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Via Twitter, our attention was recently drawn to a project that looks to be of interest, primarily to those in the north of the UK, but also to anyone with an interest in the cultural overlap between Britain and Scandinavia.

The NATUR: North Atlantic Tales project is:

looking for people, projects and institutions who would be interested in working with an artist from overseas and who have stories to tell that connect Northern English and Scottish cultural heritage with any of Iceland/Norway/Denmark (and vice versa) including:

  • Professional museums and archives
  • Personal collections and archives
  • Music, moving image and photography collections (both catalogued and hoarded)
  • Societies, groups and communities that can trace those connections
  • Researchers working across our partnering countries
  • Academics and academic departments connecting our partnering countries
  • Personal Testimony

It seems to us to be a worthwhile project, and the highlighted item above could well be a chance for our metal detecting friends (responsible or otherwise) to share some of the knowledge of what they’ve found or otherwise obtained. From our own perspective, we’re thinking primarily of ‘Viking’ related materials but the project’s scope seems to far beyond just the physical artefact connections:

The first NATUR project will broadly interrogate 7 themes through the archives of each country that shaped and continue to forge a shared Northern identity – folklore and language, merchants, fisheries, industrialisation, conflict, oil, and women’s history.

Cuerdale hoard viking silver british museum

So if you have any collections or other input which may fit the scope of the project, why not contact them through their website and offer to share your knowledge?

By Nigel Swift, Chairman, Heritage Action

A well known metal detectorist has produced a Glossary of Detecting Terms, two of which I’d like to take issue with.

First, under “B” there’s this:

I feel he has made a simple mistake – confusing agreement with sycophancy. For me, metal detecting without reporting all of your recordable finds, which is demonstrably what the vast majority of detectorists do, is the action of a selfish ignoramus. If Paul shares that view and is determined not to pretend otherwise what can I do but agree with him?

Then, under “H” there’s this:

But “Hedge Fodder” is not a phrase used by archaeologists, whether professional or amateur. Archaeology is about digging in the pursuit of all knowledge not selective acquisition of objects. So I see the very use of the phrase  as revealing selfishness and ignorance – and what sustains me against 20 years of attacks and personal insults is that I’m confident that virtually every archaeologist, every amateur archaeologist, every Finds Liaison Officer and every thinking person agrees. Historical knowledge is a communal resource and is not something which should be selectively discarded in a hedge by uncaring people.

So there we are Mr Detectorist, you got it wrong. I’m no sycophant, I’m someone who shares Paul’s distaste for knowlege theft – and in that I’m fully supported by all who see cultural knowledge of our past, all of it, as belonging to all of us.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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An Irish detecting site has just echoed the lament of countless British detectorists. They believe they should have access to state lands …. where many other groups already enjoy the hobby of their choice.”

 

It’s a claim to equivalence – on the grounds that metal detecting is just like rambling, birdwatching, kite flying and a host of other pastimes. But actually, there is no equivalence. People who pursue those other interests on public land don’t pocket public property. Simple really. That’s why most Councils, the National Trust and the Forestry Commission allow rambling and birdwatching and kite flying but not detecting.

Is there a solution? Of course there is! The decision would be entirely different if detectorists offered to keep to “the Surrey Council Premise” – detecting in a way similar to an archaeological survey with the landowners and the public being the main beneficiaries and “all finds being Council property.” But guess how many detectorists have proposed that?

No. Lower.

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Permitted fun on Avebury Henge. No pocketing, see?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Did you see the recent April Fool joke about a detecting rally at Stonehenge? A joke, yet tens of thousands of people DO detect legally on thousands of  other archaeological sites. How come? Because the essence of detecting is maximising finds rates by finding hot spots – and hot spots by their very nature ARE archaeological sites!

So “laissez faire” has delivered to Britain a simple grotesque reality: the vast majority of archaeological sites aren’t protected and of those the more precious they are the more likely they will be collected away to obscurity!

The simple, sad logic of  Britain’s detecting “laissez faire”. Of course, if any archaeologist, official or otherwise, wants to deny it be our guest!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Please warn your elderly relatives. Numerous people are going door to door offering loft clearance for free – but with 3 disreputable conditions:

Scandalous or what! “Finds of a lesser value I shall own”! “We’ll keep you informed of what’s gone by sending photographs! You may well wonder why don’t they just charge a flat fee like any respectable contractor would? It’s clear why, and it’s clear whose interests are being served – and whose aren’t! No doubt the police would like to hear of any sightings of these cowboys. .


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But actually, the above isn’t quite true. Those 3 statements are not from a loft clearance firm, they’re from a model “metal detecting finds agreement” published in this month’s UK Detectornet online magazine!.

It’s strange, isn’t it, how something that is so readily seen to be blatantly unfair, disreputable, unprofessional, exploitative and worth reporting to the police when it refers to lofts is tolerated in silence by The Archaeological Establishment and the Police when it refers to fields! But that’s the horrible mess Britain has constructed for itself. The authorities know it’s wrong but feel they have to keep quiet. And farmers suffer as a result.

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We thought we’d mention our Artefact Erosion Counter (of artefacts removed by detectorists since 1975, mostly unreported) recently reached 13 million!

If each was an inch wide they’d stretch the 200 miles from the British Museum to the Louvre in Paris – where, no doubt, archaeologists would speak out. If however our estimate of the number of detectorists is wrong and Dr Sam Hardy is right they’d stretch 600 miles, almost to the Museo Archaeologico in Rome – where. no doubt, archaeologists would also speak out.

Meanwhile in London, archaeologists who are equally dedicated  but are captives of the prevailing legislation, will soon plan another Conference praising the PAS and the small minority of detectorists who report to it. No-one will be highlighting the trail of lost history stretching to Paris or Rome although some detectorist-attendees will no doubt be smirking about the likes of us and our “lying Counter” in the tea break….

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In Mexico they’ve just created a new division of the Federal Police which will recruit officers with knowledge of archaeology and art to tackle theft of cultural artifacts. The training of officers is being carried out with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA). It’s a bit like the efforts the British police have made, albeit rather more robust.

But there’s a crucial difference between Mexico and here. In Britain mining for archaeological and heritage items is a big industry, and almost entirely legal and sustained, encouraged and promoted from the public coffers. Here, we even pay scores of Portable Antiquities Scheme employees to attend hundreds of crass grabfests up and down the country (over 500 so far – see here ) smiling yet knowing full well (but never admitting to the public) that a high proportion of finds aren’t reported to them (which is blatant cultural theft of cultural artefacts) or to the owner (which is blatant criminal theft of cultural artefacts).

Mexicans, eh? They know nothing! (Incidentally, the redeployment of three Detective Constables from antiques to investigation of the Grenfell tragedy leaves London, the world’s second-largest market for art and antiques, unsupervised by any specialist police officers).

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The National Council for Metal Detecting [NCMD] has issued a statement:
“It has been brought to our attention that on one of the metal detecting groups in Britain, a short video was posted with incorrect messages about the oncoming European Council for Metal Detecting [ECMD] Conference in Norfolk. In this film, Mr. Marek Zacharko claimed that the British delegates from the NCMD will attend the Conference in a special role in order to “train” ECMD members. We have asked for official clarification from the NCMD and we have been assured by them that the comments made by Mr. Zacharko were his own personal interpretation and were made due to the fact that his command of English is quite poor (he is a foreign national living in Britain) so he misunderstood what was said about our Conference during an NCMD meeting that he attended. We welcome this explanation and are looking forward to meeting and working with NCMD delegation, which will be present in Norfolk in exactly the same role as other delegations from 11 different countries.”

Which is strange, for the NCMD “hosted” the ECMD’s inaugural meeting and ECMD was entirely their idea: “The concept of an ECMD was the brainchild of Trevor Austin {NCMD Chairman] who had worked tirelessly since 2012 to try and establish a common European organisation to represent the interests of detectorists across many parts of Europe …… The conference was organised entirely by a sub-committee of the NCMD.”

Just why the NCMD is now denying paternity of a Europe-wide lobbying body is a matter for speculation. However, we suspect it has realised that post-Brexit, when British archaeological voices in support of unregulated artefact hunting are heard far less in Brussels and Strasbourg, Britain will be seen far more as the uncultured man of Europe. In turn, that just might persuade Britain’s legislators to act.

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[For more on Dr Hardy’s conclusions put “Sam Hardy” in our search box].

It’s no secret we think it’s a scandal that detectorists don’t report more of their finds but it’s sometimes hard to convey the sheer scale of the loss. But this might put it into context:

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Poor Egypt! 33,600 museum worthy artefacts have been lost over 50 years! On the other hand, on the basis of Dr Sam Hardy’s calculations, in Britain over the past 42 years it seems that about 38 million recordable artefacts, vast numbers presumably museum worthy, haven’t been reported by detectorists and have therefore been lost to the public and science. Aren’t actions, not soothing selective words, urgently needed?

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As everyone knows, selectivity is akin to lying. What then should be made of the succession of recent stories praising detectorists for having donated their finds to museums when the reality is that more than 90% of them don’t do so?

Instead they are paid handsomely. That’s the law, so they’re entitled, but you might think there’s a distinction between legal entitlement and doing what’s right, and it would do no harm at all for the difference to be made clear, not obscured. Here’s a very typical recent example (from Ely Museum) of it being obscured …..

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The public had just paid for its own property. Why present it as a triumph, when it was avoidable? Much better if the reality was clearly expressed:

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When did the Truth ever hurt? Might not the number of selfless “donors” be thereby increased from the current very low level?  And might not claims such as “only in it for the history” and “citizen archaeologists” start to look less like calculated fibs designed to mislead landowners and taxpayers?

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