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When it comes to “engagement” with metal detectorists you’d be forgiven for thinking some archaeologists don’t read the detecting forums much. If they did they’d know that 90% of detectorists oppose licensing and are violently opposed to rules other than their own – why else do you suppose they’ve invented their own substitute reponsibility codes? So licenses would have two certain outcomes:

  1. ANOTHER five years of misbehaviour and damage, on top of the previous 23, until the authorities finally realised they were dealing mostly with artefact hunters not amateur archaeologists.
  2. Thousands of people resentful of authority or any diminution of their “freedom” to act as they wish will find their new notional role of PAS paymasters an ideal opportunity to tell PAS how things ought to be not vice versa!

So please, let archaeologists who think licensing will work get themselves onto half a dozen detecting forums. Rather than fiddling while Rome burns for another five years let them look through the window.

Many people have been fighting against damage to the Stonehenge World Heritage Landscape for more than 20 years, sometimes publicly and sometimes behind the scenes.

Words have been the chosen weapons, not annoying farming allies by camping illegally, not alienating archaeologist allies by intruding onto archaeology, and not infuriating the rational public by virtue-littering the landscape with so-called “clooties”.

The only opposition to the tunnel that will have any chance whatsoever of succeeding and not lessening the chance of success and not being seized upon and welcomed by pro-tunnel advocates is the continued use of words and logical argument and those will continue to be employed, including by us.

Want to take the family to Stonehenge today?
Go for it!

Today: Family (2 adults + 2 children) £50.70 (and from next month £59.30!)


From the website:

A: “At 13 of our sites we’ve introduced peak, standard and off-peak tickets to help manage visitor numbers at the most popular times of year, and on the most popular days of the week.”


However, there are currently no overseas visitors and the site is running at ONE THIRD of visitor capacity.
If you think that indicates a money-grabbing quango which can’t be trusted with the public’s interest, just wait until English Heritage gets a virtual monopoly on even seeing the place!

Once you find the right farmer, you’d be daft not to keep going! 69 heritage heroes are about to start trying their luck metal detecting this morning (and tomorrow) near Moreton in Marsh. “A re-visit to the farm we did sunday gone but on 5 different fields this time , Prev detected also but always produce

Will there be an Iron Age settlement on it, like there is at the massive 4-day event this company is planning on Exmoor in June (exact location not yet revealed)? We don’t know, all we know is that previous finds in Moreton have included “Saxon, Roman and Celtic”. We’d tell you more if we could but as always with Let’s Go Digging events, the exact location is only revealed the night before to those who have paid. It avoids “troublemaking” by local archaeos and busybodies, see?

Please hurry up with the reforms, Portable Antiquities Advisory Group. Isn’t a decade long enough to have allowed this sort of event to have gone on? Why must Britain be the conservation ruffian of Europe? Or indeed the world? Where else is such an event going on this morning? Nowhere, as in other places these people would simply be locked up.

by Nigel Swift

This week a detectorist asked Prof Michael Lewis if Tuesday’s portable antiquities advisory group meeting would be “positive” about rallies and was told “To be honest, not really“. About time! It’s been a whole decade since Mike Heyworth of the CBA called for “more research to be carried out on the damage to archaeological sites and lost knowledge due to rallies“.

The very low “reporting yield” from perhaps a million man-hours of searching at rallies in 10 years is there for all to see, despite efforts to boost it (PAS attending rallies, issuing guidance and publishing a rally code, all now abandoned). The only other possible solution, licensing the events, can never work since rally organisers have zero control over what their customers pocket.

The elephant in the room is that it takes you 3 years of hard study to be an archaeologist but you can buy a detector today and be digging randomly for gain at a rally tomorrow and that’s no way for a country to conserve history. Why shouldn’t archaeologists simply say so? We’ve never met a professional who doesn’t think pay-to-dig rallies aren’t destructive and a national humiliation.


It has been suggested to us that the two Lets Go Digging commercial metal detecting rallies cancelled yesterday and today and the replacement one in Moreton in Marsh happening right now aren’t damaging or unciivilised and are actually a glorious search for knowledge by worthy amateurs. As to that, citing the two recent announcements by the organiser are sufficient answer:

The value of finds not needing to be shared with the landowner has been increased to £3.000 because thats “only fair”.

If a “treasure” reward is payable the farmers “should only keep half of anything over £3000 so if it’s under and they get paid they should pay the finder the money they received.”

What does PAS say about that? We can’t tell you. On Facebook some elements of PAS interact with some of the most blatantly self-seeking individuals in Britain but have blocked us.

The only sort of people (a couple of them could be us, we’re not saying!) who ought to be visiting Moreton in Marsh today. Sad, isn’t it?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

“Responsible metal detecting” produces 16,000 Google hits. But what about responsible farmers who say “NO, letting you hold a detecting rally here wouldn’t be in my interest or the country’s as PAS says it is almost impossible for archaeologists (when invited) to make a proper record of all objects found. That’s good enough for me. Why should I ignore PAS on the say-so of random unqualified blokes at my gate with vested interests?”

Archaeologists will be glad a Gloucestershire farmer has cancelled today’s and tomorrow’s Let’s Go Digging commercial rallies on his land because (so the organiser reports) attendees had been “disrespecting the land“. 5 more farms had also just been lost “for litter, gates, holes, ruts in grass and beer cans in hedges.”


UPDATE: Disappointingly though, the farmer has now relented for future events: “After speaking to our Gloucester farmer I have managed to stop us from losing these farms and can confirm we have still got them for future use”. So no gold medal for the farmer after all and soon he’ll be selling prospecting rights once more in situations where proper recording would be “almost impossible” if PAS attended, which they won’t be. How much are we all losing as a result of these twice-weekly events? And how much do farmers lose thanks to the nakedly acquisitive Let’s Go Digging rule, “finds worth up to £3,000 are the finder’s”? No-one knows the answer to either question, but “a great deal” is certain.


A “heritage hero” but only for a week!


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

We can do no better to celebrate the day than to show this, available at the Stonehenge shop of English Heritage, the authoritative body committed to educating, informing, and conserving our heritage which is currently campaigning to hide Stonehenge from millions of travelers forever.


We confess, this isn’t prehistoric but we like it:


It is thought to have been William Langland inspiration for Pierrs Ploughman and of it he wrote

“Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie
And see the coloured counties
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky”

And here, C.S. Lewis wrote of how he communed with Divinity behind Nature; and nearby Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings was first recorded on tape. The American Branch of the Richard III Society makes a small annual donation here and here Sir Edward Elgar and his wife now rest.

Yesterday National Trust Archaeology celebrated #WorldHeritageDay with an attractive image of Sycamore Gap, Hadrian’s Wall. It’s excellent but we couldn’t help reflecting the management of National Trust doesn’t treat ALL World Heritage sites with such appreciation. Imagine if they’d campaigned to inflict this massive scar at Sycamore Gap like at the Stonehenge World Heritage site …


May 2021

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