Statistics don’t lie: most detectorists can’t be bothered to report their finds. Now, worse, PAS says not reporting isn’t damage. So now we have twin mantras applying to portable antiquities in Britain: can’t be bothered and doesn’t matter. No-one could deny that the result is even more knowledge theft.

Is knowledge theft a crime? Asked that, Matthew Bohrer (Special Projects Coordinator, Office of the Inspector General, Washington, D.C.) was clear: “Stealing anything is a crime, by definition: if you take something from someone else, without their consent, it’s theft. Theft is a crime“- to which we’d add: if the “something” is a country’s knowledge of its past the crime is severe.

Of course, we must be realistic, Parliament decrees that stealing Britain’s knowledge of its past isn’t something for which detectorists can usually be prosecuted. It’s a moral crime only. Still, we’re entitled to wish PAS had the sense not to minimise it and detectorists the decency not to do it. Aren’t we?

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The Artefact Erosion Counter earlier today – see?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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