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US antiquities dealers who have long called for an American PAS have got their wish in Staten Island where the Parks Authority issued 548 metal detecting permits on the understanding the detectorists will report any significant finds. Sounds good, and familiar. A voluntary social contract, just like in Britain. They get to detect. Society gets benefits. What’s not to like?

But blow me down with a bagel, look what happened: “All of the 185 permit holders who actually filed reports for 2013 wrote that they found diddly squat, records show. Five permit holders mentioned that they managed to locate some change by waving their wands and listening for beeps — but the coins weren’t worth anything.”

So the exercise was so dodgy it could have been Barry Island, not Staten Island – and the similarity with Britain doesn’t stop there for a spokesperson for the American PAS (if it existed) would surely have said: Yeah, of course we believe that all 185 (and the other 363 who didn’t file a report) found nothing, American detectorists are as honest as their British counterparts. The main thing achieved is we can now go to Government and explain they’re highly reliable and it’s worth funding us for the next 30 years to tell everyone so. Let’s dig America together, innit?”

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Time for an American Nose Hiding Scheme?

Time for an American Nose Hiding Scheme – or will US archaeologists heed the toe-curlingly embarrassing position Britain has put itself in?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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