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Back in 2012 our notional farmer, Silas Brown, asked English Heritage and the Council for British Archaeology when they’d publish a metal detecting finds agreement stressing that finds belong to the farmers. They still haven’t!

Yet English Heritage published a finds agreement for official archaeological projects (which lots of detectorists sign) saying: “I understand that all finds from the site, other than Treasure shall remain the property of the landowner and I will not claim ownership, possession, or any other right in such finds”.

By contrast, official advice on “hobby detecting” only says “get an agreement in writing first regarding the ownership of any finds subsequently discovered” i,e, without stressing the finds are the landowner’s so must immediately be delivered to him so he can get independent advice on their significance and value, and only then make an informed decision on whether to share any of them.”

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The above image from PAS in Merseyside typifies the unjust official attitude to the rights of landowners. The caption says “Bob makes sure to ask Farmer Jack for permission to search his land“ but shouldn’t it also be saying: “Farmer Jack stresses that the artefacts are all HIS and he’ll only consider sharing any of them once Bob has delivered them to him!” It’s a vivid example of how officialdom is letting landowners down. But why, still, after all these years?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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