Sunday, 25 May 2014

UK Metal Detecting: As Easy as Taking Candy from a Child


Farmer Brown (“For the Nth time: the finds belong to the Landowner, OK?” 24/05/2014) advises landowners
As golden rules go it couldn’t be simpler: never sign a finds agreement without seeing what you are giving away…. It’s obvious isn’t it: the finds are your property so you should control what happens to them, once you have them in your hand.
This rather obvious principle has given artefact hunters some problems, in the last few weeks during which it has been discussed a number of detectorists have been trying to deny it. Farmer Brown comments that this:
[...] tells a dodgy tale I think. Some have been leaning over to a ludicrous degree to oppose its implications, saying it’s OK to take the finds home in the first instance because “sometimes you cannot get to see the farmer straight after a dig.” Yeah right. Not possible or respectful or responsible or practical to restrict your detecting to just those days when the owner IS there, eh?!
Farmer Brown suggests landowners do not agree to anything leaving their farm until they have been handed it taken independent advice on it. This is in accord with what the PAS advises:
Not trespassing; before you start detecting obtain permission to search from the landowner/occupier…. Remember that all land has an owner. To avoid subsequent disputes it is always advisable to get permission and agreement in writing first regarding the ownership of any finds subsequently discovered. [and behaviour after metal-detecting}: Reporting any finds to the relevant landowner/occupier; and (with the agreement of the landowner/occupier) to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, so the information can pass into the local Historic Environment Record
It’s the definition of being responsible. In a footnote he notes ('Wording to look out for and avoid')  that in the phrasing of the National Council for Metal Detecting Model Finds Agreement  there are two  crucial phrases that make the detectorist, alone in the field, the sole arbiter of the value of each object and hence whether the farmer will get any money for it or even ever see it: "as contracts go, it must surely be one of the most manipulative in history". As Farmer Brown points out:
Removal and sale of artefacts is a multi-million pound industry from which the owners mostly gain the lamb’s share (how about you?) Most artefact hunters won’t admit that to you, nor will anyone working for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. They don’t need to. Take a look at Ebay, Treasure Hunting Magazine, The Searcher and coin dealers’ catalogues and see for yourself. The evidence is overwhelming.
Yet of course every single archaeologist handling finds made by their "partners" totally ignores the question of by what means the person handing them in has gained "ownership" of the item, and therefore the licit origins of the data which are being recorded on the PAS database at public expense. It may well be that the PAS database (and that of the UKDFD) contain data and images of objects removed from a landowner's property without any verification that they were removed with their permission. Furthermore, since findspot details are hidden from the public, the landowner has no means of checking which items on the database are logged as having come from their own land and comparing that with the finds he specifically authorised the removal of. This legal loophole needs closing.

This question was also raised over a year ago by Sam Hardy on Conflict Antiquities: 'If landowners waive right to be informed about finds by metal detectorists, is it an unreasonable contract?'

6 comments:

Andy Baines said...

Paul this is getting very petty and desperate. Metal detectorists on the whole are not out to rob or steal from landowners, nor do landowners give two hoots about if the metal detectorist
Is on their land when they are not in. We are in the 21st century now, we have these hand held devices commonly known as a mobile phone. Usually a quick call or text to the land owner asking them if you are ok to search their land will suffice. Then a quick call or text at the end of the day to let them know you are finished is enough to. Also you can then ask if its ok to pop over with the finds, If they are not in you can arrange a more suitable time to bring the finds back .

Its no big deal for people who have developed trust, I assume that is not something you are familiar with ?

Anonymous said...

I fear Mr Baines has been gradually discovering that announcing with a flourish that you are going to show everyone how to be a responsible detectorist involves more than he thought.

More than a decade of interacting with people of his persuasion has taught me to keep things very simple lest tangents are taken, so here goes:

In this particular instance, taking someone else's property home with you to Liverpool, Luton, Leicester or Latvia without showing it to them isn't responsible whether he likes it or not or wriggles or not.

Paul Barford said...

Why "petty" and "desperate"? What is so difficult to understand here? This is not for a moment about "trust" or "stealing", it is about documenting transfer of ownership.

A few months ago both you and Mr Broom set out to show us that some UK detectorists want to do things more responsibly. Hooray, except you both seem to want the status quo to be accepted as the highest stage of responsibility.

Yes, we are in the 21st century now, already in the second decade, and what advances have been made in this area since the last decade of the last century?

If you were to read this BLOG and not just the posts in it devoted to metal detecting, you'd see that a constant theme is documentation of the history of how the object got out of the ground to its present owner. And not only here, this is a key issue in fighting illicit antiquities as a whole. I would have thought the latter was a crucial area of responsible collecting - of any kind - is to combat the problem of illicit antiquities.

So to come back to the metal detectorist's pathetically narrow little perspective, any nighthawk in the land putting a coin or two on eBay can say "yeah, I 'ad th' landowner's permisshin, matter of trust innit?". That's how the illicit stuff is sold (like the "it's from an old collection, innit?").

We are talking about the need to DOCUMENT the transfer of ownership from one owner (The landowner) to the person whose collection it enters. Since the existence of landowner's permission is the difference between a nighthawked object from a non-protected site and a licitly-obtained one, it stands to reason that for an object to be verifiable as licit, assumptions and word-of-mouth are not enough. Its the same with New Kingdom shabtis, funerary cones and Syracuse decas. Look at the recommendations of the Oxford Nighthawking report. Look at the 'Glasgow Fourth'. Look at the way things are going, and the way they have to go to maintain legitimacy of the hobby as more and more of this stuff comes anonymously onto the market.

The responsible artefact hunter has to document licit possession of the items in his collection. This is fundamental to the collection's hygiene. He cannot do that if he just gaily walks of with whatever takes his fancy without the involvement of THE ONLY PERSON who can provide confirmation of legitimacy.

I think everything that is documented on this blog shows very well indeed that nineteenth-century "trusting" those disposing of artefacts is not going to get us anywhere in the fight against the trade in illicitly-obtained (stolen) artefacts. If we are to fight heritage crime, we need to be able to physically document the legitimacy of the licitly-obtained artefacts in accordance with the current law. I'd say a lot of people out there are looking to responsible detectorists from the UK to show the way here. If they cannot do it, who will? What actually is the problem understanding that?

There is no need for your snide comments, since it quite clearly is you who simply cannot grasp a simple fact.

Andy Baines said...

How is it irresponsible to take it home with you if you are planning to take it back to the farmer at a more appropriate time for the farmer?! Hell, it would mean I could get it recorded before I hand it back. Is that not a good thing?

Life revolves around trusting other people, without trust we would all spend our lives hidden behind a computer screen in the safety of our homes writing about something we clearly dont understand.

Have you ever spoken to a real farmer who grants permission to metal detectorists? I dont mean the imaginary Silus brown either by the way.

Andy Baines said...

Seriously Paul, you are going off on one hell of a tangent now.

What has me going out and gaining legal permission to go out and legally dig coins and artefacts got to do with illicit antiquity trade in funerary cones and syracuse decas?
We are doing nothing illegal and the finds are not illicit so long as we gain legal permission, comply with the treasure laws and don't dig on scheduled sites. So to me all you have just ranted about is smoke screens and mirrors to deflect your readers eyes from the truth that is right there in their faces

Paul Barford said...

"What has me going out and gaining legal permission to go out and legally dig coins and artefacts got to do with illicit antiquity trade in funerary cones and Syracuse decas?"

Ummm, everything? All I am saying is document that legal permission. What makes you think that something sets you apart from other artefact hunters, that THEY have to, and YOU do not?

 
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