You are currently browsing the daily archive for 14/08/2020.

This week there were some truly annoying statements on Twitter from PAS officers: “Make clear which Code of Practice you intend to adhere to so that landowners can make informed decisions about access to their land” but “Of course we would prefer that people adhere to the @findsorguk CoP”.

Why does PAS talk in that wimpish fashion, implying that not being responsible is a matter of choice? Frit to be seen to be displeasing detectorists? It’s crazy. Farmers and detectorists should be told that only the PAS CoP insists on reporting all reportable finds and is the only one that conforms to the official definition of responsibility agreed by all the archaeological bodies and is, therefore, the only one that is responsible.

How come it is down to amateurs, ordinary members of the public, to see that obvious truth and to state it? We recall that back in 2009,  having searched in vain for a clear expression of opinion by an official body relating to the moral issues which recreational and entrepreneurial digging for archaeological artefacts raise, we suggested this, which PAS can’t possibly disagree with and which therefore should govern what they say …


          A Portable Antiquities Charter [Heritage Journal, March 2009]

1. Archaeology, whether static or portable, is a physical manifestation of History.

2. Consequently, while physical archaeology may be owned individually or collectively it also has an abstract component, knowledge, which is a common inheritance and therefore collectively owned.

3. Physical ownership can be conveniently defined by laws. Knowledge cannot be. Hence, knowledge is indisputably owned but cannot be effectively asserted by its owners, which is the antithesis of ownership. It follows that if society’s claim to ownership of its own history is not to be surrendered it must be actively asserted, if not in law then as a moral principle.

4. From this moral principle flow the following moral assumptions which society has a duty to itself to declare and act upon in relation to the knowledge unearthed during the deliberate recovery of buried portable antiquities by any individual or group, whether motivated by pleasure, interest, profit, conservation or scholarship:

(I) No single individual or group can morally lay claim to, annexe, conceal or destroy it.

(ii) Any deliberate unearthing or removal of buried archaeology, irrespective of legal rights, ownerships or permissions, cannot be held to be moral unless it is done with the consent of and in a manner approved by wider society including the delivery of any and all knowledge relating to the act which society may require.


Let PAS never again imply that the detectorists’ own NCMD or FID codes, written by two bodies that refuse to endorse the PAS code and which don’t require all reportable finds to be reported, are an acceptable option.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


August 2020

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