Who can deny it? No farmer has ever granted permission to detect unless he’s been offered highly dubious promises or barefaced lies – why would he? Generally it’s “We’re archaeologists”, “We’re only in it for the history”, “I’ve researched your land – you may get rich”, “Detecting is a way of conserving history” and “We’ll show you everything and share it 50-50, honest”).

There are endless instances. Just read some detecting forums – please! But one case that has just come to light that’s particularly barefaced is “Priscan Archaeology”. This is a group of detectorists who indulge in artefact hunting. Pocketing stuff you find is not archaeology. And now they’ve put up a video claiming their latest outing was a survey. It wasn’t. They had neither method nor equipment. They were artefact hunting (See Paul Barford’s demolition of their “survey” here).

Priscan “Archaeology” (Not) – carrying out a “Survey” (Not).

Against this widespread FFF context Historic England has just pressed, sensibly, for any detecting on registered battlefields to be part of an organised and structured archaeological survey“. Yet the National Council for Metal Detecting refuses, claiming that having no archaeological involvement is the best way to gather evidence. That, surely, defies all logic and is the mother of all Farmer Fooling Falsehoods.

Sadly though, there was no complaint from Historic England. Instead they responded: “There is no question that detectorists share a passion for our history …. We really value the opportunity to work with detectorists….” If you wonder what’s wrong with Britain’s stewardship of its buried archaeological resource, there’s the answer. Acquisitive people refusing to do the right thing and mouthing obvious and highly damaging falsehoods yet saluted for their passion for history. It really could have been PAS speaking.


On the other hand, sometimes you don’t have to conceal the fact you’re a selfish, destructive oik. See this conversation reported on a detecting forum this week:

Farmer: “My granddad never ploughed it and my Dad never ploughed it and I’v never ploughed it so not in may be 100 years or so.”

Selfish Acqisitive Oik: “Well would have have any objection to me having a look with my new detector then??

Farmer: Help you self” he said “But I don’t want any historical folk coming round

Selfish Acquisitive Oik:No NO NO that’s the last thing we want.

So there we are. Not ploughed for a hundred years and “historical folk” won’t be told what’s found. But stuff the Code of Conduct on both counts and stuff the resultant loss of knowledge, permission’s what matters. And it’s legel innit – and Historic England say I have a passion for history!


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


There’s no money left for A-Level Archaeology …..
So the day has arrived. After many wonderful years of teaching students about how archaeologists work, discussing the role of ancient Egyptian religion in their society, and discussing the role of heritage in our society and economy today, A-level Archaeology has drifted off the timetable across the country and our current second years will be the last group of students to ever receive a grade in this A-level.”


But there’s £1,000 a day for farmers who’ll allow Acquisitive-Level Archaeology ….
You get a grand for doing nothing but shaking my hand on the day and waving me goodbye at the end of it. One day, one thousand.”


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


After years of biased advocacy, the short tunnel supporters (the Government, its 3 “yes-bodies” and a thin veneer of allegiant archaeologists) just had a clear reply from UNESCO: the short tunnel should be scrapped! So the question now arises, what will they do? Accept it? Or ignore it and carry on regardless?

Highway’s England’s hurried initial reaction suggests the latter: “We remain confident our scheme will enhance and protect the Stonehenge landscape.” That meaningless statement often works for developers seeking to build a few houses in small villages. But this is no village, it’s the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and this is no parish council UNESCO are talking to – it’s the world.

So far as we can see the Government can react in one of two ways. It can say, fair enough, we’ve miraculously found the finance to avoid harming the landscape. OR, and this is our guess, it can get some friendly archaeologists to start discrediting UNESCO in the public mind. Keep watching. We’ll know soon!


The first card to be drawn in our Tarot Tuesday series is The Chariot, card VII of the Major Arcana.

The Chariot: “Journey, Progression, Strong character, Success from effort, Transportation and movement

An interesting first card, as we certainly have a journey ahead of us as we progress through our archaeological tarot.

The transportation and movement aspect suggests that we could easily link this card with the issues centered around the A303 road at Stonehenge at the moment. Strong character, and the control elements this implies, and ‘success from effort‘ could indicate that the Stonehenge Alliance could well be successful in their campaign to halt the development of the tunnel. Equally, it could be implied that the government will force through the tunnel at all costs – this duality of potential outcomes is shown by the black/white symbolism of the steeds on the card. Who will emerge victorious?

Interestingly, another interpretation of this card is it’s relationship to the Tree of Life, and the Hebrew letter Cheth, meaning Fence or Enclosure. The Hebrew symbol for Cheth looks remarkably like a trilithon, giving another link to Stonehenge for this card.


Which heritage site would you associate with this card? 

Dear Heritage Journal,

So English Heritage has been requested by a well known Druid to increase the number of free mass gatherings at Stonehenge to eight per year. Quite a request! The Guardians of Stonehenge are being asked to say “Sure, you can all come in every 6.5 weeks, without payment and at great cost to us, great!”

It got us thinking. What about those of us who aren’t Druids or pagans or party animals and who love Stonehenge for it’s actual, factual self, for archaeological reasons? Wouldn’t it be fair if we too are granted free access to indulge our enthusiasm eight times a year? Let’s say the 25th of March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October.

Someone – lots of people – should propose this. PNP – “Parity with non-payers”, that’s all we ask. We doubt if they’d dare refuse as there’d be no problem with litter or standing on the stones, obviously. And it would be entirely just. We’re really quite excited.

Best wishes,
Jimmy Respectable and Amy Archaeology,


Ed: Jimmy and Amy, don’t worry, we’re sure English Heritage will see this.

Quite a week. A PAS official accuses us of hyperbole and a detectorist accuses us of sycophancy. Oh well, PAS has dismissed us and detectorists have insulted us for 20 years. for voicing a simple truth: 24,000 detectorists find about 720,000 recordable artefact a year but PAS only records about 90,000.

You’ll know that every PAS Annual Report says its performance is spiffing while never clarifying the spiffingness only relates to the one eighth of recordable artefacts found. To show the shame of it we’ve coloured a detectorist’s “finds pouch” green to represent what’s recorded and red for what’s lost to science:

It’s high time PAS told APPAG (the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group) that after 20 years the knowledge of seven out of eight recordable finds is still being lost. (They could also mention we’re not know-nowt sycophants, “ignorant of the constraints of realpolitik”, and we’ve been right all along.)

More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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By Alan S

I recently had the pleasure of accompanying Dr. Sandy Gerrard on a field trip to visit two possible stone rows in West Penwith, Cornwall. Below is a short report of our visit.

The first row visited was Treveglos at Zennor. This purported row consists of three uprights.

Having scoped out the site a couple of weeks previously, the row was found easily enough, due to the large stone at the SE end of the row acting as a gatepost, above the level of the surrounding fields.

The other two upright stones were on field boundaries heading to the NW in adjoining fields and were easy enough to spot. A recumbent stone was also found in the field near to the gatepost, looking as if it had fallen to the west from a position just slightly out of alignment with the other three. However, the area has many earth-fast stones, and this alignment could well be a co-incidence.

Sadly, upon closer inspection it appears that the NW-most stone is erected upon an Iron Age field boundary, the middle stone bears characteristic tare and feather drill marks suggesting that it must have been erected sometime after 1800AD, and is erected upon what seems to be medieval field boundary. The large stone to the SE has been drilled for use as a gatepost, but given its height may well have Neolithic origins as a standing stone.

We then moved on to the holed stones on Kenidjack Common, near the Tregeseal stone circle. I was last here a couple of years ago and reported on them then.

Sandy confessed that they resembled nothing he’d seen on any other row, and was quite nonplussed. The fact that all of the stones are set at differing angles to the line of the ‘row’, and that none of the holes in the stones are targeted at anything specific only added to his confusion. The outlier appears to be set upon a bank – either a field boundary or possible dried-up watercourse.

This particular row requires further investigation, the Rev. J Buller having described them thusly in 1842:

Each has a hole perforated through its centre of about six inches in diameter. The edges of the holes are rounded as if they had been intended, and had been used, for a rope to pass through ; and had they lain near a sea beach it might reasonably have been concluded that their use was to moor a boat. They lie in a straight line nearly E. and W. There is a space of about twelve feet between the two western most, thirty three feet between the two centre stones, and nine feet between the two eastern ones, by which also it will be seen that one of the two last is broken in half, and the violence which effected it probably caused it to be removed three feet further towards the east. Originally there was in all probability a space of twelve feet between those at each end, and thirty feet between the two centre stones. They are from five to six feet long, four feet wide, and about one foot thick…

The spacing of the stones has been changed in the intervening years, and doubtless their orientation has also changed. Given this fact, it is unlikely that a definitive interpretation will ever be obtained.

The conclusion on the day was that neither row is likely to be Neolithic in origin, but Sandy will publish the full results of his analysis on his Stone Rows website in due course.

Welcome to a new series, ‘Tarot Tuesday’.

Most people know of the Tarot as a system of divination using a special deck of cards. What is less well known is that the Tarot is based on a pack of playing cards, used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot. In the late 18th century, it began to be used for divination in the form of tarotology and cartomancy – see Wikipedia for more details.

There are two main sections to the Tarot as used in divination, known the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, with which we shall concern ourselves in this brief series.

Many interpretations have been placed upon the cards, dependent upon which divination system you follow, and many designs have been created over the years, covering just about any subject you care to name. Possibly the most well known of the decks available today is the Rider-Waite Tarot, the Major Arcana designs of which are based on the Tarot de Marseilles.


What we shall be doing in this series of posts over the coming weeks is attempting to link the Major Arcana cards to archaeological heritage sites in our own inimitable way, using the generally accepted divinatory meanings for each card as our guide. Hopefully, this will become self-explanatory as the series continues. Whilst illustrations will largely be taken from Rider-Waite, other deck images may be used from time to time, and will be acknowledged as required.

The cards will not be drawn in sequence, but on a random basis, so that no-one, not even me, will know in advance what the subject of the next card in the series will be. Of course, all interpretations are subjective, so please feel free to comment as to which monument comes to mind for you as we explore each card. Those familiar with the Tarot may draw their own conclusions as to the order in which the cards appear.

By Nigel Swift, Chairman, Heritage Action

A well known metal detectorist has produced a Glossary of Detecting Terms, two of which I’d like to take issue with.

First, under “B” there’s this:

I feel he has made a simple mistake – confusing agreement with sycophancy. For me, metal detecting without reporting all of your recordable finds, which is demonstrably what the vast majority of detectorists do, is the action of a selfish ignoramus. If Paul shares that view and is determined not to pretend otherwise what can I do but agree with him?

Then, under “H” there’s this:

But “Hedge Fodder” is not a phrase used by archaeologists, whether professional or amateur. Archaeology is about digging in the pursuit of all knowledge not selective acquisition of objects. So I see the very use of the phrase  as revealing selfishness and ignorance – and what sustains me against 20 years of attacks and personal insults is that I’m confident that virtually every archaeologist, every amateur archaeologist, every Finds Liaison Officer and every thinking person agrees. Historical knowledge is a communal resource and is not something which should be selectively discarded in a hedge by uncaring people.

So there we are Mr Detectorist, you got it wrong. I’m no sycophant, I’m someone who shares Paul’s distaste for knowlege theft – and in that I’m fully supported by all who see cultural knowledge of our past, all of it, as belonging to all of us.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

What do you do when the world’s leading heritage body opposes your ambitions? Demonise it? Is Simon Thurley, ex English Heritage leader, doing exactly that for the British Government?

This NGO (ICOMOS UK, the national advisory body to UNESCO) it is widely felt, adds another layer of complexity and (often) confusion to an already complex landscape of heritage protection and planning.” It “limps on as a membership organisation producing reports on UK World Heritage Sites and other conservation matters. It rarely sees eye to eye with Historic England and its views are more or less ignored within government – but it guides and advises UNESCO on UK World Heritage Sites, and thus has some influence.”

“The UK has a sophisticated and democratic planning system, and 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.”

Oh Simon! Who asked you to write that?


June 2018
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