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[For more on Dr Hardy’s conclusions put “Sam Hardy” in our search box].

Dr Sam Hardy has concluded laissez-faire applied to metal detecting simply doesn’t work (see here). But the question is WHY? The answer has been voiced for some years by other independent academics:

5 years ago Suzie Thomas of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research wrote (in Portable antiquities: archaeology, collecting, metal detecting) that there is:

an ongoing ‘elephant in the room’ – the fact that archaeologists and metal-detector users view the issues differently” and that “as long as they [detectorists]  “engage in a hobby that has a direct effect on the physical remains of the past, they too have a responsibility to record their finds openly and honestly, and to a standard acceptable and useful to archaeological research.”

Also at about the same time another independent academic, John Carman of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Archaeology, wrote (in Stories We Tell: Myths at the Heart of “Community Archaeology” )  :

But in the end all we can do is talk to those who already speak in our language and share our values. …….. For us to alter our behaviour to accommodate the excluded—by changing what we do—will mean that we will cease to be archaeologists. For them to change to accommodate us will mean they lose their own sense of who they are. As archaeologists we can do nothing about this because we would cease to be archaeologists if we did.

Those two explanations are as embarrassing for supporters of the status quo as Dr Hardy’s conclusions are, for they imply that if just “the willing” were involved – people like Heritage Action members, amateur archaeologists and truly responsible detectorists – the Portable Antiquities Scheme would work like a dream, with virtually 100% co-operation instead of the current derisory percentage. To put it politely, PAS’s figures are loud testament to the fact the vast majority of detectorists don’t see community knowledge gathering as a duty.

It is to be hoped The Establishment, and in particular the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, reads both the above explanations in conjuction with Dr Hardy’s paper. Together, they form a powerful condemnation of the way Britain treats its buried archaeological resource.

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