Friday, 20 February 2009

British "Nighthawks" on Facebook

Those US dealers and collectors of no-questions-asked antiquities (the usual suspects) and others who seem to have jumped to the defence of British artefact hunters might be interested to see some posts on Facebook from a small semi-literate group calling themselves "The Metal Detecting Nighthawks". The members include at least four people from London, one from Nottingham, one from Wales and a gentleman with a Scottish sounding name (log on for details). I'd like to think this was a very bad joke, I fear though it is not.

The topics discussed on this forum tend to be about “looting I did last night” with a excursus on the relative values of a “tumbler” (sic) and electrolytic stripping for cleaning the antiquities (for the uninitiated – neither should be used on archaeological metalwork). It is interesting to note that these persons mention the places they do their searching and it is clear that they drive some considerable distances to get to some of them, presumably specific sites.

These unrepentant individuals are jubilant that their hobby was recently in the news due to the recent publicity around the release of the Nighthawking report and have a few things to say about it. For example: “Me and Dan were once stopped by the police, they didnt give two shits that we didnt have permision and just let us carry on! I think they have slightly more important things to do.” (London) and from Nottingham “hey up dave , theres no mention about my area notts , must be theres nowt round ere lol thats wat they think lol [***] em eh” [misspelt expletive deleted]. One London resident admits “I hate farmers. Inbreds.” To which another Londoner replied [spelling and punctuation as in original]:
It just isn't right, Who says the land belongs to them, In my eyes no one as the right to own land, I have the right to roam and i will. I'm helping to preserve finds by getting them out of the ground, finds that would be lost via chemicals & pesticides that corrode metal, Also helping by keeping the finds away from Archy's who in my experience are crooks and keep the looty for themselves. Don't be worried about getting bust, Police arn't interested, tresspass is a civil matter, plough theft is an offence if you have finds on your person. As a final note i want to add a comparitive... someone who pays £10,* detects all day, doesn't fill is holes in and doesn't record his finds OR someone who nighthawks, respects the land, fills is holes in and records his finds. Which one is Dick Turpin? and who as the right morals?
I wonder where a Dick Turpin nighthawk would go to “record” his finds? To the PAS(?) or to a rival “recording” scheme? We may ask ourselves what function "recording" them would have... The Nighthawking Report (page 93, point 9.3.9) mentions the concerns about the use of the PAS to give tainted objects a false legitimacy. When I mentioned this on this blog, readers may recall Roger Bland threatened to have the law on me. I would say that since the Facebook gang give what seem to be their real names, he might do better looking elsewhere for someone to criticise. Have any of their finds turned up on the PAS database?
* I think this individual is talking about metal detecting rallies. It may be that these people from heavily urbanised areas see only two alternatives, either paying to go on a commercial artefact hunting rally or going on land without permission but for no payment. The option that it they could get free permission from a farmer as do many responsible artefact hunters seems not to have occurred to them. "Archy's" (sic) in this text presumably means archaeologists.

Photo: candid action photo or posed? From the Metal Detecting Nighthawks page of Facebook (author unknown)

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