Sunday 16 December 2012

Flanders About to Licence Archaeological Looting?

The supporters of Britain's PAS will no doubt be congratulating themselves on the apparent great 'victory' apparently about to be won by artefact hunters in Belgium.  In the article on the website of the Glasgow "Trafficking Culture" team on the case of the third-century Roman silver hoard from Everbeek Belgium. The Minister in charge of Flanders' Heritage Agency denied under a Parlimentary Commission's questioning that the Agency had an official "policy of tolerance towards amateur metal detection", but:
pointed out that active prosecution of metal detectorists reporting finds would be a counterproductive measure, resulting not in less metal detection but in fewer reported finds [...] Partly as a result of this case, the recent draft of a new heritage decree would lift the ban on archaeological metal detecting by amateurs, instead envisioning the creation of a licensing system for amateur metal-detector users (Vlaamse Regering 2011, art. 3.6.1).
Reference: Vlaamse Regering (2011), ‘Ontwerp van decreet betreffende onroerend erfgoed’ [Draft decree on the immovable heritage]

One might suspect that the Cultural Minister of Flanders has been on the phone to Britain's own Ed Vaisey and they've been chatting about how best to cut costs of protecting the archaeological heritage. So the proposed idea is now to stop prosecuting people for looting the archaeological heritage (damaging sites) and instead letting them do it if they show what they hoik out?

UPDATE: It turns out that the Glasgow text misses out one important element of its description of what the law says. Article 3.6.1 is among a series of definitions, where it says who, for example, can be called an "archaeologist" for the purposes of the act. This one refers to who can be termed a designated metal detectorist, and states that the terms and conditions will be set out in a separate executive order. This therefore sounds more like the measures of Polish system, which is not so bad.  Art. 5.1.1 prohibits excavations and artefact hunting without a permit, Art. 5.2.1 specifically prohibits metal detecting without a permit. Art. 5.3.1. "The Flemish Government establishes a code of good practice for the execution and reporting of archaeological research and archaeological excavations and for the use of detectors". Article 5.6.1. concerns accidental finds (handing over within three days) and so on. It looks like the intention is that it will not be so easy to get the status of "designated detectorist", and it all depends, doesn't it on whether a detectorist just "detects" archaeological finds (is a "finder") or "collects" archaeological finds (is a "keeper") - unfortunately I could not find where the draft decree on the immovable heritage discusses collections of archaeological artefacts. 

 Vignette: Belgian.

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