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Prompted by yesterday’s article Paul Barford has taken the trouble to check the number of finds recorded by PAS from 10 rallies held at a single farm in Boxted, Essex:


2010:  x 2
2012:   –
2013: x  1
2014: x  4 ***
2015: x 15
2016: x  1
2017:   –
2018:  ?   
Grand total (from thousands of detectorists):   23


And yet, the organiser says: Those detectorists who have been here before can testify the consistency of the fantastic finds these fields have yielded, and many at that! And many, many, finds certainly displayed how very wealthy this area was and still is on a huge variety of finds”  (and look what an absolute host of finds they found just in 2014).

How do you feel about a decade of exploitation and large scale knowledge theft on just one farm dear Reader? PAS says not a word about it or the fact things like that are happening up and down our country and are illegal elsewhere. We tend to the view not of them but of Paul Barford, who today talks about “culture-thieving creeps” here and here.


Canadian classisist David Meadows has made a plaintiff plea regarding the widespread looting of archaeological objects across the classical world …..



Who could argue? But here in Britain looting is dwarfed by repeated legal artefact hunting so a different plea is needed to minimise knowledge loss:


It matters. The organiser of next week’s rally at Boxted, Essex says this will be our tenth trip back if my memory serves me correct“. He’s clearly aware that it has decimated – literally – the archaeological record for he warns attendees: “please just remember the finds that have been found previously on this farm are no longer there to be found“. How true.

If only archaeologists could tell farmers not to allow metal detecting rallies that would be great!

Ten million artefacts destroyed in Brazil by accident …

100 million cubic feet of the archaeological layers of Stonehenge World Heritage Site to be destroyed on purpose ….

Tomorrow two amateur archaeology groups are holding a joint meeting at Avebury with plans to do no harm whatsoever (watchword: bring books and stories to swap“). At the same time 30 miles away near Burford a thousand detectorists from all over the world are paying £52.50 each to attend Detectival, “the ultimate Metal Detecting Rally”. Many would be jailed if they did it in their own countries.

Everyone knows commercial detecting causes massive damage but less understood is the sheer scale and immorality of some events. More than 40 organisations will be at Detectival and all but one will be hoping to profit from the destruction. The other one is lending stolen valour to the event when it should be lobbying Westminster about it instead.



An Oxfordshire County Council enthusiastic account of the event, presumably provided by PAS: “The two-day event is one of the biggest of its kind – with detectorists from the USA and from across Europe where detecting is mostly illegal.” Seriously, can any country be more barmy than that? PAS might think it’s OK to jubilate over and boost something that’s mostly illegal elsewhere but there are a lot of amateurs in Avebury who beg to differ.

PS  We’ve had just one comment from a detectorist: “Suck it up buttercup and learn to work together”. Noted and filed!



The Countryside Alliance’s has a risk assessment template for hunts. It says a vet must attend (presumably in case horses or hounds are hurt). The vets must abide by their own Code of Professional Conduct – to ensure animals have “minimum stress” and to prioritise animal welfare “whatever the circumstances“.

But foxes are animals. And fox hounds are bred to hurt them! So shouldn’t The National Trust insist any foxes “accidentally” hurt in trail hunts on its land will get full vetinary treatment in line with the vet’s own Code of Conduct?


So we’re writing to Amanda Boag, President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and Hilary McGrady, Director-General of The National Trust asking them that question. We’ll let you know what they say.

Paul Barford has been wondering, tongue in cheek, why archaeologists and detectorists have been pretty quiet about recent suggestions for future much needed PAS funding. The reasons are actually clear. Take these funding suggestions:

  • Give PAS a percentage of Treasure rewards
  • Mandatory licensing of detectorists
  • FLOs charging for their services such as attendance at rallies.

They’ve all been proposed before – including by us. But invariably detectorists have reacted with fury and say they’ll go on recording strike or turn to nighthawking if anyone tries to make them pay. PAS seems to have little understanding of the nature of its “partners”. So far there have been sixteen threats to go on recording strike, mainly over perceived threats to their “freedom” to do what they do for free.

What on earth did PAS think most detectorists were in the fields for – for an unselfish love of history?

It’s that unshakeable opposition to paying that is surely behind detectorists’ current silence – and indeed the silence of archaeologists (including PAS in private) – they know detectorists won’t pay. If you doubt a word of this we suggest you go onto a metal detecting forum and suggest licensing, a reduction in Treasure rewards or payments to PAS. Let us know what happens.


PS – Paul has reacted to the suggestion people ask detectorists on their forums if they would pay by saying “I know six academics who I suspect would find it an eye-opener to do this, to test out the truth behind their cuddly-wuddly head patting fawning on these ‘non-professional metal seekers’. Do they have the intellectual courage to do that? Well, five actually. The PAS delegate knows already. The others – well, naive and ill-researched hardly covers it – quite an accusation to level at academics but how the hell else can you explain it all? But we’ve been pleading with archaeologists to do it for 2 decades. If they look on the metal detecting forums (especially the “dark” sub-forums you have to be “trusted” to get into) they’ll rapidly see their perceptions of heroes and partners are plain wrong.

Incidentally, “cuddly-wuddly head patting fawning” is just about the most accurate description we’ve heard – and remarkably it’s unique to Britain!


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Statistics don’t lie: most detectorists can’t be bothered to report their finds. Now, worse, PAS says not reporting isn’t damage. So now we have twin mantras applying to portable antiquities in Britain: can’t be bothered and doesn’t matter. No-one could deny that the result is even more knowledge theft.

Is knowledge theft a crime? Asked that, Matthew Bohrer (Special Projects Coordinator, Office of the Inspector General, Washington, D.C.) was clear: “Stealing anything is a crime, by definition: if you take something from someone else, without their consent, it’s theft. Theft is a crime“- to which we’d add: if the “something” is a country’s knowledge of its past the crime is severe.

Of course, we must be realistic, Parliament decrees that stealing Britain’s knowledge of its past isn’t something for which detectorists can usually be prosecuted. It’s a moral crime only. Still, we’re entitled to wish PAS had the sense not to minimise it and detectorists the decency not to do it. Aren’t we?


The Artefact Erosion Counter earlier today – see?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


I bet you’ve been wondering why we’ve not been talking about the Megameet this year. ;)

We’ve all been a bit busy, but it would be criminal to not all meet up!

As I’m sure you’re aware, those lovely chaps, Michael and Rupert, over at the Standing With Stones Community on Facebook will actually be in the same place at the same time, and have organised a get-together in Avebury on Sunday 16th September 2018 starting in the Red Lion pub around midday.

As Rupert lives in France it’s not very often this will happen, so with their permission we have suggested that we also tag our annual get together onto this as it would be amazing to meet up with Michael and Rupert (and, of course, their multitude of followers!).

So why not join us all then!

Dear Fellow Landowners,

This week a question posed on a metal detecting forum has revealed a profound truth about the activity: “How many of you would like to go back in time and give your best find back to the person who dropped it?”.

Unsurprisingly, lots of the detectorists said yes they would give their best find to the person who used to own it. But of course, that’s impossible as the original owner is unknown and long dead. What WOULD be possible is to promptly deliver it to the person who now owns it – who is both known and alive and who has just given them permission to be there.

Yet that, as you know Dear Friends, rarely happens. To qualify for fair dealing from most detectorists you have to be nameless and dead and not have given permission to detect. Worth thinking about next time one of them wants to go on your fields and says they’re only interested in history.

Oh, and if you wonder where your property is, it could be in one of more than twenty thousand private houses or it might be one of the thousands of detecting finds listed on EBay or exhibited on the Sale of Detecting Finds Facebook Group.


Silas Brown
Grunter’s Hollow Farm,


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


Incisive as ever, Professor David Gill says the 6 academics seeking to minimise Sam Hardy’s conclusions “may wish to reflect on whether or not their own position is endangering the finite archaeological record. Quite. Their assertion that “unreported finds are not damage” is simply wrong and must be damaging because it will result in fewer artefacts being reported.

He also highlights that Dr Hardy said his work corroborates the detecting community’s perception that fields are eventually emptied of finds. Detectorists have coined their own phrase for it, “hammered sites”. For academics to tell amateurs there’s no harm in destroying a site and telling no-one what they find is remarkable.

We look forward to an early statement from PAS commencing with “upon reflection”….


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting




September 2018
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