Thursday, 22 May 2014

UK Metal Detectorist Puzzled over Ownership


"Responsible metal detectorist" Steve Broom ungrammatically admits "Im confused...???". Apart from working out what punctuation marks one places at the end of a statement, he is confuddled by the "mixed messages" which he thinks he sees on other people's blogs.
Whilst most say that metal detectorists have no claim to the items that are found, some say that the finds belong to the farmer, others say that they belong to the public [...] On another matter, the selling of finds is often described as a shameful thing to get involved with yet some say that farmers should be shown the information from the sale of finds from detecting magazines to improve their knowledge of what they are seemingly missing out on [...]
The notion that the archaeological heritage belongs to us all, so is no individual's "right" to trash or take away, seems to underlie the notion of "responsible detecting" and who is responsible for what to whom. I do not see that as "mixed" message, it's a pretty fundamental one (and one I has naively assumed was shared by all who profess to be "responsibly" hoiking artefacts). Perhaps the PAS needs to do some more "outreach".

Unlike most countries, where such an idea is embodied in the vesting legislation concerning archaeological objects, Britain's legislation developed differently (and out of kilter with the "common heritage" idea). Artefacts are the property of the landowner, and it seems to me not very difficult to understand the consequences of that for the artefact hunter. People who went through school and never learnt about question marks though might have a few problems.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

What's confusing about the artefacts being the landowner's, the knowledge being ours and detectorists having no right to deprive either owner of either?

If Mr Broom could just grasp that (and the fact there's no wriggle room to escape from it) I think his confusion would disappear.

Steven Broom said...

Nicely put Heritage action...I don't have a problem with it...and I can comply on all counts...

Paul...check your grammar on the post above. One minor mistake... B+...could try harder...!!!???!!!

James Chapman said...

Actually, I'm confused too.
Section 4 of the Treasure Act seems to vest ownership of "treasure" in the Crown, at least initially.
The Crown can then relinquish ownership under Section 6.

Mr X

Anonymous said...

I can comply on all counts...

and yet you think it's OK to take the owner's property home without showing him because YOU are more likely to record it than he is!

How is that not seeking wriggle room?

(And how is representing it to others as good practice not helping crooks?)

Steven Broom said...

Yes it is OK to take the finds home after a dig...sometimes you cannot get to see the farmer straight after a dig....that's not wriggle room...its called being practical and as long as the farmer and I have trust in this arrangement then why is this such a problem...?

Paul Barford said...

'Enrtitlement' again. Why can the artefact hunter not agree to be on the land only when the landowner is available?

Steven Broom said...

Because that is not practical Paul...why does the landowner have to give up their own time to supervise us, and how can they reasonably supervise a group. I say again...its about trust and establishing the right arrangements that work for the landowner. You will not achieve a one solution that fits every situation on this matter.

Paul Barford said...

"why does the landowner have to give up their own time to supervise us [?]"
Because you are on their ***ing land, taking away their ***ing stuff. That's why. Otherwise you lay yourself open to allegations of theft. It's like taking stuff from a shop while the shopkeeper's round the back and leaving money on the till. You CAN do it, you CAN claim "the shopkeeper trusts you" but it's not advisable. Remember the "Glasgow Fourth".

As I say why not only do it when the landowner IS available to sign out the finds taken away?








Anonymous said...

Paul is right to be indignant. We are being told it's not practical to ring the farmer and find when he will be in and that consequently detectorists can arrive when he is out and take his property home sobbing that they wish he was there to receive it but he isn't and he doesn't have a letterbox or a wife...

It's just nonsense and getting worse every time attempts are made to justify it.

Doing it right is PERFECTLY practical. Personally (as someone from a farming background) I totally refute the claim that it isn't.

David Knell said...

It is not only business that must be founded on trust; society itself could not function without it.

Paul Barford said...

I see no impracticality at all, the farmer is on his farm at certain times of the day and week, just time any detecting to coincide with that, in the same way as you would if you offered to do odd jobs for him on the farm in lieu of payment.

Since the law is the law and you want to twist it and make it fit your needs, I rather think your definition of what it means to be a "law-abiding detectorists" is the problem here.

David Knell said...

As a teenager, I used to babysit the neighbour's kids when they were away. They only knew me vaguely through my parents. It was a relationship based on trust.

A shopkeeper asked me to mind her shop for a couple of hours while she had to go to hospital. She only knew me vaguely as a customer. It was a relationship based on trust.

A hundred other examples. Yes, there are horror stories but I think they're a tiny minority. Most of the time, you get a gut feeling if you can trust someone or not - and it'd be a very very sad world if you couldn't. Frankly, after carefully explaining our positions and reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement, I'd freak if a farmer felt he had to stand over me for more than the first ten minutes or so while I was searching his fields or felt he had to remain on the property. It would be an insult to my credibility and I'd simply leave.

Paul Barford said...

But nobody's talking about anybody "standing over" anyone!!

What is the problem with understanding this? To answer the detectorist wriggle-point that he detects when the farmer's not available to consult, I suggested it would be more responsible than not to go when you know the landowner is available for on-the-spot consultation should conditions require it.

We are talking here about documenting transfer of ownership.

This is the whole issue with collecting, we are asked to "trust" dealer Grebkesh and Runn who says something is "from an old German collection" but is not going to give you even the tiniest scrap of paper to back that up. Then there's the man who stops you in the street and offers to sell you "cheap" a welding machine and generator he happened to have in the back of his car over there, producing one very crumpled business card suggesting he was a representative of the firm producing them who had to catch a flight back to Italy that afternoon and could not afford to ship them back... happened to me three weeks ago. And oh dear, no he would not be able to produce an official invoice...

No, to sort out the trade in illicit items we need more than "trust", this is not transferable to the next owner and the next. With freshly (and "responsibly/law abidingly") dug metal detected finds, there has to be documentation ab initio , which is the only thing that will be able to verifiably differentiate a licitly obtained item from a nighthawked one. Only one person has the ability to issue such authorisation, the landowner before the artefact hunter removes the stuff from his land and pocket it. In legal terms, items removed from his land without specific authorisation are objects removed from his land without authorisation and surely anything calling itself "responsible detecting" should be being done in a way which avoids this happening, no matter what wriggling excuses are offered to make it "allright when I do it" .

Anonymous said...

It's important to clarify that "supervision of detectorists by landowners" was deliberate misrepresentation by detectorists of "only detect on the days you know he'll be there to receive his property."

The first would be silly, the second would be reasonable behaviour. Why would anyone misrepresent the latter as the former?

David Knell said...

We're in the 21st century now, Paul. We all have mobile phones. If the detectorist discovers something exceptional, he immediately calls the farmer to come on over and have a look. If neither the detectorist nor the farmer can trust each other on that sort of thing, they never should have come to an agreement in the first place.

An item requiring verifiable documented provenance is an entirely different situation (involving potential third parties, etc., etc.).

I gather you declined the welding machine! :)

Anonymous said...

"If neither the detectorist nor the farmer can trust each other on that sort of thing, they never should have come to an agreement in the first place."

I don't understand. Why would people who trust each other need a signed agreement? It seems pretty obvious to me that the wording of the NCMD and FID finds agreements gives the detectorist the bulk of the booty and all of the decision making.

Add to that the fact the landowner's sole source of information about what may be found, what IS found and what it is worth is the other party and he has zero opportunity to gain independent advice elsewhere .... and talk of "the importance of trust" on the part of detectorists becomes mighty comprehensible.

David Knell said...

I was assuming that Steven Broom meant that he would merely take the finds home overnight to keep them safe and then show them to the farmer the next day. That seems perfectly reasonable if the farmer and detectorist feel they can trust each other. I have no idea if Steven Broom actually meant more than that but that was the aspect of trust I was discussing - nothing more.


"Why would people who trust each other need a signed agreement?"

Signed agreements and trust are not mutually exclusive. Even after a signed employment contract, the relationship between employer and employee still demands a level of trust in addition to that. If I were an auction house owner, I'd be damned if I'd leave an assistant or porter guarding uncatalogued lots while I was out on a call unless I felt I could totally trust him - signed employment contract or not! ;)

If I were a farmer, I would personally never allow metal detectorists on my land unless they were part of a properly supervised archaeological survey or dig. But even then, I would need to feel confident that I could trust the people on my property in addition to any agreement I may have signed.

Paul Barford said...

If someone wants to borrow a piece of equipment or other item of company property from work, they sign for it before removing it from the building, even though they've cleared it with their boss, and he trusts them, and they are going to bring it back the next day. It's a general principle worth abiding by, trust or not, a matter of documentation where things are and why.

Why can we NOT all (responsible artefact hunters too) insist on transparency and better documentation throughout collecting? Absolutely every dealer in the whole wide world will also tell you it's "impractical" and "clients have to trust us", and agreeing with them and letting things slide will get the cleaning up of illicit antiquities nowhere at all. Time for a change in attitudes and I really do not see why "responsible detectorists" should not be leading here instead of dragging their feet behind all the rest.

 
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