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We recently managed to shame the country’s largest metal detecting shop, Regtons, into stopping selling night vision gear. It was a victory for conservation (which PAS and The Archaeological Establishment should have secured, not us) but it was only a small one, for two reasons:

First, Regtons may have desisted but lots of other detecting outlets haven’t. Just look at all the “Night Owl” gear that Joan Allen Detectors will deliver to you on a next day basis. It is difficult to believe that detector shops that sell items that nighthawks find useful are unaware of precisely what they are contributing to. What do you think?

Second, as we’ve said so often, the debate about whether nighthawks are a tiny minority or not is a damaging distraction for it diverts the public’s attention from the real scandal – that the knowledge theft that nighthawks cause is dwarfed by the knowledge theft perpetrated by the far more numerous non-reporting legal detectorists. One day no doubt Posterity will judge today’s archaeologists harshly for not shouting that simple truth from the roof tops and particularly in the corridors of Whitehall and Westminster. The fundamental reality of the British portable antiquities policy is that non-regulation of “legal” detecting causes far more heritage damage than flogging night vision equipment to criminals. It’s not a great charge to lay at the door of British Archaeology but there it is.

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Aunt Bella’s School for Nearsighted Young Women and British Archaeologists. Missing the bleeding obvious.

Aunt Bella’s School for Nearsighted Young Women and British Archaeologists. Missing the bleeding obvious.

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We’ll keep it simple. Several years ago Central Searchers hid their “Rule 11″ from public gaze. (No wonder. It said any non-treasure find worth up to £2,000 belongs entirely to the finder). We assumed they’d then quietly drop it and that would be the end of it. But no, we’ve just discovered it on full public display again but in a different place and re-named as “Rule 14″. Here it is in all its history-loving fair-minded glory:

14. Items found by any member/non member/guest can be retained by the member/non member/guest as long as its value is no more than £2,000.

Is that fair or does it suggest an acquisitive attitude towards heritage that even a Minister for Culture would be hard-pressed to describe as heroic? You decide. All we know is that more than an eighth of all detectorists and lots of PAS employees have attended Central Searchers rallies and we’ve heard not a word from them about Rule 14 being a disgrace or that they won’t attend because of it. So maybe it’s just us?

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How 50 valuable finds would be divided under Rule 14

How 50 valuable finds would be divided under Rule 14

 

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Interpol plus

Rescue said it rather well:

“Whilst this might represent a tasty windfall for the finder and the landowner, for the rest of us – the other 60 million plus inhabitants of the British Isles – it represents nothing but yet another lost opportunity to add to the knowledge we have about the Saxon period ….Unfortunately these hoards are rare, so there might never be another one and we might never be able to answer the many questions surrounding them. But you won’t read about that in the papers.”

But actually, the papers DO contain some thought-provoking quotes if you look, like the Head of PAS saying their £1.3 million funding is too low (“I’m not sure whether we’re going to be able to renew the contracts for nine of the 32 posts that we’ve got in the scheme from the 1 April”) and Ed Vaizey not addressing that but instead praising “the finders and landowners who have graciously waived their right to a reward” while failing to mention that the vast majority don’t and we pay them far more than PAS gets.

But the best quote is from the BBC for it says the payout just from the Lenborough Hoard “could be £1.3 million” – which is the same as PAS’s allowance for a whole year! (Despite the fact it was hoiked out far too fast due to pressure from people who couldn’t control themselves or be bothered to arrange for it to be guarded overnight!. Selungnorami.)

No Way 4

Compare and contrast the people who didn’t call Atif with the sort of people that are going to THIS today! (No mention or praise or reward for them then Ed!)

So it’s all there in the papers, just under the spin: Britain IS utterly bonkers. And no, our portable antiquities system is not “internationally admired” as has been trumpeted this week (who feeds Ed Vaizey these lines?). Not enough for any country, anywhere, ever to have adopted it anyway! How come? The things you’re liable to read in the papers, they ain’t necessarily so and sometimes they’re utter foutaise as my French archaeologist friend says. (Look it up, it’s rude!)

Update 17 Feb 2015
Meanwhile, look what happens when a finder isn’t selfish and self-serving. See HERE

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Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of 13 pieces of Yupik artwork (including miniature baskets and carved walrus ivory pieces) stolen from locked display cases over the weekend. The items taken were small and said to have been chosen in a manner that made their disappearance unlikely to be noticed.

“These stolen items are part of our rich cultural heritage” said Dan Winkelman, YKHC managing director,  “they still belong to the community and should be returned. We feel absolutely violated in hearing about the theft”.

A Government spokesperson concurred.


Meanwhile, across the pond, no-one was offering a reward for the recovery of any one of the 10 million bundles of historical knowledge legally stolen by non-reporting artefact hunters since 1975.  They included lots of good stuff but no-one knows exactly what, as that’s the awful nature of the theft and the blessed ally of denial. They are the ultimate instances of “disappearance unlikely to be noticed”.

“These stolen items are part of our rich cultural heritage” said a heritage busybody on a website. “They still belong to the community and our region and should be returned. We feel absolutely violated in hearing about the theft”.

A Government spokesperson pretended not to hear.


Alaskan stolen article  #13 is .... a carved ivory "story knife".

Alaskan stolen article number thirteen is …. a carved ivory “story knife”.

ritain's stolen bundle of knowledge number ten million is ..... gone.

Britain’s stolen bundle of historical knowledge number ten million is ….. gone.

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The Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Christmas Meeting included a scary reminder to staff about the Freedom of Information Act:

pas PRE xMAS.

Wise, but it exacerbates a huge problem. The financial incentives for finders to lie to PAS are massive and it would be foolish to pretend it doesn’t happen a lot, albeit mostly undetected. So it’s concerning that on those occasions when PAS staff do have suspicions they are unable to express doubt or warn each other which means still more false information will get onto the database. Here’s just one example of how massive the incentive to lie to them can be:  if you find a £2,000 item on a farm where you have a 50-50 agreement with the farmer and you tell PAS you found it at a rally elsewhere which has no such sharing provision (they exist) then you’ve instantly made yourself £1,000. Laundering by find spot description is probably the easiest, most profitable and hardest to prove fib in the whole country and even when PAS suspect it they’re forbidden to say.

Dr Bland is snooty about amateurs who criticise his organisation but actually it is they who are entitled to be snooty about him. His database must contain large numbers of lies to a degree he can’t know and which he doesn’t acknowledge. Lucky for him that Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has just confessed to Parliament: “I have made no formal assessment of the effectiveness of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.” If he had done so he’d have put a couple of his permanent officials on it and trust me (I know some) they’re super-smart people and would look a lot further than PAS’s own self-adoring Annual Reports. I guarantee they’d work out the implications of the fact that the contributors to the database are mostly not High Court Judges and can make lots of money simply by saying Corby not Kirkby. Whitehall officials can see when Emperors have no clothes just as well as amateurs can and they can’t be dismissed as know-nowts for saying so.

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A farmer is being blaggarded on a forum. Can you guess why: “I’d tell him where to get off!/ he’s taking the YouKnowWhat/ this sets a dangerous precedent/ could spread like a cancer/ As he seems so greedy I would agree & only show him your trash & grots/ Everybody these days want’s something for nothing!/ cheeky so and so/ he may simply be an arrogant pig head.”

Greedy, arrogant pig head

Greedy, arrogant pig head

His crime? He says they can have ALL the finds from his land up to a value of £50 but he’d like to keep anything worth more. What a monster!  Keep in mind, it’s all his anyway, and (according to them) 99.9% of finds are worth below £50 so he’s actually giving them nearly every item, adding up to lots of money and more than enough for any “hobbyist” to collect and study, So much for “in it for the history”! (One of them even reveals a way round it, just as Farmer Silas Brown has warned about: “make sure every thing you find is worth £49.99″. That’s theft, fraud or looting but you need wits or morals to realise that – so how many times has it happened?).

And it’s not just farmers they claim equal status with, it’s archaeologists. Look at this contribution: “When the day dawns that archaeologists donate their time for the love of history and refuse any payment and the associated professional glory of being involved in high-profile digs then I’ll accept their criticism of any gains I make from detecting”

NNNNNNN

Archaeologists: in it for the money?

Er, no. The vast majority of archaeologists, particularly at the digger level, are extremely poorly paid – often barely above minimum wage levels and often donate their time for free. That’s what “in it for the history” really means. It’s a vocation, not something they hope to get a lottery win out of. Got it?  In addition, try to get your head round this if you can: they’re paid to recover knowledge for the benefit of the public. When detectorists search just for the public’s benefit, only in selected places where it will be beneficial to the public, always entirely  in accordance with the public’s standards of Best Practice – then, and only then, can they claim some sort of equivalence with archaeologists. Until then they are actually more like chancers, working for their own benefit but painting themselves to each other and at the gates of anyone with a random bit of land as something else.


Update:

My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch……
“Trolls”. That’s what we’re being called for publishing this article. But look who is saying it – a member of the “Somerset Artifact Seekers” who (until we recently forced them to cancel it) had a rule that said everything they find that isn’t Treasure is entirely THEIRS!

Don’tcha just love ‘em? Heroes all !


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Silas Will.
silas 89

To whom it may concern:

(1) If ever a “hoard” is found on my land I want it dug up slowly, not fast and by archaeologists, not amateurs, OK? Doing otherwise without asking me would be to assume I’m a philistine who doesn’t care about knowledge-loss, which I’m not or that it’s their hoard or their land, which it ain’t.

(2.) If nighthawks (far or very near) are a worry I wish all those present to keep the hoard safe in the ground for me and the country (I’ll repay any expense). If they’re on my land they owe me that duty. Obvious really, innit?

(3.) I’d like to leave a message for the Treasure Valuation Committee. In future hoard cases please ask every landowner if anyone assured them that “out before nighthfall and don’t wait for the archies” was (a.) the only safe option and (b.) was “best practice, honest”. If you always ask that (and adjust the reward accordingly) then trust me, things will suddenly get a whole lot better. (That’s really obvious too, isn’t it?)

(4.) Finally, I’d also like to leave a message for PAS. As Heritage Action suggested nine long years ago, £6,750 spent on a double page spread in the Farmers Weekly would get the hoard conservation message across to people who might actually heed it. Which would be gloriously refreshing, wouldn’t it?

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Silas Brown,
Founder of TFTT, the Tell Farmers the Truth Group,
Grunters Hollow Farm

Worfield
Salop

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The Finds Liaison Officer at Lenborough (see yesterday) has said: “Archaeological people have criticised me for digging it there and then but there was no way we could guard that hoard overnight. Would there have been anybody to come and help?”

We beg to differ. A lot.

Large vehicles can be parked over find spots. Security firms can be hired to work nights, including at Xmas. People who are going to be holding their hand out for hundreds of thousands of life-changing pounds from the public could provide or pay for the necessary security. Couldn’t they. What sort of entitlement-obsessed person wouldn’t?

It’s time PAS dropped its damaging insistence that staff say nothing to upset detectorists.

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No Way 4.

No way 3.

No Way 2.

"There was no way we could guard that hoard overnight"

“There was no way we could guard that hoard overnight”

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by Nigel Swift

Medway History Finders: "couldn't contact an archie, might have been stolen if left overnite, so ...."

Medway History Finders: “couldn’t contact an archie, might have been stolen if left overnite, so ….”

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It makes no sense when you think about it. In Britain unqualified people who seek out and find hoards (which have the legal status of national treasure) are then perfectly free (along with any amateur bystanders) to dig it up as fast and as badly as they wish, destroying the knowledge surrounding it.

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Weekend Wanderers at Lenborough: just one archaeologist there. A number of entirely unqualified people piled in to "help". Out before nightfall ....

Weekend Wanderers at Lenborough: just one archaeologist there. A number of entirely unqualified people piled in to “help”. Out before nightfall ….

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PAS hasn’t said but we can guess that the above debacle was not what the FLO would have preferred. On the contrary, at some point it must have become clear to her that the task was far bigger than first thought and ought to be halted until a professional team could be assembled. But around her were a lot of excitable people many of whom wouldn’t know a moral dilemma from a mozzarella, insisting it must be dug out immediately as overnight protection was impossible and nighthawks might get it. So she felt she had to carry on, fearing that if she stopped that some of them would dig it up anyway, (as hundreds of detectorists have previously) in a still more damaging fashion.

So that’s my guess. I think the FLO was a victim of circumstances and deserves sympathy. Of course it should have been postponed and of course overnight security could have been arranged but there was no legal requirement she could cite. The fault lies with the legal system. We get the archaeological losses the law allows. Sorry to be “elitist” about detectorists but this sort of thing wouldn’t have happened at a gathering of amateur archaeologists – fact! The “voluntary” nature of Britain’s portable antiquities policy was based on the assumption that the two groups were broadly interchangeable. That has turned out to be a damaging mistake. All that remains is an admission.

Who’ll bite the bullet?

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Lendorough, halfway through: "Hmmm, maybe we've got to a stage where we should cover it and ensure it's guarded until a team of archies can be assembled, so it can be done properly?" ..... "Hardly, mate! We're artefact hunters not conservationists or amateur archaeologists so we need to pretend there's an urgent need to get it out now and that no damage will be caused by so doing. "

Lenborough philosophical discourse, halfway through:  Hmmm, maybe we’ve got to a stage where we should cover it and ensure it’s guarded until a team of archies can be assembled, so it can be done properly?
….. “Hardly, mate! We’re artefact hunters not conservationists or amateur archaeologists so we need to pretend there’s an urgent need to get it out now and that no damage will be caused by so doing. “

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