Sunday, 15 January 2012

Focus on Metal Detecting: A Landowners’ Guide to “Finds Agreements”

One would have thought that the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a publicly funded body would be out there giving the public advice on the treatment of portable antiquities and giving them proper archeological outreach on issues connected with collecting and the antiquities trade. Of course as we know, the reality is different, they have their heads down concentrating in the task of building the biggest database they can of taken heritage so they can do their "wotta lotta stuff we got" press releases. Anything that detracts from that effort takes second place. So its a good job we have public spirited organizations like heritage Action to do their job for them (costing the public a lot less than the thirteen million they pay for the dubious privilege of the PAS passively documenting the plunder of the past).

In a post (Metal Detecting: A Landowners’ Guide to “Finds Agreements”) they annotate a typical example of the sort of agreement that arteffact hunters thrust under landowners' noses asking them to sign away the collectable elements of the archaeological record for them to take away and profit from. As they point out, the wording of these agreements "have big implications for both you and any hidden archaeology".
As there’s no official guidance available you’ll be reliant on the detectorist alone to explain it. You may feel that’s not ideal so here are some points to consider. (The most frequently used agreement is shown but our comments apply to most others).


Note here once again the use of the NCMD Code of Practice, despite the existence since 2006 of one agreed with most of the relevant national bodies and totally ignored by the majority of artefact hunters as they are not willing to abide by its definition of responsible behaviour. The NCMD code contains no such definitions and is mainly about shutting gates and not scaring sheep, important, but hardly related to the preservation of archaeological information.

There is no mention here either of what "value" is being shared, the total value of artefacts removed from the farmer's property, those items that a collector keeps for himself, those he sells or swaps, as well as the metal he takes to be melted down for scrap? The conditions of the division of the spoils surely need further definition in a document of this type.

Who is to determine the value of non-treasure items taken away and added to the finder's personal artefact collection (thus increasing its value)? If the agreement is signed by an absentee landlord, is the tenant farmer qualified to negotiate the sum the detectorist should pay for each day's haul of non-Treasure collectables? On what basis?

No mention here is made of the obligation of the finder to declare to the landowner everything they find and take away to allow its full market value to be assessed, or what happens if the landowner finds they have not.

On what basis is ownership transferred? No mention is made of any kind of paperwork proving that an object was added to a collection of metal detected finds by legal and mutually agreed means. this becomes important when latter those finds are disposed of.

There is no mention here of the "value" of the photographic rights. As we have seen here, one detectorist has revealed what most of them try to keep quiet, that a detectorist can get five hundred pounds for each digital shot of even very common and mundane artefacts (with no scale even). Obviously if detectorists are taking away even half a dozen finds each time they visit, the revenues from such sources add up over a few seasons, so where is the mention of this in this agreement? Why is the farmer being kept in the dark over this? Despite metal detectorists' efforts to silence whistle-blowers, this certainly needs wider publicity to avoid landowners getting ripped off to the extent of lost earnings of several thousands of pounds yearly by these people.

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