Wednesday 1 December 2010

Crosby Garrett Findspot Attracting Attention of Artefact Hunters

There were plans to conduct excavations on the findspot of the Crosby Garrett helmet. It may already be too late, farmer Eric Robinson, the owner of the land where it was found has been having "serious issues of trespass and unauthorised detecting on his land since the find site was declared public" (Cumbria Farmer, November 12). This prompted Lee Finch, Chairman of the Kendal and District Metal Detecting Club to write a few days ago (26th Nov 2010) in the Cumberland News:
Can I assure Mr Robinson and other landowners/ farmers in Cumbria and the surrounding areas that no member of the Kendal and District Metal Detecting Club has been near or on his land since the find was announced, without his permission. If it was found that a member took part in this behaviour, they would be expelled from our club and reported to the National Council for Metal Detecting. We do not condone the acts these irresponsible detectorists are carrying out and we regret the harm they can do to our hobby. As it is said; it only takes a few to tar everybody else with the same brush. We have built up a good relationship with many landowners/ farmers in Cumbria through our hobby, often visiting agriculture shows at their agricultural committee’s request to display our finds from the area and show young and old alike what our hobby is about and the responsibility that goes with it. If any landowner or farmer wishes to make use of our free search and recovery service or talk to me about a charity rally on their land or any issue to do with our club and responsible metal detecting they can contact me at ******** [...].
Mr Lee fails to enlarge on what the consequences of reporting an illegal artefact hunter "to the NCMD" might be. We note however that reporting the criminal to the police is not one of the things that comes readily to Mr Lee's mind. Note that instead of the word "illegal" Lee uses the word "irresponsible". This is linked to the old definition of the notion responsible/irresponsible where merely operating within the law is the deciding factor and any notions of "best practice" and reporting finds to the PAS are simply absent.

Note above all that this letter is NOT at all about the destruction of irreplaceable archaeological evidence at Crosby Garrett through criminal artefact hunting, but merely a plug for the Kendal Club's "free search and recovery service" (these generally function as a publicity stunt to get access to more land for the club) and proposals of organizing commercial artefact hunting rallies (note the insertion of the word "charity" as a smokescreen to avoid stating what this really is about)

The Kendal milieu's webpage however is quite revealing. Here's their free recovery service ("Farmers & Landowners") Look at their Code of Practice link... As you read down, all well and good, here we have the text of the official Code, principles 1 to 8. But... that's it. Principle nine? Not there. 10 to 13 likewise. And what is number nine, you may ask? Well, it's the one tekkies do not like because it defines "responsibility":
9. Reporting any finds to the relevant landowner/occupier; and (with the agreement of the landowner/occupier) to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, so the information can pass into the local Historic Environment Record. [...]
It then sneakily directs detector using artefact hunters to the Countryside Code and as an afterthought tacked on, the PAS leaflet "advice for finders of archaeological objects including Treasure" ("Am I legally obliged to report all my finds? No"). This is NOT a Code of Practice for Responsible Detecting.

A question we should be asking ourselves, given the existence now for a number of years of a very clear official definition of responsibility whether it really IS just those who use metal detectors illegally who are the only ones who get the hobby a bad name? Is it not the degree to which irresponsible behaviour is rampant in the hobby as a whole, a substantial portion of which still behaves as if there was not now a Code of Practice in existence - rather like Mr Finch's Kendal and District Metal Detecting Club which pointedly omits to post it on their website.

Landowners beware, such conduct strongly suggests that these people are being less than honest with us all.

Hat tip to Nigel Swift for the link

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