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It’s no secret that here at Heritage Action, we are no fans of the vast majority of metal detectorists. Whilst there may be a legitimate place for such instruments (sorting through spoil heaps on a dig, used as legitimate geofizz tools for analysis with no digging), it’s our avowed belief that on balance their use does more harm than good, and we make no apologies for our stance on the issue. 

Indeed, this stance is hardened when we hear the same propaganda being espoused by members of metal detecting clubs, and so we proudly present: the top 5 lies detectorists like to tell:

5. “I’m only in it for the history”

Headlines make history. Large payouts for treasure finds make headlines. Of course they’re only in it for the history, just not in the way they want us to think.

4. “It’s been in my collection for ages”

Of course, if it had been dug up recently, then it should have been declared as treasure…

3. “I got it off someone who’s had it in their family for years”

See above. Of course, lack of provenance makes an object less valuable, particularly for those studying the distribution of such objects…

2. “It’s only a piece of grot”

To a detectorist, possibly, probably only because the Ebay price is so low. If it’s only grot, why do so many detectorists have buckets full of the stuff? (Ref: YouTube)

And the top lie told by many detectorists:

1. “Of course, actually we’re saving the history before it corrodes in the ground” 

No, what you’re doing is damaging the context from which an object came, thus destroying the history. It’s not all about the shiny geegaws. A lot of detecting takes place on undisturbed land and even plough soil is a context – ask the Battlefields Trust! Corrosion is actually not a major problem in many soils, and gold wouldn’t corrode in a million years.

So what porkies have you heard from/about detectorists? Tell us in the comments.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


April 2021

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