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It’s hard to quantify how bad it is. Some are appalled but others say “it was only a 30cm wide tube”. So how can the severity be assessed? Perhaps by comparing this incident with others. Remember 2015 when contractors working for English Heritage contaminated a large swathe of land close to Stonehenge with asbestos? They worked in secret for two nights removing it (not secretly, just out of hours said English Heritage) but the point is the damage, or at least some of it, was rectified, sort of.

So which was worse, that incident or Blick Mead? It has to be Blick Mead simply because whatever has been destroyed (and we don’t know) has gone forever and can never be brought back. The damage is at the very top of the scale of destruction and that fact should be publicised far and wide. Already the tunnel has cost us all dear.

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Highways England:

 

English Heritage (on “Mythbusting“):

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Really?


There may be a prize…. Winner to be announced 26 December!


 

For many a year we’ve complained PAS has lent over too far not to criticise detectorists when it was called for. To that end there has been too much demonising of nighthawks without explaining to landowners that legal detectorists, through non reporting, do vastly more damage.

But on Twitter this week there’s been a distinct change. One FLO stressed “whilst not a crime, non reporting of non Treasure items still results in the same knowledge loss” and another was even clearer: “Non-reporting is a much larger threat to the archaeological resource than is being posed by criminality.”

So what’s going on? Could it be that PAS, thinking it might soon be Brexited away, has stopped worrying about offending detectorists and, freed from its reticence, has resolved to protect the resource by telling landowners the truth? In particular about exactly how awful mass commercial detecting rallies are? If so then something good could come from the end of PAS. Like this …..

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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And with one leap they were poorer financially, culturally, socially and intellectually….. One of the very first consequences was a savage reduction in heritage protection.

The National Trust is running a “boast piece” on Twitter about how it looks after dormice on its land: “Every year, before hibernation, our licensed handlers check on the dormouse population at the places we care for” ….. “Sleepy dormouse are being cared for by our rangers”

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Good. But it does beg the question:
If dormice were a lot bigger (but still ginger) would the Trust allow people with horses and dormouse hounds to career across their environment, against the wishes of 89% of the public, swearing blind they were just following a trail so no dormouse would ever be hurt?

We think the Trust has run out of excuses and knows it – as illustrated by its latest Tweet to a questioner: “Hi, we’ve replied to a huge number of questions on our trail hunting position over the last year, and our organisation has made a number of changes to our licences, to ensure we allow a version of this legal activity that’s compatible with our aims. Given our limited resource as a charity, we aren’t able to respond further to clarify a position outlined in full on our website.

But the website gives no further justification, how could it? It seems to us that an organisation that doesn’t do right by one native British mammal shouldn’t seek to get public praise and support for the way it looks after another.

The Treasure Registrar has quoted Dr Lewis of the PAS as wondering if treasure rewards should be reduced to a token amount“. But we recall he opined after his 2011 fact finding trip to Denmark that the low rewards there “would not be attractive” to English detectorists. So why the change? He must know most detectorists still expect full value and many threaten recording strikes if not.

Could he have been advised that the Government’s post Brexit planning may mean the end of PAS and therefore of Treasure rewards? The one would surely involve the other for if archaeologists had been deemed unaffordable then giving rewards to artefact hunters would too, especially when outreach had been abandoned? Might the loss of outreach also prompt the Government to further disincentivise the activity by also banning the sale of non-treasure items with a hefty penalty for non-compliance?

Maybe he’s  been asked to see how detectorists would feel about it all? If so we can tell him: it would “not be attractive” to them. To say the least! “Only in it for the history, honest” is a great line to tell farmers but we are pretty sure not getting any money will result in a mass loss of interest in the activity. So it’s all pretty ironic: 90% of detectorists in a 2016 forum poll said they were voting Brexit! Looks like they’ll get their wish.

 

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Frankly, that’s bizarre. Metal detecting has been a useful part of archaeological projects for years but it requires minimal training: follow a grid, swing it low and slow, stick a flag in where it beeps and tell the archaeologist. Who can’t do that? Certainly a detector tied to the tail of a dog would suffice.

An offensive image? Not as offensive as kidding the public otherwise. The “skill” detectorists claim is in recognising whether a beep is a worthwhile target for them but in archaeology all targets are worthwhile. So getting Oxford involved in “training” is a worry, especially as it is being promoted by The Association of Detectorists, who are trying to give metal detecting an archaeological spin.

It is to be hoped that in future no detecting club will turn up at a farm gate, sans an archaeologist and armed with an Oxford Certificate, claiming they’re there to carry out an archaeological project. They won’t be, they’ll be there to artefact hunt, which is recreational exploitation for personal benefit, not the same thing at all. PAS should warn farmers and Oxford should read a few of our articles.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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On this day 8 years ago the closure of English Heritage’s Outreach Department was announced, leaving as we commented, “a situation in which there’s no national outreaching to 56 million ordinary members of the English public but there’ll still be about 45 PAS archaeologists outreaching mainly to 8,000 English metal detectorists”.

Of course, there’s still some great unpaid outreach by archaeologists but no paid posts other than PAS. Is that sensible when every farmer is outreached to by metal detectorists keen to get access to their fields and loads of detectorists hold show-and-tell sessions in schools, “teaching” children about their version of how to behave?

We wish farmers were well enough informed to say “no, if anyone comes here we’d rather it was amateur archaeologists with archaeological standards and goals”. Plus we wish schoolchildren were sufficiently well informed to say Hey Mr, last week we did some archaeology using archaeological methods to maximise knowledge and minimise damage and treated the finds as everyone’s. Yet you lay claim to yours and want applause for showing them to us. Stuff saying they’re your finds. If you do it for everyone, leave them all here!”

That’s the problem with no proper state outreach. If 24,000 detectorists and 45 PAS archaeologists are telling people metal detecting is fine when “responsible” the actual effect is the inexorable mining of the buried archaeological resource mainly by the irresponsible. Anyone willing to deny it? Thought not!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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