Monday, 25 September 2017

Responsible metal Detecting = Proper Documentation

John Winter has a new post on his blog 'Metal Detecting – Advice for Beginners' (25 September 2017). My text on that topic would consist of one word, "don't", but Mr Winter sees no real problems in talking of 'Planning and Good Practice for your New Hobby'. It is good to see the notion that if a landowner is not keen to have even basic information about the artefacts from their land made available in the public domain through the PAS,
then you have a problem and little choice because he is within his rights. The general advice is to go and seek other land on which to detect.
It is not often that you see that... Slightly more problematic is what he writes about artefact collectors pocketing other people's (the landowner's) property. This is more or less what other British 'metal detectorists' consider to be 'responsible metal detecting'. I would say sorting this fundamental issue out with the owner of the items the 'metal detectorists' wants to 'detect', but then take away is more important than the issue of recording with which the author begins his text. Mr Winter says that
'Some farmers and landowners will be happy wi[th] an oral arrangement about division of finds, but endeavor to get something on paper'.
and then gives a model example of such a paper agreement which merely says:
Monies [sic] realised from any ‘treasure’ finds will be split between us on a 50/50 basis.
but does not mention at all the issue of the many more objects that are found that are not 'Treasure'.

As a quick look at eBay and the finds valuation pages of the magazine "The Searcher" show, all collectable artefacts have monetary value on today's market. Even if it is only five quid a piece, it all adds up, week after week.

A collector cannot expect to add hundreds of quid's worth (in aggregate) of collectables to his or her collection free-of-change and at the cost of the landowner. At least the landowner should be informed of the worth of any item taken away (and collective value of them all), and given the possibility of having an independent  valuation made. Not allowing that possibility is stealing. The fact that landowners are (deliberately kept) in the dark about artefact values, and naive enough not to make the effort to find out, is no excuse for theft. 

Even if a collector  sells none of his or her finds, the heirs will be getting material which can be sold.

The legal side of this needs to be sorted out when (or before) the finder takes the material away. The Nighthawking report recommends that objects get a release document from the owner (landowner) which can be used in future and during regulation of the market (which must come sooner or later) to differentiate material removed from the land with the owner's permission, and that which has been removed without (which will have no such documentation). Also the PAS has no business handling such finds without such documentation. As the antiquities market is cleaned up, such documentation setting out collecting history will become important and it is surely 'responsible artefact hunting' to make sure the legality of the act, and its products, are properly documented in each case.

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