David Knell ('Time for a thoughtful reduction in UK metal detecting?' Ancient Heritage Sunday, 9 August 2015) poses a pertinent question of responsible artefact hunters:
It is clear that the controversial pastime of metal detecting in the UK, even in cases where finds have been officially reported, has occasionally placed so much strain on limited public funds that the treatment of archaeological sites was compromised and fell short of best standards. One such case, for instance, concerned competing claims on the public purse by events at Creslow and Lenborough in Buckinghamshire during October and December respectively last year. In light of the recent shrinkage of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and other severe cutbacks in funding at both national and county level for the UK heritage sector at the present time, I wonder if British metal detectorists have accordingly scaled down the active pursuit of their hobby to allow scarce and already stretched resources to be focused on priorities such as dealing with genuine chance finds and discoveries or the urgent demands of emergencies and 'rescue archaeology', where sites are actually under immediate threat.He adds:
There appears to be a strong case for thoughtful detectorists to curtail their digging in potential sites that are not under immediate threat and find other ways to amuse themselves in the meantime until funding to support their hobby in a reasonably responsible way has improved.and of course one way to do that is for responsible detectorists to campaign on behalf of expanding and strengthening the Portable Antiquities Scheme - so that is precisely what they failed to do when Roger Bland was desperately seeking support at the beginning of the year and detectorists simply shrugged their shoulders, walked away and ignored the issue, failing even to mention it on their forums let alone discuss any action. The issue of the PAS meltdown is still a non-topic on detecting forums.
UK metal detectorists are always claiming defiantly that their aim is to do public good, by 'rescuing' finds, by reporting them and thus increasing knowledge, and by giving funds from their responsible (reported) searching to charity. Take away the ability of the PAS to keep up and that behaviour becomes a liability. Knell asks whether the milieu is socially aware enough to respond appropriately to the current situation. I suspect they will unthinkingly adopt the other option, to simply carry on regardless, hang the consequences.