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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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Most right-thinking people will be dismayed by Wiltshire Rural Crime Team’s recent tweet: “Shocking to see illegal metal detecting near Silbury Hill within the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site“. But they’ll no doubt be comforted by the two falsehoods which invariably appear in the press after such incidents: “such cases are rare” and “it was nighthawks not detectorists”.
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Yet just this week there has been a spate of cases across the Malvern Hills (and we recently photographed it happening there in broad daylight, right next to a “no detecting” sign). That’s just on one range of hills comprising a 20,000th of the UK area so it can hardly be rare nationally.
As for “it was nighthawks not detectorists”, that’s pure baloney (PAS please note!). There IS no separate species. To nighthawk, you have to avail yourself of whatever “legal” detectorists use, including their clubs, their local knowledge and their access to the local Finds Liaison Officer. Thus you can launder your finds by find-spot falsification, obtaining official identifications, and, if you’re lucky, claim a Treasure reward.
Not that illegality is the biggest problem. Vastly more knowledge theft happens as a result of the majority of “legitimate ” detectorists not reporting their recordable finds. But there are no photographs of that. Not one. And PAS doesn’t talk about it.
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If anything WAS found here, it will certainly be laundered by findspot description, shown to PAS and might even earn a juicy Treasure Act reward while museums are left short of funds. As worldwide heritage protection systems go, the British one is surely the craziest?

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Like most Rotarians, members of Dunmow Rotary club seem a nice, well-meaning group of senior citizens. They’ve just cancelled their “charity metal detecting rally”, ostensibly because of coronavirus. Strange that, as all other rallies are going ahead. Is it because of what we said a couple of weeks ago:


“Rotary Clubs are by far the biggest hosts of Charity detecting rallies. (“Rotary club” + “metal detecting” gets you 15,500 Google hits). It’s due to the kindness of their land-owning members, unaware of the heritage damage, and that the main beneficiaries are the detectorists, who keep the finds, not donate them.”


.Let’s hope so, and that other Rotary clubs will follow suit. It’s a lesson to PAS: we know you don’t like big rallies because of the heritage damage they do, so rather than endlessly shrugging and saying “but they’re legal so we can’t do anything”just tell landowners the truth, starting with all the Rotary clubs?

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Maybe it is these words from an academic that have led Rotary International to be the main suppliers of land for detecting rallies: “Empirical studies increasingly testify to the capacity for archaeological and cultural heritage sites to engender wonder, transformation, attachment, and community bonding among diverse individuals… these sites have the power to ‘enchant’ and, in so doing, they are seedbeds of human generosity, ethical mindfulness, and care for the world at large.”

But that soaring rhetoric doesn’t convey that things are very different when money or personal acquisitiveness comes into play. Did anyone from Rotary ever look at any detecting forums or go to a rally or look on eBay? Things may look the same in Britain’s fields, but they’ve changed.

Below is Sir Mortimer Wheeler outreaching to the public 85 years ago and on the right is a recent Dunmow Rotary Club Metal Detecting rally. At the latter, the interest is rather more than purely academic, to say the least. Note the finds on the right are in a glass case. You might wonder why. It’s because things have changed. Detecting rallies are NOT “seedbeds of human generosity, ethical mindfulness, and care for the world at large” and endlessly trumpeting that a minority of detectorists are “responsible” can’t change that fact.

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Rotary Clubs are by far the biggest hosts of Charity detecting rallies. (“Rotary club” + “metal detecting” gets you 15,500 Google hits). It’s due to the kindness of their land-owning members, unaware of the heritage damage, and that the main beneficiaries are the detectorists, who keep the finds, not donate them.

Last year Dunmow Rotary Club held their third successive rally at Thaxted. This is why: “Barry joined Dunmow Rotary Club in 2015, from the Wootton Bassett Rotary Club, bringing the idea of a metal detecting rally with him”.

Yes, Wootton Bassett Rotary Club. Last year it held its 22nd charity rally! 22 rallies, imagine! Why hasn’t PAS written to Rotary International and told them what they think of large detecting rallies? (i.e. they won’t attend them as they can result in the loss of much archaeological information). Beats us.

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12 years ago, almost to the day, we wrote:

“German eBay has just introduced new rules on the sale of archaeological artefacts. Anything sold must be accompanied by proper documentation showing the seller’s title and proof that it has been properly reported“.

As a result, there are now zero Metalldetektionsfunde (metal detecting finds) directly offered on German eBay. Providing “proper documentation” has turned out to be too difficult, it seems.

However, you CAN buy thousands of finds via German eBay. They are the ones designated as from international sellers, people who aren’t obliged to provide proper documentation. They’re nearly all from Großbritannien!

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                 [2291 Articles found by international eBay sellers]

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Makes you proud to be British, does it? Maybe those considering post-PAS options should take note.

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Just now, as PAS teeters on the edge of being a victim of post-COVID-austerity, one might ask: why don’t those tens of thousands of artefact hunters who benefit from it’s existence offer it financial help? Why doesn’t PAS ask them? Well in fact it already has – see its 2015 Just Giving page! So far, £1,248 has been raised – from 30 supporters (including us!) That’s £41.60 each, not bad.

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However, when PAS loses its funding, and detectorists shed tears because they so love to record finds (apart from most of them!),  keep in mind that between 27,000 of them they’ve given less than 1p a year each to keep it going! To put 1p in context: “Kimbo’s Rally Week” at Boxted next September costs £100!

Saying one thing and doing another has been the defining characteristic of  most UK artefact hunters for two long decades. So it’s ironic that when PAS ends it will expose one last artefact hunting hypocrisy.

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by Nigel Swift

We recently complained about an 11th detecting rally at Boxted. Now an 11th is coming to or near Weyhill Fair. If ever somewhere should be protected it’s there, where social and commercial interaction took place for at least 8.5 centuries. It can’t be scheduled (no buildings there) so instead it’s being progressively denuded for fun and profit (ostensibly “for charity”, even though everything found is kept by the detectorists.).

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Sites really don’t come better than this!” crowed the organiser. Yes. I used to pass here daily, it’s history personified: 750 years of almost continuous gatherings including the country’s largest sheep fairs (100,000  sold a day at the peak), mentioned in “The Vision of Piers Plowman”, held on land partly owned by Chaucer (did he hear some of his tales from characters here?). Thousands turned up for the hiring of workers and all manner of entertainments – perhaps jousting, sword fighting, dog-baiting, bear-baiting, cockfighting, and strolling minstrels, Mystery Plays and mummers. By the sixteenth century it had an on-site court to settle disputes and lawlessness and thereafter it expanded further to include a horse fair, a cheese fair, and a hop fair. There were even said to be cases of wife-selling, as immortalised by Thomas Hardy in the Mayor of Casterbridge.

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So by September two sites will have hosted 11 rallies each. At an average weekend attendance of 200 each one, that implies 70,000 hours of exploitative searching. A vivid illustration of the folly of UK policies, especially the recent decision to allow metal detecting rallies to restart. Any chance PAS could express dismay? No? Would poor Wayne be upset?

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.                                 Name the odd one out!


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[Clue: It’s the one where mass recreational knowledge theft is entirely legal.]

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