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The Treasure Act is being extended to include artefacts which provide a special insight into a particular person or event, or can shed new light on important regional histories. Sounds good! Or at least, it would be good if it was aimed at true amateur archaeologists, people who were solely interested in adding to knowledge and were capable of making such judgements or who were more than willing to ask the Portable Antiquities specialists to do so. But metal detectorists?

No-one can deny many of them have two extra motivations: a wish to keep or a wish to cash in, and those make all the difference. As a result, Andy Brockman has it right: “The risk is material will either not be reported at all for fear it could be declared Treasure, or that it may be laundered by auction as being from the collection of an anonymous antiquarian, or a detectorist now sadly deceased?” To which we would add: “or by find-spot laundering”.

In other words, if an article found at a detecting rally near Windermere is said to have been found at a detecting rally near Wolverhampton then its “local significance” would be stolen and Diggy Darren couldn’t be held liable for not declaring it. “How would I know mate?” All that remains to be determined is…

how many Diggy Darrens are there?



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting



February 2023

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