Thursday 1 December 2011

Twinstead Theft: Followup

Pete-Trac wrote on a metal detecting forum near you about the Twinstead theft, saying that it was a "sorry state of affairs" which can only reflect badly on the image of "metal detecting" as people will tend to see all artefact hunters in the same light. He admits that it is a fact that "some people in our hobby are in it purely for profit". He goes on to say that if he were a farmer:
having heard this tale, I would definately say no to any detectors coming on to my land because I would do exactly what these farmers are doing .. and that is classing all detectorists as grubby little thieves, pocketing finds made on private land, finds that don't belong to any of us... Just because a farmer gives us permission to detect their land doesn't mean that we can just take them home and pop them in a drawer or sell them on ebay and pocket the cash..
He suggests that as long as this mentality continues then the current freedoms of artefact hunters will be curtailed and they will eventually run out of land and artefact hunting will be restricted to rallies, but this too is an unsatisfactory situation as the archaeological record is finite and "the rallies that we will be forced to attend [...] will be over crowded and they too will eventually stop because they will be done to death". He tells of the appalling nature of some of the people he meets on rallies:
I have attended many rallies and club digs and I have to admit that some of the characters I have met there are absolute scumbags that do nothing for this hobby and are there to get what they can for their own profit and are not interested in the historic importance or interested in the items they are finding.. They turn up and off they go, leaving holes unfilled and tossing unwanted items on the ground for other people to find in the hope that this slows the competion down and they go racing off.. I have seen it with my own eyes and it bugs the hell out of me.. These people should be banned from rallies and hounded out of the hobby by the rest of us who love the hobby for all the right reasons.
But they are not, are they? Artefact hunters are not willing to take responsibility for the state of their own hobby.

Meanwhile there has been an update of news from the rally site. The landowner was not only chagrined that he had been robbed by guests on his land but concerned that following the widespread publicity the hoard had received, his field might be subject to nocturnal visits of uninvited metal detectorists. The decision was taken to "clear the field of the remainder of the hoard". Five metal detector users gathered there two days after the rally.
With the aid of a mechanical digger and driver we have spent the last two days intensely searching the area and left the site early this evening quite happy that we'd not only removed all the coins from the 'hotspot', but had also systematically searched and removed scattered coins from the surrounding area. I am very happy to report that we found a total of 123 sovereigns plus 12 half-sovereigns and will be reporting ALL of the coins to the coroner.
So, if 135 coins were the residue left AFTER the whole area had been thoroughly searched by many many treasure seekers, how many coins were initially hoiked out?

Rather incongruously the first mentioned writer now asserts that his confidence in the honesty of the true metal detectorists out there has somehow been restored by this activity and suggests that "this has the makings of a great story that will hopefully end up reflecting well on this fantastic hobby [...] let's draw a line under this unfortunate event and hope we can regain some trust among the landowners out there".

So who else was at the findspot gathering evidence which might help determine the context of the burial of the hoard? Archaeologists, police? Or did the enthusiastic let's-clean-up-this-mess metal detectorists just go ahead and do a bit of DIY crime scene investigation and evidence recovery? Should not the Coroner have been involved in this second "dig"? Was he?

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