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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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Dear Fellow Landowners,

Detecting is becoming big business. TWO organisations are now offering up to £1,000 for access to fields. But if you’re approached be warned: no archaeologist in Britain or the world approves of commercial exploitation like that. Plus, the Government now says post Brexit we must earn our subsidies and that is bound to include protecting archaeology.

Clearly allowing hundreds of strangers onto a field to collect all the artefacts for themselves will damage or even destroy its archaeological value. Unlike damage to nature that can never be put right so you could lose subsidies not just for a while but forever. So you risk losing vastly more than £1,000.

Regards

Silas Brown,
Grunter’s Hollow,
Worfield,
Salop

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Would you expect a subsidy if you were taking money to allow dozens of strangers to do this?

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“Are you a club looking for land? 

“Let’s go digging have land in Wales, Lancashire and Devon that they can’t use. They are offering the land to clubs that might need it as it could be lost otherwise. Interested? Contact Paul at LGD either via Facebook or via their website.”

https://www.metaldetectingforum.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=94091#p837186

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Yes you read it right. Lets Go Digging, the commercial artefact hunting organisation that offers farmers up to £1,000 to allow their clients to remove archaeological artefacts from their fields, is now offering to transfer such permissions to others.

Let’s hope this latest humiliating blow to Britain’s reputation is temporary. DEFRA Secretary Michael Gove has said farm subsidies after Brexit must be earned. Maybe not letting such events take place on your land will be classed as worthy of being paid a subsidy.

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For many years PAS has studiously ignored all our ideas for reducing knowledge loss and protecting the buried archaeological resource. Which is strange, as those two aims are their whole raison d’etre. However, a Finds Liaison Officer has just taken notice and suggests we send a list of our suggestions to see what might be done.  It’s a great offer.

We thought we’d start by sending just one suggestion which goes to the heart of the matter. It’s that we think PAS should make it clear on their website that not reporting recordable metal detected archaeological finds is not merely irresponsible but immoral. Why? Because in a country where, in the 20 years PAS has existed, a small hobby has withheld 13 million bundles of knowledge from the public and science, such a statement is 20 years overdue.

PLUS, we think the gruesome and capacious underbelly of the hobby, see below, ought to be shown to the public and landowners, not ignored by officialdom. Let PAS do a bit more exposing and a bit less praising.

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Recent advice to colleagues from a well known detectorist: .

“It helps to mark the envelope ‘Numismatic Specimen’ rather than ‘roman coin’ thus helping to deflect the attention of prying eyes.”
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Western Black Rhinos became extinct recently, but we still have pictures.

Northern Black Rhinos are about to join them, but we’ll still have pictures.

Thirteen million bundles of knowledge haven’t been reported by metal detectorists. We don’t have pictures….

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  “We pay up to £1,000 per visit for our members to metal detect your fields…”

Hey, PAS, EH, HE, CBA, NFU, CIfA, ALGAO, RCHAM, BM, APPAG why so quiet?

Are you content that this is happening weekly in Britain but nowhere else, not even in North Korea?

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We’ve had this response from a metal detectorist:

“Yes I am very happy that in Britain, detectorists are allowed, and encouraged, to contribute to the PAS. Whereas, in North Korea:-

It is illegal for the North Korean people to leave their country without the regime’s permission, and the regime attempts to restrict the people’s movement even inside their own country.

If you wish to travel to another part of the country, you are supposed to have a specific purpose and obtain permission from your work unit. If you do not live in Pyongyang, the showcase capital where most resources are concentrated, you will likely be denied access.

The regime has also forcibly relocated hundreds of thousands of North Koreans to less favourable parts of the country as a form of punishment and political persecution.

If Heritage Action’s disciples want to compete with the UK’s ‘Tekkies’ in the heritage stakes, then they should stump up the cash: That’s democracy, but I recognise, such a political concept is alien to many of your bag-carriers – poets, ‘writers on the edge’ (of what remains unclear) – who’d apparently like to foist North Korea’s values on Britain.

There’s no dissension in North Korea, in case you hadn’t noticed. Were Heritage Action/Journal to lampoon North Korea’s government under that regime, Nigel Swift, Sandy whats-her-name, et al, ad nauseam, would end up with a bullet in the back of the neck. So, not all bad then, some might say!

I’d reckon, 1K per farmer to hunt is good value.”

Says it all. North Korea is a terrible regime and yet ….

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Dear Detectorists,
If you find Treasure you may get a reward. Hurrah! But please be warned: Paragraph 81 of the Treasure Act Code of Practice says you won’t if you’re an archaeologist
or “anyone engaged on an archaeological excavation or investigation”.

That matters. It means you’d better not tell your farmer you’re engaged in an archaeological investigation or anything like it and you’d better ask PAS to stop telling all and sundry that detectorists are “citizen archaeologists” and part of “Britain’s largest community archaeology project “. If you find Treasure while doing anything other than plain artefact hunting for your own benefit you might get no reward at all! 

It’s particularly important you take heed just now – for we’ve heard that some conservation busybodies are planning to approach some Treasure inquests and hearings with overwhelming evidence that certain farmers have been told (by both detectorists and PAS, verbally and in writing) that the people they allowed onto their land to metal detect were actually engaged in an archaeological process.

Hope this helps. We hope you’ll amend what you tell farmers. Urgently.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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It’s now 10 years since Culture Minister David Lammy dubbed metal detectorists “the unsung heroes of the UK’s heritage”. It caused astonishment amongst archaeologists at the time as it flew in the face of what was happening in the fields and it makes even less sense now after another 2.3 million bundles of knowledge have been lost to science through blatant non-reporting. Yet PAS has never said he was wrong. Instead they’ve gone quiet about it, dubbing detectorists, variously, as their “partners” and “citizen archaeologists”. Lately they’ve pulled out all the stops to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Treasure Act which is actually a tiny part of detecting but a great success, ergo they claim is a success for them. All this year there are “Treasure20” exhibitions at a host of museums and the public is being invited to vote for “The Nation’s Favourite Find”.

However, the whole jamboree is based on a claim that the Treasure Act “marked a radical change in the fortune of objects found …..allowing thousands of important finds to be acquired by public collections for all to enjoy” But that’s a fib. The Act didn’t “allow” anything. All it did was to start offering your money for your property. The number of detectorists who hand in their Treasure finds has grown greatly for sure, from a derisory number twenty years ago to over a thousand a year now, but neither PAS’s outreach nor the Act have done that. Your money has. Although it’s your treasure Dear Reader you’ve been paying many millions to the finders to ensure they hand your property over instead of doing what they mostly did before – quietly flogging it elsewhere. So although most Treasure is now probably declared there’s no heroism involved, just a ransom. At the same time 98% of non-Treasure items aren’t reported – but you don’t offer a ransom for those.

Not that you’ll see that reality reflected in the many Treasure 20 exhibitions round the country. At those, David Lammy rides again. They’re all about yes, wonderful things (that are yours), heroic finders and praiseworthy PAS. No mention of you paying for your own property or the endless talk on detecting forums about “how much” and “was the valuation too low?” and “are you going to appeal against it?” You should keep all that in mind if you go to look at your property.

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At a time when detectorists persuade farmers to deep plough to maximise their loot, when a huge registered business called Lets Go Digging is paying up to £1,000 to get access to farms and at a time when Dr Sam Hardy’s work is pointing to between 90 and 98 percent of recordable finds not being reported, we’d like to make the point we made a few years ago:

“Ever heard PAS or the Government say “not reporting detecting finds is immoral?” How come? Well, Britain is special. It’s the country where theft of society’s knowledge of it’s past isn’t morally indefensible – even though it used to be. Back in 2001 PAS asserted “The Scheme believes that people have a moral obligation to their heritage.” Not now though. They won’t even say not reporting finds is irresponsible so there’s no chance of them saying it’s immoral!

Why the change? We think it dates from when it became evident that most detectorists take “voluntary” to mean “not necessary”. At that point, for the Scheme to assert reporting was necessary on moral grounds would be to point out a too-painful truth to their partners and indeed to their funders. Thus, “moral obligation” has been dropped. Oh to be a British artefact hunter, free of an obligation to the rest of society!”

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Bonkers Britain, uniquely in the world, has painted itself into a corner where theft of society’s knowledge can’t be described as immoral. Don’t believe us? Write to PAS, or one of the FLOs or the Government. Ask them straight out: “do you think not reporting detecting finds is immoral?” If they don’t say yes you’ll know we’re right. PS: Paul Barford has just done it. In case he doesn’t get a reply why don’t YOU do it too, Dear Reader? (You can get the PAS email addresses from his article).

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