by Nigel Swift

This week a detectorist asked Prof Michael Lewis if Tuesday’s portable antiquities advisory group meeting would be “positive” about rallies and was told “To be honest, not really“. About time! It’s been a whole decade since Mike Heyworth of the CBA called for “more research to be carried out on the damage to archaeological sites and lost knowledge due to rallies“.

The very low “reporting yield” from perhaps a million man-hours of searching at rallies in 10 years is there for all to see, despite efforts to boost it (PAS attending rallies, issuing guidance and publishing a rally code, all now abandoned). The only other possible solution, licensing the events, can never work since rally organisers have zero control over what their customers pocket.

The elephant in the room is that it takes you 3 years of hard study to be an archaeologist but you can buy a detector today and be digging randomly for gain at a rally tomorrow and that’s no way for a country to conserve history. Why shouldn’t archaeologists simply say so? We’ve never met a professional who doesn’t think pay-to-dig rallies aren’t destructive and a national humiliation.