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We’ve had a message from one of Farmer Brown’s friends…

Fellow Landowners,

I was disturbed to read last week of a metal detectorist from near here that found in his mum’s garage a gold ring that he had found many years ago and not handed in to the landowner. Now he is selling it and is expecting to get ten thousand quid for it. Reading about it reminded me of the stories my late father told about some of the people who came onto the farm in the ‘seventies.

He told of a young metal detectorist that lived with his mum and came back to our farm and the Higgins’ land in the next village week after week although he never seemed to find anything (he told Dad his hobby gave him an excuse to get out of the house). Now, I don’t know what this fellow’s name was, I’ve only just learnt of this sale. It’s too late to ask Dad, he passed on two months ago, leaving me the farm and the bills. What I know is that Dad, who was always very frugal, would not in a million years have let anyone just walk off with any valuable gold objects taken from our land. I hope that the man in the newspaper can prove that the ring in question came into his possession honestly, and not from my family’s property.

Fellow landowners, for goodness sake, if you really must let people like this onto your property, make sure they know that nothing, nothing, leaves it without you checking it and signing off on it, on your terms, not theirs. But before you do, check that you know what precisely you are signing away.

Oliver Opfer
Silverknoll Farm
Haddenham
Bucks

 

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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It’s inarguable that the recent unsupervised digging up of The Chew Valley Hoard by detectorists was yet another case of blatant mass knowledge theft. But it’s only the latest of very many such incidents. As early as 2011 the Salisbury Museum director said he was glad a detectorist had stopped digging the Tisbury Hoard but “you could count on two hands the number of Bronze Age hoards which have been recorded professionally by archaeologists in this way”.

Always the “protection” excuse is given, as outlined by the UKDN Detecting Newsletter in 2011: It depends on the circumstances surrounding what you’ve found, and if you feel it would be under threat because too many people have seen it, and its location”. But such talk is nonsense, hoards can always be protected until archaeologists come and it was the duty of the detectorists at Chew Valley to do so.

On 2nd March 2014 we laid out why and how:.


From the moment you become aware you have found a significant hoard you should treat it as what it is – State Property – and if you want to be regarded as a history lover, a responsible detectorist, a potential reward recipient – or even just a half-decent citizen, you MUST take on the role of guardian on behalf of the State, and cause no further disturbance whatsoever to it or it’s context or the associated knowledge.

That means always stopping digging, whatever the circumstances, and doing everything you can to protect it until archaeologists have attended. You should do this in conjunction with the landowner if they can be found and necessary actions could include camping out nearby, getting a lighting hook-up into the field from the farm, spending the night in a parked car, asking a couple of colleagues to help guard it in exchange for a small share of a future reward or even hiring a security guard (you and the farmer could go halves on the cost out of the reward money).

We consider that failing to take on the role of guardian as outlined above is reprehensible and we would fully support the withholding of the whole of an ex-gratia reward from any finder who can be shown to have knowingly failed to do so. So please, play fair – for everyone’s sake including your own.”


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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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If you or your organisation intend to carry out periodic inspections in response to our recent plea here, especially when it is ploughed, please keep us informed of your intentions and any evidence (with photographs ) at info@heritageaction.org.uk

BTW, please don’t encroach onto the land (the site is easily visible without doing so).  Many thanks.

Please look for something like this.


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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Our French colleagues at HAPPAH – Halte au pillage (https://twitter.com/happah_ and https://halte-au-pillage.org/) recently used Banksy’s Cave Painting image to illustrate their concerns ….

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However, in a spirit of fraternal co-operation we thought we’d add something for them so they could better explain to anyone left in France who still thinks Les Rosbifs have the issue of knowledge theft under control.

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It’s a 2010 image of the then Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey. Poor Ed was very badly briefed (by whom?) else he’d never have been photographed metal detecting (like employees of PAS never do!)

The truth is that even minority “responsible detecting” involves the loss of cultural and scientific knowledge, which is why not one of the last 20 French Ministres du Culture make Ed’s mistake. Hence, as HAPPAH ironically puts it, “a glorious export of the Anglo-Welsh regime in treasure hunting” won’t happen any time soon! Vive la France!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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By Nigel Swift

Recently I revisited the Staffordshire Hoard field. I could see nothing untoward as it was still in crop and any digging would be concealed.

Soon however it will be ploughed and that’s when any new nighthawking activities will be obvious (footsteps and holes). I now live a long way from there and find it hard to visit as often but it crosses my mind that there are thousands of good people in the area who would be able to monitor the site. There is every reason to do so – see here (and loads more here).

In addition I hope the members of the following local amateur archaeology groups will help. There would be no more important project for them. Please pass this plea on.

Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society
Coventry and District Archaeological Society
Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society
Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society
Worcestershire Archaeological Society
North Worcestershire Archaeology Group
South Worcestershire Archaeological Group
Oswestry & Border History & Archaeology
Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society
Kidderminster and District Archaeological and Historical Society

Please look for something like this.


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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Dr Paul Garwood (lecturer in prehistory at Birmingham University and participating archaeologist in the Stonehenge Riverside Project) has just argued that the draft Detailed Archaeological Mitigation Strategy is not fit for purpose: “It fails to pay due care and attention to the protection of the OUV attributes of the Stonehenge WHS area, and, if applied, would result in very large-scale permanent destruction of unrecorded archaeological evidence, to the detriment of both the WHS and future research.”

That’s a massive charge and uniquely convincing because Highways England have already admitted it’s true by saying they are “only willing to fund the sifting of from 4 to 14% of the ground displaced in constructing the new road”. Experts believe could mean up to 480,000 artefacts ploughed back underground forever, unexamined.

Prof Mike Parker Pearson has also put Highways England’s position beyond any chance of defensive spinning by pointing out that: “100% ploughzone recovery by hand-digging is the industry standard on land that lies within a World Heritage Site, and had been recognised as such by English Heritage and The National Trust.”

In other word, not only is the Mitigation Strategy not fit for purpose, it is recognised as such by English Heritage and The National Trust!

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The Portable Antiquities Scheme website tells detectorists their finds are often the only evidence for human activity which, once removed, will be lost. Therefore. detectorist must report their finds and if they do they’ll be “responsible”.

But look at this fellow. He’s removing the only evidence of human activity. If he reports what he’s removing will he be responsible? Hardly. The term “responsible detecting” is as false and misleading to the public as would be the term “responsible cave art removal”. Yet how many farmers have thrown open their fields to “responsible detecting” on the basis of reassurances from PAS?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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As most people know, it’s normal practice for archaeologists to examine 100% of the artefacts uncovered during excavations. So it was a shock to archaeologists to be told recently by Highways England that they were only willing to fund the sifting of from 4 to 14% of the ground displaced in constructing the new road.

Experts believe half a million artefacts are likely to be unearthed – which means up to 480,000 artefacts will be ploughed back underground forever, unexamined. In case you have difficulty visualising the scale of that loss to science, here are 480,000 dots!

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Mr Jim Hunter of Highways England commented: “We are confident we can deal with the archaeology in an appropriate way”. Mr Hunter was talking nonsense.

 

To British ears the dialogue at Bears Ears National Park is depressingly familiar. Massive heritage damage is “heritage enhancement”. Carving 1.1 million acres (85%) off the protected area is being presented by the Trump administration as “a blueprint to protect the awe-inspiring natural and cultural resources that make this monument nationally significant”.

Meanwhile, the British heritage yes-bodies have jointly proclaimed that driving a mile of new dual carriageway over the Stonehenge World heritage landscape will also be a great enhancement. Really? No, really?!

If you believe that, you might as well believe him:

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