Friday 8 February 2013

Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Sixpence Snaffling and More

If you are interested, I'd get over to the "UK and European Metal Detecting Forum" (the one with the  Istrian coin in the logo) pretty sharpish; another thread is about to mysteriously "disappear" as they tend to do whenever UK detectorists realising they are doing their own mythbusting. Heritage Action draws attention to a thread which has been going there since Tuesday. There member "Sado_81" ["Martin"] (Tue Feb 05, 2013 3:32 am) is asking other folk for advice. He's got a bit of a moral dilemma. I suspect he knows deep in his heart what the answer is, but is hoping that fellow members will tell im that "everybody does it so it's OK" (a variant of the collectors' several wrongs make a right argument). anyway he's not disappointed. He thinks putting a record 37 "smiley' icons in his post will help him get group-approval (metal detectorists like smileys). The problem is that "Saddo" lives in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He's got a problem in that a policeman is coming round to take a statement about a hoard that he found. The thing is that from what he says, he appears not to have been very good at doing what the law requires over there (Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995  No. 1625 (N.I. 9) PART III Article 42).
 I have a tiny collection of hammered coins that I found over the years [...], but none of them are recorded and all of them where (sic) single coin finds. how can I prove that those coins werent a hoard??? 
well, obviously one way is showing the policeman all the excavation licences which were necessary to get them out of the ground on each of the sites where they were found (Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 No. 1625 (N.I. 9) PART III Article 41). He has got such documents, hasn't he? Metal detectorists should know about this, even if only from the helpful brochure 'Metal-Detecting, Archaeology and the Law' produced by our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency

 But it seems "Martin" generally has a problem fessing-up to what he's found and is taking. The thread was about what should be shown to the farmers. As Heritage Action point out, he goes online to say that despite his "respect" (oh yeah?) for the landowners who let him plunder their bit of the country's archaeological record, he has no intention of showing the landowner 50% of the profit of all he keeps or sells.
So after spending a lot of time researching the site, printing all the info, driving 50+ miles each way, spending all the money for fuel, then walking all day in the sun or rain, [...]
[He almost makes it sound as if it is him that is doing the landowner a favour here]
... I cant imagine myself giving say £12.50 (50% value) (if I had a good day detecting ;) ) to the person who owns 2000 acres with 1000 dairy cattle :-/ :-/ :-/ And they also get their Christmas bottle from me and my detecting buddy. My farmers will get 50% value of items CLASSED as TREASURE only. Am I doing something wrong here? Is there a set minimum value of the find to be shared with landowner? and I MEAN BY LAW?
Morality, personal culture, civilised behaviour and ethics are not important, he says, "am I obliged to do it BY LAW"? He asks:
Is the landowner entitled by law to 50% of my finds, all of them[?]
Well, in answer, "a licence granted by the Department for the purposes of this Article [...] (c) shall not render lawful the doing of anything which would be unlawful apart from this Article". The detectorist should be aware that the finds - like anything else on his land - belong 100% to the landowner. As the decent law-abiding folk over on the Heritage Action site point out:
The objects are 100% his not yours so if he hasn’t agreed then it’s theft. Think of it as nighthawking but far worse as there are far more of you than them. Your inconsequential £25 a week (100% value) could be £1200 a year and if just 3,000 detectorists do the same as you that’s an inconsequential £3.6 million being stolen from farmers by legal detectorists annually. Now, what was it you were saying about nighthawks giving detecting a bad name? 
I'd take issue though with the term "legal detectorists" here, because as the Glasgow criminologists pointed out a while back, the mere act of concealing finds (and further down the thread is ample proof that "Martin" is not alone in thinking its enough to show a few token objects and buy a bottle at Christmas to get him off the hook) is an illegal act. (24 August 2012: "The Significance of Glasgow's New Definition of "Nighthawking"" and: 12 September 2012 "Glasgow Fourth and the Theft of Artefacts").

Martin asks:
 does anyone of You sell or keep those - say sixpences [-] and come to the landowner to give him the 50% of it? 
In the answers below it seems one has different standards for items "worth less than £20", for another the threshold value is "£100+".
a bottle of plonk at christmas keeps them sweet and they will just sit back and hope for a windfall on thier land , plus some publicity from a potentially important find (just so they can brag round the village:)
 So, again the notion that its the artefact hunters doing the farmer a favour. Martin's conclusion? That written agreements are not advisable:
 Yesterday I got some new permissions and one of them is around Bronze Age settlement. I explained to the farmer that in case I will find something of historical value, over 300 years old with at least 10% precious metal I will report that to the museum. He says if I find treasure - we will only head straight to the pub for a pint[.]
and then what? Look for a buyer?

UPDATE 8.2.13
How disappointing, I thought the tekkies were going to leave the thread up to spite me when I predicted they'd hide it. But no, true to form and with the utmost lack of imagination, we find: "The requested topic does not exist". The topic of hiding finds from landowners and others does "exist", it's just the tekkie mythmakers don't want people to discuss it in the open. 

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