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Paul Barford has recently said “It’s not about a “love of history” but a consumerist “love of HAVING”.  Blimey! That’s a bold claim when detectorists can validly say “He can’t possibly know what we’re thinking”.

However, there’s other clear evidence he’s broadly right in that the number of finds reported is implausibly small relative to the number of detectorists. But the truth of that is rarely acknowledged publicly. What’s needed, to settle the matter, is some different, concrete evidence that can’t be denied or ignored. He seems to have hit upon exactly that when he says:

“As you can see, this spade has got a nasty serrated edge for cutting through roots and anything else that’s there to get to the good stuff. Of course if you are following the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales and keeping off pasture and out of undisturbed woodland etc, then you’ll not need that.”

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Who can deny it? A huge number of detectorists have one of those. Why? PAS rarely calls a spade a spade in public but not mentioning – and totally condemning – the use of serrated spades by metal detectorists is really not telling the public a very significant truth.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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These pictures are unlike anything you’ll see English Heritage, Historic England, or The National Trust publishing at Stonehenge and they aren’t like anything Highways England will be featuring in their forthcoming propaganda video. They show work near the HS2 South Portal approaching the Chiltern tunnel.

Why is that reality being shared and the Stonehenge one isn’t? Probably because the Chiltern tunnel approach roads don’t smash through a mile of iconic prehistoric landscape!

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These are the sort of Stonehenge pictures the Government won’t be submitting to UNESCO (or indeed allowing the BBC to show to the world, if it can help it.) It’s one thing to imply it will all be careful keyhole surgery in which little will be destroyed and quite another to take one look at the reality!

Who would YOU believe, Dear Reader? Michael Gove or one of the blokes driving those diggers?

The fact Highways England, a roads provider, acts like a roads advocate (and often like a used car salesman) is hardly news. But this account from a pro-scheme campaigner revealing what they’re up to is remarkable:
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“This company (Motiv Productions) will be filming in our High Street and around the area commencing Monday coming, on behalf of Highways England. They’re going to “do me first” and will talk to ordinary folks going about their business walking, cycling, riding, or just taking in the general workings of our busy village. The film when complete, will be presented to the Government to assist with their decision on November 13th.”
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Like many places nationwide, the village in question is affected by traffic with its ‘London Road’ a clue to this being an issue of historical significance. The traffic will continue to increase locally no matter what happens to the A303, the tunnel won’t see pavements introduced where absent, nor reduce the speed of everyone rushing about their daily lives. Yet the World Heritage Site would be grievously damaged. The choice really is a no-brainer.
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Highways England has latched on to the people thinking parochially, sending them personal messages and telling the public the star advantage of their wretched scheme is traffic reduction in local villages. But paying for a propaganda film to “assist” the Government’s decision?  that, the decision is imminent, it must be for propaganda to be aimed at the public if the tunnel is approved. So it’s to prepare for a scenario that may well not arise. In other words, they’re spaffing money up the wall. Our money. To persuade us our world heritage should be destroyed.
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Update.
We have now received this message:
“Just to correct my post of 10th October on Facebook/Stonehengetrafficactiongroup The last sentence was not entirely accurate. I understand that the video will not be used ahead of the Secretary of States decision on November 13th. Thank you, Janice Hassett,”
So it seems we were perfectly correct to say the film can’t be to aid the Government’s decision and it is indeed a propaganda film aimed at the general public.

Weekend Wanderers have canceled today’s metal detecting rally in Hampshire because it’s easily accessible from London (Coronavirus Zone 2,  High Risk). The organisers say they cannot go ahead with digs “until we feel comfortable that we are doing the right thing.

By contrast, Let’s Go Digging and “Sovereign Metal Detecting Rallys” (sic) are holding digs today in Gloucestershire and Shropshire respectively, accepting people from the equally accessible areas of Birmingham and the West Midlands (also in Zone 2, High Risk).

Behaviours under the British “voluntary” system vary wildly, which is why it was always wrong-headed and against the national interest. Well, PAS? What price “we need to be pragmatic” today?

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UPDATE 19/10/20: The Gloucestershire rally went ahead but we understand the Shropshire one was banned.

That makes two rallies banned recently (Pink Wellies and Sovereign) and one shut down by police halfway through (Let’s Go Digging) but one allowed to go ahead and more than one rally per week scheduled for the rest of the year by Let’s Go Digging (consider the takings, health implications and possible unreported heritage that implies).

Is it too much to hope that the archaeological bodies should get round a table with the police and DCMS and sort this out before next week? (Lest PAS are frit to offend detectorists we suggest they ask around and check the detecting forums for once. All detectorists other than the attendees appear to despise the existence of pay-to-dig rallies, so why the blue blazes are they still allowed to happen?)


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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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There have been reactions to last week’s launch of our new (notional) club and before we flesh it out further here are our comments about those:

It’s an obvious truth that our simple Code of Conduct, “detect only to gain knowledge and only for the benefit of the public” is far less damaging than “responsible detecting” and produces more knowledge for society as it involves no finds agreements, no rewards, no taking artefacts home, no profit motive and no acting without the assent of local archaeologists.

Just one archaeologist has said it’s “pointless” because no detectorist will agree. But that’s insulting to those who we know do agree and who already act like that. So we think it’s actually a no-brainer. Of course, it won’t appeal to most detectorists but so what? It’s well worth promoting as for more than 20 years detectorists have been told a sub-optimal, compromise code is the maximum to which they should aspire. They should be reminded there’s a far better way to behave than that, like tens of thousands of amateur archaeologists already do without fuss or complaint.

Various detectorists (but not all) have reacted badly to it, exhibiting the same fury they employed against all previous proposals for reform including by PAS, ourselves and the latest Institute of Detectorists one, namely that it will create a two-level hobby with the ones at the bottom (them!) losing out. All we can say to that, is YES, the sooner the better! PAS has been trying to get them all to be “responsible” for 2 decades yet most still aren’t so it’s high time to admit, like we and the Institute of Detectorists imply, that most will NEVER co-operate and only the others matter. Morlochs and Eloi spring to mind !

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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“We are devastated to report that Big Basin State Park, as we have known it, loved it, and cherished it for generations, is gone.Big Basin was created in 1902 as California’s first attempt to protect the towering native redwood trees which are between 1,000 and 1,800 years old.

A crumb of comfort is the existence of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a secure vault situated on a remote Norwegian island on the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, a last-resort backup for the world’s 1,750 other seed banks in case of a global catastrophe.

However, it contains no archaeology seeds – and, even if that was possible it would be unnecessary in the eyes of English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust since at Stonehenge they are supporting the destruction of unique world heritage archaeology 5 times older than those trees.

Lucky they’re not in charge of the world’s flora and fauna, eh?

Yet more tricky words! Historic England says the Durrington Pits investigations were adequate to ensure that any features of a similar nature to these within the DCO limits would have been detected.English Heritage says the documentation is “sufficiently robust” to address concerns about “the features“.

So in both cases the reassurance is only about Durrington Pits type features, not the dozens of other types of archaeological features that may be there. Why? Because, as Vince Gaffney and Paul Garwood have said, Highways England has “insufficient baseline knowledge and understanding” of what is in the path of the new road. “In short, they do not know what is there“.

The public is being grievously ill-served. The certainty of massive destruction was implicit from the start in any plan to dig up a mile of World Heritage landscape yet its promoters are avoiding admitting it using what looks like carefully co-ordinated verbal trickery. It’s phenakism, pure, and simple.

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They have a strong chance of winning, for at the same time they are supporting hiding Stonehenge from millions of travellers they are planning from next March to raise the cost of spending an hour inside the circle for a family of five to an eye-watering £190 !!

It’s worth reflecting that if they get their way neither the millions who travel on the A303 nor the few who pay a fortune to go inside the stones will ever see a rainbow over the monument again. And that will be forever. How’s that for destroying Outstanding Universal Value?

 

 

It occurred to us there isn’t a club or code of conduct for detectorists who just want to metal detect for the love of history alone. Surely, among 27,000 detectorists, there are some who want a club like that? So we’ve made one!

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It’s the first detecting club dedicated to promoting the public’s interest alone. It’s purely for detectorists who believe anything they find belongs to the landowner (or if special, to the country) not them, and who gain their pleasure from gaining the historic knowledge alone. What’s more, they believe the knowledge surrounding artefacts is everyone’s so shouldn’t be withheld or destroyed.

Those simple beliefs are the essence of this club: If we dig, it’s in pursuit of knowledge, not possession. Without that guiding principle, we don’t think it would be right for us to rummage in the public’s historical back yard.

We should stress this isn’t another version of “responsible detecting”. It’s better described as “acceptable metal detecting” for we’re pretty sure, if you speak to any archaeologist, they’ll think it’s the best. Accordingly, since every week hundreds of new people take up metal detecting, in the next few weeks we’ll suggest some of the things they should do if they want to align with our notional club and to act acceptably, in the public’s interest.

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HERITAGE JOURNAL METAL DETECTING CLUB GUIDANCE FOR MEMBERS

1. Getting permission                                                            

    • Please don’t rush to the nearest farmer and ask if you can start. Remember, the knowledge you may unearth doesn’t belong to him or you, it belongs to everyone and he may not know whether it’s appropriate or safe to detect in his bit of society’s historical back yard.
    • So first, (as Historic England advises) contact the Local Authority Archaeologist and local Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer and say “I’m thinking of asking for permission at a particular farm or area – is it OK? They may say yes/yes except certain places/maybe yes but come back when you can be more specific/ or no.
    • Please abide by their advice. They represent society. Why would you rummage in society’s backyard without society’s permission?

    2. Talking to the landowner

    • You can ask, but please don’t try to persuade. The very first thing you should do is to give him the contact details of the archaeologists you spoke to as he should be advised by them, not you. That’s a basic element of fair-dealing: a decision shouldn’t be influenced by someone with a vested interest. However well-meaning, they may have an unconscious bias.
    • Next, you should give him a signed undertaking that says: we dig for the pleasure of knowledge, not possession, and anything we find belongs to you, the landowner (or, if it’s special) to the country) and consequently, we don’t want a find-sharing agreement, we only ask that everything recordable is shown to the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
    • If he asksare you a member of the NCMD or FID? we suggest you say yes (if you have needed to for insurance cover) but no with regard to following their codes of conduct which are vague and involve find sharing agreements which you don’t want or a clear commitment to showing everything recordable to PAS, which you do.
    • If he asks do you follow the official Code of Practice for England and Wales we suggest you say: broadly, yes, although its recommendation to get a finds agreement to avoid future problems is irrelevant as you don’t wish to own anything.
    • If he asks what about treasure rewards we suggest you say you won’t accept one as doing so would mean your declaration that you dig for the pleasure of knowledge, not possession would be rendered hypocritical, but if he wishes to accept a reward that’s up to him.
    • If he asks what will happen to the finds we suggest you say that’s up to him as he owns them (unless any belong to the country) but can he please show them to PAS (or we will, on his behalf). Thereafter, he could keep them as a collection (we could tabulate them for him) or offer them to a museum or give them to his  local archaeology group, parish council or school.

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    NEXT WEEK:   3. Conduct in the fields

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    More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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