Sunday 7 April 2013

Britain's Not-so-Secret Treasure Diggings on NPR

I am away from my own computer at the moment, so it is from Peter Tompa that I learn that the NPR programme in which I took part is aired. I mentioned it earlier. My sister's computer strangely has no speakers attached, so I am not sure whether in the broadcast I say there the "four-feet" bit in the way it is written here (I meant of course in the City and am aware of the two-level permit system), anyhow this seems to be a transcript:
But not everyone is thrilled with the work of the mudlarks. They're allowed to dig roughly 4 feet into the banks of the Thames — and that's angered archaeologists like Paul Barford. He says all that digging has destroyed the centuries-old layers of earth in which artifacts are buried and which helps give them a historical context.
"The foreshore of London has been so thoroughly dug over, and so deeply, that I doubt there's very much archaeology left there," Barford says. "Any archaeological layers, any archaeological deposits that were there, they've gone. We've lost it because of these mudlarks."
Today, Barford says, that same destruction is happening on land — at important archaeological sites all over Britain. He believes more than 11 million artifacts have gone unreported by hobbyists with metal detectors over the past several decades.
Many of these objects end up in private collections or for sale online. Barford says he recently spotted a pair of Anglo-Saxon gold rings on eBay. This is why he wants tougher restrictions on metal detecting in the U.K.
"Britain is the only country which does this," Barford says. "All the other countries of Europe, like Poland or France, if you go out with a spade you could get locked up for it. And in England they pat you on the head and say, 'Thank you. Well done for digging a big hole in this archaeological site and bringing us these lovely coins.' People just do not understand that with this goes a wholesale destruction of the archaeological record."
As I said, when the journalist was looking around for a British archaeologist to speak on these issues, several refused - unwilling to go on record criticising artefact hunting, so strong in the UK is the climate of .... well, what? Anyway he found someone willing to go on the record and say what he believes. The reaction from supporters of laissez faire collecting is entirely predictable, that does not however mean these issues do not exist.

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