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Listen to the sound of the Iron Age. Here is musician John Kenny playing a replica of the Deskford carnyx, an Iron Age war trumpet that dates from 80-200AD. The original was found in Scotland and is the only one known in Britain – until recently.

A miniature one was found in Surrey by a metal detectorist. Most people would think it should have been donated to a museum yet it has just been sold at auction for a modest £3,400, hardly a king’s ransom after commission and sharing with the landowner.

How did this happen? How could a detectorist with 30 years of experience ignore the obvious fact that it belonged in a museum and should have been donated? And what of the landowner? Who advised him in the matter? Would he have acted differently if he had been asked?

It’s time to dream

Of Summer …

As everyone knows, The Transport Secretary has openly admitted that the road scheme would cause permanent and irreversible harm to the World Heritage Site.

Yet National Highways has just told the public that the scheme will “remove the sight and the sound of the traffic from the Stonehenge landscape and the World Heritage Site.”

Oh dear.


30 Nov 2021:
“National Highways will not award key contracts for the A303 Stonehenge tunnel scheme until its future is decided, Construction News can reveal.”

Quite a shift from National Highways’ previous policy which was to carry on regardless. In September the Stonehenge Alliance warned them that “With the consent for the A303 Stonehenge having been quashed in the High Court, any consideration of letting contracts in connection with building a new road in Stonehenge World Heritage Site seems both premature and arrogant.”

It seems National Highways now agrees! Was it told to?

By Nigel Swift

The Association for Metal Detecting Sport is offering £10 million insurance cover for £5 a year, cheaper than the NCMD.

But a detectorist has asked: “Would a new organisation have the same clout with the powers that be, as the NCMD has built up over the years?” That strikes me as deluded. The NCMD refuses to endorse the real Code of Responsible Metal Detecting and runs its own inferior version so of course it can have no clout with the powers that be. Obviously.

The new organisation may well be successful in gaining recruits (many detectorists say “I’m only in the NCMD for the insurance cover” so an alternative that costs less is likely to be popular). But “clout”? No, not unless it endorses the official code, which we can all assume is mighty unlikely.


Delusions of clout


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

By Nigel Swift

The Portable Antiquities Scheme has just launched a video featuring lots of Establishment figures explaining how important it is for detectorists to abide by the proper Code of Practice. Good.

But a large number don’t and most of them are members of the Council for Metal Detecting which refuses to endorse the Code of Practice and has published its own, far weaker, code which doesn’t oblige members to report non-treasure items to PAS, but seems to.

I’ve spent many years wasting my breath begging PAS and archaeologists to warn farmers not to be misled by claims of false valour. They haven’t, and this was an ideal moment for them to do so. In my opinion not conning the landowner about your behaviour is the single most important thing a detectorist should be doing for the farmer, science, archaeology and the country yet there’s not a word on the video about that from the professionals.

In my opinion, that’s just not right. It lets everybody down.


A scammer who posed as a United States Navy veteran and defrauded innocent Americans of almost a quarter of a million dollars is heading to federal prison.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Trail Hunting on National Trust land is banned!


Still allowed: riding for fun.

Another public landowner, the Malvern Hills Trust, has put moral pressure on the National Trust. The Board of Trustees expressed concerns over the number of infringements of its Trail Hunting policy over the past four years and has decided to ban the activity indefinitely. The level of scrutiny at Malvern was far greater than anything the National Trust could concoct so any plan by the latter to “tighten up and still allow” now looks impossible.

Scrutiny does not work. Hounds do not read the memo.

Incidentally, Malvern Hills is another body that has a purpose very similar to the National Trust’s claim to look after land “forever, for everyone … “We protect and manage the iconic Malvern Hills and Commons on behalf of the nation. Our work keeps this diverse landscape open to all and maintains its rich cultural and natural heritage”. “Open to all” does not include people indulging in something the vast majority of people oppose. National Trust, please note.

Malvern Hills: open to all, within reason.

Natural Resources Wales has banned trail hunting PERMANENTLY! It said it could not be sure that trail hunting was not still being used as a “cover” for illegal activity. The significance of this is that many other public bodies are now sure to follow.

This piles a lot of moral pressure on the Trust, currently vacillating suspiciously despite a vote to ban it.

Interestingly, the Trust has previously defended its position by saying it looks after its land “for everyone, forever” which is remarkably similar to what Natural Resources Wales says: “Our purpose is to ensure that the natural resources of Wales are sustainably maintained, used and enhanced, now and in the future.”

By Nigel Swift

Paul Barford has just highlighted that PAS has reached a milestone of 1 million records. I predict much self-congratulation as well as the usual praise for detectorists. However, as he points out:

“There’s a bit of a problem for those who want to use this as a symbol of PAS “success” and that “most English and Welsh detectorists are responsible”. My Revised Artefact Erosion Counter that (nota bene) nobody has yet falsified, and is still the best available estimate in the absence of any other, says today that some 9,681,409 finds and groups of associated finds have been hoiked by artefact hunters (that’s just the ones with metal detectors) since the PAS began. So that translates into a rate of “one-in-nine responsible“, not very impressive, is it? But Bonkers Britain will soldier on, until it’s all gone. Then the archaeological establishment will express in shocked surprise: “oh!”.

I disagree with him. It isn’t just not very impressive. 8 in 9 not reporting all their recordable finds is a bloody outrage. And yes, it looks as if Bonkers Britain will soldier on, until all the hotspots they can find are gone.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


December 2021

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