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It’s a great conservation story: Large Blue butterflies have been reintroduced in the Cotswolds after being extinct in Britain for 150 years! We now have the largest number of this endangered species on earth. So, we’re now a conservation exemplar! In Lepidoptery, that is. In Archaeology it’s different: we plan to dig up a World Heritage landscape and …

We let 27,000 people collect archaeological artefacts for themselves! Yet no-one has collected butterflies and moths since the mid-20th century – it’s seen as damaging and naff. Yet detecting thrives – aided by a constant Establishment mantra which says if it’s done responsibly, it’s fine. It’s not, but they’re having to make the best of a bad legislative job.

Butterflies reproduce, artefacts don’t. Lepidopterists nurture, detectorists remove. Lepidopterists protect special environments, detectorists deplete “hot spots”. Lepidopterists need only a net, a mercury vapour lamp and a laptop, detecting is supercharged by money, including Government rewards. Lepidopterists celebrate the return of Large Blues while the inner voice of detecting is a scary female one saying No such thing as Society.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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