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You might think killing for fun is largely under control. But no, apart from fox hunting you can enjoy hunting with bassets, beagles, bloodhounds, mink hounds and rabbit hounds. If you ask what’s the appeal you’ll be told lots of lyrical stuff. But Engels, writing to Marx, was rather honest: “Such a thing always excites me hellishly for a few days, it is the most magnificent physical pleasure I know …. I was in at the kill”

So why bring it up? Well, the Chilmark and Clifton Foot Beagles are holding another metal detecting rally and PAS are going again. As we said last year, you can search the world and never find such a crass event where cultural exploiters fill the coffers of wildlife exploiters and officials from a national museum sit at a folding table legitimising it all.

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It's no longer legal to do it to hares so they've switched to rabbits.

Killing for fun. (Well it’s legal, innit!)

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PS – A message to the Finds Liaison Officer scheduled to attend: Can’t you just say no? We’re quite certain you’d like to. Here’s a message from George Bernard Shaw you could refer your bosses to …

“What is not disputable by any person who has ever seen sport of this character is that the man who enjoys it is degraded by it. We do not bait bears now (I do not quite know why); but we course rabbits in the manner described in one of the essays in this book. I lived for a time on the south slope of the Hog’s Back; and every Sunday morning rabbits were coursed within earshot of me. And I noticed that it was quite impossible to distinguish the cries of the excited terriers from the cries of the sportsmen, although ordinarily the voice of a man is no more like the voice of a dog than like the voice of a nightingale. Sport reduced them all, men and terriers alike, to a common denominator of bestiality.

The triviality of sport as compared with the risk and trouble of its pursuit and the gravity of its results makes it much sillier than crime. The idler who can find nothing better to do than to kill is past our patience….. There are plenty of innocent idle pastimes for him. He can read detective stories. He can play tennis. He can drive a motor-car if he can afford one….. Satan may suggest that it would be a little more interesting to kill something; but surely only an outrageous indifference to the sacredness of life and the horrors of suffering and terror, combined with a monstrously selfish greed for sensation, could drive a man to accept the Satanic suggestion…..

There are now so many other pastimes available that the choice of killing is becoming more and more a disgrace to the chooser. The wantonness of the choice is beyond excuse. To kill as the poacher does, to sell or eat the victim, is at least to act reasonably. To kill from hatred or revenge is at least to behave passionately. To kill in gratification of a lust for death is at least to behave villainously. Reason, passion, and villainy are all human. But to kill, being all the time quite a good sort of fellow, merely to pass away the time when there are a dozen harmless ways of doing it equally available, is to behave like an idiot or a silly imitative sheep.”

G. B. S.  March, 1914.

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An extraordinary 86% of detectorists on the Minelab forum said they supported Brexit (far higher than every district of the country). The reason is clear, they have long feared Europe would get Britain to regulate what they do. Not now though and, as a bonus for detectorists, Europe’s environmental stewardship payments will now end, leaving thousands of protected acres available for unregulated detecting once again. So there’ll be jubilation in the club room at the back of the Pig and Whistle and many similar venues.

Brexpig

So is there an upside? Yes, if you see yourself as European:

> In Europe The Assembly’s wish for further legislative control of detecting will no longer be obstructed by a single country.
> In Europe any further international conferences held by PAS praising themselves and unregulated detecting won’t be heeded.
> Equally the British inspired European Council for Metal Detecting will be dead in the water (for who in Europe will now listen to the Brits?)
> No national museum within Europe will be telling European landowners that metal detecting is  “citizen archaeology”
> In Europe there won’t be hundreds of legal, unregulated mass digs followed by
boastful videos belting out the  lyric “We do not fear what lies beneath, We can never dig too deep!

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The Journal has been around quite a while and one of the advantages of that is that we can look at our archives and find things which EH, NT et al, those who are trying to say (and DO say) that UNESCO/ICOMOS think a short tunnel would be spiffing, would rather everyone would forget.

Here’s a beauty from exactly 11 years ago, in July 2005:

"Heritage Action welcomes the news that the A303 improvement 
scheme that threatened the loss of archaeology and further 
intrusion into the surroundings of Stonehenge has been withdrawn.

ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, has 
also welcomed the news. They say: "We believe that the review 
announced by the Minister allows time for serious consideration 
to be given to alternative schemes for upgrading the A303
that do not involve cutting across the heart of the World Heritage Site".

We caused a big stir (7,300 views) with our 2013 headline “Ed Vaizey insults every archaeologist and heritage professional“. Now the British Museum has gone down much the same route as the ex-Culture Secretary by saying, unmistakably, (in its just published 2016 Annual Review) that metal detecting is “citizen archaeology”.

That conveys to the public that any group of people with detectors they see in a field digging (1) randomly, (2) selectively and (3) for their own benefit, are archaeologists. It’s untrue and very damaging since it legitimises in the public eye a whole galaxy of activities that archaeologists would get sanctioned for and it devalues their professional and educational achievements and their dedication to scientific method, knowledge gathering and resource conservation.

How do archaeologists and heritage professionals feel about that? Should they be hopping mad and reflect where we’ve got to in Britain considering no national museum in any other country would do such a thing? Should they tell the British Museum and PAS to desist and to publicly clarify exactly what archaeologists do and, crucially, the behaviour by which they can be recognised? Currently they are giving the impression they haven’t the foggiest. What’s to be done?

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Aunt Bella’s School for Nearsighted Young Women and The British Museum. (Missing the bleeding obvious).

Aunt Bella’s School for Nearsighted Young Women and The British Museum. (Missing the bleeding obvious).

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Update, next day ….

We were interested to note that the BM’s re-branding of metal detectorists as citizen archaeologists has come almost 5 years since we succeeded in getting the BBC to almost entirely desist from calling them amateur archaeologists. How can it be right that it’s down to us, ordinary people, rather than hundreds of archaeologists, to stand up against landowners being misled?

Still, Paul Barford has now written to the BM making several additional points and suggesting they issue an official statement “defining what the BM means by the noun “archaeology” in the phrase “citizen archaeology”. Assuming he isn’t ignored a precise answer to his precise question will be very welcome indeed. How many farmers have already been told, falsely, “we’re amateur archaeologists” and now “we’re citizen archaeologists”? A lot, it can be assumed.

Update, Tuesday 12 July

Paul Barford received a reply which didn’t answer the central issue so far as we are concerned. Consequently we have just sent the following message to Susan Raikes, Head of the Learning, Audiences and Volunteers Department:

We have a couple of simple but (we think) very important questions.
Does not the BM have a central duty to “inform”?
Is that duty fulfilled by telling landowners that anyone at their gate
carrying a metal detector is a “citizen archaeologist”?
Thanks
The Heritage Journal

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Some say EH should have tackled solstice overcrowding long ago. Still, this year they finally did, imposing both a parking charge and an alcohol ban. It seems to have produced less overcrowding and less misbehaviour. Might they conclude that decisive management works better than endless negotiations?

Here are some of the most irrational ones, people protesting against the parking charge and alcohol ban by delaying buses containing people who had paid to get in and hadn't brought booze!

Pointless activity? Demonstrating against parking charges and an alcohol ban by delaying people who have paid and haven’t brought any booze!

Our friend spent the last year on the Open Access to Stonehenge Facebook Group, calling for a fresh start and a letter to EH saying: “We recognise that the welfare and dignity of the monument is paramount. We would like to enter into discussions to optimise access on the above bases.”  Sadly (with a few exceptions) this was greeted with hostility (and accusations he was an EH or police spy!) and he was summarily ejected. It’s to be hoped that in future EH will only discuss Stonehenge access with people who accept that the interests of Stonehenge always, always outrank their own!

Where did Britain’s oldest confirmed battle take place (circa 5,300 years ago) ?

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July Puzzle 1.

July Puzzle 1E

A range of leading naturalists plus the former heads of Natural England, English Nature, the RSPB and the National Trust have issued grave warnings about the potential effect of Brexit on Britain’s countryside. We’re highlighting their letter here because the bulk of archaeological protection is closely linked to environmental protection measures (and mainly financed by European money) and therefore of equal concern. Telling excerpts from their letter include the following:

  • “Far from being ‘red tape’, the rules and regulations coming out of Brussels have been “critical” to improving the quality of Britain’s water, air and natural environment”
  • “It’s vital to recognise that virtually the entire legal protection for our environment here in Britain derives from European safeguards”
  • “UK politics has a tendency to be short term and see the natural environment as an impediment to economic growth, and EU agreements help mitigate this by encouraging us to be more long term in our public policy.”
  • “If the UK were to pull out of the EU the Government would be under huge pressure from industry to water down environmental protections in areas like energy efficiency to help the UK to become more competitive against our former European partners.”
  • Our air, water and land are kept clean by European laws.  And rightly so, because pollution knows no national boundaries.  We ignore these protections at our peril.”

Remember this in The Mirrror in 2011?

Twinstead in Mirror

The organiser was vehement (“If you all think your getting away with it think again….the offence carries a custodial sentence”). The police, less so. The officer dealing with it was himself a detectorist and assured them all that “All I want is for the entire hoard to be declared, a decent article in the Searcher and the reputation of us detectorists to be restored. All I want is a sensible resolution to the whole situation. Please feel free to contact me. I am your friend not your enemy, I enjoy this hobby and do not want to see it needlessly tarnished!”

Oh for a police friend like that, as the Chairman of the National Union of Thieves might say! Anyway, 2 weeks later (when the grace period expired and it became a mass crime) at least 100 coins, £35,000-worth, had still not been returned. Since then it has all gone very quiet so last week we wrote to him requesting a simple update: “How many of the coins were reported on the day, how many were subsequently reported and how many people were prosecuted?” The response was strange: “Can I ask who you are and why do you want this information?”. When we told him we were the Journal he responded “As you were not involved in the initial incident I suggest you submit a FOI request through our HQ, the route these sort of enquires normally go.”

But we were involved. We are part of the British public from whom a lot of knowledge has been stolen (in addition to the many thousands of pounds stolen from the farmer) and we have a strong suspicion that had we been detectorists preparing “a decent article in the Searcher” whitewashing detectorists we’d have been told all about it by return. What do you think, Dear Reader?

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So, EH, HE, NT and CBA are all willing to support new damage to Stonehenge and to imply UNESCO and ICOMOS support a short tunnel when they’ve said no such thing.

However, the biscuit is most certainly taken by the latest edition of British Archaeology which states that ICOMOS essentially approves the short tunnel “subject to details of portals and cuttings”. As we stressed previously, the truth is that ICOMOS has major concerns about the position of both ends of the tunnel so that absolutely, categorically can’t be taken as evidence that it essentially approves of the proposed length of the tunnel, quite the reverse. In addition, saying that it sees the position of those ends as mere “details” is equally misleading. They are crucial and ICOMOS has most definitely not signaled it thinks otherwise.

We have three questions-cum-accusations for EH, HE, NT, CBA and British Archaeology. 1.) If the short tunnel is such a benefit for Stonehenge how come you weren’t all calling for it until the Government decided it wanted it? 2.) And what was it that convinced you? Have you all, like CBA, “revisited earlier documents”?   3.) If so, that’s fine, but can you please tell the public precisely what you found in them to cause you to change your opinions? Where, in any of the earlier documents or indeed in the current ones published by ICOMOS or UNESCO have you found justification for your support for imposing the following scene on Britain’s and Europe’s leading prehistoric World Heritage Site? Precisely, chapter and verse please.

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Hindhead

By all accounts the vast majority of metal detectorists voted “Brexit” and this morning they’re cock-a-hoop. With good reason ….

  • European funding for Countrywide Stewardship Schemes (which have always been strongly opposed by detectorists because they prevent them detecting on archaeologically sensitive land), will cease. Anyone who thinks the British will fund the schemes themselves hasn’t been observing the British Government’s actions towards environmental and heritage matters.
  • The moral influence of our close neighbour Ireland will be diminished and their view that “Archaeological objects must be excavated in a structured scientific manner, with careful recording of their association with other objects, structures, features and soil layers. Failure to expertly record the context from which an object has been removed results in an irreplaceable loss of knowledge of the past” won’t be characterised in Britain as other than “misguided”
  • The “nightmare scenario”, as detectorists label it, of Europe influencing Britain on the subject of portable antiquities has been removed at a stroke. Here, in the words of  the European Assembly is what detectorists have gained, and the rest of us have lost:

The Assembly….

is concerned at”…. “the growing threat to the archaeological heritage caused by the increasing marketing of metal detectors in Europe and their uncontrolled widespread use”,

“regrets in particular”….” the notion of “treasure hunting” applied to the search for this heritage and all advertising to this effect”,

insists on” ….“the need for the strict observance of archaeological practice in any excavation, prospection or other disturbance of traces of human existence”,

is concerned”….“that existing legislation in most member states, or its implementation, is far from sufficient to prevent or control destruction of the archaeological heritage, or even stem its increase”

and recommends that the Committee of Ministers :

consider adopting” …. as a matter of urgency, recommendations to governments for the licensing or registration of users of metal detectors”

and ask member governments”….. “to supplement existing legislation to ensure, where still necessary, the full protection of all archaeological remains, surface included”

and to examine critically”…. “the wisdom of permitting advertising or any other incentives to hunt for archaeological treasure”

So what we’re left with is the Portable Antiquities Scheme pretending, through gritted teeth, that British metal detecting is a net benefit to the resource and misrepresenting a pathetically low level of find reporting as praiseworthy. There’s really no argument, Europe’s view of portable antiquities is protective and civilised (and you won’t find a single archaeologist who privately disagrees) but sadly Europe’s standards are no longer even a possibility for Britain. It’s a great day to be a metal detectorist, and it will be for many years to come.

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