and THEN, once items are found and delivered, a signed release of any item the farmer is willing to give up (after he has checked them with a third party). Only then need a valuation or share be discussed and also at that point the artefact hunter should pay for (or sign a document confirming he will pay for) whatever he is being given.

This might seem revolutionary, something detectorists would furiously reject and PAS would baulk at recommending to landowners – but the funny thing is it is how normal, educated honourable people would behave in any other sphere outside metal detecting. It is how YOU would behave without doubt, is it not dear Reader? Of course it is. The fact it doesn’t happen within metal detecting and hardly anyone complains is a measure of just how bonkers Britain has become with regard to this lucrative “hobby”.

Let artefact hunters start acting like the rest of us and let PAS wake up and make that central to how they define “best practice”.

Update 3

Oh dear!! In response a detectorist writes:

“Speaking of the anti detecting squad, over in the world of stupid there has been a barrage of blog posts aimed at destabilising this beneficial and fun hobby. One topic that has got the anti’s a bit moist is the PAS stating to landowners that they should ask to see all finds that have been made on their land. Here are a couple of blog posts from the anti’s, one on Paul Barfords blog and one on the Heritage Journal blog.

I love the way they portray it as some BIG thing, however i don’t agree, it seems quite minuscule if I’m honest.

I don’t see why any metal detectorist who cares about what they do would have any problem showing the landowner who very kindly granted them permission to search on their land. In fact as far as I’m aware the vast majority of honest metal detectorists do show the land owner everything they find…. “

No big thing is it? Well it’s not your property is it! If it was, maybe you’d think otherwise. Anyway, if you and all your mates show the farmer everything you all won’t mind calling for the thousands of finds agreements that allow you to not show most of the finds to be ripped up forthwith.

Will you?

An affirmative answer from thousands of detectorists is not anticipated. Talk is cheap.

 

Update 4

Not a single word about giving up the dodgy clause of course, but oh dear, oh dear, oh dear another artefact hunter has popped up to say farmers are too busy or too uninformed to report finds so it needs to be the detectorist that does that, and then the farmer can be shown his property later!

But they are HIS finds. Only a crook or a twerp would find excuses not to hand him his property. In any case, if we’re talking competence, it’s politically incorrect but clear to anyone that cares to look at their respective forums that MOST farmers are intellectually and educationally far better equipped to ensure PAS has access to finds than MOST detectorists.

Not that competence comes into it. It’s ownership and the minimising of opportunities for dishonesty or neglect of obligations that matter – how many detectorists at rallies take stuff home, report it to PAS and then bring it back and give it to the righttful owner? Almost none. Where are the owner’s rights in  all that? If you find something on someone’s land you take it straight to them. That’s normal behaviour in the whole of the rest of society. Anything else is indefensible and the rest of us don’t need to hear fallacious reasons justifying anyone acting otherwise.  These people really are a pain.  Anyway, here’s the bottom line. Let detectorists read it  v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y:

Now that PAS is to advise landowners to ensure they see all archaeological finds, artefact hunters have been stripped of any justification for continuing to act under the provisions of the current NCMD contract which provides for them NOT to show all finds. Oh, and of course that means showing him all finds before they leave his premises. That’s how Tesco’s like it. Why shouldn’t farmers have the same rights?