By all accounts the vast majority of metal detectorists voted “Brexit” and this morning they’re cock-a-hoop. With good reason ….

  • European funding for Countrywide Stewardship Schemes (which have always been strongly opposed by detectorists because they prevent them detecting on archaeologically sensitive land), will cease. Anyone who thinks the British will fund the schemes themselves hasn’t been observing the British Government’s actions towards environmental and heritage matters.
  • The moral influence of our close neighbour Ireland will be diminished and their view that “Archaeological objects must be excavated in a structured scientific manner, with careful recording of their association with other objects, structures, features and soil layers. Failure to expertly record the context from which an object has been removed results in an irreplaceable loss of knowledge of the past” won’t be characterised in Britain as other than “misguided”
  • The “nightmare scenario”, as detectorists label it, of Europe influencing Britain on the subject of portable antiquities has been removed at a stroke. Here, in the words of  the European Assembly is what detectorists have gained, and the rest of us have lost:

The Assembly….

is concerned at”…. “the growing threat to the archaeological heritage caused by the increasing marketing of metal detectors in Europe and their uncontrolled widespread use”,

“regrets in particular”….” the notion of “treasure hunting” applied to the search for this heritage and all advertising to this effect”,

insists on” ….“the need for the strict observance of archaeological practice in any excavation, prospection or other disturbance of traces of human existence”,

is concerned”….“that existing legislation in most member states, or its implementation, is far from sufficient to prevent or control destruction of the archaeological heritage, or even stem its increase”

and recommends that the Committee of Ministers :

consider adopting” …. as a matter of urgency, recommendations to governments for the licensing or registration of users of metal detectors”

and ask member governments”….. “to supplement existing legislation to ensure, where still necessary, the full protection of all archaeological remains, surface included”

and to examine critically”…. “the wisdom of permitting advertising or any other incentives to hunt for archaeological treasure”

So what we’re left with is the Portable Antiquities Scheme pretending, through gritted teeth, that British metal detecting is a net benefit to the resource and misrepresenting a pathetically low level of find reporting as praiseworthy. There’s really no argument, Europe’s view of portable antiquities is protective and civilised (and you won’t find a single archaeologist who privately disagrees) but sadly Europe’s standards are no longer even a possibility for Britain. It’s a great day to be a metal detectorist, and it will be for many years to come.

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