To: The Archaeology Forum  taf@archaeologists.net

Dear Sirs,

It’s 4 years since we first wrote to you about the threat posed by the new deep-seeking metal detectors (with 24″+ depth range despite most plough soils being 9″). Any news on that? We hear there are now loads of them out there.

But this message is about something else. As you’ll be aware, despite many years of outreach the great majority of hoards are still being dug up hurriedly and damagingly. It seems to us that the problem could be solved pretty easily. Currently finders are entreated to leave the excavation to archaeologists and the following threat is made in The Treasure Act 1966 Code of Practice (2nd Revision) :

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treasure act.

So it warns that if you deliberately or recklessly cause damage you’ll get less reward. Trouble is, it’s an empty threat as finders very frequently say the archaeologists couldn’t attend straight away so they had to hastily dig it up themselves as otherwise “nighthawks would have got it”. Thus they  can persuade themselves, the coroner and the Treasure Valuation Panel that they “did the right thing” and therefore no reduction in their reward is warranted.

However it’s not the right thing. For several years we and Paul Barford have pointed out the obvious fact that there are numerous simple things finders could and should do to ensure finds are protected, including mounting guard, hiring a security firm and parking a heavy farm implement over the findspot. It seems to us they could be persuaded to adopt one or more such precautions by a very simple addition to the Code of Practice:

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treasure act2.

We think those 13 words would suddenly boost the level of “responsibility” and preserve much knowledge that’s currently being lost. Still more persuasion is all very well but it’s clear the low hanging fruit have long been plucked. In any case, in matters of morality a potential kick in the pocket always works best so would you please forward this email to the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group?

Many Thanks,

The Heritage Journal
info@heritageaction.org.uk

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Update 5 Jan 2015

This idea isn’t going down too well chez detectorists. “Historyman” (yes, that’s what I thought!) reckons: “The holier than thou brigade should provide this if they think it is so badly needed.”

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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