Tuesday 25 January 2011

"Farm Business" Magazine on Treasure Hunting Rage

I do not know if you can read this 'Business innovation' page from Farm Busines magazine of 17th December 2010, if you can't its probably just as well for the blood pressure of all who care....
The proposal is to collect money from leasing access to land for metal detectorists ("professional treasure hunters") to come in and strip the archaeological collectables from the soil on an industrial scale. They describe metal detecting in these terms: This is a business, not a hobby..........

The business plan contains some interesting numbers: "About 30 000 metal detectorists dig at least twice a week in the UK " (that is three times the Heritage Action estimate - you know that Erosion Counter everybody says is excessive). Furthermore "Demand is forecast to grow by 25% per year" (so by the end of the decade there will be 105000 of the blighters? Thirteen times the current HA estimate). This is assigned to the fact that "valuable finds are well reported in the media" (let us note: often by PAS press releases, unbelievably there were even plans to make a TV series about this with PAS involvement).

In this commercial Treasure hunting operation, land will be ‘graded’ depending on what historical resource it has in it and (since the archaeological record of any piece of land is a highly finite resource) „how much it has been detected on” in the past. The revenue will come in from ticket sales - the article shows what enticingly high sums can be raised by giving this organization a monopoly to search this land.

The organization is called "Hunters Corporate", Barry Wayne, Mark Becher and Victoria Bosworth. It is obviously related to this: Hunters Events UK and Hunters of Hertfordshire. they even say they have Codes of conduct - but there's inexplicably ONE MISSING, ISN"T THERE?

"The hunters corporate events finds division agreement is written into each landowner/farmer and detectorists contract and states that any items recovered from the ground on a hunters event are subject to this agreement. 40% for the landowner, 40% for the finder & 20% for hunters corporate events". But nothing for the PAS which is expected to be part of the hunters' business plan for free. Well, everybody else pays for that, so the hunters can make money by selling off the past, don't they? But then, where's the fifty-fifty finder-landowner split that Treasure finds normally attract? Both landowner and finder are agreeing to a 10% cut. What about non-Treasure finds? Do Hunterscorporate give landowners 40% of the market value for every collectable removed from their land? How would they administer that? Or are they just going to reimburse the landowner for 10% less than they'd get from the Treasure Valuation Committee in the case of Treasure finds and the finder walks off with the rest? They do say: "the land owner gets the very best treatment from the detectorists and will also get their share in all finds made", which rather suggests that having bought tickets, the finders either have to surrender all their finds to be sold, or pay the landowner 40% of the value of each and the "Hunters" another 20% of their value to take them home. What's in it for them then? Why not just go to a normal commercial rally held on 'prime land' where they can just keep all the non-Treasure items they find with no extra cost?

Would it not be too much to expect that the PAS might say a few words about the scope and nature of their proposed involvement with commercial operations of this sort? Should they not - like any archaeologist that abides by a code of conduct - be contacting landowners (like through their trade magazines) trying to STOP just this sort of exploitation of the archaeological resources of their land? Otherwise one might suspect that they see organized events like this as a good opportunity to get "more finds on the database" with minimal effort. Surely promoting best practice comprises a bit more than that? Do "Hunters Corporate" enjoy the support of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, or is the Portable Antiquities Scheme going to come out publicly and condemn this kind of exploitation?

[A Deep Bloomsburian Silence ensues].

Vignette: Hertford metal detecting wannabe-monopolists Mark Becher and Barry Wayne trying to look like mafiosos with a business plan in green wellies and flares.


Anonymous said...

It's either a wind-up or they were drunk when they gave the interview or they don't know many detectorists.

The business plan involves participating detectorists giving 40% of their finds value to the landowners and a further 20% to the organisers! ;)!

I rather think the average history-loving-detectorist-hero will prefer to attend a Central Searchers rally where the formal rule is that any find worth up to £2,000 belongs entirely to the detectorist!

Paul Barford said...

Well, seems to me most of them are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, but I bet when munny is involved they 'int so stupid !

Paul Barford said...

Yes, I really thought it was a windup at first. Another similar organization sent me some of their promotional material a while back, probably thought they'd get some free advertising when I posted something in outrage. I resisted the temptation. Must see if I can dig it out, it was hilariously naive.

Anonymous said...

Having now read the rest I think on balance it isn't a genuine project and is intended merely to create guffaws in the knife drawer.

On the other hand, the main joke is on their fellow detectorists and PAS since all they have done is highlight the fact that their "shocking" rallies differ from other rallies only by virtue of the fact they are being honest about why they are holding them. So.... if PAS attends other rallies there's no logical reason why they shouldn't attend these ones is there?! Aaargh! Hence the Bloomsburian deathly hush. Reductio ad absurdum M8...

Peter Twinn said...

I have to say that this is utter madness! Surly this not only shows that greed has really taken over, but also shows the 'brass neck' that some people have towards the heritage of our nation, thinking it's up for sale to the highest bidder!

I supose the good news is that this kind of action will have just as good an effect as the travesty that took place at Wanborough back in the 1980s.

Another nail in the coffin, and absolutely bound to stir up a lot of resentment again with both archaeologists and the wider public who are much more heritage savvy these days, and rightly so.

I thought metal detecting had reached its pitiful low with 800+ at rallies, it seems someone seems to have excavated another hole for the hobby to fall deeper into. The blind leading the blind always end up in ditches at some point.

ju said...

8. What kind of things do you do in your land survey?
we will have our researchers and historian compile a thorough and complete historical survey on your land, they look through old estate and area maps, track the routes of old roads and track ways, check all known archaeological discoveries and finds within 1.5 mile radius. They spend some time in the fields grading the level, the quantity and the quality of finds coming up.

Looks like they get to detect for free beforehand ............ wonder if what they find is then shown to the landowner or sold so he gets his 40%?


Anonymous said...

It was only a matter of time before the opportunity to make big money was recognised by a wider set of individuals. After all, Central Searchers is quite open about saying their next Bank Holiday Rally later in the year will gross £27,000 in ticket sales alone.

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