Saturday, 19 May 2018

Identifying sites at risk from Collection Driven Exploitation

Louise Grove, Adam Daubney & Alasdair Booth (2018) Identifying sites at risk from illicit metal detecting: from CRAVED to HOPPER, International Journal of Heritage Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2018.1475408


Archaeological sites are at risk from acquisitive crime: this paper focuses in particular on illicit metal detecting. The effects of theft in this context are not merely financial, but have devastating impact on our knowledge and understanding of the site. Even where items are later recovered, we lose the vital clues about the precise context of an object. We therefore need to reduce the risk of theft occurring in the first place. This paper draws on case studies from England and presents a new methodology to assess which archaeological sites may be at risk from illicit metal detecting: ‘HOPPER’ identifies the characteristics of sites likely to be targeted by offenders looking for antiquities. In brief:
History (a history of finds at the site);
Open (the site has physical public access, and/or is documented in the public domain);
Protection (protected status can act as a beacon for offenders);
Publicity (site is known about or receiving new attention);
Evasion (there are known ways to escape apprehension); and
Repeat victimisation (The site has been a target before).
The impact of HOPPER will be its use in the field to develop a pragmatic risk assessment applicable both in a local and international context.
Since the prior existence of 'protection' is one of the factors that increases the probability that a site will be exploited as a source of collectables by metal detector users acting illegally, I am not clear what the practical benefit is of this formula in protecting th threatened sites. Is this another call to put 24/7 guards or electronic surveillance on vulnerable sites? In fact what the authors in fact present is a checklist of sites which are vulnerable to damage and destruction due to  Collection Driven Exploitation in general (what they coyly call 'metal detecting' - which of course is only a fragment of the wider phenomenon).

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