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Who can deny it? No farmer has ever granted permission to detect unless he’s been offered highly dubious promises or barefaced lies – why would he? Generally it’s “We’re archaeologists”, “We’re only in it for the history”, “I’ve researched your land – you may get rich”, “Detecting is a way of conserving history” and “We’ll show you everything and share it 50-50, honest”).

There are endless instances. Just read some detecting forums – please! But one case that has just come to light that’s particularly barefaced is “Priscan Archaeology”. This is a group of detectorists who indulge in artefact hunting. Pocketing stuff you find is not archaeology. And now they’ve put up a video claiming their latest outing was a survey. It wasn’t. They had neither method nor equipment. They were artefact hunting (See Paul Barford’s demolition of their “survey” here).

Priscan “Archaeology” (Not) – carrying out a “Survey” (Not).

Against this widespread FFF context Historic England has just pressed, sensibly, for any detecting on registered battlefields to be part of an organised and structured archaeological survey“. Yet the National Council for Metal Detecting refuses, claiming that having no archaeological involvement is the best way to gather evidence. That, surely, defies all logic and is the mother of all Farmer Fooling Falsehoods.

Sadly though, there was no complaint from Historic England. Instead they responded: “There is no question that detectorists share a passion for our history …. We really value the opportunity to work with detectorists….” If you wonder what’s wrong with Britain’s stewardship of its buried archaeological resource, there’s the answer. Acquisitive people refusing to do the right thing and mouthing obvious and highly damaging falsehoods yet saluted for their passion for history. It really could have been PAS speaking.


On the other hand, sometimes you don’t have to conceal the fact you’re a selfish, destructive oik. See this conversation reported on a detecting forum this week:

Farmer: “My granddad never ploughed it and my Dad never ploughed it and I’v never ploughed it so not in may be 100 years or so.”

Selfish Acqisitive Oik: “Well would have have any objection to me having a look with my new detector then??

Farmer: Help you self” he said “But I don’t want any historical folk coming round

Selfish Acquisitive Oik:No NO NO that’s the last thing we want.

So there we are. Not ploughed for a hundred years and “historical folk” won’t be told what’s found. But stuff the Code of Conduct on both counts and stuff the resultant loss of knowledge, permission’s what matters. And it’s legel innit – and Historic England say I have a passion for history!


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


June 2018

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