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Dear Fellow Landowners,
Take a look at this!
- “I bumped into the land owner a few months ago and he asked me what I did with my finds , did I sell them he asked . He offered to buy a small collection from his land , my reply was that he is very welcome to have a collection. Over the months I have been thinking what I could put in a display and have been putting a few finds to one side for him.”
- “First class effort , landowner should be pleased as punch.”
- “A very nice and considerate gesture”
What can one say? The finds are his not theirs. Imagine if all the money spent on PAS to support such people was spent on promoting amateur archaeology or environmental improvement or just donated to a cat’s home!
A detectorist has asked on a forum whether there are rules for sharing finds with farmers and been told “There isn’t no hard and fast rules“.
However, in the rational, well-behaved world inhabited by ramblers, amateur archaeologists and everyone else, there IS a hard and fast rule.The finds should be handed to the farmer as they are his. How hard is that to understand? The farmer can then get independent advice on their significance and value and then, only then, he can decide if he wants to reward the finder.
Any other arrangement is a blatantly unfair contract for it puts the detectorist at an unfair advantage in which he alone knows the value of the finds. Only an oik or a crook would do that yet that “no hard and fast rules” situation is supported by both the National Council for Metal Detecting and the Portable Antiquities Scheme by omitting to explain and to specify a fair contract. (The NCMD do it because detectorists want it that way and PAS do it for the same reason. But PAS are supposed to be respectable! What’s happening?)
Researchers at Newcastle University have highlighted how illegal levels of metallic waste spread on fields damages heritage by obscuring geophysical surveys. To this end the university has issued an app for the public to report it when it is seen so that a geographical database can be built up. So if you are walking along the road or a public footpath and you see something like this please use the app to report it.
You’d think that detectorists (who’ve been running a furious campaign against green waste on the grounds it reduces their ability to hunt artefacts) would be mad keen to use it, but no, they’re all terrified if they report it the farmers will sling them off their land: Here are some disgraceful but genuine quotes:
“I am just hoping the detecting community will see sense before they embark on a mission of “DOBBING UP” our most valuable supporters”
“the App is an outrage to common decency”
“Pressing the button on the app, is equivalent to pressing the self destruct button on your detector!”
“Lets just hope that farmers dont get wind of the app, or details appear in Farmers Weekly”
“The danger is that farmers find out it exists”
Needless to say, those alleged friends of heritage, the National Council for Metal Detecting have advised members not to use the App unless the farmer has given permission. Compare and contrast a similar App launched by the Ramblers Association. But then, ramblers are a different breed. They’re not on the land to take stuff for themselves. As for “Lets just hope that farmers dont get wind of the app” we hope they do. If you know any farmers we suggest you tell them!
The Government has announced a lofty ambition. Ours is to be “the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it”. Quite a thought when we’ve just voted for Brexit and will lose £3 billion a year in European Environmental subsidies to farmers! Environment Secretary Angela Leadsom’s speech to the Oxford Farming Conference was strong on platitudes but weak on reassurances. Farming has been around “as long as mankind itself” has it?! That’s about as convincing as her other claim – that the Hunting Act “has not proven to be in the interests of animal welfare”!
All that’s known is that funding will continue until 2020, but what happens thereafter is unspecified. The Commons Environment Committee wants the UK to have “a new Environmental Protection Act , ensuring that the UK has an equivalent or better level of environmental protection as in the EU” but what are the chances, and what are the chances it would include archaeology – given that ours is the only country that allows thousands of people to attend hundreds of horribly acquisitive and unregulated metal detecting rallies targeted at archaeological sites every year?
Remember the Polish Detecting Club which runs detecting rallies for Polish people in Britain?
And the recent European Gold rally held by a French manufacturer for 1000 people (300 French, 30 German, many more from Italy, Ireland, Austria, Portugal, Holland, USA, Belgium and Australia) in the Cotswolds?
Well now the North American market (already served by England Detecting Adventures, Norfolk Detecting Tours, Colchester Treasure Hunting and others) has a new player. If you’re American and have 4200 dollars and (almost certainly) you’re a Trump voter, “US to UK” now offers you a new opportunity to help yourself to Britain’s history: seven full days detecting on “some of England’s richest and most desirable land”, all “guaranteed to be previously undetected”.
Needless to say, no other country on earth throws its cultural heritage open to naked commercial exploitation in this way. The Prime Minister is keen to assert that Britain is open for business and wants it to be “a global leader in free trade”. Out in the fields it already is.
China is to ban ivory trading! It’s a huge step towards the end of elephant poaching. But it’s more – it’s an endorsement of Lord Renfrew’s mantra: “collectors are the real looters” and a recognition that demand and supply are the same force. Most people accept that but those with vested interests in denying it do so. Thus, US antiquities dealer Dave Welsh says the Renfrew hypothesis is “an unproven assumption“. Well, it won’t be soon for in three years Earth will have loads more elephants, thereby demonstrating Renfrew was right.
Of course, that begs the British question: how come that in his own country Renfrew’s rule is acknowledged to apply to elephants but not to recordable artefacts? Why is it legal in Britain to acquire or sell recently dug-up but unreported antiquities when everyone except those with a vested interest can see it damages the common interest?
In a “hobby” replete with falsehoods it’s the commonest of all: “I can’t report the finds as my farmer won’t let me“. On that basis, millions of artefacts, whole swathes of knowledge, are lost to science and history.
But actually detectorists can’t pin it on farmers, for they are all well aware of PAS’s simple advice: if you can’t report, don’t detect. Here’s the latest case of blaming farmers: an NCMD official on Twitter (he of the “I’m a Detecting Liaison Officer” and “it’s best to lie to French farmers” fame):
No Mr Maloney, it’s not the farmer’s call. It’s the call of the thousands of your colleagues who persist in detecting when they’ve been told they can’t report. Shame the FLO didn’t correct you on behalf of farmers but PAS has been putting your interests above those of landowners for 20 long years so it was never going to happen, was it?
(Mind you, saying “they rarely give me findspots” is a blinding flash of honesty against a background of PAS misinformation. What’s the betting she’ll get a private message saying please never again tell the truth in public?)
Treasure has been found at Barlaston, Staffs. But Councillor Follows of Stoke-on-Trent City Council didn’t get it about conservation saying “It is a real credit to the finder for treating the discovery so responsibly and reporting it correctly”
But in fact the finder was legally obliged to report it. Who but detectorists get praised for obeying the law? Not you, dear Reader, or me – else we’d need choirs of angels singing our praises full time!) As for him acting responsibly, he didn’t. He flouted reponsible behaviour in multiple ways, dug down more than a meter, and totally destroyed the historical context. Worst of all, he dug it out himself because, diddums, archaeologists hadn’t arrived for an hour and a half. If that’s not irresponsible, selfish and ignorant goodness knows what is.
But let’s not blame the Councillor. The blame lies with PAS for not outreaching to him and the whole country about how detectorists ought to behave.
PS, a small glimmer of hope though: the PAS officer urged the finder to waive some of his fee to help the musum exhibit it. That’s the first time PAS has had the testicular fortitude to say that. Let’s hope they’ll now do it routinely. Let’s also hope the Treasure Committee slashes the reward in token of the detectorist’s behaviour. It’s high time this dreary succession of “I dug it up myself” incidents was stopped in its tracks.
Some say we should highlight the good in unregulated metal detecting, not just the bad. We’d love to, but we live in a reality which PAS and many others ignore: the good is far outweighed by the bad and praising the activity year after year aids and abets the bad.
Why? Because in our reality 99.99% of the fields of England and Wales aren’t scheduled so if anyone can persuade a landowner to let them do so they can dig into them randomly, selectively, repeatedly, singly or in large numbers (increasingly “for charity”) and keep whatever they find.
Abroad that’s regarded as looting, in the sense it’s a crime against society. Because it is. Why then should we rejoice about the process or jubilate that PAS gets to see 30% of the finds? The countryside is our national encyclopaedia and PAS, to bolster it’s own existence, isn’t warning landowners loud and clear that hundreds of pages are being ripped out every day.
This week a bloke with a plastic halo and a large finds bag asked if I’d host a detecting rally “for charity”. I pointed out that he wasn’t the first and that every other detecting rally is now pitched to landowners and local communities as “for charity”, clearly to increase the likelihood that people would allow them to be held. But the truth is, although a footling entrance fee goes to the charities, they don’t get a molecule of what is found so it’s actually acquisitiveness dressed as altruism and I told him to clear off with his “for the love of history and charity” claptrap..
Scandalously, neither the Government nor PAS say a word about these charity rallies (and PAS even attends them!) Here’s what they ought to be saying out loud, if they were honest and acting like the rest of the world, something the Journal said back in 2011 ….
“If communities are dead set on allowing the digging up of their local archaeological record to raise charity money (and they shouldn’t be – let them ask PAS or any archaeologist in private what they think) they’d be vastly better off hiring a few detecting machines for their local amateur archaeology society to do it (although their ethics would hopefully preclude it).
That way, 100% of any government Treasure rewards could go to the charity, 100% of all the other finds could go to the charity and 100% of the finds would be willingly and accurately reported to PAS (making the exercise less damaging than any metal detecting rally in history!“