Britain’s policy on detecting is elegantly simple: it’s fine if “responsible” (as defined in the Code of Responsible Detecting). The trouble is the code doesnt say “do no damage” or say how much damage is tolerable so landowners aren’t told that detecting may damage the resource and will certainly deplete it. That omission has another regrettable effect: it means there’s scant chance of long term reform other than to spend another 20 years trying to persuade more detectorists to convert from acting very badly to merely acting badly.

Of course, Archaeology is damaging too but a rather more sustainable approach has been developed for that: mandatory standards effectively defining the acceptable limits of damage by requiring work to be sparing, thorough, skillful and with specific aims and criteria. So archaeologists aren’t free to act like “responsible detectorists”, which is why you never see one detecting at a rally!

In 2016 the PAS conference discussed “Can Detectorists be Archaeologists“. Someone should have stood up and said ” “Yes of course they can – but only if they act like archaeologists, not like responsible detectorists.” But no-one did, which is a mark of the stranglehold of Britain’s metal detecting policy.  Still, I intend to present all the above analysis, uninvited, at next year’s PAS Conference in the form of a truth haiku. Book now to avoid disappointment.

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.                                Responsible? Yes
 .                               But never sustainable.
 .                               So laudable? No.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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