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Professor David Gill has just asked a very direct question that challenges the whole basis of the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s database: How far can we trust the information supplied with the reported objects? Are these largely reported or “said to be” findspots?

It’s a highly pertinent question – for in recent years PAS has increasingly promoted the benefits of its database to academic researchers (and ergo of itself to its funders of course). The “trust” issue that Professor Gill is alluding to revolves around the question of whether “find spot falsification” is rare or otherwise. It is normally presented as being something only nighthawks do (to cover their tracks). But actually the situation is such that it may be far more widespread than that. It’s all because there’s a complete range of “shares” agreed between detectorists and landowners so there’s lots of money to be made by changing your account of where you found something. Bearing in mind this “fibbery” as we have previously termed it can be massively lucrative, simple to execute and impossible to detect, it’s hard to think it doesn’t happen rather a lot. Here’s a theoretical page from the diary of non-nighthawk Baz Thugwit that illustrates it:

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Bazdiary.

So caveat researchers (and funders). Baz earned himself an extra £750 that day (and of course distorted the PAS database) simply by driving down the motorway. Not that he even needed to do that for you can make loads of dosh in 3 seconds flat by telling a tiny lie to PAS online while sitting at home. How often does it happen? Dunno. You could ask PAS – but they haven’t the foggiest either. Hence, there seems to be no answer anywhere to Professor Gill’s question how far can we trust the information supplied?”

PAS's piggery pokery database

PAS’s piggery pokery database

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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