Sunday 26 January 2014

Illegal Metal Detecting in France

France loses at least half a million buried archaeological items to metal detector using pillagers each year, a group fighting the practice said on Wednesday.
Jean-David Desforges, head of the French association Stop the Pillage of Archaeological and Historical Heritage, told a conference that many objects from ancient Gaul, and Nazi artefacts from World War II were illegally dug up and sold by thousands of prospectors using metal detectors. "In the past few years, the illegal sale of objects has exploded on the internet," he said, despite legislation that stipulates that buried heritage is protected.
"Now, if only they had a PAS" one can almost hear a certain lobby gearing up to say... It is one of their silly thoughtless mantras.

So first you'd have to scrap the law intended to prevent the pillage of the archaeological record for collectables. Now I am sure artefact hunters and collectors would see that as a "positive" thing, but actually - is it? Then the next question is whether the ruffians doing the looting illegally now would actually in this imaginary future voluntarily report what they dig up, or would they carry on taking 500 000 pieces of the past out of the archaeological record, now alongside another few thousand additional artefact hunters facilitated by the new laws. Would destruction be increased or decreased? Would the new scheme lead to a reduction of the information missing because of the artefact hunting going on, or would it decrease even further relative to the scale? Would you need to set up artefact hunting and trading clubs and commercial site pilfering rallies in order to even make a dent in the data loss? How much would it all cost, and what would actually be the point?

Would it not be nice if we had some nuanced data from the only place where this happens now, England and (for the moment) Wales in order to model this? But we don't, we have only spin.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it will certainly be said....
If we in Britain aren't allowed to do it voluntary, like, nighhawking will take off (that means us - whoops) and this is proof!

Truth is though, the French have made a tactical error - you can legally search for tractor parts etc - which of course "les oiks" all do! In addition, the French Erosion Counter includes 18th, 19th and 20th century finds. If the England (and for now Wales) one included those it would dwarf theirs.

And finally, the French Culture Minister thinks it's awful and says so - so things may change. Amazing, eh? Seeing a problem, honestly acknowledging it and planning to address it (but not by the laissez faire invented by "les stupid Anglais"!

Paul Barford said...

Of course those finds rejected by the PAS (and therefore the HA counter) ass "recordable" are some of them older than the nationhood of some of the countries where this blog is read, USA, Australia, NZ etc and failure of the PAS database (but not the foundering UKDFD) to include them misses an important archaeological opportunity as it deprives those from former colonies of information about parallels for some of the oldest material they dig up and they have to go elsewhere.

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