Thursday 13 September 2012

"Responsible Detecting" in the UK: Don't Be Intimidated by the Law

On the forum run by the Polish artefact hunters  Klub PHEC THESAURUS (link here) is a rather disturbing thread. The "club" makes an effort to create the impression that they are the sort of law-abiding folk with metal dertectorists to whom we should all be very grateful are out there "saving" artefacts from falling into other hands. And yet...
The thread, created in February 2010 is called:  Anonimowy Email do Identyfikacji Naszych Znalezisk ("anonymous email for identicication of our finds"
Wszyscy wiemy, że jedną z najfajniejszych rzeczy na forum poszukiwawczym jest możliwość pokazywania znalezionych fantów do identyfikacji i generalnie chwalenie się swoimi znaleziskami :-D Wiemy też, że obecnie w Polsce trwa nagonka na poszukiwaczy i że część z nas zwyczajnie obawia się pisania postów i pokazywania swoich fantów. Postanowiliśmy coś z tym zrobić i nie dać się zastraszyć - NASZE HOBBY JEST POŻYTECZNE I MAMY PEŁNE PRAWO DO CIESZENIA SIĘ NIM I DZIELENIA SIĘ INFORMACJAMI Z INNYMI PASJONATAMI! Dlatego postanowilismy założyć niezależne konto email zagranicą, w pełni anonimowe i wolne od jakiejkolwiek kontroli z zagwarantowaną dyskrecją. Można na nie bezpiecznie wysyłać maile z fotkami Waszych znalezisk, które potem anonimowo umieścimy w dziale "KI DIABEŁ", "FANTY i FANCIKI" lub naszej Galerii. Zachęcamy do nadsyłania fotek na adres: Dość strachu - pokażmy, że poszukiwaczy w Polsce nie da się zastraszyć i że będziemy szukać i cieszyć się szukaniem, choćby nie wiadomo co o nas pisano
Which in translation would be: 
We all know that one of the coolest things on a detectorists' forum is the ability to show the goodies we've found in order to get help with their identification and to brag about our finds :-D And we know that currently in Poland there is persecution of artefact hunters and that some of us simply afraid of writing posts and show their prizes. We have decided to do something about it and not be intimidated. OUR HOBBY iS USEFUL AND WE HAVE A FULL RIGHT TO ENJOY IT AND SHARE INFORMATION WITH OTHER FANS!  That's why we have decided to set up an independent email account abroad, fully anonymous and free of any control with guaranteed discretion. You can safely send to it emails with photos of your findings, which we will then anonymously put in the sections " Ki Diabeł?", "Fanty i Fanciki" or in our Gallery.
We encourage you to send photos to:
Enough fear - let's show that artefact hunters in Poland will not be intimidated and that we will continue artefact hunting and enjoy artefact hunting, no matter what has been written about us.
Well, what is "written" about this is in the Polish law protecting the archaeological heritage which requires all those going out to seek archaeological artefacts in the Republic of Poland to have a permit in their pocket. Any archaeological finds made are the property of the state and in the law it is "written" that they are not only to be reported but, if required, hand them over (and the state authorities will take care of the "identification" and storage). It is written that if somebody does not do this they are committing an offence.

Now I understand that a group of tekkies set free in the laissez-faire environment of Britain, where such policies are lacking may see the situation back home as in some way "unfair" to collectors in comparison. But then why are they comparing?

More to the point, if collectors in Poland are keeping finds that they should not be, to what end is the ostensibly law-abiding and self-proclaimed "responsible" Klub PHEC THESAURUS helping them avoid any consequences of breaking the law? Encouraging others to break the law and helping them to do so is not exactly behaviour that would go down as "responsible detecting" where I come from. I wonder why Klub PHEC THESAURUS thinks it is.

The Polish laws exist for a reason. If artefact hunters and collectors in Poland want to change them, then they (now) have the opportunity through normal democratic means. Simply ignoring them and breaking them however is not the way to achieve this. Artefact hunters in Britain aiding and abetting them are not helping the process. Being "law-abiding" self-evidently is not picking and choosing which laws one is going to abide by, but that is exactly how many portable antiquity collectors interpret the term.

[I am sure now somebody will be wanting to chime in that "the PAS is the way forward" and all that bla-bla. Heard it all before. There's no space her and I have no time today, but fully intend to sit down and write why I think (despite what its opponents here say) the Polish laws at the moment are working in a way which protects the archaeological record here from looting (which I am not denying goes on) immeasurably better than the British non-laws and their consequent haemorrhage of collectables from the archaeological record. I'll document that when I have time, actually probably in a proper article rather than a blog post, as there is a lot of rubbish written about all this.]

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