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The North of the Tyne Detecting Club re-assures landowners: “We work closely alongside the portable antiquities scheme and urge all members to be aware of the rules regarding reporting treasure & artefacts. Please familiarise yourselves with the Official Code”. But is it true? Well …

1.) We work closely alongside PAS. Why not “we report all recordable finds to“?

2.) We urge all members. Why not “insist“?

3.) To be aware of the rules. Why not just “keep to“?

4,)  Familiarise yourselves with the Official Code”. Again, why not just comply with?

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Four such “accidents” are clearly no accident, but if you’re still in doubt keep in mind almost every other club uses almost identical tricky words and also promotes a substitute Code to farmers rather than the official one. We’ve dubbed it The Dishonesty Code as it establishes 5.) “we don’t have to report all recordable finds to PAS” and 6.) “we don’t have to show you anything unless we judge it to be unusual”

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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The Examination has closed. The Examining Authority is preparing its recommendations. Now is the time to define exactly what’s at stake. The line of the road is now unlikely to be changed so whatever archaeology is revealed during the current trial pits will be lost and preserved only “by record”. That’s often reasonable, for without preservation by record nothing could ever be built. But in a World Heritage landscape? The clue’s in the name. Isn’t true preservation owed here – else our promise to the world is broken.

There are loads of examples of true preservation in the World Heritage Site. Woodhenge, The Sanctuary and the Stonehenge mesolithic posts are marked on the surface with posts or slabs and visited by millions, but are still truly preserved underground and available for future research. Here’s Woodhenge:

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and here’s another, yet-to-be discovered, unfortunately positioned, possible Woodhenge. Let’s call it Unluckyhenge ….

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and here’s how Highways England will protect Unluckyhenge and all the other unlucky archaeology that lies in the way of the new road ….

That, in essence, is the issue. Should Britain tell the world “preservation by record” is justified in a World Heritage Site, in order to deliver the cheapest version of the vote-catching policy of a Prime Minister-but-two ago? Let’s hope the Examining Authority says no.

Here’s Tintagel as depicted by William Trost Richards in 1879: wild, mysterious, accessed only via a small aesthetically unobtrusive bridge at low level:

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And here it is today, fully accessible (if you pay loads) via a high-level, avant garde bridge, justified on the grounds it “reinstates the original route when there was a natural connection” but which is entirely foreign to the monument. Who can pretend the essence of Tintagel has been “improved”?

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So it’s been made into a cash cow, by expert milkmaids, forced to be self-financing by the government. Which brings us to Stonehenge: if the A303 upgrade goes ahead English Heritage will have a virtual monopoly on seeing the stones and their visitor numbers and revenue will soar. Hence, despite their role as heritage guardians, they are telling everyone the work will “enhance” the monument!

Such a position might well be termed “Tintagelism”!

 

Next month the Society of Antiquities will hold a conference about the Staffordshire Hoard. For us, the most significant part will be the last session, which asks “where should Hoard studies go from here?” It’s no secret where we have long thought hoard studies should go next – up the A5 and turn left at Hammerwich and slowly walk around Mr Fred Johnson’s field with a Minelab 5000 to see if there’s more of the hoard still to be found.

As is well known, we’re confident the machines used in the official searches were nowhere near the capability of the ones available to every night time scruff who fancies a bit of searching. But here’s something new: we’ve just found out we’re not alone, here’s the testament of Warren, an eye witness detectorist, about the final official search in December 2012:

“I popped over to have a chat with the detectorists, and they were not very talkative. All the one guy said to me was that they were doing a survey for English Heritage. I noticed their detectors were of many different makes and abilities. There is no way that land is sterile yet, the latest detectors will give more depth and better results. I noticed a couple of the guys had XLT, which is a good machine but not up to the depth and recovery rates of the new machines.”

So now it’s not just us. We do wonder whether CBA, English Heritage, APPAG, and Rescue will continue to look the other way about this …. ?

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PS: for the avoidance of doubt, the above sets of footprints lead not from a gate but from a fence surmounted by barbed wire and terminate in two excavated holes, so there’s no way they were made by the farmer, bird watchers, dog walkers or Historic England inspectors.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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This weekend in Britain many thousands of archaeological artefacts will be dug up and retained, unreported, by the finders. Meanwhile ….
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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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The press tend to manoevre people into inappropriate poses, as this recent image of archaeologists at the site of the Battle of Worcester demonstrates. In this case it’s particularly regrettable as it’s highly artefact-centric, which Archaeology isn’t but metal detecting is.

 

Two archaeologists and some people who aren’t

 

There are hundreds of thousands of pictures of metal detectorists posing exactly like that (e.g. see inset) but very few of archaeologists doing it. There’s a reason. For detectorists the aim is to possess the find for themselves but for archaeologists the aim is to gain archaeological knowledge – for everyone.

The danger of blurring la différence is clear: farmers may mistake the former for the latter. (Although, there are other ways of telling: if they arrive saying We’m hamatcher istoricides hain’t us” they’re probably not archaeologists!)

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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In 2012 we shamed Regtons, Britain’s largest detecting shop, into abandoning their support for the dishonest National Council for Metal Detecting Code in favour of the official responsibility code. Sadly they’ve now gone back on that.

It’s sad but also symptomatic of how things are. Almost every detectorist and detecting club and pay-to-dig outfit tell farmers they follow that NCMD code and are therefore to be trusted. Yet, for the avoidance of all doubt, here are the two carefully crafted con-tricks that code embodies:

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1.) “Report all unusual historical finds to the landowner”
“Unusual”, see? Instead of “recordable”. Which leaves the detectorist free to decide which finds, if any, he reveals to the landowner.

2.)Acquaint yourself with current NCMD policy relating to the voluntary reporting of portable antiquities”
“Acquaint yourself with”, see? Not “comply with”. And to be doubly sure, the NCMD policy doesn’t insist on reporting all recordable finds to PAS anyway.


 

Clever, n’estce pas? Every day, thousands of detectorists tell thousands of farmers they’re “responsible”, not by pledging they’ll follow the official code but by waving a shameful, self-serving piece of paper which hides the two messages “we don’t have to show you anything unless we judge it to be unusual” and “we don’t have to report all recordable finds to PAS.” It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if PAS, CBA and Rescue pointed this out to farmers and explained that only the official code will do. Any chance?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Jennifer Dykes, a Nottinghamshire vet has won first prize in the ‘All creatures great and small’ category of the BVA Veterinary Photographer of the Year competition for a photograph of two sheep seemingly ‘in conversation’ on a misty morning at Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Lake District.

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US National Park Service: “The construction of President Trump’s border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border could damage — or even destroy — up to 22 archaeological sites at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona”.

Which begs the question: how many archaeological sites in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site will be damaged or destroyed by the construction of the approach roads to the short tunnel?

If you haven’t heard an estimate of that it can only mean one of two things: either Highways England, English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust don’t know the answer or that they do but are frit to tell you.

The best thing any  of us can do is to demand they reveal which. How can it be acceptable for the US National Park Service to have released that pivotal information whereas the UK’s World Heritage Site guardians haven’t?

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The Stonehenge Guardians: “Relax, it’ll be fine ….”

 

Lately there’s been much talk on detecting forums about “dodgy” UK detecting holidays for Americans. It’s not new. For decades it’s been widely claimed that finds are “seeded” for customers to “discover” things. “Its pretty much like the big game hunting where caged lions are shot by these guys with plenty of money to spend.”

But the puzzle has been that despite those endless warnings the Americans keep coming – and paying their £2,000 fees, apparently unmoved by talk that their prize finds might have come from EBay. But last week in America there was a possible clue to their mindsets: “The Moonshine Open Treasure Hunt” offered participants the chance, for 90 dollars a day, “to dig up thousands of old silver coins and hundreds of real Civil War bullets that have been buried in a specific area for a timed event.”.

Could it be that they know the risks in Britain but they wear mental blinkers, as what really matters to them are their bragging rights when they get back home?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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