Sunday 7 August 2011

Landowner Learns From "Archaeological Outreach" that his Land's Worth a Lot to Searchers (but not for its historical value)

"Eastcoastsearchers" (not a real name) has posted up on a forum near you details of Anglia Detector Group's "Day Out" at Marks Tey, near Colchester (Sunday Aug 21st 2011)
The site is situated between the A12 (roman road) and the railway line. The landowner says he is aware of what a good site this is and insists on £15-00 as the cost of admission. You may as usual keep what you find but treasure to be 50/50 with the landowner. This has obvious potential and we have access to 4 of the 7 fields. The only way to get on to the site from the north ie Colchester Is drive to Kelveden and cross the A12 and drive back towards Marks Tey ,it is less than a mile to a huge layby and the entrance to the fields, there will be plenty of parking space. The nearest post code (across the road) is CO6 1EZ. Good for google maps and sat nav. Start 10-00am Finish 4-00pm. Price £15-00. His &Hers Toilets, Refreshments as usual.
This is the site and the "huge layby". A layby is not a free all-day car park for heritage plunderers , is it?

Now I happen to know this area very well, it is an archaeologically sensitive area and a PROPER field survey here would serve a number of landscape archaeology research aims. There are some interesting features of the Roman road system (red) here which are worthy of study. On the site itself and all around it are cropmarks of enclosures and fields. Systematic collection and detailed plotting any surface finds found across the area would perhaps allow their pattern (incongruous to the Roman road lines) to be understood. What is going to happen instead however is that a crowd of treasure hunters is going to spend six hours hoovering away anything datable they can get their greedy little hands on (money from the selling of Treasure split 50/50 with the landowner, the rest can go on eBay without reference to him). If the PAS person is here, she will see maybe a fraction of the finds ("this? It waz found over there lady, sort of between where that bloke in the blue anorak is and that tree in the 'edge").

So the sole result of PAS education in Colchester is that the landowner knows how much the archaeological record contained in the soil of his land is "worth" to metal detectorists from the Anglian Detecting Group. I doubt he has even considered the archaeological implications of randomly stripping out the finds from the area by exploitive itinerant artefact collectors. Is this because he does not care, or is simply unaware because no archaeological outreach has reached him about this? I doubt either that he actually has any idea where to find the PAS liaison officer to ask her what kind of safeguards should be set up to avoid irreparably damaging the archaeological record of the area. After all, if he tried to use the map on the PAS website to find her, he'd instead be directed to a toilet block by the boating lake in the municipal park.

What kind of "archaeological outreach" is the PAS doing to landowners? Surely if British legislation vests the future preservation of sites in their hands, then no effort should be spared putting forward the conservation message to them.

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