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For years PAS has dismissed us as “trolls” and this week they have added “prejudiced and ill-informed” to the list. Their complaint is never about what we say (how could it be? If our facts were wrong they would have said so, not just insulted us) but about what we don’t say.  Our sin is that we point out that loads of detectorists behave badly but we don’t add yes but some don’t. So we’re accused of not providing “a balanced picture”. Sorry but we aren’t going to play. Here’s why:

Detectorists who behave themselves really don’t need constant praise, it’s patronising and insulting, implying that it’s a surprise that they should do so (ask some of them, we have!) No-one deifies amateur archaeologists or people who don’t park on double yellow lines or the millions of people in every walk of life who quietly do right by the community because it’s the civilised way to behave. It’s the disfiguring of Stonehenge that matters, not banging on about those who don’t damage it. How ludicrous it would be if there was a quango issuing weekly press statements praising people who don’t shoplift!

It’s damage that matters, not its absence and (as PAS knows very well from their published figures), the great majority of detectorists don’t comply with the official code, don’t follow best practice and don’t report all of their finds. That is crucial information that is owed to the public and landowners in plain, unvarnished form, not glossed over by the addition of the “yes but” platitude (or, even worse, totally falsified with the demonstrably untrue statement that “most detectorists are responsible”). PAS and thousands of detectorists misinform thousands of farmers weekly in that way and have been doing so for years and years and years. We’re not going to join in, whether PAS continues to call us prejudiced and ill-informed or not.

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Update Sunday 5 April 2015
Paul Barford has just posed a simple question about PAS that is relevant to the above: “Can they commit themselves to a firm policy of not only in a somewhat passive manner promoting best practice but actively condemning bad practice?” You might think that after 17 years and millions of words and pounds they had already done so. But no, there’s no trace – unless anyone can show otherwise. I think perhaps it’s time we wrote a succinct statement for them (as is our prerogative as prejudiced and ill-informed trolls), one which actively condemns bad practice and acknowledges for the information of taxpayers and landowners that the evidence indicates it is very widespread not rare, and publicly ask them to concur. So that’s what we’ll do in a few days.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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