His text starts off with the announcement that detecting forum UKDN have posted an advert for an artefact hunting rally at Little Maplestead, Essex. That immediately made me feel ill. Felicity Winkley wants to know how "detectorists" "feel about the landscapes" where they go a-plundering. Let her get over to the rally and ask them. I'd be interested to know whether its how I feel about it. This is where I first took part in an archaeological excavation, many many years ago. I feel a very special bond myself with that landscape and its history and archaeology. The Round Church (Templar you now) the ancient hedgerows and field boundaries, the Roman urns found in the churchyard in the nineteenth century, the ancient yews, the pub where - still underage - I had my first pint, the Roman brick scatter in one of the fields. There is a lot of archaeological research that could still be done in the fields around the churches of the Maplesteads , could HAVE been done before the artefact hunters got there and started hoiking holes in the archaeological record that has lain there for centuries and millennia to take stuff away to hoard in their personal collections or push onto ebay. A pox on them all.

Nigel notes however something else equally worthy of condemnation:

an extraordinary “license agreement” that the landowners have already signed and crucially it says: “Only items subject to the Treasure Act 1996 are to be divided 50/50 with the respective landowners.” Trouble is, those items all belong to the State so can’t possibly be subject to a private agreement to share them, as detectorists all know. The sole effect is to make the landowner think the detectorists are offering him something. They aren’t!

Worse, since it specifies “only” Treasure items will be shared it means non Treasure items don’t have to be. Yet non Treasure items are often far more valuable than Treasure items and anyway comprise 99.9% of anything that’s likely to be found! Let me put it in stark terms: almost every item found, be it worth ten pounds or ten thousand, has been signed over in full to the detectorists and if another Crosby Garrett Helmet is found the landowner will get nothing and the detectorist will get £2.3 million! Did anyone explain? Would the landowners have signed if they’d understood? And there’s more. The £14 entry fees (but not the finds, nota bene) go to Maplestead Round Church restoration (as they should!) so it is presented as an entirely beneficial “charity” event – to such an extent that the Friends of the Little Maplestead Round Church are running a food and drink stall to supply those that are busy relieving the locals, the church funds and the landowner of 100% of what is found!

So there we are. Doubtless the locals have heard the universal detectorists’ mantra “we’re only interested in history” and assume the attendees are all charitably minded heritage heroes for whom the selling of finds is anathema (and visiting detecting websites like UKDN won’t have taught them otherwise!) And even if they did have fleeting doubts, PAS will be there, giving every impression the whole process is archaeologically sound, officially sanctioned and not at all an oikish, unnecessary, damaging and acquisitive racket.

PAS will be there? What good will that do? The same PAS that refused to answer my enquiry whether she'd be at another resource gobbling event on another significant part of Essex's landscape palimpsest?

Nigel makes the point through irony: if communities are dead set on allowing the digging up of their local archaeological record to raise charity money it surely should be done in a way that allows "100% of any government Treasure rewards to go to the charity, 100% of all the other finds could go to the charity" with 100% recording asking:

if avoidable archaeological damage had to take place would you rather it was on the basis that £2.3 million might go to a church restoration fund or to self-proclaimed history lovers every one of whom had signed a contract ensuring every single last penny went to themselves and not the landowner or charity?
Vignette: Trashing one bit of (unknown) local history to support another (better known)