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It may well be that PAS will soon be swept away (or replaced with a decorative “shell” of itself.) Not what Sir Anthony Grant hoped for in the Commons in 2001: “I trust that we will now join the great majority of other civilised countries in passing a law to protect our rich and important heritage of portable antiquities” nor what Baroness Blackstone hoped for in the PAS Annual Report:It is the long term aim of the Scheme to change public attitudes to recording archaeological discoveries so that it becomes normal practice for finders to report them

20 years later there is no “law to protect heritage” and no major change in “public attitudes to recording archaeological discoveries”. All must agree that what was a great and generous offer to detectorists has failed. Soon they won’t have PAS to use as their figleaf but they’ll have another, equally effective one: the widespread belief held by the public (put around for 20 years by PAS to get their annual funding) that most detectorists are responsible and metal detecting is mostly fine.

The public belief that detecting is mostly “a good thing” has caused incalculable damage yet will survive long after PAS has gone, like cockroaches after a nuclear war. It’s not a good legacy. Will the PAS employees, free of their employment, start saying it’s wrong? We’ll soon see.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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