By Nigel Swift

Smash a display case in the British Museum and it would be front page news. Do the equivalent in a field and it’s pretty much a secret. How come? The answer is simple: PAS. It was set up simply to educate yet from the start it has minimised the public’s awareness of the damage and its scale. As a result the public’s knowledge is stolen daily on a massive scale and the public isn’t told. No PAS, it isn’t enough to say “Yes, the use of the excavator was pretty poor...” it was legal knowledge theft from the rest of us by ignorami without consciences who the farmer should never have allowed past his gate. How dare you not say so for 20 years?

We first said so in 2005 when 480 acquisitive people told an elderly Lord close to Avebury don’t worry we all report our finds to PAS. It was a lie that has been repeated ever since. Yet PAS attacks us for saying so – we don’t understand, we exaggerate, we should “get on the train to Liaisonville”. (Yes, seriously! Many times!) Just last week a FLO said our article  is “fake news”, “a sham”, “click bait” and “full of half-truths and outright lies”. (Please read it. Is it?)

As always I am resentful: we’re member of the public and stakeholders and hold that our mantra “ordinary people caring for extraordinary places” applies not just to visible monuments but to buried archaeology. Plus we DO know what we’re talking about, I’ve studied detecting for 2 decades, far longer than most FLOs. Here are 450 articles, 3 million words I’ve written about it, not because I hate detecting or my mother was frightened by a detectorist but because I’m hopelessly infected by a conviction that mass non reporting is mass knowledge theft. It’s happening every week, entirely legally, a British cultural scandal and cultural loss and someone ought to highlight it weekly if PAS won’t.

And no, PAS, praising the good guys does NOT change that reality, or convert the others, it hides it and provides the perfect environment for it to flourish as all can see.

I may not be able to keep it up much longer so that FLO will have the field more to himself, but for the record nothing I’ve written has knowingly been what he claims about our latest article, “fake news”, “a sham”, “click bait” or “full of half-truths and outright lies” (as anyone who reads a few of the articles at random will see.) We believe the large scale damage and the ignorance should be known to every farmer, every taxpayer and every stakeholder – as it’s their cultural knowledge that is being silently destroyed and nothing detectorists or PAS say will change that truth. The detecting that’s owed to buried archaeology is sustainable metal detecting not responsible metal detecting. I respect the understanding of those who work for PAS sufficiently to be certain they all agree with me. But they need to say so.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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By Nigel Swift

PAS and tens of thousands of detectorists tell farmers and the public that metal detecting is mostly beneficial. Clearly that implies that well ordered and aspirational detecting should be called “beneficial metal detecting”. But it can’t be, for such a phrase would  stick in the craw of the authorities since random removal just isn’t beneficial. Hence they’ve come up with a different term: “responsible metal detecting”. That has 8,300  Google hits and an official Code of Conduct and is defined as doing it in a recommended responsible fashion. Not a beneficial fashion, NB.

I think it’s high time the tricksy linguistic cover provided by the term “responsible metal detecting” was replaced by a more accurate and aspirational one both as a guide to proper behaviour by detectorists and as an aid to better decision making by farmers. I think the proper term for gold standard, acceptable detecting is “sustainable metal detecting”. That says it all. I support sustainable metal detecting one hundred percent.

Bizarrely “sustainable metal detecting” gets you zero Google hits but we’ll now try to change that radically. By all that’s fair and honest and “responsible”, detectorists and PAS should adopt it too. If they don’t it will speak volumes.

So let’s see ….


Update:
After just 24 hours “sustainable metal detecting” now gets you 144 Google hits – 143 from us, 1 from Paul Barford (who originated the term with reference to Beach detecting) and NONE from PAS or metal detectorists. We’ll let you know how the phrase progresses and who uses it…… Updates: Now, after 48 hours it gives you 298 Google hits and after 3 days you get 517 Google hits.


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Things rarely turn out as forecast. The management of Stonehenge is evidence. Anyone seen the land trains lately? Or been told how much money was lost? Now the Telegraph’s travel article has highlighted how pro-short tunnel dialogue is coming from an organisation that is hopeless at anticipating consequences. For example:

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, would be wise to divert his attention and money to the visitor centre first …. Don’t even think about going unless you’re prepared to queue for a long time.

It wasn’t the sight of the £50.20 walk-up family ticket price that did it, shortage of shuttle buses back from the gnarly stones themselves, or the naff bluestone gift bracelets that marred our experience, it was the toilet queues. 50-minute wait anyone? Horrible history indeed. It was a hot day and as we approached it was obvious that all wasn’t quite right when we saw a few people using the bushes directly outside the visitor centre for a quick toilet break.

Seeing the stones for the first time you can really see why the likes of Sir Tony Robinson, the Time Team presenter, has described the new tunnel as a “most brutal intrusion” – anything that would put this majestic open-air temple at risk doesn’t seem worth it.

It wasn’t getting any better ….. As we waited for a shuttle bus to take us back to the visitor centre there was a long, snaking queue, a distinct lack of buses and staff, and lots of tempers beginning fray as people weighed up whether to wait it out or take the long walk back. We were still there 25 minutes later.

Back at the visitor centre… we arrived to an ancient British scene: the toilet queue. Here, there was no information as to why a whole toilet block had been closed, resulting in a queue of around 80 people and a wait of nearly an hour… and the best we could get from the scant ‘customer services’ was that “they were aware of the situation” and it was “under control”, which didn’t extend to verifying if the toilet paper had run out. It had.

I imagined the man hours it had taken to create Stonehenge, I tried to be philosophical. All built with tools of just stone, wood and bone. That must have taken some organisation, some cooperation – a history lesson for the current owners and wannabe tunnel builders.

Contrast that with “opening day” when English Heritage claimed the Visitor Centre was “fit for purpose” and that “in high season a shuttle should be heading down the road every four minutes.” For avoidance of doubt, not a penny of the (probable) 2 billion pound tunnel cost is aimed at solving any of the above problems and no-one is claiming it will. Better to spend one thousandth of it on rectifying the current visitor experience.

This week’s draw in our ongoing series is card VIII of the Major Arcana, Strength.

Strength: “Energy, Facing problems, Strength, Vitality, Willpower

One of the great mysteries of the Neolithic period concerns exactly how the monuments were constructed. The question of how much energy and manpower would be needed when facing the problems of monument construction has been investigated and various theories have been put forward by experimental archaeologists. But it’s only when looking at one of the largest capstones in Britain that the real strength and willpower needed becomes apparent.

Image © Jane Tomlinson

The capstone of Tinkinswood Burial Chamber weighs around 40 tons and it has been estimated that upwards of 200 people would have been needed to shift it into position.

Tinkinswood is a fine example of the Cotswold/Severn regional type: a long wedge-shaped cairn, containing a rectangular stone chamber and would have originally been covered with an earthen mound. When excavated in 1914 over 900 human bones from at least 40 individuals were discovered in the single chamber, the vast majority of which had been broken. At this time one of the supports was ‘renovated’ with a brick built replacement.

Nearly 100 years later, a community archaeology project identified that the capstone, thought to have been quarried locally, was not from the assumed location at all. The origin of the stone has yet to be identified.

Tinkinswood from “On the St Lythans and St Nicholas’ Cromlechs and other remains near Cardiff.” JW Lukis, in Archaeologia Cambrensis 6.22 (April 1875).

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

Detectorists at “Scotty’s Bellingham Dig” started finding treasure. So they brought in a JCB – and a massive free-for-all ensued:

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Detectorist Andy Holbrook (who runs a 23,000 member forum (Edit: a leading light in) said: The way they went about this is a total shambles and god knows why they got the farmer in with his JCB. The area should of been cordoned off untill a FLO or county archaeologist could be there to excavate it properly. God knows how many coins were found and highly doubt any will be handed in “

Yet a FLO (who hadn’t been there) assured him (and the public):Don’t worry Andy Holbrook, it’s all in hand. Yes, the use of the excavator was pretty poor, but was done without the organisers knowledge or consent. All efforts were made to get archaeologists on site as soon as possible. All the hoard related material has been reported, or is in the process of being reported. Nothing is being lost.”

So, a new low? PAS has already claimed non-reporting isn’t damage. Is it now becoming more of an apologist for bad metal detecting practice than metal detectorists?

PS: The 2 quotes above are verbatim and here’s another about The Searcher: “In light of what we saw in the original video, The Searcher Magazine will not be publishing any report relating to this “Hoard”!  Go figure, but the PAS’s assurances: “it’s all in hand” and “Nothing is being lost” look plain silly in contrast. It’s to be hoped someone in PAS will see that.

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” Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

 

 

The drawn card this week is card III of the Major Arcana, The Moon.

The Moon: “Be careful, Caution, Confusion, Delusion, Risk

For this week’s card, we’re not highlighting a specific site, but instead are concentrating on a monument class, that of the FOGOU.

The name comes from the Cornish word ‘fogo’ meaning ‘a cave’ and belongs to a group of monuments also found in Brittany, Ireland, and Scotland, collectively known as Souterrains. The Cornish fogous belong to the later Iron Age and Roman period.

© Craig Weatherhill

Fogous are associated with settlements and usually consist of a long curving main passage, with one or two blind subsidiary passages known as ‘creeps’.

Caution is needed when entering these structures as low blocking stones provide trip hazards in many of them, and head injuries from the low ceilings are a constant risk. In many fogous, such as that at Halligye, Pendeen or Boleigh a sense of confusion can be experienced within the darkness of the creeps.

The main passage at Carn Euny. The creep can just be seen on the right at the far end.

There are several theories as to the function of fogous: food storage or animal housing, a place of concealment, and spiritual/ritual usages have all been put forward but none of these have been explained in a convincing manner as yet.

Recommended reading:

Fogou, Gateway to the Underworld by Jo May

Mother and Sun: Cornish Fogou by Ian Cooke

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

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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:

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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.

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

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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:

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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!

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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 ….

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