Wednesday 13 March 2013

Renewed Focus on UK Metal Detecting: Norwegian Hugo Has The Answer

Norwegian Hugo reckons himself to be a responsible detectorist (the webage of his local club up near Stavangar, the Rygene Detector Club  has links to both the PAS and UKFD, but not the local Riksantikvariat). Anyway, he thinks he has the answer to Heritage Action's concerns. He reckon it's enough to ban digging below plough level (in Norway and Denmark apparently you can only legally deplete or obliterate surface archaeological evidence with a metal detector). He says it would be "clever" (his word) for the legislation in the UK to ban digging any deeper than the base of the ploughsoil (he says he sticks to under eight inches). What he neglects to say is how actually, given the present basis of the law, he envisages that happening - a lot would have to change in the whole system of heritage protection to allow the addition of that restriction to what can happen on non-scheduled sites on private property. He also does not spare a moment to say how that would be policed, and if infringed what the burden of proof would have to be.

The crux of the matter is - of course - that he thinks that, instead of discussing the depletion of surface and other evidence by artefact hunting as a result of poorly conceived policies, preservationists should  "point your cannons the right direction, [there] should be tougher penalties, and seized equipment for those criminals, but leave us hobbyists alone!”. That is of course the typical tekkie spiel. Not being a nighthawk is taken by them to be the equivalent of saying "we are Best Friends Forever for the Heritage because we are not nighthawks". Nigel Swift has another take on that, and I agree 100% with him:
No. Detectorists, archaeologists, police and government all point their cannons at nighthawks. They are wrong. There is no law requiring 99.8% of finds to be reported (more unforgivable British lack of law) and sadly most detectorists don’t report most of their finds. Since there are many thousands more legal non-reporters than nighthawkers the damage they do in terms of loss of archaeological knowledge is far, far greater. It is to those thousands of legal non-reporters that we and Paul [Barford] direct our fire.
So you see – we are not fools, we are not anti-metal detecting obsessives, we are simply trying to point out how damaging the British system is. The best thing you can do is go on British metal detecting forums and tell them to throw all non-reporters out. Try it. You’ll be called anti-metal detecting and a fool!
Hugo Falck may be found contributing to several UK metal detecting forums, so it will be interesting to see if he will take up Heritage Action's challenge. Any bets? 

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