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silas 67

Friends,

As club names go, The Making Derbyshire Safer Metal Detecting Association takes the biscuit. So does their message to farmers (which seems to assume we are rural simpletons): “We are a small collection of individual metal detectorists,who make Derbyshire safer for people and animals by removing hypodermics,sharp objects and rubbish from the ground, plus we manage to save the occasional old coin and relic too from damaging modern environmental corrosion”. (Oooh arrr, so that be the reason they gents comes here a-metal detecting be it? (Not!) I showed their claim to my friends down the Galloping Tup and one of them said “they’m spinning so hard they could excavate their own holes”. Tickled me, that did!)

Mind you, they DO try to do right as they see it. They have a list of virtuous behaviour as long as your arm and this bit stands out: “we have all agreed that we do not endorse rallies, and that as individuals we will not attend, organise or promote any rallies”. Bravo! Rallies are awful, damaging events, as nearly everyone without a vested interest knows, and this is the only detecting club to ever admit it and to act accordingly. Genuine, clear-thinking heroes I say.

However, …. they spoil it all with one huge omission: they don’t insist their members report their non-Treasure finds to PAS. Without that, they’re no better than the rest. Until they sort that out maybe they should change their name. “The Curate’s Egg Metal Detecting Club” – good in parts but rotten in others?

Best wishes

Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow
Worfield
Salop

Long ago, via a proxy, The Journal bought a copy of the ARCHI UK database (the site finding system for detectorists). We hope The Archaeological Establishment did the same as it contains much food for thought.

Anyway, as subscribers we’ve been sent special advance notification of the fact ARCHI is about to launch “the first British archaeological sites Android App“.They say it will “take us all to the next level when it comes to doing what we love” and have offered us access to a prototype “to discover and explore our nation’s rich heritage!”

But therein lies a profound mystery. We are told that when done responsibly metal detecting is harmless and beneficial. So why would detectorists be being offered details of 190,000 sites of archaeological significance on their phones? To make sure they avoid them?

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by Nigel Swift

Much will be written by professional archaeologists about the latest (and worst) episode, aired last night. Meghan Dennis. an archaeologist at York University, probably wins 3 prizes for succinctness: “The 1st remains of the episode are found. Disclaimers go up. The footage shows they lie”….. “Gun wankfest time” …. “Overall, this show continues to be a cesspool of bad practice, unethical excavation, and poor science and outreach.”  (A fourth prize for succinctness should go to a Ryan Grove for an unwittingly relevant tweet: If you want to know who the assholes are in a community, suggest the adoption of a code of conduct. It’s like asshole kryptonite.”)

However, while lack of technique is a matter for comment by experts, lack of decency is something we’re all entitled to protest about so here’s my even more succinct characterisation of the series: “A horrible subject treated horribly.”

Nevertheless, I hope anger over the actions of three British detectorists abroad doesn’t divert attention from the less overtly obnoxious but cumulatively far more damaging bad practice by thousands of others at home. A small minority of nighthawks has performed that service for years. An even smaller number of Nazi War Diggers shouldn’t be allowed to do the same. A massive non-reporting rate, farmers ripped off and EBay chock-a-block all warrant the attention of archaeologists too. Self evidently, outreach has only reached the reachable. Here’s one solution:
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Ethical detector.

But assuming that can’t be done then the only solution to bad practice in both Latvia and Loughborough is to call for laws which make good practice mandatory instead of voluntary. Occam’s Razor, anyone?

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A damaged Monet. What has that got to do with it?

A damaged Monet. What has that got to do with it?

In 2014 we complained here and here about a detecting rally on the site of Weyhill fair, saying ….

“Sites really don’t come better than this!” said the organiser, and he was right ….. Everything dropped on those 60 acres forms an almost unique whole, a continuous record of social and commercial interaction in one small place over seven and a half centuries …… So it’s just crying out for a comprehensive archaeological field survey one day ……

Yet instead tomorrow (Sunday) it will be dug over by who knows whom from who knows where with a propensity to report amounting to who knows what, using no survey methodology but instead a totally random approach followed by irrational selectivity. So by Monday the site’s uniqueness will be gone forever as multiple holes will have been punched in the record and an unknown number of material and abstract components of  history will have been respectively quietly pocketed or destroyed and hence put beyond the reach of science…… It’s a bloody shame really. I’m no archaeologist, just a no-account amateur, but I know when something irreplaceable is being needlessly destroyed….. It’s scandalous.”

But they’ve announced they’ll be back again in March (a third visit I think) and this time, for just £35 you can help yourself for the whole weekend! Well worth it, as it includes one field that was “very productive and everyone agreed had a lot more to offer.” Strange, innit. No-one’s allowed to come back and have a second bash at a Monet but you can go back and have multiple bashes at Weyhill Fair ’till it’s all gone!

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“Sites really don’t come better than this!” 700 years of History, and not statutorily protected? Then we all have a legal right to take bits of it home for ourselves, yes? It's legal, innit?

Sites really don’t come better than this!” Absolutely! 750 years of History, entirely unprotected by law. What’s not to like?

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Update 11 Feb 2016 …. We have just been reminded by a correspondent that as a result of a very recent recent legislative change, if Weyhill Fair was in Wales then (in theory anyway) it could be scheduled and protected. It’s as if you are free to mess up a Monet in Minehead but not in Merthyr!

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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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A year ago a bunch of British artefact hunters pressurised a respectable British archaeologist to unearth the Lenborough hoard in a too-hurried fashion using the lie that “it can’t be guarded overnight so nighthawks will get it if it isn’t dug up right now”.

Last night on  Channel 5’s awful “Nazi War Diggers Rebranded” a British artefact hunter pointed to a car 100 yards away and said:There’s black diggers over there. We’ve got to be thorah as if we leave anything they’ll ‘ave it!.

It is to be hoped that British archaeologists who are currently condemning what happened in Latvia in large numbers will start lobbying the British Government and the European authorities about the all-too-obvious need for proper legal regulation of artefact hunting in both countries.

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As Paul Barford has now asked: Why do the English consider that Latvians parking a car by the side of a road in Latvia must be up to no good?” 

"Oooh look, an empty car 100 yards away on a public road in broad daylight. Must be nighthawks planning to wreck the site. We'd better do it ourselves." (Was that self-justificatory lie uttered in Latvia or Leicester? Yes, both. Frequently.)

“Oooh look, an empty car 100 yards away on a public road in broad daylight. Must be nighthawks planning to wreck the site. We’d better do it ourselves.” (Was that self-justificatory lie uttered in Latvia or Leicester? Yes, both. Frequently.)

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2015 began shockingly. Unaffected by 18 years of PAS outreach a large group of detectorists pressurised a respectable professional into digging out the Lenborough hoard in a hurried and damaging manner on the blatantly fraudulent grounds that it couldn’t be guarded overnight. PAS later compounded the farce by pretending everything was fine. Was that the low point of PAS’s behaviour, ever? Probably. Nothing like what its founders intended. What did other archaeologists and the Government make of it? (There’s a possible clue in paragraph 3.)

The only way from there is up and later in the year came hope that PAS might change for there’s now a “new PAS”, unburdened by the past. Will it start ensuring it always puts archaeological protection ahead of the wishes, threats or sensibilities of artefact hunters?  The jury is still out but the year ended ominously.  The new Countryside Stewardship Scheme will require landowners to disallow detecting on ploughed fields that contain known but unscheduled archaeological sites but a detectorist reports that his Finds Liaison Officer told him “its no good for you and its no good for us”.

PAS is about to issue an official statement. Will it side with detectorists and say the new requirement is wrong and that targeting known archaeological sites on ploughed land is not bad practice? (Show us any archaeologist who praises detecting and we’ll show you someone who avoids acknowledging that that’s where most finds come from!) Anyway, we’ll soon know. One thing seems likely: Natural England didn’t come up with this change in isolation – and from that it seems to follow that the Government and The Archaeological Establishment, with or without PAS’s agreement, have decided sucking up to detectorists to the detriment of archaeology has gone too far. Maybe Lenborough was the final straw, in which case we all owe the detectorists there a big vote of thanks! ***

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The Janus of Bloomsbury, trying to work out how to look after both artefact hunters AND archaeology ....

The Janus of Bloomsbury, trying to resolve the impossible: how to look after both artefact hunters AND archaeology ….

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 *** You may be interested to know that far from being forbidden from ever going back, like would happen in every country on earth but one, the original heroes of Lenborough, not archaeologists, are holding another rally right now (Jan 3rd 2016) on that very field! That’s how inured we are in this country to unacceptably damaging behaviour in plain sight and how utterly ludicrous and inadequate our definition of “good practice” currently is!

Oh! Paul Barford has just pointed out a forum posting by detectorist “Bob”
Re: Rallie 3rd Jan 16
CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER.
Funny innit, how the Met Office has bravely done for Archaeology what Britain’s timid and “voluntary” portable antiquities policy can’t!

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Update: Unsurprisingly none of the above points has been refuted by detectorists (how could they be?) Instead, the author has simply been dismissed as “a well known serial detractor”. It saves thinking, But on the contrary “Geoman” I’m on good terms with some detectorists, it’s just that I think the ones who get their kicks digging artefacts from known archaeological sites are selfish. And a bit thick! And should be stopped by law. So sue me!

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From 1st January many farmers will be forbidden to allow metal detecting on ploughed land if there are known archaeological sites on it, not just on grassland containing them. This is due to the new Countrywide Stewardship Scheme starting on that date. A detectorist has said: “It would seem that this move is nothing more than a way to restrict and control metal detecting access to known archaeological sites…” Damn right it is! What’s wrong with wanting rules preventing people from damaging or sometimes destroying any archaeological sites purely for personal amusement or profit? You won’t find a single archaeologist outside Britain who thinks that should be allowed.

However, there are ominous clouds on the horizon. The usual suspects, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, may be trying to get it reversed. As one detectorist says: Have just come out from meeting FLO and he says ….. PAS are also concerned about this and will be issuing a statement early in the New Year” and he gives a direct and profoundly anti-conservation quote from the FLO: “its no good for you and its no good for us”. Is that right, Mr FLO?! Well it’s good for archaeology and that’s all that matters!

So watch this space just after Christmas. Will “New PAS” get English Nature to delete the words “ploughed land” and thereby fail its first big litmus test by flouting CBA’s vision of archaeology “for all” in favour of  archaeology “freely available for damaging by an acquisitive few”? If the latter, why are they receiving salaries?

Update 22/12/2015: Unsurprisingly, the National Council for Metal Detecting have complained they “have not been consulted” and one “Muddy Fingers” laments that “Nowadays, it seems that things get presented to us as a fait accompli of which we had no prior knowledge or opportunity to state our case”. And what would be your “case” Muddy? That detecting on archaeological sites does no damage and you want to be allowed to continue?

That’s the choice PAS must make. Support thousands of Muddys. Or archaeology. Get in line with the rest of the world or pretend they’re wrong. PS, detectorists are saying to a man they should support THEM against the archaeology – look at this classic from Muddy: ” The PAS has really got to fight for our cause a lot more than they have done. ” Er, really? Is that what he thinks they’re there for?

Update 29/12/2015  Interestingly, there’s an early test for PAS in a few days. There’s (another!) rally at Lenborough on 3rd January and the organiser says “The Deserted Medieval Village is not scheduled but I promised the FLO that we would forego searching there in consideration of the underlying archaeology.” Very good. Usually detectorists target such places with relish (“well it’s legal, innit?”) so agreeing not to is a rare treat for archaeology. But what of PAS? No lickspittling on this occasion, but what about all the other unscheduled sites? Will they say those are fair game if ploughed and the new Countrywide Stewardship Scheme should be rejected so their “partners” can have their way?

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Farmer Brown writes …..

silas 990

Dear Farming Colleagues,

Back in April 2013 the Heritage Journal highlighted the rally rule of Somerset Artefact Seekers Detecting Club: “Any items found that are not Treasure Trove become the property of the finder/s unless otherwise stated.” It was changed the very next day to “Any items found that are not Treasure Trove become the property of the finder and the land Owner on the basis of 50/50”. Hmmm. You’d have to wonder what degree of fiction about the low likelihood of finding anything induced all those farmers to sign all their property rights away? Anyway, here’s the question: have all subsequent farmers (and previous ones before the rule change) now been paid their 50%? 

It’s a lot of money. The club website reveals they tend to find at least 20 historic finds per event – so maybe on average 15 finds @ £10 each, 3 @ £50 each, 2 @ £100 each and 1 @ £250 = £750…. x 100 events since they started = £75,000!  (Not counting any undeclared items or priceless ones!) So the farmers should have been paid at least £32500, yes? Were they, and are there accounts and receipts showing that? And do the other 200 clubs have similar paperwork? The harvesting of hundreds of thousands of non-Treasure finds is big business, maybe £10 million a year, so accounts must be available surely, for without them how would farmers and the public know they were getting their just deserts? If they weren’t it would be theft. Heritage crime. Yes? 

Yet it seems that in Britain no-one is calling for financial accountability to ensure farmers are treated fairly. Not archaeologists, the Government, the National Farmers Union and certainly not detectorists. Think what £10 million a year can pay for – 380 nurses, 3000 annual student fees, a doubling of offshore wind subsidies – or 7 years of running costs for PAS. It’s inconceivable there would be no paperwork for any of those. So does that mean the rights of we farmers are seen as irrelevant – and that we’re far less deserving recipients of the benefits of harvesting our property than metal detectorists?  I guess so.

Kind Regards,

Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow Farm,
Worfield,
Shropshire

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detectoristsEndScene

The final scenes from “Detectorists” on Thursday night.

They could have found any old Treasure anywhere. But no, in the run up to Christmas with the shops piled high with special offers on thousands of cheap starter metal detectors, they had to find something identical to the incomparable Alfred jewel and find it next to a standing stone.

In January there will be reports of multiple holes at ancient sites. They will be attributed to professional nighthawks but more likely they will be the work of underinformed newbies. It will partly be the Beeb’s fault and partly the Archaeological Establishment’s, especially PAS, for saying nothing.

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