Saturday, 12 December 2015

"Treasure trove: Honest hobbyists are winning battle against the plunderers"

Paul Jones with a 3,000-
year-old axe head he found
and kept while metal
detecting (Oxford Mail)

PAS "outreach" is producing some strange results. And we all know that neither they, nor any jobsworth British archaeologist is going to query, let alone correct the wholly misleading picture put out by news articles like this one by "Pete Hughes, Environment reporter" ("Treasure trove: Honest hobbyists are winning battle against the plunderers" Oxford Mail, Saturday 12 December 2015):
more finds dug up in Oxfordshire have been declared to the authorities in 2015 than ever before.[...] the reason for the rise, say authorities, is an increase in honest metal detectorists who are beating “night hawkers” – thieving treasure hunters – to all the best finds.  [...] the number of detectorists has doubled in the past five years. Mr Jones, 57, who runs a cabinet-making and joinery business [...] refused to reveal the location of the field where he found his axehead for fear the farm owner would have to deal with more [sic] threatening and dangerous thieves.  [...]  The trade in stolen treasure is fed by private collectors who advertise for treasure “no questions asked” in the back of metal detecting magazines and scour eBay for finds. [...] , with the number of detectorists rapidly increasing, it could only be good news for the honest side of a healthy hobby [...] Mr Jones said: “[...] There is an absolutely amazing amount of Medieval and Roman history in this area, I’ve got a room full of thimbles, musket balls and coins at home.”
So, here the way in which the archaeological record of Britain is being ransacked for collectables to go into the pockets of artefact hunters and collectors is seen as a race. The fact is most countries in the world attempt to protect the buried archaeological resource from beiong dug away, in Britain, they are racing to achieve it. Conservation Mr Hughes. Wassatt, eh? And we were told the number of criminals has dropped due to PAS outreach and head-patting.

I am surprised to learn that metal detecting magazines actually publish adverts from people wanting to buy "stolen Treasures". Who buys these magazines? Who, apart from the PAS, publishes in these magazines? Shouldn't be allowed.

We earlier heard of the reasons why Dean Crawford refuses to report the findspots of his finds to the PAS, now we learn Mr Hughes'. One is to stop the archaeologists, the other to stop other metal detedctorists.

Mr Hughes has "a room full" of collectable metal finds removed from their context. I honestly cannot see that the  rapidly increasing number of detectorists is in any way good news for the archaeological record, . Neither is this a "healthy hobby", it is clearly an exploitive, erosive, damaging and self-centered hobby which is carried out at the cost of the loss of vast amounts of potential information about the past. To get a room full of collectables, thousands of non-collectable artefacts (all archaeological evidence) have ended up in somebody's scrap bucket. Where are the records of all those lost pieces of context?

When is an artefact hunter a "plunderer" and when are they not? Serious question, never answered properly by supporters of artefact hunting.

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