This week Mike Heyworth, Director of the CBA tweeted: Off to the British Museum to chair meeting of the Finds Best Practice working group. What do we do about metal detecting rallies?” We suggest the answer depends if they wish to protect the archaeological resource. And landowners. Or PAS. For as the meeting participants will be aware:

  • Common sense and evidence suggest numerous items found at rallies aren’t reported, even if PAS are in attendance.
  • Common sense suggests nighthawked finds from elsewhere are brought to rallies to be “laundered”.
  • Common sense suggests many other finds from elsewhere are laundered at rallies (because rally rules on sharing with landowner are lax or non-existent).
  • The rules of most rallies ignore both the official metal detecting code and the official advice on running rallies.
  • Items found at rallies are very, very rarely shown to the landowners (and everyone knows exactly why but no-one admits it).
  • Thousands of European detectorists come to British rallies to do all of the above because it’s illegal for them to do it at home.

So the answer to Dr Heyworth’s question, What do we do about metal detecting rallies?” must surely be crystal clear to the Finds Best Practice working group: one or all of them should tell the Government that rallies damage the resource, aid and abet criminality, deprive farmers of their entitlement, corrupt the PAS database and attract to Britain thousands of people  keen to do to our resource what they are prohibited from doing to their own.  The Government can then at least make a properly informed decision. If, instead, they merely tinker with the detecting code, we think they’ll be letting down everyone except detectorists and the PAS.

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