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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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The PAS Guidance is clear:don’t detect below the disturbed plough soil“. So are the Guidelines for Landowners: “if requested by a finder deep-ploughing should be resisted.”  Trouble is, most detectorists don’t care about doing right – why else are more than 90% of recordable finds not reported? And why else do we get outrageous public statements like this:

“Have you got a permission that’s stopped producing? If you get on well with the farmer why not ask them very, very nicely if they will drive their deepest plow over it for you. Might take a bit of cash incentive but will completely refresh the field”.

And this (just this week, from the organiser of a detecting rally): “The farmer has been persuaded to deep plough and sub soil all worked land so the already productive fields will surely yield more!

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The upshot of 20 years of laissez faire: enhanced ransacking by “refreshing” the fields.

 

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Progress on reducing the depredations caused by illegal metal detecting is slow but this week in Lincolnshire there’s good news. Police are evaluating drones with a view to deploying them county-wide in the fight against “rural crime”. That term covers some of Britain’s grubbiest activities – theft of farm equipment and livestock, arson, poaching, dog fighting, fly tipping, hare coursing, and of course nighthawking.

The sooner drones are acquired by every police authority the better. Soon, stealing archaeological artefacts from archaeological sites or open farmland  under cover of darkness is going to become far more risky..

Soon darkness won’t provide cover

Of course, as we’ve always stressed, nighthawking is dwarfed by broad daylight losses due to non-disclosure by legal detectorists. (As a detectorist on a forum revealed, when he showed some finds to a farmer he got the response: “Do you know, I’ve had about 16 detectorists on that field over the past twenty years, and not ONE has showed me a thing. I thought they weren’t finding anything“). Nevertheless, seriously reducing nighthawking through deploying drones is a very welcome start.

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Dear Colleagues,

Please be aware. A metal detecting group has just admitted how badly many farmers are treated:

“Whilst we were surveying this permission”……
Surveying?! Be in no doubt: artefact hunting ain’t surveying and absolutely nothing like it. It’s acquiring. Ask any archaeologist. …..
“I sent the landowner a report of the finds and images”.
That’s just plain outrageous!

Friends, PLEASE don’t let anyone tell you that’s OK instead of bringing you your finds in the flesh and straight away. I know many of you are told “it’s OK as it’s all a matter of trust” but that involves only you doing the trusting. The bottom line is that the finds are YOUR property and some could be priceless. Do you want to risk being robbed?

Put it this way: would you let a stranger search through your deceased Granny’s house? And send you photos of what he took away?!

Silas Brown,
Grunters Hollow,
Worfield,
Salop
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[For more on Dr Hardy’s conclusions put “Sam Hardy” in our search box].

Dr Sam Hardy’s unequivocal conclusion that “permissive regulation is ineffective in minimising harm to heritage assets” has just been backed up by further strong  evidence supplied by Paul Barford. It really speaks for itself.

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But not quite. The red column doesn’t include coins. Imagine how high it would be if it did!

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Update, From Paul Barford 29/5/17:
…. “day after day, week after week, year after year until enough people say “hey, this can’t be right!”
That was yesterday, today the results of the same search would reveal the same pattern, and tomorrow, and the day after that. This erosion of the archaeological record to fill the pockets of those selling them, and the back bedroom shelves of those that buy them will go on, day after day, week after week, year after year until enough people say “hey, this can’t be right!” and heritage-aware society puts a STOP to this (Stop Taking Our Past – what is “wrong” with that sentiment?).

Where should that awareness be being created, and by whom?

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This is from the website of “Lets go Digging” a new detecting rally organisation which is growing exponentially (currently 2,000 members with digs weekly). It seems very likely that it will be the future of artefact hunting in Britain unless The Establishment takes action.

With every day that passes, we are seeing a substantial increase in the amount of people taking up metal detecting.

it won’t be long before there are insufficient farms to meet the demand.

there’s no doubt in our minds that presenting to the landowner as a business is the way forward when it comes to acquiring land nationwide for our members.

We came to a decision that to acquire a permission, we had to make it worth the landowners time, so by pricing a dig at £15  for our full members, we could pay him £10 per head, in most cases a minimum of £400 and in some cases, over £1000.

Our goal is to further strengthen the group next year which will allow us to approach landowners with increasingly generous offers to get their permission to detect and so develop our already considerable land portfolio.

Whilst we are aware that some people may not like the fact we are offering payment, there are few alternatives that will allow this hobby to cater for the growing numbers, especially whilst local clubs are restricting numbers and farmers who have someone already detecting their land and won’t allow any others on.

For us, the goal is to give value for money, to continue to introduce new features to make the day more fun, to develop additional relationships with organisations that can offer our members beneficial advantages and continue to acquire new and  exciting land….. the best land in the best locations nationwide.

We expect all finds to be shown for photographing.

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Archaeologists are discussing “what to do about detecting rallies.” Trouble is, they have no power to enforce change. That ability rests solely with landowners for without their permission there can be no detecting at all.

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So it’s vital for the resource (and their own interest) that farmers understand the issues. Yet often they’re offered an incomplete picture with detectorists simply suggesting the landowner should “trust” them to do the right thing. Far better if archaeologists advised farmers to firmly respond with:

No, I’d prefer that YOU trust ME, not vice versa. Instead of taking some of the finds away without showing me, bring them to me, without exception. (They’re mine.) I’ll submit them to PAS for recording and I’ll get them valued (by an independent expert). Then I may let you have some of them. Trust me.”

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This week Mike Heyworth, Director of the CBA tweeted: Off to the British Museum to chair meeting of the Finds Best Practice working group. What do we do about metal detecting rallies?” We suggest the answer depends if they wish to protect the archaeological resource. And landowners. Or PAS. For as the meeting participants will be aware:

  • Common sense and evidence suggest numerous items found at rallies aren’t reported, even if PAS are in attendance.
  • Common sense suggests nighthawked finds from elsewhere are brought to rallies to be “laundered”.
  • Common sense suggests many other finds from elsewhere are laundered at rallies (because rally rules on sharing with landowner are lax or non-existent).
  • The rules of most rallies ignore both the official metal detecting code and the official advice on running rallies.
  • Items found at rallies are very, very rarely shown to the landowners (and everyone knows exactly why but no-one admits it).
  • Thousands of European detectorists come to British rallies to do all of the above because it’s illegal for them to do it at home.

So the answer to Dr Heyworth’s question, What do we do about metal detecting rallies?” must surely be crystal clear to the Finds Best Practice working group: one or all of them should tell the Government that rallies damage the resource, aid and abet criminality, deprive farmers of their entitlement, corrupt the PAS database and attract to Britain thousands of people  keen to do to our resource what they are prohibited from doing to their own.  The Government can then at least make a properly informed decision. If, instead, they merely tinker with the detecting code, we think they’ll be letting down everyone except detectorists and the PAS.

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

If you Google “knowledge loss”+”metal detecting” you get lots of hits but almost all from us or Paul Barford and only one from PAS. That begs a question: how come it’s us not them highlighting the scandal of massive knowledge loss due to non-recording (especially now Sam Hardy has shown there are far more detectorists and ergo far greater knowledge loss than previously thought)?

But at long last a PAS employee (FLO Adam Daubney) has just said (in a Public Archaeology Twitter Conference): in terms of knowledge-loss, non-reporting presents a far greater threat to the archaeological record than illicit activity.”

Quite. So wouldn’t now be an ideal moment, instead of celebrating 20 years since PAS was set up, for those who lead it to also come clean and inform the Government that the project hasn’t reversed the destructive reality and needs re-thinking? Twenty years of giving the taxpayer and heritage stakeholder a different impression is surely enough?

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

As Paul Barford has highlighted, a US antiquities dealer has confessed he avoids “unwarranted attention” from officialdom by posting out coins in boxes marked as “numismatic tokens“. He says you can buy and sell anything if you avoid being transparent about what you’re actually doing. Sadly, he’s right. Misdescription is power – as any scruffy drug dealer outside a school knows. Packaging drugs as sweets avoids “unwarranted attention” from officialdom!

Misdescription certainly underlies most British metal detecting. “I’m an amateur archaeologist“, “I’m only in it for the history” and “I found it at [insert false location]” to name just three. It’s high time truth ruled. It would if PAS and The Establishment said in public what they say in private: not reporting finds makes you a knowledge thief, morally no better than a nighthawk.

Instead, we have what Paul Barford calls “the insidious creep of acceptance of knowledge theft“. Rather than condemning non-recording, and admitting to the Government and Parliament that non-recording is absolutely rife, PAS has embraced, liaised, engaged, backslapped, bootlicked and flattered those who do it in the hope that will work. After 20 years it hasn’t, as Dr Sam Hardy has shown.

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UNESCO condemns the theft of 1,000 objects from Egyptian museum but not the millions of unreported artefacts removed from Britain’s fields. (Why? Because the British don’t tell them).

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