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One might expect the decision to go ahead with the Stonehenge short tunnel would prompt quite a reaction among Britain’s 27,000 metal detectorists – who are, PAS tells us, mainly in it because of their interest in history. But no. So far as we can see there’s not a word about it on metal detecting forums, blogs, and Facebook pages. Except on one blog:

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“This happy news is not only an Agincourt Salute to that employment bureau for ex-commies, UNESCO, but arguably best of all, humiliates the smug, preserve-the-countryside-in-aspic, Heritage Journal… a gormless, vacuous, fringe archaeology outfit. There’ll be a wailing and a gnashing of teeth in Mercia tonight. Guffaw, guffaw, guffaw! Trebles all round.”


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The swipes at the Journal don’t matter, they’re our punishment for wanting metal detecting to be less destructive. But UNESCO as an employment bureau for ex-commies? And the destruction of part of the Stonehenge World Heritage landscape is an occasion for “trebles all round”?

Neither that nor the silence about the issue from most detectorists suggest PAS’s term “citizen archaeologists” and its claim that most detectorists are in it purely for a love of history are valid, Indeed, we’d suggest most metal detectorists do as much for history as trophy hunters do for zoology and the main difference between the two is that in Britain the former are praised and paid!

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A Productive site mate! And if we show the bodies to the Portable Animal Site they’ll praise us. We might even get a massive reward from the British Government. So stuff UNESCO and their conservation claptrap!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Dear Fellow Landowners,

On a detecting forum this week, there were two succinct confessions by someone who might not even realise the fact:


“I always try to give them a printout from the NCMD”. But that NCMD code is a pound-shop version of responsibility, not the official one and merely give the impression it’s the official one. The NCMD won’t endorse the official one and its code doesn’t even say detectorists must report all recordable finds to PAS! 

“Oh and present them with a nice find every now and then.” So no suggestion of immediately delivering everything significant to the rightful owner, US, and let US decide if we wants to give anything away!


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And on the same day, on Gumtree, another detectorist is seeking detecting permission with this false claim:


“I am a member of the National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD) which comes with a strict code of conduct that any proper detectorist follows.” Why does he say that? To be charitable, perhaps he’s a bit thick. But if HE thinks their code is strict what hope do we landowners have?


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For the avoidance of doubt: this is standard behaviour at tens of thousands of farm gates yet PAS et al who have a duty of care to tell landowners only the official code will do, don’t. What epic, exclusively British, irresponsibility! Looks like we’re on our own, Friends, and it’s up to us alone to  protect both our own interest and that of Britain’s buried heritage. Don’t have anything to do with anyone who says they follow a code that isn’t the official one.

Your Friend,

Silas Brown
Grunters Hollow
Worfield
Salop

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Following our article yesterday, today comes further evidence that metal detecting is driven by self-interest, not the public interest.

See here.

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At the same time, the National Council for Metal Detecting has sent “a letter of complaint” to the Government, asking for the same thing but adding the blatant confession that “The NCMD fully accepts that there are public health issues involved in any outdoor pursuit at this difficult time” – thereby further confirming the activity is driven by self-interest, not the public interest.

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Posted late last night on the Let’s Go Digging Facebook page:

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It relates to tomorrow’s commercial metal detecting rally, the last one which will now be legal for some time, at Corse, Gloucestershire. You might well ask what sort of people are still going, whatever the legality, in the last few days before it is illegal, bearing in mind the virus is now running entirely out of control?

Two things are certain, these are not “amateur archaeologists doing it for society” (else they’d all be safe at home) and they ARE attracted by the rule “Anything you find under £3,000 is yours without having to split with farmers“.

Just how much of what is found won’t be reported to PAS and how much heritage knowledge will be lost as a result is a matter of speculation but what ISN’T in doubt is that the event shouldn’t be happening. So far only one of them seems to have understood that obvious fact. Hopefully, there’ll be others.

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As many know, Moreton In Marsh is a particularly beautiful Cotswold town. However, like most places, it has been touched by Covid. Last month the very famous Moreton in Marsh Agricultural Show was canceled and this week The White Hart Royal Hotel in the High Street had to be closed.

So the very last thing the locals need just now is people from goodness knows where (but including those from High-Risk Zone 2 places) descending on their town and using their facilities. It’s the second such stunt in Gloucestershire in a week. They will be pondering how come their innocent agricultural show had to be canceled whereas a grubby, acquisitive metal detecting rally is allowed. And no, the incomers won’t be keeping out of their town, for the organisers, Let’s Go Digging, have told attendees:

“No catering or toilets but very close to the town of Moreton”

No toilets! Imagine! There’s a pandemic on yet Britain is the ONLY place in the world where the health of locals is being put at risk like this. And for why? “Anything you find under £3,000 is yours without having to split with farmers“ (which speaks loudly of the motivation of the attendees and their propensity to report all they find to the farmer and PAS). A friend of ours in America is putting this on the Moreton Facebook page which is the least the residents are owed. They’re also entitled to expect all archaeologists will take their side. Has PAS lifted the phone to DCMS yet?

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Paul Barford has recently said “It’s not about a “love of history” but a consumerist “love of HAVING”.  Blimey! That’s a bold claim when detectorists can validly say “He can’t possibly know what we’re thinking”.

However, there’s other clear evidence he’s broadly right in that the number of finds reported is implausibly small relative to the number of detectorists. But the truth of that is rarely acknowledged publicly. What’s needed, to settle the matter, is some different, concrete evidence that can’t be denied or ignored. He seems to have hit upon exactly that when he says:

“As you can see, this spade has got a nasty serrated edge for cutting through roots and anything else that’s there to get to the good stuff. Of course if you are following the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales and keeping off pasture and out of undisturbed woodland etc, then you’ll not need that.”

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Who can deny it? A huge number of detectorists have one of those. Why? PAS rarely calls a spade a spade in public but not mentioning – and not totally condemning – the use of serrated spades by metal detectorists is really not telling the public a very significant truth.

See here

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Weekend Wanderers have canceled today’s metal detecting rally in Hampshire because it’s easily accessible from London (Coronavirus Zone 2,  High Risk). The organisers say they cannot go ahead with digs “until we feel comfortable that we are doing the right thing.

By contrast, Let’s Go Digging and “Sovereign Metal Detecting Rallys” (sic) are holding digs today in Gloucestershire and Shropshire respectively, accepting people from the equally accessible areas of Birmingham and the West Midlands (also in Zone 2, High Risk).

Behaviours under the British “voluntary” system vary wildly, which is why it was always wrong-headed and against the national interest. Well, PAS? What price “we need to be pragmatic” today?

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UPDATE 19/10/20: The Gloucestershire rally went ahead but we understand the Shropshire one was banned.

That makes two rallies banned recently (Pink Wellies and Sovereign) and one shut down by police halfway through (Let’s Go Digging) but one allowed to go ahead and more than one rally per week scheduled for the rest of the year by Let’s Go Digging (consider the takings, health implications and possible unreported heritage that implies).

Is it too much to hope that the archaeological bodies should get round a table with the police and DCMS and sort this out before next week? (Lest PAS are frit to offend detectorists we suggest they ask around and check the detecting forums for once. All detectorists other than the attendees appear to despise the existence of pay-to-dig rallies, so why the blue blazes are they still allowed to happen?)


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There have been reactions to last week’s launch of our new (notional) club and before we flesh it out further here are our comments about those:

It’s an obvious truth that our simple Code of Conduct, “detect only to gain knowledge and only for the benefit of the public” is far less damaging than “responsible detecting” and produces more knowledge for society as it involves no finds agreements, no rewards, no taking artefacts home, no profit motive and no acting without the assent of local archaeologists.

Just one archaeologist has said it’s “pointless” because no detectorist will agree. But that’s insulting to those who we know do agree and who already act like that. So we think it’s actually a no-brainer. Of course, it won’t appeal to most detectorists but so what? It’s well worth promoting as for more than 20 years detectorists have been told a sub-optimal, compromise code is the maximum to which they should aspire. They should be reminded there’s a far better way to behave than that, like tens of thousands of amateur archaeologists already do without fuss or complaint.

Various detectorists (but not all) have reacted badly to it, exhibiting the same fury they employed against all previous proposals for reform including by PAS, ourselves and the latest Institute of Detectorists one, namely that it will create a two-level hobby with the ones at the bottom (them!) losing out. All we can say to that, is YES, the sooner the better! PAS has been trying to get them all to be “responsible” for 2 decades yet most still aren’t so it’s high time to admit, like we and the Institute of Detectorists imply, that most will NEVER co-operate and only the others matter. Morlochs and Eloi spring to mind !

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Well done for camping out to protect a hoard. It was your moral duty as you were its guardian, But why spoil it by saying you wanted a reward? People who are held up as amateur archaeologists shouldn’t be holding their hands out. Real amateur archaeologists don’t. Real archaeologists can’t, and before metal detectorists most people didn’t. A contributor to the BAJR forum has just said it well:

Museums still have to find the money to pay a detectorist’s reward … A detectorist with a genuine commitment to archaeology should have no problem turning down the finder’s reward …Class and income should not be part of the equation – it’s a moral decision.”.

Yes, moral. No-one is paid for not exceeding the speed limit or not shoplifting or for helping an old lady across the road. So why this? It’s rarely said but the reward system wasn’t to give rewards but to pay ransoms to stop detectorists acting immorally by stealing treasure finds which didn’t belong to them. All the more reason to make the law strong enough that it would NEVER happen. Simple really. Why should they ask and why should we pay?

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It’s bad news all round, but as the Journal is about “ordinary people caring for extraordinary places” we’ll confine our dismay to that. A Fox News style TV channel is planned for Britain! Surely that spells disaster for heritage?

In the US it provides ultra-populist programming in pursuit of pro-exploitation, right-wing agendas. On that basis, Britain can expect denial of climate change, rejection of UNESCO and a massive reduction in heritage protection.

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Impossible in Britain? Have you seen Fox in the States?

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