Wednesday 16 February 2011

Scotland’s buried heritage looted by treasure hunters

There is somewhat belated official concern that Scotland's archaeological heritage is being plundered by treasure hunters who fail to declare their finds in the national interest. In Scotland, any finds classed as treasure, including items such as axe heads and stone carvings as well as gold and jewels, must be declared to the Crown, which will pass them on to museums or other suitable collections for public display and study. Before any smartass but uninformed US coiney suggests it, Scotland awards finders full market value for finds added to the national collections like their English counterpart.

A report recently published by Crown officials admits what some archaeologists have been saying for ages, that there has been “serious under-reporting” of artefacts found by artefact hunters (Chris Watt, 'Scotland’s buried heritage looted by treasure hunters', Herald Scotland 17 Feb 2011):
Professor Ian Ralston, chairman of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel, said: “If you look at the amount of stuff found in Northumberland and Cumbria compared to the south of Scotland, there has to be a suspicion that there is a significant number of undeclared finds”. The problem is brought to light in the Scottish Treasure Trove annual report, published yesterday by the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer.
The report points out that the difference between the English and Scottish system is that objects found by artefact hunters and collectors north of a line on a map are liable to be added to public collections in the public interest, while south of the line collectors can add the stuff to their own private collections. All the arguments about "metal detectorists" contributing to the common good by recovering items are shown to be nonsense by this situation, what it is about is not "saving the 'eritidge" but about making a personal collection. As Watt points out "with treasures (sic) remaining in the hands of finders, the scheme south of the Border is seen by some critics as selfish". Indeed it is, no doubt about it - but its not the only area of antiquity collecting and trading that places selfish self-interest above all other considerations, such as decency, honesty and respect of the law.

But look at this:
There are around 100 members of Scotland’s two metal detecting clubs, according to Alastair Hacket, secretary of the Edinburgh-based Scottish Detector Club, with at least 100 more who pursue the hobby independently. Numbers have risen in recent years thanks to high profile successes like that of David Booth, the novice from Stirling who found £1 million-worth of gold in 2009 on his first outing with his new metal detector. The safari park worker received a £462,000 reward.
Just 200 in the whole country? Or is the number closer to 2000?

Vignette: Not-the-'British'-flag.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, we all know it's closer to 2,000 don't we?

The worrying thing is it looks like there is joint downplaying of the problem on both sides, just like in England:

First, a detectorist implies there are about 200 detectorists. Yeah, right. The forum Detecting Scotland alone has 304 members ( as he would surely know as it is clearly stated on their home page).

And then a professor says Scotland’s find reporting is poor compared with the amount of stuff found in Northumberland and Cumbria but fails to mention that most stuff in England doesn’t get reported anyway (as he would surely know as PAS admits it). So it's not just poor it's catastrophic.

Meanwhile the public in Scotland, as in England, is being deprived of the truth of their losses by self-interested metal detectorists and a bullied bureaucracy. And overseas antiquities dealers are applauding and pretending it's a "good" system and they're doing no harm by buying the stuff. It's disgusting.

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.