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Two organisations and four foreign universities, all linked through a single project, have published a paper attacking Dr Sam Hardy‘s recent study. Three things they say might make you suspicious there’s an agenda involved:

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  • First they say “it is wrong to simply conflate hobby detectorists [sic] with commercial entrepreneurs as Hardy does” But if that’s true how come that on every detecting forum the dominant concern is “what’s it worth”?
  • Second they say they use terms like amateur detectorist to distinguish the hobby “from illicit detector users driven primarily by financial motivations.” But nighthawks ARE ordinary detectorists most of their time and couldn’t operate if they weren’t, as we’ve pointed out ad nauseam.
  • Third they state that Hardy is “fundamentally wrong” to say detecting is far more destructive than archaeological excavation. But anyone who takes the briefest look at an archaeological dig and then at a mass detecting rally will see it’s scientific chalk versus destructive cheese.

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Quite a set of claims: detectorists shouldn’t be accused of being interested in money, shouldn’t ever be thought of as part time nighthawks and are less destructive than archaeologists! The phrase “leaning over backwards” springs to mind and a couple of questions arise: why? and who organised it?As to why we can’t say for sure but could it be because after 20 years of funded “outreach” by PAS Hardy is saying only 4% of recordable objects may be being reported – and that someone doesn’t want that message echoing along the corridors of power?

As for “who?” we have no idea!

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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From a correspondent

Last year, Highways England  sought advisors on  private finance for ‘project delivery’ of the A303 Stonehenge Tunnel and the Lower Thames Crossing projects.  Project Manager Derek Parody has claimed that potential contractors are nervous about the risk of tunnelling at Stonehenge.

Hardly surprising, perhaps, there has been no news of private finance offers so far.

Now the Government’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has called for a moratorium on new private finance schemes and a Treasury review of the financing arrangements for these two roadbuilding schemes, “to ensure private finance represents best value for money in these cases.”  Really? So where else is the money coming from?

The US has just pulled out of the UN Human Rights Council saying it’s “hypocritical, self-serving and a cesspool of political bias“. But condemnations of convenience like that are old hat in Britain. Ex English Heritage chief Simon Thurley recently said:

the government and local authorities have questioned the right of unelected international ‘experts’ to challenge what has been decided under UK law. Indeed, some believe that UNESCO should concentrate on making lists of pizza-makers and endangered sports rather than involving itself in the complex issues of national planning policy.”

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See, THAT’S how to do it Donald. More venom – “UNESCO should concentrate on making lists of pizza-makers”! If you pop in to Stonehenge be sure to talk like that, mentioning lyin’ UNESCO and how Highways England, English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust are the only ones to believe.

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Mark Harrison (Historic England’s Head of Heritage Crime and Policing Advice) pulled no punches about recent nighthawking at Hadrian’s Wall:

“We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context.”

What a crying shame that exactly the same can be said of the great bulk of “legal” detecting yet isn’t.

“We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context.”

Now the shame is being compounded by a concerted attempt to discredit the academic work of Dr Sam Hardy which effectively illustrates exactly that. What have we come to in this country?

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A few weeks ago UNESCO sent the Government a clear message: the short tunnel at Stonehenge should be scrapped. It put them in a very difficult position so we asked how would they react – accept it, ignore it or carry on regardless?

But we confess no-one expected that (perhaps) they’d attempt to solve it by choosing a rock over a hard place…..

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[Read more here.]

So Tom Holland tweeted:

“One has to wonder which government could conceivably have put Spain up to doing this. Or perhaps Spain just has a particular interest in UK transport, who knows?”

Beats us.

Unless ….
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-spain-gibraltar/eu-leaders-to-urge-british-spanish-gibraltar-status-settlement-idUSKBN1JO0XS

A beautiful Tweet from Ireland: “Just out of frame: the sun beaten youthful wrists that once went through them; followed perhaps by the final hands that deposited them into wetlands under a cold, cloudy, deterirating winter sky”. (@VoxHib)

And a response: “Y’see, despite fierce intellect, Voxy gets the heart of this gig. It makes him a fine archaeo. It’s the story, and memories woven into these things. They’re not made by bloody elves, they’re made by people, and sometimes, we catch glimpses of their shadows in the other room”.(@justrena)

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So a focus on the wonder of the objects and no distracting pro-detecting blather. Welcome to Ireland! Vox even feels free to add that the findspot can’t be revealed because of Looters with Metal Penis Extensions”! Imagine that being said in Britain (in public, anyway!).

In fact just this week in UK there’s a collective effort (via an academic paper) to dismiss Dr Sam Hardy’s damning conclusions about detecting . One author, Dr Michael Lewis of PAS, says their issue is in relation to “poor methodology and some basic factual errors. I am sure there will be people (ignorant in these issues), which we know to be complex, taking what is presented at face value. We thought we should highlight what we see to be incorrect.”

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Ignorant? Does he mean the public, who put up the money? Or farmers who are told it’s fine to throw open their gates to groups of random, nameless artefact gatherers? Or us, who’ve been studying the subject since before many of his Finds Liaison Officer left primary school? Or Prof David Gill who has asked in vain for PAS’s view of how much non-reporting is acceptable? Or EBay, which is full of metal detecting finds almost all devoid of a PAS reference showing they’ve been reported? Or the National Museum of Ireland and all the archaeologists in that country who consistently refuse to have anything to do with Britain’s approach?


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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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This week a number of pro-detecting academics have presented a pre-determined view of detecting. We think numbers of detectorists versus the number who report all their finds is all that matters, nothing else, so Dr Sam Hardy’s conclusions can’t be wished away or spun. It’s the numbers, stupid.

Anyway, for now, perhaps we can demolish one of the planks of pro-detecting, the claim that nighthawks have no connection to “ordinary detectorists”. Logic, not spin, says otherwise. From gathering information at club nights to laundering finds by reporting them to PAS, it’s impossible to be an efficient wrongdoer without being “respectable” much of the time. Plus, as we said back in 2010:.

“It actually boils down to a spatial distinction. A metal detectorist that steps through a hedge becomes a nighthawk and is the devil’s companion according to all other detectorists and PAS – and a nighthawk that hops back over a fence becomes a metal detectorist, and a saint according to all other detectorists and PAS. Like photons, these human versions of the wave-particle duality can flit from one state of reality to the other, depending upon where they are at any particular moment – which no-one can ever know for certain, on account of how dark it gets at night in this country.

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Here’s how it works….

1. Ed Vaizey, Britain’s most respectable detectorist.
2. Ed if he stepped through the nearest hedge.
3. Ed Vaizey, Britain’s most respectable detectorist, next day.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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It’s common knowledge the Trust allows trail hunting in defiance of public opposition but now it has demonstrated it is behind the times in another respect. It has long  prohibited metal detecting unless supervised by its archaeologists which is fine but it has missed a crucial point when it says:

If you metal detect without a licence you’ll be asked to leave the property. We may take action to reclaim items taken from our land without permission. We’ll report unauthorised metal detecting on Scheduled Monuments to the police.”

That is at odds with the latest Official Advice to Landowners:

“Anyone removing objects from land without the landowner/farmer occupier’s permission is committing theft” and farmers should “call the police, and also make it clear to any attending officer/s that action should to be taken against the offender/s….”

So the official advice isn’t to tell the police just when its a scheduled monument. Anyone caught detecting without a licence on ANY Trust land will be stealing artefacts (and knowledge) and the police should always be called. So we look forward to them amending their text to conform with the latest official advice. We also hope they’ll remove this bizarre statement:

“We recognise that most metal detectorists are highly responsible and report their finds”.

What utter, damaging rot.  The Trust should do its homework.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Last year a Tunisian PhD thesis rejected Newton, Einstein, Copernicus and Kepler and said the Earth is flat, unmoving, young and the centre of the universe. Not here though, here evidence matters. Mind you:

Hundreds of studies use PAS statistics but while the Guide for Researchers warns against some data distortions (selectivity in reporting finds and lower reporting rates when FLOs aren’t at rallies) it doesn’t stress a far worse danger: find spot falsification (or lying by detectorists as most people call it).

How widespread is it? Well, some detectorists admit to it on their forums. Plus everything ever “reported” by nighthawks is lied about. But worst are lies likely to arise from finds agreements: if you’ve  agreed to share in Yorkshire you can say your finds came from Yeovil, where you haven’t, and earn thousands.

How come PAS doesn’t stress that? Well, if PAS could say it happens about 5% of the time that would be OK as researchers could reflect it. But they can’t – because no-one has the foggiest how often it does! All that’s known is that there’s opportunity and massive incentive and hence there’s an unknown but probably very large degree of error in PAS based PhDs. So no snootyness about Tunisia please!

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