The official script (the one saying nighthawking is damaging but legal detecting is probably fine) was ignored recently – twice! First, the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Cultural Heritage discussed damage through inappropriate use of detectors to archaeological sites “including those that are scheduled” which means they also talked about non-protected sites. Second, the recent Heritage Crime conference discussed damage to and removal of objects from scheduled “and previously unrecorded archaeological sites“ which again means non-protected sites.
So good news? Discussion not just about the lesser issue but the greater one: the knowledge loss caused by the 70% of detectorists who legally don’t report everything they find, the many who legally dig hoards up without waiting for archaeologists and the thousands who legally give poor find spot details (which PAS now says it won’t record!) A big change (and uncomfortable for some: as Professor Gill politely put it: “It would have been helpful if two senior curators from a major national museum in Bloomsbury had contributed to this part of the discussion”!) Hopefully, it’s more than change it’s paradigm slippage. How could it not be when both a dedicated conference and the highest think tank in the land are discussing the main problem, not the just the lesser one?
Why so tardy? Well, apart from being frit to upset detectorists perhaps they have believed Finds Contracts keep things “proper”. They don’t. The model contracts omit provision for an independent appraisal of the finds, appallingly. But in any case the Moderator of the largest detecting forum reckons “it’s probable that only about 5% of all detectorists use a contract”! Quite a background against which The Establishment has been constantly telling the public that farmers and society are losing out to nighthawks more than the dodgy wing of the “no contract” legal daytime artefact hunters (who of course include all the nighthawks!). It makes zero statistical or sociological sense and now they seem to be seeing it. Could those who have been pleading for this change of focus to happen for donkey’s years possibly have been right all along?!
Update Sunday 17th April 2016
Under the European Birds Directive all Member States have to report about the progress made in their own territories regarding bird conservation. (Sadly, Britain will today have to report that England’s last Golden Eagle has died).
By contrast, and under no such directive, Dr Michael Lewis of the British Museum’s Learning, Audiences and Volunteers department was invited to speak today at the first European Council for Metal Detecting conference at The Holiday Inn, Birmingham Airport, an event specifically designed to promote the benefits of the “English Model” throughout Europe. Is it going ahead? Or did Dr Lewis decline the invitation because he felt being the father of Euro-hoiking was a step too far for him? We’ll know soon.