Sunday, 11 November 2012

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: "Don't Mention the Foreign Laws, I did once, but I Think I got Away with it"

The ARCHI 'Find-it-Yourself' database for all "passionately intrestid in 'istry" already contains location details of 158,000 known archaeological sites in the UK. Now they have added more than 2000 Roman sites "this update includes the locations of many hundreds of Roman Pottery and Tile Kiln sites and the location of Roman forts and fortresses". All there so hobbyists "and others" can do their own finding. No need to look them up in a book, there they all are available online. 
In addition, the find spots of the kind of Roman debris you often find field walking which suggests that you are on or near a Roman Villa or building have been added. Such indicators include debris such as flue tiles, imbrex, tegula, hypocaust and obviously tesserae from the mosaics which onces adorned the higher status Roman households. High status pottery findspots such as Samian ware has also been included in this update.
High status? Not where I come from it is not.
Now however they've gone one step further in their avowed attempts to attain 'completeness'. They are now providing "how to find stuff" directions to sites in other countries, including Poland, where artefact hunting on archaeological sites without a permit is illegal.  What is the point of this when there is a catalogue of such sites? Are Mr Kutler and his team for their own financial gain merely going to cut and paste  onto their own website the Polish SMR- the results of several decades of intense field and library work to which they contributed not a penny? In the case of countries such as Egypt or Iraq, surely the problems of looting are bad enough without Mr Kutler posting on the internet details of where the nearest lootable sites are for any criminally-intent Tom Dick and Hamed to follow?
Why not check them out and when you are viewing the map, switch to the 'Satellite' View and view the sites as the look from the air [?]
 As Heritage Action pointed out yesterday, it could be informative to see what happens as a result of this.
It’s perfectly legal to [hunt for collectable and saleable archaeological artefacts] on the vast majority of British archaeological sites so helping people do so can’t be logically criticised by the authorities – and isn’t. But abroad [hunting for collectable and saleable archaeological artefacts] is highly illegal so it will be fascinating to see the reaction to the first case of looting overseas where the culprits are shown to have used the ARCHI database. Will foreign archaeologists speak up and will British ones say the foreign section of the product is harmful but the British section isn’t?
Or will the whole lot of them continue to keep their lips pursed and pretend the question has not even arisen? From past observations of this sorry platitude-burbling milieu, that is what I think is far more likely to happen.

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