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By Nigel Swift

Smash a display case in the British Museum and it would be front page news. Do the equivalent in a field and it’s pretty much a secret. How come? The answer is simple: PAS. It was set up simply to educate yet from the start it has minimised the public’s awareness of the damage and its scale. As a result the public’s knowledge is stolen daily on a massive scale and the public isn’t told. No PAS, it isn’t enough to say “Yes, the use of the excavator was pretty poor...” it was legal knowledge theft from the rest of us by ignorami without consciences who the farmer should never have allowed past his gate. How dare you not say so for 20 years?

We first said so in 2005 when 480 acquisitive people told an elderly Lord close to Avebury don’t worry we all report our finds to PAS. It was a lie that has been repeated ever since. Yet PAS attacks us for saying so – we don’t understand, we exaggerate, we should “get on the train to Liaisonville”. (Yes, seriously! Many times!) Just last week a FLO said our article  is “fake news”, “a sham”, “click bait” and “full of half-truths and outright lies”. (Please read it. Is it?)

As always I am resentful: we’re member of the public and stakeholders and hold that our mantra “ordinary people caring for extraordinary places” applies not just to visible monuments but to buried archaeology. Plus we DO know what we’re talking about, I’ve studied detecting for 2 decades, far longer than most FLOs. Here are 450 articles, 3 million words I’ve written about it, not because I hate detecting or my mother was frightened by a detectorist but because I’m hopelessly infected by a conviction that mass non reporting is mass knowledge theft. It’s happening every week, entirely legally, a British cultural scandal and cultural loss and someone ought to highlight it weekly if PAS won’t.

And no, PAS, praising the good guys does NOT change that reality, or convert the others, it hides it and provides the perfect environment for it to flourish as all can see.

I may not be able to keep it up much longer so that FLO will have the field more to himself, but for the record nothing I’ve written has knowingly been what he claims about our latest article, “fake news”, “a sham”, “click bait” or “full of half-truths and outright lies” (as anyone who reads a few of the articles at random will see.) We believe the large scale damage and the ignorance should be known to every farmer, every taxpayer and every stakeholder – as it’s their cultural knowledge that is being silently destroyed and nothing detectorists or PAS say will change that truth. The detecting that’s owed to buried archaeology is sustainable metal detecting not responsible metal detecting. I respect the understanding of those who work for PAS sufficiently to be certain they all agree with me. But they need to say so.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


October 2018

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