Thursday 8 December 2011

Detecting Under the Microscope: Comments on Old Sarum Looting

The nine comments under the article on illegal artefact hunting at the earthwork site at Old Sarum in the Salisbury Journal are worthy of note. Immediately under the article one "fudgeeeey" moans that this news item detracts from the carefully constructed benign image of artefact hunting:
seems to me this is just another way of putting us detectorist down again
and "Venusintransit" interjects with the usual tekkie 'hoik-it-all-out' solution to a problem of preservation of the archaeological record:
How is it that there is still things to find by people with metal detectors? It time the area was scanned by English heritage fully, then others would not bother.
It is nice to see some of the thirteen million pounds worth of PAS "outreach" is getting through to at least some elements of the population, for "Bigdavenorcott" recognising that riddling the site with holes is hardly "preservation", replies to the latter comment:
Yanking metal objects out of their context without proper excavation removes their archaeological value and destroys information which cannot be retrieved. That is why EH doesn't want to 'scan' its monuments, as their job is to preserve heritage, not destroy it. Detectorists on scheduled sites are thieves and vandals and should be treated as such.
Contributor "treehugginghippycrap" replies to the first poster,
@fudgeeeey: "another way of putting detectorists down"? By pointing out that their activities are antisocial and illegal? If detectorists are breaking the law and damaging our national heritage for personal gain, I can suggest better ways of putting them down. Preferably for a long stretch at her Majesty's pleasure. There are plenty of responsible detectorists and this activity and your comment tarnish their wholly legitimate activities.
To this "fudgeeeey" replies:
how can my comment tarnish are activities? We all know that english heritage etc are trying to get metal detecting band (sic), this is just another nail in the coffin. All i can say is , if it was not for us metal detectors they would not know about half these sites. And i and all the other detectorist i know would never do this to Ancient Monuments .
[Old Sarum is a pretty substantial site, and was discovered well before metal detectorists came along to pretend that in taking away stuff from archaeological sites they are in some way "partnering" archaeology and archaeological preservation]. "Yer Tis" suggests that responsible detectorists should:
take responsibility, as the detectorist world is small, find out who did this and then shop them to the police. Oh no you wont it is the unwritten code between detectorists, like the event in North Essex, where over £70000 worth of gold has been stolen by "responsible" detectorists from an event organised by detectorists! Theft it theft, simple, so maybe it does need to be banned
Indeed, there is an unwritten code, "we all know who they are" is said pretty frequently on metal detecting forums, but that information only very seldom gets passed on to the authorities (the exception are unverified allegations made most often as the result of a personal vendetta between detectorists competing for a site or sites in the region). But what is the difference in archaeological and heritage management terms between emptying an archaeological site of collectables that is not actually protected by law (yet) and one that is? A hole dug in a site is a hole dug in a site no matter what legal pieces of paper about it lie in an archive somewhere.

The "it's all right, I'm not ACTUALLY breaking the law" argument really does not apply here. Plundering the collectables from an archaeological site or assemblage protected by law is a crime, but just because a site is not protected by law, that does not make plundering it for collectables the right thing to do to it.

1 comment:

Paul Barford said...

A metal detectorist does not seem to understand when I tell him I am not going to post his comments sent under an abusive pseudonym. He says:

"I also believe it's a criminal act to help a nighthawk plunder a site at Poulton. You seem to very quite on the part you played here, telling Mr ****** where to dig. Don't worry Paul, i've already given my story to the police, so your on the radar now."

Mr Taylor is mistaken on the spelling of "quiet" and "you're"
and whether he can get away with publishing allegations against a named individual on my blog.

I have not "helped" anyone do anything of the sort, the information on the site of the Poulton Hoard find was published by Mr Taylor on a You Tube video for all to see. His understanding of British criminal law is wrong. As he WOULD have found out if he had actually been to the police to report this alleged "criminal offence".

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