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As the sunlight faded in last nights episode of Nazi War Diggers and the four participants visibly chafed at the bit to dig up a dead soldier, 7 dishonest words were spoken that were also probably used at Lenborough a year ago…..

An hour to be thorough
An uncivilised person is someone who chooses to do what they want rather than what they should. That surely applies to the brigands in both Latvia and Lenborough, and indeed in Channel 5 HQ.  All of them falsely claim they acted in the public interest not their own and that anyway what they did was “legal”.

Unfortunately the latter claim is broadly true so it is to be hoped that the hundreds of archaeologists and other civilised people who will today be condemning what was shown on the telly last night will reflect that the primary blame, in both Latvia and Britain, lies in the laws that allow such things to be done. If so then something beneficial may have come out of it.

Update: Perhaps however no-one should hold their breath. See this, part of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists’ complaint to Channel 5:
“CIfA is concerned that the show did depict a style of ‘excavation’ that must have destroyed a great deal of potentially important archaeological information …….  and the apparent focus was on artefact recovery only”
…. Fine. Yet that’s a perfect description of the behaviour of thousands of British metal detectorists every single week and CIfA and most British archaeologists express zero “concern” about that.

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Please keep your eyes open for this Bronze age carved stone ball on auction and selling sites. It was stolen from Dunblane museum in November.

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A bronze age carved stone ball, measuring approx. 6cm by 6cm has been stolen from its display cabinet at the Dunblane Museum, The Cross, Dunblane, sometime between early and mid November, 2015.

The stone ball may have some identifying numbers marked on it however it would be possible for these to be removed. A photo of the stolen stone ball is attached.

Dunblane Officers are investigating the theft and are appealing for information. If you have any knowledge of who may be responsible or know the whereabouts of the stone ball, please contact them on 101 or via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Forth Valley Police Division

For donkey’s years the public has been assured that “bad” metal detecting is the province of nighthawks. Lately though officialdom has come up with a definition which blows that simplistic notion out of the water.

They say heritage crime is “harming the value of heritage assets and their settings”. On that basis a lot more than nighthawks are guilty. It works like this. Thousands of “legal” detectorists take finds home without showing the landowner (often with dodgy written agreements authorising them to). That in itself isn’t exactly indicative of a fair minded fine fellow that you’d want your daughter to marry but it’s what it can lead to that matters. If you have an agreement that valuable finds must be shared 50-50 the temptation to not tell the farmer about valuable finds is intense – and crucially it follows that you aren’t going to tell The Establishment either, lest the landowner finds out. Hence, without doubt, the value of heritage assets and their settings” will be harmed. So Officialdom has been hoisted by it’s own petard – or at least by its own definition. We’ll be glad to hear a contrary opinion but don’t anticipate one will be forthcoming. Call it the British Fib, it’s been going on for 17 years.

A particularly obnoxious manifestation will take place later this year, courtesy of Central Searchers. 350 detectorists will be working under the rule that anything found worth up to £2,000 (as privately assessed by the detectorist alone) belongs entirely to the detectorist and anything worth more has to be shared with the landowner. Yes, the landowner is likely to lose out (since it is the detectorist alone who sees and values the item). But more importantly its not beyond possibility (to say the least!) that anything worth anything near £2,000 or indeed anything worth vastly more, may not be reported to the authorities for fear the farmer will find out. That’s a heritage crime and The Establishment says not a word about it.

Here’s a police poster. Not a single solitary word about not reporting being a heritage crime. The police and The Establishment will tell you that the reason for that is you need to be committing a crime to commit a heritage crime and “non reporting” isn’t a crime. However, depriving a landowner of his share IS a crime, it’s theft, so not reporting a find to conceal the fact IS a heritage crime. The British Establishment and police are lying to themselves and to the British public.

Now listen to the stony silence!

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heritage watch.

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by Nigel Swift

A well-known detectorist just saidI only write to major landowners who want things done properly in terms of “documentation”. The majority of farmers much prefer to see the whites of your eyes.By “documentation” he means a written contract. Many detectorists don’t offer one and stress instead that “trust” is paramount. As does this character:

“Alright mate. Sorry to hear your grandad has died. I’ll clear his garage for you if you like – no paperwork, no charge. I’ll just take the stuff. And oh yes, if I come across anything valuable I’ll tell you. ‘Course I will. Look at the whites of my eyes”.

“Alright mate?  Sorry to hear your grandad has died. I’ll clear his garage for you if you like – no paperwork, no charge. I’ll just take the stuff. And oh yes, if I come across anything valuable I’ll tell you. ‘Course I will. Look at the whites of my eyes”.

Such characters are often featured on Crimewatch. In stark contrast the authorities are silent about the thousands of detectorists who don’t sign contracts (or offer blatantly unfair ones that leave them free to take almost everything home unseen). The words “just trust me” can never be uttered with the farmer’s interest in mind so shouldn’t The Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage et al be pointing that out? After all, they are assiduous in warning landowners about the other, far less numerous “no contract” detectorists, the nighthawks. 

It’s a fair question that I anticipate will be entirely ignored. Why?

(Incidentally, the Moderator of the “UK and European Metal Detecting Forum has just said that “Its probable that only about 5% of all detectorists use a contract”. Does officialdom seriously believe farmers and society are ripped off more by nighthawks than by a proportion of those 9,500 “no contract” daytime artefact hunters? I very much doubt it but such is the official pretence in Britain: lots of condemnation of the former, echoing silence about the latter. Barmy.)

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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English Heritage (EH) have recently made a big splash in the media on the release of their latest ‘Heritage at Risk‘ register, which lists heritage assets deemed to be in danger from deterioration, damage, development or other threats.

When I contacted EH some years ago to enquire, I was told that the vast majority of Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) in England are lucky if they are officially inspected once a decade. Some are never visited officially, and many can go 20 years or more without any official inspection. Frequently the responsible body will rely upon reports from landowners, the public or police regarding any damage that occurs to a site. The response given to a Freedom of Information request to EH earlier this year shows that what I was told nearly a decade ago still holds true today (check some of the ‘Last Visited Dates in any random spreadsheet in the reply).

But now we’d like to change all that, with your help.

HelpWantedSign

We know that many of our readers visit SAMs and other heritage sites on a regular basis, be it a local site that they’re familiar with, or a site that has been selected as the target of a day trip, or holiday visit to an unfamiliar area. All we ask is that when on such visits, you keep your eyes open for any evidence of Heritage Crime. What is heritage crime? Quite simply, as stated on the EH web page on the subject, it is “any offence which harms the value of England’s heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations”.

So how can you help? Firstly by taking note of any evidence. Pictures are always helpful. If you actually witness a crime being committed, the EH web page on reporting crime suggests phoning 999, but we’d say only do this if you will not be endangering your own personal safety by doing so. The first port of call for any crime will be the police, whether via 999 if a crime is in progress, or 101 if not (see the previous EH link above). If this all sounds familiar, we’ve previously highlighted these steps, here on the Journal.

But in addition, the relevant authority should also be informed, whether that be English Heritage or the National Trust in England, Cadw in Wales or Historic Scotland north of the border – see the contact links below.

It might also be worth recording your visit and any actions taken on one of the hobbyist web sites so that others can see what has already been reported – the Megalithic Portal has a useful Visit Log facility for registered users in addition to its site comments facility.

With your help, the integrity of many of these forgotten and threatened sites can hopefully be maintained, and any damage brought to the attention of the relevant people.

Useful Contact Links:

by Alan S

The Twittersphere was busy yesterday, trying to identify the ‘gentleman’ in a YouTube video, allegedly caught red-handed metal detecting on land without permission in the Purbrook Heath area nr Waterloovile, Hants (PO7 postcode area). PC Andy Long, Heritage Crime Officer for Essex Police (Twitter @PCAndyLong) is keen to speak with this individual if anyone knows who he is.

Apparently a complaint has been raised to YouTube, and the video may have been withdrawn by the time you read this, although stills from it are available on a number of websites. Interestingly, whether he was “dayhawking” or not there has been outrage from all camps over his yobbish behaviour and ignorance, an uncommon ‘coming together’ so let’s see if he can be identified and hopefully given some muscular outreach.

On the other hand it’s worth keeping in mind that thousands of detectorists get farmers to sign agreements under which they alone decide if tens of thousands of finds are to be shown or shared. If you think people who do that have the least right to lecture that bloke on treating farmers fairly we’d have to disagree rather strongly.

Update & clarification, 11 August 2014:
There really are none so blind as those who will not see. A detectorist has responded to the above article by writing:
“Some of the publicity the clip received from a certain few archaeo-bloggers is disappointing to read. It just seems that at any opportunity they will use something like this to make out that all detectorists behave like mindless, thuggish, oafs such as the chap on the video”.

He has it wrong, but not in the way he thinks. Our assertion is not that thousands of detectorists act like “The Muppet” but that a lot of detectorists act worse than him by treating farmers’ rights with the same contempt as him and in addition by collectively causing vastly more cultural damage than nighthawks through non-reporting. Deliberately contracting to give yourself the formal right to decide what you show and share with the owner and what you don’t cannot possibly be interpreted as otherwise. If it could be it would be but it can’t. Being “disappointed” about us saying it is neither here nor there. That must be clear enough to anyone that hasn’t a personal motivation for denying it is true.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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We received awful news yesterday afternoon from Emma Alsop on the Peak District Prehistory facebook group of yet another paint attack on a stone circle. This time its the latest in a long history of vandalism on the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor.

Copyright Emma Allsop

Copyright Emma Alsop

She reports green and yellow paint on every stone, evidence of which you can clearly see in the photos. She also said “There are also newly scattered ashes round the circle (someone’s remains I presume)”. Hopefully the person who left that there may be able to help work out when this was done.

Copyright Emma Allsop

Copyright Emma Alsop

We have passed the information on to the relevant authorities. If you have any information which may help, please comment below and we will pass it on.

Update:
We have now visited and taken pictures of the damage to all of the stones – see here

Back in January of this year, I was witness to unthinking desecration by a family group at Men an Tol. I recently returned to the scene, or rather, I attempted to return to the scene. On this occasion, my path was blocked by cows grazing on the approaches to the monument. The surface damage done by the grazing cattle was much worse than that caused by the family earlier in the year.

Indeed, I’m not alone in thinking that the damage caused could have easily been avoided, were it not for poor advice from certain government departments, coupled with the greed of the owners on whose land the monument lies.  Save Penwith Moors, (SPM) a local pressure group acting to campaign lawfully for the removal of all new stock proofing (fencing, gates and cattle grids) from a few selected areas of open access moorland popular for local and tourist recreation, have been keeping a daily eye on the situation at Men an Tol, and have recently issued the following Open Letter to English Heritage, Natural England, Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network (CASPN), as well as the local MP for the area:

“More potential trouble at Men-an-Tol!

As at Tregeseal Circle the cattle are gathering around the stones and using the two uprights as rubbing posts as well as covering the area with heaps of dung and ruining the public right of way – virtually impassable down towards the stream – by churning it up.

This is not an isolated out of the way site – and that would be no excuse anyway – but, probably, the most popular frequented ancient monument in the Peninsula and an iconic part of Cornish Heritage. It is high time remedial action was taken after this warning message – preferably by removing grazing stock from this Croft and undertaking manual maintenance.”

The Save Penwith Moors campaign web site and Facebook page includes photographic and video evidence of the damage being caused by the ill-conceived grazing policies as instigated by Natural England and (unjustifiably) supported by English Heritage who are ultimately legally responsible for the protection of the Scheduled Ancient Monument.  We would urge all our readers to visit the SPM pages and give them every support possible in their campaign against the current grazing policies.

Yesterday’s Heritage Crime Test highlighted how the punishment for bulldozing the Priddy Circle was pretty low compared with other cases. In fact latest accounts suggest the punishment at Gelt Woods, Cumbria including costs was double what we said and not far off a million pounds! Yet the two cases have much in common. A very rich man. Damage done by employees. The Court accepting they didn’t authorise it themselves. The suspicion it was done to improve the value of the land. In each case the accused paying for “restoration”…. So how come the big difference in punishment? Awful though the Gelt Wood case was, flora regenerates whereas unique archaeology doesn’t. One might expect Priddy to attract a massive punishment, not Gelt Woods.

Priddy, after being bulldozed. The grass has started to grow back, the archaeology hasn't.

Priddy, not long after being bulldozed. The grass had started to grow back, the archaeology hadn’t.

It’s because, it seems, that unauthorised work on a site of special scientific interest is a “strict liability” offence, i.e, defendants can be convicted even though they were genuinely ignorant of one or more factors that made their acts or omissions criminal. They may therefore not need to be culpable in any real sense (there is not even criminal negligence). These laws were created in the 19th century to improve working and safety standards in factories where few prosecutions happened because of the difficulty of proving mens rea (a “guilty mind”) and they increased the number of successful prosecutions. They tend to be used for two purposes, both of which ring a bell with those of us that see the ploughing out of barrows and such-like as an under-punished crime:

a. to enforce social behaviour where minimal stigma attaches to a person upon conviction and
b. where society is concerned with the prevention of harm, and wishes to maximise the deterrent value of the offence.

So maybe that’s the answer. If we want to prevent harm and to maximise deterrence (which were the two main issues that arose out of Priddy) we could make such cases strict liability offences. Of course, that would involve the public and the legislators being convinced that preservation of certain unique heritage assets is vital, a stage we haven’t fully reached yet.

There has been another interesting case about heritage crime recently, this time in Cumbria. So here’s a little test. Match the actual punishments with the crimes….

> Damaging a conservation site in Cumbria (by felling trees, excavating a significant track and damaging ground flora).
> Felling a protected yew tree in Chester
> Demolishing a house in a conservation area in Fulham
> Demolishing a house in a conservation area in Richmond, Surrey
> Bulldozing a Priddy Circle

£23,750 …. £40,500 …. £80,000 …. £129,000 …. £450,000

?????

While you’re working it out, here’s some suitable music

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How did you get on? Here’s the actual answer:

Punishment calculator

Update: We’ve discovered why the Cumbrian Trees attracted such a big punishment. See “Is Strict Liability the way to protect heritage?

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