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An Irish archaeologist has just responded angrily on an Irish “detecting forum” to someone posting details of a protected site: “For those of you who are unaware, metal detecting is an illegal practice in the Republic of Ireland, and an Garda Síochána and the National Monuments Service have been notified of your post. I, for my part, am engaging in regular study and geophysical investigations at this site, with the explicit granted permission of the landowner, as it is private property, and I will immediately report any suspicious activities to the relevant authorities. You have been warned…… I would strongly advise that you do not post Irish sites in this fashion again”.

Is that overkill? An insult to innocent amateur archaeologists? Well, here’s the case for saying it was: Irish metal detectorists aren’t breaking Irish law against metal detecting as they aren’t searching for archaeological  objects and the forum makes that crystal clear: “WE DO NOT DETECT FOR PROFIT OR ENGAGE IN SEARCHING FOR ARCHAEOLOGICAL OBJECTS OR TREASURE OF ANY KIND”. Hence, if any of them unearths metal archaeological items while searching for metal items it’s purely by accident. Irish metal detectorists are all entirely innocent of lawbreaking and it follows that posting details of a protected site can’t possibly have negative consequences. Obviously.

Of course, on the other hand, you might not believe, but can’t prove, that they aren’t all only looking for Coke cans and tractor parts and that in reality ARE looking for archaeological artefacts, which would make them common criminals and bare-faced liars using a tricky smokescreen. (Some of them!) If that was so then it’s perfectly reasonable to think some of them would be prepared to do the same thing on a National Monument, in which case the archaeologist wasn’t wrong to complain. He was right. You decide (and that applies to the British archaeologists who have lent their names and reputations, wittingly or otherwise, to a video promoting the legalisation of Irish metal detecting).



August 2015

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