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On 1st November 2001 something significant happened in the history of British heritage protection policy. Culture Secretary Baroness Blackstone announced that despite the requirements of the Valletta Convention Britain would not be introducing tighter controls on amateur archaeology groups. Although surprising, the decision not to comply with the Convention hasn’t been a big problem – major damage and rogue excavations by local amateur archaeology groups aren’t exactly rife, few amateur archaeologists are the sort to act in that way.

Still, that’s not to say the reason behind the decision wasn’t awful – and all too visible. A new organisation called the Portable Antiquities Scheme had just been set up based on the idea that metal detectorists would voluntarily report what they found and act in a less damaging fashion. Clearly it would have been an unspeakable juxtaposition if the government had insisted that highly respectable and meritorious amateur archaeologists must be licensed while leaving ten thousand artefact hunters feral and free to do exactly what they wanted. Hence Valletta was ignored and amateur archaeologists weren’t regulated, ensuring no-one could say there was any inconsistency with the free-for-all that had been allowed to remain out in the fields. Anyone with £99 to buy a Tesco’s detector and the social skills to tell a farmer he’s working for PAS is free to remove history from every single non-scheduled archaeological site in the country without limit and without a single word.

And Britain’s metal detectorists have certainly made the most of Britain’s aberrant position. In the 20 years that followed they have helped themselves to many millions of artefacts most of which they didn’t report and which have been totally lost to science. The government got it horribly wrong and this simple observation shows it’s true: there’s currently a Heritage Crime initiative being run on the basis that heritage crime is “any crime that harms the value of England’s heritage assets to this and future generations”. In any other country the taking of those artefacts without reporting them and the consequent “harm to the value of the nation’s heritage assets” would be included in the definition of “heritage crime” without a second thought. Here, it’s “heritage heroism”.


He can hardly cite widespread evidence for that claim since 99% of detectorists seem vehemently opposed to it. That’s more than unfortunate as public money has been put into it. In addition, there are three awkward realities he needs to acknowledge:

Detectorists have a record of claiming to farmers that they have good behaviour badges (i.e. loyalty to PAS) without necessarily behaving well so it follows that any further good behaviour badges are bound to be used in the same way.

PAS was right to say (in its 2000/2001 Report) that “The Scheme believes that people have a moral obligation to their heritage”, ergo archaeological plundering can be defined as finding without reporting. On that basis, most detectorists are guilty of plundering.

There is a worldwide consensus that the way to prevent that is to make it a crime.

(Of course, if he can show otherwise then fine, his Institute really will be “on its way”!)

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President Biden has reversed Donald Trump’s 85% cuts in the protection of the vast Bears Ears National Monument!

The US Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland, the first Indigenous cabinet secretary, fought back tears as she applauded the administration’s actions for “bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice”.

Joe Biden with interior secretary Deb Haaland

Might the same thing happen over here at a time when the focus of the world is on the good of the planet and its heritage, and Britain is keen to occupy the moral high ground at COP 26? After all, in a long-term context, how can cancelling the too-short tunnel and preserving the World Heritage landscape for humanity for another thousand years NOT be “bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice”?

It’s like this. There are SIX resolutions at the forthcoming AGM. The Trust make recommendations how their Members should vote in each. But there’s a seventh: “That the members agree that the National Trust will ban trail hunting, exempt hunting and hound exercise on their land”, which is clear enough.

For that, unlike the other six and despite holding a vote on it last time, the Trust says “We note the resolution and are keen to hear the views of the membership“. Now why would that be? Why would a perfectly clear resolution not be put to an immediate Members vote, like before and like the other six?

It seems obvious. In view of the huge public scandal which recently engulfed trail hunting the Trust is utterly frit the Members will vote to ban it in such numbers that this time they won’t be able to overturn it or ignore it. See? We predict that in due course they’ll announce a “new” and “stricter” set of rules for trail hunting which will enable it to continue on Trust land. Anyone care to bet?

In any normal, democratic organisation, this should have been the final end to giving permission for trail hunting. But no, the evidence suggests that won’t happen.

Like at the last AGM, if you are unable to attend you can appoint a proxy to vote in the way you wish. And as before, if you don’t specify how you wish to vote, the proxy will vote as they see fit.

But this year, you can only appoint ONE proxy, the Chair.

See?

by Nigel Swift

I was shocked recently to find a number of companies will hire high performing metal detectors for relative peanuts. Whether and how much the Minelab GPX 5000 could be hired in UK is uncertain but £45 a day is normal in Oz.

GPXs can go down to 18.5 to 24 inches, far below the ploughsoil, and over twice as far as the great majority of machines used in the official search for the Staffordshire Hoard. As we have explained many times, that performance gap makes nonsense of claims the full hoard has been recovered.

Yes, at £3,500 the GPX is expensive, but what if any scruff can hire one for a night for very little? For years we have shown, repeatedly, that the hoard field has been nighthawked, repeatedly, and if it is happening at a tiny hiring cost what a disgrace that archaeologists haven’t revisited the site, this time with the proper equipment!

Not rabbits. So where’s the official comment?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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You have to laugh! Conflict Antiquities@conflictantiq has said:

“Some people in Jordan are so poor that they have looted their own community’s cultural property to support themselves and their families”

Whereas in Britain, many thousands of people go out legally every weekend and find stuff in their own community and the next one and at a rally a hundred miles down the road without reporting it and not one of them does it through poverty!

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Is this hole in Jordan or Jordanthorpe?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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A 1776 image superimposed on a modern photograph.

Could the modern “head” have been an eye?

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Remember how we recently illustrated how the Nationasl Trust appears to be using a robot to answer questions about its support for the short tunnel at Stonehenge? Well it seems they’re also using one to answer fox hunting questions!

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Megan McCubbin @MeganMcCubbin I like to see things in colour but when it comes to fox hunting… it’s is black and white. Trail hunts are simply a smokescreen for cruelty. I’m calling on the @nationaltrust to permanently ban it.

National Trust: Hello Megan, we don’t allow illegal activity on our land, and if there’s clear evidence of illegal activity, this should be reported to the police, in addition to reporting to our staff.

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Clive Swinsco Well said Megan ; are you listening @nationaltrust

National Trust: Hello Clive, we don’t allow illegal activity on our land, and if there’s clear evidence of illegal activity, this should be reported to the police, in addition to reporting to our staff.

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Dom @d23ward How ignorant, I assumed it had been banned years ago. Are we still living in the dark ages?! More fun to be had paintballing or airsoft.

National Trust: Hello Dom, we don’t allow illegal activity on our land, and if there’s clear evidence of illegal activity, this should be reported to the police, in addition to reporting to our staff.

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Karin K-M Green It’s barbaric, not something we expect in 21st Century Britain!

National Trust: Hello Karin, we don’t allow illegal activity on our land, and if there’s clear evidence of illegal activity, this should be reported to the police, in addition to reporting to our staff.

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Sam (Âû) I was member of the @nationaltrust around five years ago I cancelled my membership because of this. They do some great work but this just overshadows it to much.

National Trust: Hello Sam, we don’t allow illegal activity on our land, and if there’s clear evidence of illegal activity, this should be reported to the police, in addition to reporting to our staff.

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John Michael White Dear @nationaltrust The merest check of a calendar, even at a glance, will tell you it’s the 21st century. Allowing your land to be once more used by people using animals to “accidentally” rip other animals apart is not something you should allow again please

National Trust: Hello John, we don’t allow illegal activity on our land, and if there’s clear evidence of illegal activity, this should be reported to the police, in addition to reporting to our staff.

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Carl Bovis Time to permanently ban fox hunting

National Trust: Hello Carl, we don’t allow illegal activity on our land, and if there’s clear evidence of illegal activity, this should be reported to the police, in addition to reporting to our staff.

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It’s a shambles. The above repetitive quotes are from just ONE thread but The Trust has used those stonewalling words hundreds of times. They have manipulated a vote against trail hunting once. Please don’t let them do it again this year. They have some very nasty friends. This time, don’t give your proxy vote to the Chairman to decide.

And if not, why not???

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