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The press tend to manoevre people into inappropriate poses, as this recent image of archaeologists at the site of the Battle of Worcester demonstrates. In this case it’s particularly regrettable as it’s highly artefact-centric, which Archaeology isn’t but metal detecting is.


Two archaeologists and some people who aren’t


There are hundreds of thousands of pictures of metal detectorists posing exactly like that (e.g. see inset) but very few of archaeologists doing it. There’s a reason. For detectorists the aim is to possess the find for themselves but for archaeologists the aim is to gain archaeological knowledge – for everyone.

The danger of blurring la différence is clear: farmers may mistake the former for the latter. (Although, there are other ways of telling: if they arrive saying We’m hamatcher istoricides hain’t us” they’re probably not archaeologists!)


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

In 2012 we shamed Regtons, Britain’s largest detecting shop, into abandoning their support for the dishonest National Council for Metal Detecting Code in favour of the official responsibility code. Sadly they’ve now gone back on that.

It’s sad but also symptomatic of how things are. Almost every detectorist and detecting club and pay-to-dig outfit tell farmers they follow that NCMD code and are therefore to be trusted. Yet, for the avoidance of all doubt, here are the two carefully crafted con-tricks that code embodies:


1.) “Report all unusual historical finds to the landowner”
“Unusual”, see? Instead of “recordable”. Which leaves the detectorist free to decide which finds, if any, he reveals to the landowner.

2.)Acquaint yourself with current NCMD policy relating to the voluntary reporting of portable antiquities”
“Acquaint yourself with”, see? Not “comply with”. And to be doubly sure, the NCMD policy doesn’t insist on reporting all recordable finds to PAS anyway.


Clever, n’estce pas? Every day, thousands of detectorists tell thousands of farmers they’re “responsible”, not by pledging they’ll follow the official code but by waving a shameful, self-serving piece of paper which hides the two messages “we don’t have to show you anything unless we judge it to be unusual” and “we don’t have to report all recordable finds to PAS.” It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if PAS, CBA and Rescue pointed this out to farmers and explained that only the official code will do. Any chance?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


Jennifer Dykes, a Nottinghamshire vet has won first prize in the ‘All creatures great and small’ category of the BVA Veterinary Photographer of the Year competition for a photograph of two sheep seemingly ‘in conversation’ on a misty morning at Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Lake District.



US National Park Service: “The construction of President Trump’s border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border could damage — or even destroy — up to 22 archaeological sites at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona”.

Which begs the question: how many archaeological sites in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site will be damaged or destroyed by the construction of the approach roads to the short tunnel?

If you haven’t heard an estimate of that it can only mean one of two things: either Highways England, English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust don’t know the answer or that they do but are frit to tell you.

The best thing any  of us can do is to demand they reveal which. How can it be acceptable for the US National Park Service to have released that pivotal information whereas the UK’s World Heritage Site guardians haven’t?


The Stonehenge Guardians: “Relax, it’ll be fine ….”


Lately there’s been much talk on detecting forums about “dodgy” UK detecting holidays for Americans. It’s not new. For decades it’s been widely claimed that finds are “seeded” for customers to “discover” things. “Its pretty much like the big game hunting where caged lions are shot by these guys with plenty of money to spend.”

But the puzzle has been that despite those endless warnings the Americans keep coming – and paying their £2,000 fees, apparently unmoved by talk that their prize finds might have come from EBay. But last week in America there was a possible clue to their mindsets: “The Moonshine Open Treasure Hunt” offered participants the chance, for 90 dollars a day, “to dig up thousands of old silver coins and hundreds of real Civil War bullets that have been buried in a specific area for a timed event.”.

Could it be that they know the risks in Britain but they wear mental blinkers, as what really matters to them are their bragging rights when they get back home?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Speaking Truth to Power, no matter how uneven the contest, CAN sometimes make a difference.

Ask Greta.

Greta Thunberg outside the Swedish Parliament in 2018


With the UK set to leave the European Union on the 31st October there was some doubt over organisations from abroad being able to do the work.

But after a visit to Salisbury Plain yesterday afternoon the Prime Minister had a message for the locals: it wouldn’t make a difference to the companies interested, worldwide. After Brexit, when we’re “free of cumberson procurement processes”, the Stonehenge tunnel may well prove to be cheaper to build!


Following the National Trust decision to publish details of trail hunts on its land, Forestry England has done the same. Now, Englands largest private landowner and England’s largest public landowner both have the same stance.

When the Trust did it the number of hunts applying for licences dropped by more than half so it’s likely the same will happen on Forestry England’s land. It may be that more than a dozen more hunts will choose not to apply for licences.


Tranquillity restored to the woods ….


Have Forestry England been reading Walter de la Mare?

Hi! handsome hunting man
Fire your little gun.
Bang! Now the animal
is dead and dumb and done.
Never more to peep again, creep again, leap again,
Eat or sleep or drink again. Oh, what fun!


It’s 16 years since, at the suggestion of our much-missed friend Rebecca van der Putt, a diverse group of ordinary people interested in prehistoric sites met at an extraordinary place for a picnic.

Site of original ritual gathering. 28 July 2003

From that first meeting grew Heritage Action which subsequently morphed into The Heritage Journal which aims to promote awareness and therefore the welfare of ancient sites. It has perhaps filled a gap as it seems to have struck a chord with many people, both professional and amateur. More than 200 archaeologists have contributed to it and it has been followed by many thousands of people on Twitter (including Nelson Mandela!).

We can’t clam the Journal always says things that everyone agrees with – that would be impossible bearing in mind how many individuals contribute content to it but we can claim two things – first, that everyone that puts it together or writes anything in it has their heart in the right place when it comes to ancient sites and second that anyone with an interest in prehistory who reads it regularly is likely to find at least something to pique their interest. At least, that’s the aim. The guiding principle is to try to make it like a magazine, frequently updated with articles that vary greatly.

You could use the search box to read about the last black bear on Salisbury Plain,  Sandy Gerrard’s new insights into stone rows, the Hillfort Glow experiment, the policeman who spotted three aliens in Aveburythat the Uffington Horse may be a dog, or The Stony Raindrops of Ketley Crag …..



It’s because of stuff like this (from the Glossary of the otherwise admirable website, Keys to the Past): “Most metal detectorists are responsible, recording the location of the objects they find and informing the local museums or the Portable Antiquities Officer.”I

It’s a falsehood, a profoundly damaging calumny that has nevertheless been seeded into hundreds of unwitting newspapers and websites. The latest evidence it’s untrue comes from a survey by Paul Barford of the British antiquities on sale on EBay by UK based people on just one day last month: there were 13,825 finds on sale and just 27 were said to have been recorded by archaeologists.

It’s no wonder that the British public (unlike people elsewhere) aren’t concerned by the fact people from all over will gather today for a large detecting rally on Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier land “a mile as the crow flies from Salisbury Cathedral.” The PAS won’t be there, nor any archaeologist, just a “trained recording volunteer”, we wonder why, .

Wnat could possibly go wrong?

Update:  Ironically, see also this tweet made yesterday:

Archaeology Wessex @CBAWessex …..

“Our Committee meets today in the beautiful cathedral City of Salisbury”


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


September 2019

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