Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Roman Fort Targeted by Artefact Thieves

From the Northern Echo comes news of the robbing of yet another important archaeological site in the UK by artefact hunters:
METAL detector enthusiasts armed with spades have been targeting a historic North-East site hunting for hidden treasures under the cover of darkness. Almost 25 holes have been found in the grounds of the Roman fort of Longovicium, near Lanchester, County Durham, The land owner, Nick Greenwell, said damage to the site had been carried out in the last two weeks. He said: “It is people using metal detectors coming in at night. “It is an historic site and whatever that has been taken could be of great value.”

Once again the issue of policing comes to the fore, Mark Harrison (national policing and crime advisor for English Heritage) "said local police had been informed and villagers should be aware of the archeological treasure they have on their doorstep":
He said: “By informing people what heritage sites are in their community we have got a chance of protecting those sites and if offences do happen we have got a better chance of catching those offenders.
"Got a chance"? Because otherwise there is no chance? So, English Heritage are telling the local police what has been happening under their noses. Why are the police not informing EH that they have thwarted an attempt to illegally hunt artefacts on a site in their 'patch'? If Britain cannot police the few sites which are protected by law, what hope for other states like Iraq, Bulgaria or Utah where such sites are in remote areas? The British seem to want to rely on curtain-twitching locals spying on artefact hunters, but then how is a concerned member of public to know (and from a distance too) what the difference is between a "responsible" metal detectorist in Farmer Scraggs' field, and a dayhawking thief in Farmer Brown's lower ten acres? When is Britain going to get its act together over large-scale  unregulated and  erosive artefact hunting?

Gavin Havery, 'Lanchester Roman fort targeted by thieves', The Northern Echo Thursday 25th October 2012.

 ALSO MENTIONED HERE: This story is also mentioned by Heritage Action  this week: Cheers and Boos: Punch-up cover-up at EH, windfarm bribes exposed, nighthawks identified and a photo winner

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