Alan Vincent, 'People stealing souvenirs from Isle of Man’s ancient forest', Isle of Man Today, 25/02/14.
The recent bad weather Britain has been experiencing has led to storms which have stripped shingle and sand from beaches, which in Cranstal, Bride, on the Isle of Man earlier this month uncovered an area of prehistoric forest:
Manx National Heritage has appealed to the public not to disturb the prehistoric forest [...] after reports of people taking pieces of it [...] Curator of field archaeology at Manx National Heritage, Andrew Johnson, said: ‘I received an email saying people had been seen removing pieces from the site.[...] 'It is regretable, we’re not saying it’s illegal or a crime, but what we are trying to do is get a small number of local specialists, who have expressed an interest, to assist in examining the site over the coming weeks. ‘It’s primary evidence that we could make use of in any scientific investigation of these remains. ‘All I can ask is that if people can resist the temptation to help themselves, it will help us to understand the site much better [...] ‘There’s a whole range of analysis providing deposits aren’t disturbed. ‘I completely understand the public interest but it makes it harder to take this great opportunity if things are disturbed.’It's not illegal you see. Like when artefact collectors with metal detectors are "helping themselves" and removing pieces (souvenirs of the past) from sites inland, ruining them as a source of untouched primary evidence that we could make use of in any proper investigation of these remains which will help us to understand the site much better.
What will be the results of politely asking members of the public to exercise self-restraint will be (a) on Manx beaches and (b) on 'productive' archaeological sites inland? Of course if we were to have a team of people in the UK specialising in portable antiquities issues, and actively explaining the value of archaeological material in its contexts to artefact hunters (with a modest budget of maybe over a million pounds a year), we might see some effects among the latter. The trouble is, we don't. We just have the PAS and its ever-expanding database of loose decontextualised objects.