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by Nigel Swift

Medway History Finders: "couldn't contact an archie, might have been stolen if left overnite, so ...."

Medway History Finders: “couldn’t contact an archie, might have been stolen if left overnite, so ….”

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It makes no sense when you think about it. In Britain unqualified people who seek out and find hoards (which have the legal status of national treasure) are then perfectly free (along with any amateur bystanders) to dig it up as fast and as badly as they wish, destroying the knowledge surrounding it.

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Weekend Wanderers at Lenborough: just one archaeologist there. A number of entirely unqualified people piled in to "help". Out before nightfall ....

Weekend Wanderers at Lenborough: just one archaeologist there. A number of entirely unqualified people piled in to “help”. Out before nightfall ….

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PAS hasn’t said but we can guess that the above debacle was not what the FLO would have preferred. On the contrary, at some point it must have become clear to her that the task was far bigger than first thought and ought to be halted until a professional team could be assembled. But around her were a lot of excitable people many of whom wouldn’t know a moral dilemma from a mozzarella, insisting it must be dug out immediately as overnight protection was impossible and nighthawks might get it. So she felt she had to carry on, fearing that if she stopped that some of them would dig it up anyway, (as hundreds of detectorists have previously) in a still more damaging fashion.

So that’s my guess. I think the FLO was a victim of circumstances and deserves sympathy. Of course it should have been postponed and of course overnight security could have been arranged but there was no legal requirement she could cite. The fault lies with the legal system. We get the archaeological losses the law allows. Sorry to be “elitist” about detectorists but this sort of thing wouldn’t have happened at a gathering of amateur archaeologists – fact! The “voluntary” nature of Britain’s portable antiquities policy was based on the assumption that the two groups were broadly interchangeable. That has turned out to be a damaging mistake. All that remains is an admission.

Who’ll bite the bullet?

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Lendorough, halfway through: "Hmmm, maybe we've got to a stage where we should cover it and ensure it's guarded until a team of archies can be assembled, so it can be done properly?" ..... "Hardly, mate! We're artefact hunters not conservationists or amateur archaeologists so we need to pretend there's an urgent need to get it out now and that no damage will be caused by so doing. "

Lenborough philosophical discourse, halfway through:  Hmmm, maybe we’ve got to a stage where we should cover it and ensure it’s guarded until a team of archies can be assembled, so it can be done properly?
….. “Hardly, mate! We’re artefact hunters not conservationists or amateur archaeologists so we need to pretend there’s an urgent need to get it out now and that no damage will be caused by so doing. “

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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