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Dear Fellow Landowners,

It’s that time of year when thousands of us will be offered a bottle of whisky to thank us for allowing people to detect for the past year. But before you swoon in a flood of rural gratitude may I suggest you respond by saying:

“How kind! However, it would warm the cockles of my heart far more if, instead, you reveal to me, right now, your eBay trading name.”

(It’s very clear some people are paying a very high price for their whisky!)

Seasons Greetings,

Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow,
Worfield,
Salop instead

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Of course, as a “Green” she’ll be bitterly attacked by those with a vested interest in exploitation. Which brings us to Central Searchers. They say the reason so few finds from their rallies get recorded is that the FLO [Helen Geake]has a standing invite to our digs but we never see her.

But that’s nonsense, they can easily report finds whether an FLO is there or not  (and incidentally, four FLOs attended their summer rally!) The real reason is their notorious Rule 14: “finds can be retained by the detectorist alone as long as its value is no more than £2,000“.

You can guess the sort of people that attracts. And even if something worth far more is found it’s likely the farmer will still get nothing – for guess who says what it’s worth? (And of course, in those circumstances, neither the farmer nor PAS will be shown, lest the alarm is raised. No wonder FLOs hate attending.)

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A mischief-maker has altered a news article about metal detecting by replacing each mention of “treasure” with the phrase “rare egg finds”…

“The county played host to a total of 37 rare egg finds last year, according to figures co-released by the British Museum and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. It is part of a surge of interest in rare egg hunting which has seen more than 1,000 rare eggs discovered across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in each of the last five years.

The newfound popularity of rare egg hunting can be traced back to the passage of the Rare Eggs Act in 1996, formalising the ways someone could be paid for their discoveries.”

We understand the British Museum is to join in the fun by holding annual Rare Egg Collecting Conferences at which they will praise the responsibility of the finders and jubilate about the finds, in particular, the very rare ones.

 

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The Council for British Archaeology has just tweeted: “The new book on the Staffordshire Hoard is out today. To celebrate, we have opened up 4 articles from the British Archaeology archives“. So we looked. Four bits stood out:

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As we’ve long said, military-grade detectors were not up to this task. They were Ebex 420H models, in use by UK and US forces to find mines in Afghanistan, with little depth capability (mines being at shallow depth) and not recommended by manufacturers to find very small targets.

Modern hobby machines are vastly superior at finding small pieces of gold deep down; they were designed for it.  Minelab say their GPX 5000 can “easily find small objects at 24 inches” (i.e. more than 2X the depth achieved by the Home Office team), Blisstool’s LTC64 V3 can too and the GPZ “can find gold 40% deeper than that” (so nearly 3X deeper than the Home Office). The use of such machines by detectorists is widespread, including by nighthawks.

The Hoard deserves better than this. Ten years of “intensive conservation and expert research” cannot deliver the full story until a further search is held. When will that be?

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Update, just:

Oh!
The purpose of the search was to recover or prove the absence of finds              “at shallow depth”!


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The widespread availability of metal detectors in the 1970’s was the beginning of a lot of problems for portable antiquities, as we have covered here on a regular basis for the past 10 years or more.

However, the problems arising from the collection of portable antiquities are not new, as an article from Old Cornwall[1] magazine from over 80 years ago relates.

Despite specifically referring to flint finds, some sections of this are worth highlighting as still relevant today to fieldworkers and metal detectorists alike:

  1. “The loss to Cornwall has been incalculable”
  2. “…a detailed record of the exact place…” … “It is not enough to give the name of the farm, or even of the particular field, it must be sufficiently accurate to enable the exact spot to be fixed.”
  3. “It is not desirable that the finder should indulge in any ‘digging’ for flints. His work may prove to be more damaging than helpful.”
  4. “…objects should not be discarded too freely”
  5. “It cannot be too strongly emphasised that flints are of no intrinsic value; what is of value is the record of where flints have been found.”

References:

1: Old Cornwall Magazine Winter 1938 Vol III #4, p166 ‘On Flints’

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It’s because of stuff like this (from the Glossary of the otherwise admirable website, Keys to the Past): “Most metal detectorists are responsible, recording the location of the objects they find and informing the local museums or the Portable Antiquities Officer.”I

It’s a falsehood, a profoundly damaging calumny that has nevertheless been seeded into hundreds of unwitting newspapers and websites. The latest evidence it’s untrue comes from a survey by Paul Barford of the British antiquities on sale on EBay by UK based people on just one day last month: there were 13,825 finds on sale and just 27 were said to have been recorded by archaeologists.

It’s no wonder that the British public (unlike people elsewhere) aren’t concerned by the fact people from all over will gather today for a large detecting rally on Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier land “a mile as the crow flies from Salisbury Cathedral.” The PAS won’t be there, nor any archaeologist, just a “trained recording volunteer”, we wonder why, .

Wnat could possibly go wrong?

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Update:  Ironically, see also this tweet made yesterday:


Archaeology Wessex @CBAWessex …..

“Our Committee meets today in the beautiful cathedral City of Salisbury”


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If you’ve ever read a detecting forum, you’ll know a huge number of detectorists say “my farmer’s not interested in seeing my finds”. It’s strange. Farming is now very demanding, surely very few hillbilly farmers are left? However, one of the Chew Valley Hoard finders may have revealed a possible explanation:

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Not bothered by “a pile of old muddy coins“? Maybe. But what if he’d been told they were worth millions? We think it would be a different story and who knows, he may well have insisted they stop digging until the archaeologists arrived. In our experience, and maybe yours, dear reader, the average farmer is a lot smarter and far more cultured than the average treasure hunter else they’d be out of business, so why not?

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Are there really a huge number of uncultured, irresponsible farmers? Has PAS outreach not reached them?

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We’ve had a message from one of Farmer Brown’s friends…

Fellow Landowners,

I was disturbed to read last week of a metal detectorist from near here that found in his mum’s garage a gold ring that he had found many years ago and not handed in to the landowner. Now he is selling it and is expecting to get ten thousand quid for it. Reading about it reminded me of the stories my late father told about some of the people who came onto the farm in the ‘seventies.

He told of a young metal detectorist that lived with his mum and came back to our farm and the Higgins’ land in the next village week after week although he never seemed to find anything (he told Dad his hobby gave him an excuse to get out of the house). Now, I don’t know what this fellow’s name was, I’ve only just learnt of this sale. It’s too late to ask Dad, he passed on two months ago, leaving me the farm and the bills. What I know is that Dad, who was always very frugal, would not in a million years have let anyone just walk off with any valuable gold objects taken from our land. I hope that the man in the newspaper can prove that the ring in question came into his possession honestly, and not from my family’s property.

Fellow landowners, for goodness sake, if you really must let people like this onto your property, make sure they know that nothing, nothing, leaves it without you checking it and signing off on it, on your terms, not theirs. But before you do, check that you know what precisely you are signing away.

Oliver Opfer
Silverknoll Farm
Haddenham
Bucks

 

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If you or your organisation intend to carry out periodic inspections in response to our recent plea here, especially when it is ploughed, please keep us informed of your intentions and any evidence (with photographs ) at info@heritageaction.org.uk

BTW, please don’t encroach onto the land (the site is easily visible without doing so).  Many thanks.

Please look for something like this.


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By Nigel Swift

Recently I revisited the Staffordshire Hoard field. I could see nothing untoward as it was still in crop and any digging would be concealed.

Soon however it will be ploughed and that’s when any new nighthawking activities will be obvious (footsteps and holes). I now live a long way from there and find it hard to visit as often but it crosses my mind that there are thousands of good people in the area who would be able to monitor the site. There is every reason to do so – see here (and loads more here).

In addition I hope the members of the following local amateur archaeology groups will help. There would be no more important project for them. Please pass this plea on.

Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society
Coventry and District Archaeological Society
Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society
Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society
Worcestershire Archaeological Society
North Worcestershire Archaeology Group
South Worcestershire Archaeological Group
Oswestry & Border History & Archaeology
Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society
Kidderminster and District Archaeological and Historical Society

Please look for something like this.


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