Sunday, 30 March 2014

So, what is Responsible Artefact Hunting and Collecting?

In the afterrmath of the discussion on "Nazi War Diggers" and the "Near Maidstone A20 Anglo-Saxon grave trashing", Nigel Swift of Heritage Action asks "So what IS responsible metal detecting?
Personally I think I know exactly what the term means. It means working for the public's benefit, not your own. I'm confident every archaeologist thinks that too but in Britain there's a political and tactical need to avoid offending artefact hunters so most of them don't express it, not in in public anyway. Eight words unsaid, that's what makes Britain's portable antiquities policy bonkers for it lets anyone claim "responsible detecting" is whatever it suits them to say it is. 
The detectorists generally suggest that a responsible detectorist simply adheres to the letter of prevailing laws, or to the NCMD. Those who say it is more than that  (avoiding damage and fully reporting finds)  are hardly typical.
All the farmer knows is what he is told in the press ad nauseam, that there are just two sorts of detectorists - a tiny minority known as nighthawks and all the rest, who are "responsible". If only, if only officialdom and more archaeologists would stop saying that and tell landowners the real truth (an article in the farming press perhaps?) that "the rest" comprise every shade of responsible and none and that the term can only mean protecting the public's interest. [....] But not upsetting detectorists seems to outrank conservation or telling farmers the truth in many official quarters in Bonkers Britain. 

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