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This week the Climate Change Committee painted a bleak picture of numerous British plants and animals facing extinction. Tom Holland probably voices most people’s reaction: “I can’t bear the thought of living in a country without hedgehogs or dormice“.

Of course, being a civilised country, we often mobilise to reverse specific losses. Thus there are now sea eagles on the South Coast of England for the first time in 240 years. However, reintroductions are a double-edged sword, distracting from the fact some extinctions are forever. Hence, few people care that an army of detectorists is engaged in removing archaeological artefacts from the fields.

Yet those losses, especially when not reported, are the worst, for they’re irreversible: not a single unreported archaeological artefact will ever be replaced nor will any archaeological site exhausted in secret. Sadly such losses are both avoidable and unnecessary. They happen only for personal amusement or personal profit, hence toleration of them is largely confined to Britain.

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British extinction sites? No replacement, no reintroduction, no record

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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