I thought it would be useful to make a list of what I have seen as the concerns this scandal raises. it should be remembered that this is just one find of the thousands made annually, many of the points raised by this event can be applied to most, if not all, of the others.
The stuff was dug up 16th Feb. The next day the PAS FLO said they'd "done good" to dig it up like that and a few days later was on site herself, smiling and joking with the finders. A video of the finds (by now cleaned) in the finder's bedroom was posted on You Tube on 19th and my first post on the subject was 'Hoiked Finds Seen in Greg's Bedroom' Thursday, 20 February 2014.
On the 22nd Feb, the Kent Mercury article by Emily Stott was published, and concerns were raised in the comments under the article which immediately were answered by tekkie abuse, also in the public comments section (Feb 22nd to 27th).
My second post on the subject drew on the local newspaper's account as well as what was being written on a public metal detecting forum ('Spot the Difference, but Results Still Unsatisfactory', Sunday, 23 February 2014)
My third post was written in response to something the Chairman of the "Medway History Finders" metal detecting club had said about me in the public comments of the Kent Mercury article ('Focus on UK metal Detecting: Holedigger Pete Looking for a Real Man', Tuesday, 25 February 2014). The comments under this post (which are a selection of the flood he sent -and continues to send) taken with the original remarks give an insight into the mentality of a certain group of detectorists.
From now on because of this aggro in response to perfectly justifiable comments, I revert to my "Focus on Metal Detecting" header. The fourth post was prompted by watching a key source of information, a video put up bt "Medway History Finders" about the discovery and subsequent small-scale excavation by Andrew Mayfield and the Finds Liaison Officer some time at the end of the week (Thursday 20th?): 'Focuson UK Metal Detecting: Digging up "The A20 Medway-Finders-TrashedAnglo-Saxon Grave"...', Tuesday, 25 February 2014). [duplicate text elsewhere, instead of discussion, some detectorists are currently trying to get this post taken down]
Then, since there was so much talk about how the finders allegedly "had no alternative", I wrote a text considering if that really was the case ('Focus on UK Metal Detecting: "The "A20" Medway-Finders-Trashed Anglo-Saxon Grave" - Did they Have to Dig it Up?', Tuesday, 25 February 2014). WEell, of course they did not, that was just a convenient excuse.
I then turn to one of the leitmotifs of this blog, just how much artefact hunters and collectors understand about the conservation issues involved (ie the main reason why there ARE concerns about these activities - however much they'd like to pretend otherwise): 'Focus on Metal Detecting: Tekkie Nonsense Writhing on Conservation', Wednesday, 26 February 2014. basically we can see from what they write that in the UK PAS are making very little headway with metal detectorists explaining what is what, because they reveal they have not got a clue what it is we are discussing. This theme is explored in another post: 'The People Luv us: the "A20 Popularity contest"..', Friday, 28 February 2014).
As a result of what was in the public domain, there has been more and more talk about the need for this activity to be regulated to obtain maximum public benefit, and the question of registration has been cropping up several times: 'Focus on Metal Detecting: Pirate Ray Hits the Nail on the Head', Wednesday, 26 February 2014. This is a relative novelty, such calls were very muted in the past. The tide perhaps is about to turn?
The accounts of the discovery by the finders turns out to be unreliable, there are two different versions ('The A20 Grave Trashing: Questions about the Timing of Events', Wednesday, 26 February 2014). Even the depth of the finds is in doubt, the excavator says "twenty inches' which is just over half a metre, but when the detectorists' hole was emptied (from the film it looks to be), it was about 38-40cm deep. This raises the question about the whole matter of reporting contexts of discovery to the PAS as second-hand information.
I was criticised for pointing out that what one could read on the forums and the voice-overs on the videos revealed that many of the people involved in this find do not give the impression of being among the most intellectually able members of the British public. That is bound to be a controversial observation, here's (part of) why I think that important when we entrust exploring archaeological layers and assemblages to artefact hunters: 'Focus on UK Metal Detecting: It's not just snobbism', Thursday, 27 February 2014.
The video showing the excavation had striven to hide the location of the site. I had a hunch however that it was a known site which had been targeted (regular readers will know that I differ from the received opinion that most metal detector finds are accidental off-site finds, I think there is evidence that the converse is true). I wrote to two archaeological colleagues (Andrew Mayfield who was actively commenting on my blog and Facebook, and Jennifer Jackson who is paid to do liaison with all sectors of the public on portable antiquities matters) asking a simple yes-no question about the site (NOT the finds). Mr Mayfield ignored my request for information totally, and Ms Jackson twice sent back a reply which I consider... Curt, Unhelpful and Covering-up? (Thursday, 27 February 2014). My third letter remains without a reply. By the time that post was written I had not only identified the site from the video (which was then promptly hidden and taken down) but found out from an online resource what is there. The moment I see somebody else gives the name of the site online, I'll have something to say about that. I can wait.
In the meantime, this was the context for the next post ('Focuson UK Metal Detecting: Bonker's Britain's Top Museum Said "we DoneRight"?', Friday, 28 February 2014) on the actual evidence that the PAS and "the top three men in the BM" as well as unspecified "archaeologists" had said the Medway History Finders had done well hoiking this stuff out. The people quoted of course have maintained their silence over two weeks now. Just for good measure, one possible reason why they are not saying anything despite their public mission: 'A PAS Cover-up?', and 'Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Just what was Targeted? ' Friday, 28 February 2014. Why is the PAS unwilling to answer a simple question about what was known about the site before that fateful "club dig"?
Meanwhile it was taking a long time for many of Britain's artefact hunters to get to grips with the implications of what ad happened on that hilltop near Maidstone, 'Focus on Metal Detecting: A20 grave trashers unrepentant?' Friday, 28 February 2014. That's not really surprising if the PAS Kent FLO really was telling them all that this hoiking had been the best thing to do. I pointed out (and my tracking software says she and somebody else from Kent County Council has read this) the dissonance between 'A20 Grave Trashing: "You Done Well" and Kent County Council Policy' (Friday, 28 February 2014). I looked to see what the reactions had been on the forums 'Focus on Metal Detecting: the first Voice of Concern from Responsible Metal Detectorists', 28 Feb 2014. Although it took a long time, the Medway History Finders in the end "invited an archaeologist to come along to a club meeting and give us a talk on how to deal with a hoard" ('Consequence of Discussion of the A20 Grave-trashing Fiasco?', Friday, 28 February 2014).
This however is not the end of the matter. Now we are seeing the true extent of tekkie ignorance about what all the fuss was about as the self-justifications continue: 'Focus on UK Detecting: Dealing with Ignorant Hoiking in the UK', Friday, 28 February 2014.
(to be continued, no doubt).