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What prompted that? Well back in July we highlighted that Britain’s largest metal detecting shop, Regtons, was marketing lots of the night vision equipment loved by nighthawks as “metal detecting accessories” and we asked the public to write and ask them to stop. It took a while (and our reminders in August and  September) but at last they’ve deleted all such items from their site. Well done Britain, you look a tad less oikish today.

But here’s the thing. It’s not the first time we amateurs have got detectorists and suppliers to act properly by highlighting what’s going on – but it shouldn’t be our rôle, it’s surely something archaeologists, especially those who are paid to outreach, should be doing. Back-slapping people who are going to co-operate anyway is only half the job. Highlighting to the public those who aren’t is the other (and no, kidding them that most of the knowledge-loss is down to criminal nighthawks when actually it’s predominantly down to legal misbehaviour won’t do).

Half a job is not unadjacent to deliberately misleading landowners and the general public. About 560 of the 790 recordable items dug up today won’t be reported and will be lost to science. Merry Christmas.


UPDATE: An artefact hunter writes that it’s a lie, it was not “letter-writing pressure” that caused Regtons to give up their “night vision franchise” although he/she doesn’t explain what did. Right. Sheer coincidence eh?

I think in the real world we can take it that whether it was letters or not, the publicity about their behaviour (which many detectorists have publicly condemned) was what did it.  Muscular outreach does work better than limp wristed appeasement.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting



December 2014

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