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by Nigel Swift

For many years officialdom said artefact hunting was amateur archaeology, citizen archaeology, responsible detecting and even “PAS partnering”. But such claims were always against much embarrassing contrary evidence. “Random”, “selective” and “acquisitive” are hard to clothe in archaeological garb.

So lately a new phrase has been adopted: “metal detecting enthusiasts”. It’s in hundreds of press reports (often after PAS employees have been interviewed!). It’s hardly informative about what detectorists do but it has the two virtues of being factually correct yet incapable of being discredited by bad behaviour!

We think the earliest British coining of the phrase was March 2008 by rally organiser Norman Smith (he of the famous phrase “illegal detecting is now virtually non-existent”) but it gained little traction until recently. Now, a Google search for “metal detecting enthusiasts” gets you an amazing 8,710 hits!

I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I think this whole process is wrong. Creepy, even. The public, farmers and posterity are being misled and ill-served through Britain’s silent protection of industrial-scale treasure hunting.

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Even the T-shirt makers know what’s going on.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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