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By Nigel Swift

A detectorist on a forum (Geoman) has just put his finger on something important:

The more detectorists that are led down the path of the comodification of the casual loss archaeological resource the further away the hobby get from its roots – it is a hobby. This process started with the Treasure Act defining certain classes of finds Treasure and unlike the old Treasure Trove, agreeing to pay a market reward for any claimed by the Crown. This theme has developed with every annual Treasure report launch at the British Museum, media hype or TV programme glorifying items as though they are common place finds to an eager public wanting some of it. And who are doing the pushing ? the PAS,museums and various academic archaeologists and historians … eager for the publicity”.

Although I don’t agree they do it for publicity per se, it looks very much as if The Establishment do it as an encouragement, leaning over backwards to give excessive praise wherever there’s a chance, even though finding something ancient or gold reveals neither talent nor virtue nor does reporting it and (too rarely) donating it.

Reporting and donating aren’t praiseworthy at all, they are the normal behaviour that ought to be expected of responsible citizens, not something that should be overly-praised like one might do to a toddler who does the right thing. That way can only lead – and does –to more recruits to the activity, something which, for all their carefully worded positivity, no archaeologist wants.

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