You are currently browsing the daily archive for 31/12/2022.

As usual, it was gentle, clever, and beguiling. Maybe a little short of its own previous heights but a triumph nevertheless. However:

As James Delingpole wrote in The Spectator “The Christmas special focused on the great moral dilemma faced by all detectorists: what to do if you find something totally amazing. Legally (and ethically) there’s only one option, you have to declare it” (to which we’d add, morally, also the hundreds of thousands of non-Treasure items that may be found).

Yet when the two main characters find an important Anglo-Saxon battlefield site one of them, Lance, is determined to keep it quiet and mine it for artefacts before telling the authorities. That is a crime under the terms of the Treasure Act and it’s also a moral crime against all of us – metal detecting only exists in Britain thanks to a 23-year-old social contract whereby it is tolerated providing detectorists report their finds.

He did start reporting eventually but the damage is done: the message is that cultural knowledge theft is merely amusing and harmless if the programme is gentle, clever, and beguiling. There are now said to be 40,000 detectorists and it may be that 90% of what they find isn’t revealed. Does highlighting the damage make one a spoilsport? No, ask the Portable Antiquities Scheme directly if you doubt it.



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


December 2022

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