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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Where’s this ….. ?

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How come we reward detectorists for reporting their treasure finds when the law says they must? It’s because if we didn’t many of them wouldn’t. For proof, see how the number of reported finds rocketed when rewards were introduced. So clearly “rewards” is a misdescription. They’re ransom payments, but marketed Whitehall style, in line with Sir Humphrey’s book of tricky words!

“Best call the ransom payments “rewards”, Bernard. Don’t want the public getting upset about paying for what’s already theirs.”

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OK, so paying ransoms is clearly the only way we can get all of what’s ours from detectorists (though not, NB, from amateur or professional archaeologists or the kids in my village). But surely PAS and the Treasure Registrar go far beyond what’s necessary when they invariably praise the minority of detectorists who turn down a reward and never stress that most detectorists do no such thing and many fight hard to get higher payments!

And how come the number of cases where the reward is reduced for “bad behaviour” is so tiny? 20 cases in 13 years? Pull the other one! So it all looks like a case of image adjustment, something far beyond Sir Humphrey’s intentions. He just wanted to dress up ransoms as rewards but his quangos have taken to actively obscuring the fact that the people who endlessly proclaim they’re “not in it for the money” endless demonstrate they mostly are. Why?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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Here’s what we said exactly 9 years ago about paying rewards for obeying the law instead of increasing the penalties for disobeying it. We still stand by it:

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Let us pay detectorists the complement of treating them like the rest of society, not as a group that includes an invisible but existing proportion of feral crooks that need vast payments to ensure they don’t break the law and murder our cultural heritage. What other sector of British government policy copes with public damage caused by moral imbecilism by PAYING people to act properly? And what country in all the world but Britain, dresses such a policy up as sensible? No, we suggest Britain saves those millions of pounds and spends them on childrens’ hospices.


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Man goes into museum, with permission. Pockets £5,000 jewel which he knows does not and never can belong to him. Treasure Registrar announces “Do bring it back, we’ll give you a £5,000 reward and a Certificate of Appreciation”.

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(You might expect as much from some quangos which are arms of Government but what the hell is the National Trust playing at?)

Britain’s policy on detecting is elegantly simple: it’s fine if “responsible” (as defined in the Code of Responsible Detecting). The trouble is the code doesnt say “do no damage” or say how much damage is tolerable so landowners aren’t told that detecting may damage the resource and will certainly deplete it. That omission has another regrettable effect: it means there’s scant chance of long term reform other than to spend another 20 years trying to persuade more detectorists to convert from acting very badly to merely acting badly.

Of course, Archaeology is damaging too but a rather more sustainable approach has been developed for that: mandatory standards effectively defining the acceptable limits of damage by requiring work to be sparing, thorough, skillful and with specific aims and criteria. So archaeologists aren’t free to act like “responsible detectorists”, which is why you never see one detecting at a rally!

In 2016 the PAS conference discussed “Can Detectorists be Archaeologists“. Someone should have stood up and said ” “Yes of course they can – but only if they act like archaeologists, not like responsible detectorists.” But no-one did, which is a mark of the stranglehold of Britain’s metal detecting policy.  Still, I intend to present all the above analysis, uninvited, at next year’s PAS Conference in the form of a truth haiku. Book now to avoid disappointment.

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.                                Responsible? Yes
 .                               But never sustainable.
 .                               So laudable? No.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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A PAS employee has said one of our recent articles is “fake news”, “a sham”, “click bait” and “full of half-truths and outright lies”. Wow, we beg to differ (it’s here, if you’d like to decide for yourself).

We feel PAS management has no businesss allowing such attacks on ordinary, concerned members of the public (that’s us!) who have every right to be resentful of the vast quantity of knowledge theft which lies behind the decorative PAS database. Particularly using the crude Trumpism, “fake news”. In reality we’re sincere and we’re entitled and a PAS employee shouldn’t imply otherwise.

If PAS management wishes to say we’re not sincere and not entitled let them say so. And if they wish to say we’re wrong that a vast quantity of knowledge theft lies behind their data base, let them. And let them use that specific phrase, knowledge theft. They never do. Blaggarding, it seems, is reserved for the undeserving.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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.To Dr Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel, Head of Europe and North America Unit, UNESCO WH Centre:  i.anatole-gabriel@unesco.org

Dear Dr Anatole-Gabriel,

We are a group of concerned people who run the The Heritage Journal on which short comments are published by contributors on issues of concern relating to archaeology and the historic environment.

We believe it is wrong that the current plans for a tunnel at Stonehenge would result in the loss of the ancient view of the stones from the A303, described recently by Lord Adonis as “the most striking, historic vista on any road in Britain.” We submit that this view which has informed and inspired millions of travellers for many centuries comprises a form of visual access, often the only one that many individuals will ever experience, and as such is of incalculable cultural significance.

Accordingly, may we propose that the importance of the view should be reflected in it being considered for inclusion in the list of intangible attributes of the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site and thereby given maximum protection?

Alternatively, do you feel, as we do, that the view is already embraced by Attribute no.7 – “The influence of the remains of Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial monuments and their landscape settings on architects, artists, historians and others” – particularly as “others” comprise millions of passing travellers, each enjoying their own unique benefit. 

 

What good are Autumn colours at night? The answer is clear.

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Last Saturday the National Trust Chairman said “we will only support a scheme that protects the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site”.  That sounded fine but he failed to tell his audience that UNESCO says the scheme does not protect that very thing! What the Trust is supporting – but almost never mentions – is the complete removal from sight of what Lord Adonis, previous Secretary of State for Transport has just called “the most striking, historic vista on any road in Britain”. Let’s repeat it: the most striking, historic vista on any road in Britain.

We should stress, since the tunnel advocates never have, that for most people that view is actually the most cherished element of the Stonehenge landscape for it is visual access, enjoyed, free, for thousands of years by countless more millions than have paid or will in future have to pay to visit the Stones. Yet both it and therefore Stonehenge itself will be rendered invisible by the tunnel for most people. For them, Autumn colours will only be seen at night. For an organisation with the watchwords for ever for everyone to support such a thing is outrageous, there are no other words to describe it.

By Nigel Swift

I wasn’t there but I think the central difficulty of being a FLO was on show – knowing the actualités of unregulated metal detecting yet asked by PAS to keep chirpy. Adam Daubney, a thoughtful FLO for many years, has given bullet points from his talk. They highlight the cleft stick PAS has carved for itself:


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“people have a right to knowledge”
Exactly! But how often does PAS say so to farmers and the public? Merely emphasising the positive was not the founders’ intention. “Sharing knowledge” was a strategic objectives, not filtered, not minimised and preferably weekly.

“Many finds don’t get reported, but at the same time we have one of the largest databases of public finds in the world. It is within this tension that I think the Scheme has its voice when it shares knowledge.”
Actually, there’s no tension in truth. Rescue has said, and PAS hasn’t denied, the payback doesn’t justify the damage and PAS’s duty is to tell that to farmers and the public, preferably weekly. There’s ying and yang but they’re not equal.

“If the law is unlikely to change, how do we ensure we share knowledge in way that changes the culture to one in which non-reporting is seen as unethical?”
But non-reporting IS unethical so PAS should say so to farmers and the public, preferably weekly. Especially farmers who control detecting access and will take more heed than most detectorists. Also, to say “the law is unlikely to change“ is unwise. Public opinion sometimes changes and only one thing is certain: the law won’t change unless archaeologists including PAS stress that it should.

“The PAS is, of course, a pragmatic scheme, but being pragmatic doesn’t mean we must compromise on our values.”
Absolutely! A duty to inform farmers and the public, preferably weekly, isn’t a duty to partially inform. And why the need to be pragmatic anyway? Not to promote detecting, PAS has no mandate for that. Nor to avoid offending detectorists, “responsible” ones won’t be and the rest should be confronted.

“Lasting cultural change will come when the general public understands the importance and ethics of a pro-recording culture. The stories we tell to the public should highlight our successes, but they must also call out the issues.”
Exactly! When the general public and farmers understand, not when most detectorists do, 20 years have proved the latter will never happen.


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For 20 years PAS has said, as paraphrased by Paul Barford, that “we done good this year…..we’ve got this more or less under control, just keep giving us the cash” whereas only the true story, warts and all, presented to farmers and the public, preferably weekly, can ever work. The majority of detectorists have shown that’s true, beyond all hope of denial. “Give us time Nigel”, as Adam said to me nearly 20 years ago, has become give us a third decade. Let’s hope PAS itself and CBA and others join Rescue in saying it’s time to change gear.

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