Monday 22 September 2014

Focus on Metal Detecting: Hurried Hoard Hoiking on "Club Dig". Not an Archaeologist in Sight...

Hoard Hoiker in 'Sacking Britain' tee-shirt
in action (photo by "Tomo")
The despoiling of Britain's archaeological record was in full spate in the third weekend of September. Detectorists returning from the field logged on to the forums to brag to us all about what they'd been up to and what they've taken away for themselves. One group however, on an unnamed site "somewhere in England" found a Treasure they're going to have to report to the Coroner (member "Tomo" in the thread: Roman hoard found on our dig todaySun Sep 21, 2014 9:23 pm).

"Tomo" did not find it himself but says that he "had the pleasure of digging out this complete Roman urn for one of our lucky members" and the archaeologists and members of the British public whose heritage it is. Instead of following the Treasure Act Code of Practice - which is quite explicit (though the comic book edition for the literacy-challenged has yet to come out) and allowing the find to be excavated by archaeologists to determine the context of deposition, once again, the artefact hunters took it into their own hands to "have a go". After all they've all "seen Time Team" and "know how its done". They dug a raggedy narrow hole and:
It took over an hour to gently dig around it and then slowly pick the soil away from the urn until we got to the bottom and gently lifted it out. It was a hell of a weight to lift so presume it was full. The pot was roughly 3 foot down to the bottom of the pot and had Roman bronze's spilling out of the top. The lucky member found it on disked with the etrac and said the signal sounded like it was a coke can.
Let's get this right, it took just one hour to (a) excavate the feature containing the pot [untouched archaeological deposits below plough level], (b) record it, (c) clean the pot for photography in situ, (d) take the photo and (e) lift it? One hour only? No doubt if phoned, the FLO would, like their Kentish counterpart as reported by the Medway grave trashers inexplicably tell the hoikers "you done right", and give them a pat on the head and deal with telling the coroner for them. Member "norfolk and chance" (Sun Sep 21, 2014 9:38 pm) congratulates the hoiking with apostrophe abuse and an apparent reference to masturbation:
Fantastic thing and almost intact... I bet the archi's will be short stroking over that one
I think it is about time some archaeologists instead of drooling over more goodies to publish (where's the money coming from?) told these thoughtless self-absorbed ruffians that the destruction of context here is absolutely nothing to be congratulated. There was an isolated outcry over the A20 Medway grave trashing a few months ago, and here we see just how much the detecting community brought away from that discussion (where the most they could do was turn abusive). All they were willing to listen to was the anti-outreach message "you done right to hoik it out" from the PAS.

Here there was no FLO was present on site and thus it is questionable whether we will ever get a full picture of the detailed distribution of other Roman finds across that search area, allowing us to put the deposit in context. No doubt the PAS will adding the total number of coins in the pot to their database total to boost their 'wotta-lotta-finds-we-got' figures and make their outreach "look like" a success, without making even the slightest public comment about what is missing here and where once again their so-called "outreach" has been a serial failure.

Total and utter scandal, and what is doubly scandalous is this is wholly typical of hundreds and hundreds of hoard discoveries  made and hurriedly and excitedly hoiked out by their finders digging down into undisturbed archaeological deposits, and the PAS presents this solely in terms of the success they are having getting people to report "over a million finds". Well the loose coins hoiked here will add a few more to their stash.

From an archaeological point of view, the wider public interest, is this the right thing to happen or is it the wrong thing to happen? British archaeologists sitting there looking on in embarrassed silence not sure what to say and whether they are allowed to speak out, shame on you, shame on the lot of you. 

Silent CBA, IfA, Rescue, Society of Museum Archaeologists, Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, English Heritage, British Museum/PAS shame on you, shame on the lot of you for failing to get over to the public what archaeology is about. 

UPDATE 24.09.14,
The find should be known until we get more details as the ‘Dunelme hoard’ 


Anonymous said...

Well, all those professionals may have stayed silent but notional octogenarian Farmer Silas Brown said it for them back in March after the Kent scandal, pleading with PAS over their inadequate advice...

"can you please make the changes without any further delay – before another spade-happy hero digs up what he shouldn’t and comes asking the poor taxpayer for even more money and saying the state financed advice bureau hadn’t told him what he should have done? As a taxpayer I’m not sure who annoys me most, him or you, but I think probably you as you know I’m right."

We have professionals who know what's right and we have amateurs who are too thick to work it out for themselves and the former won't explain it properly to the latter. That IS a scandal, there's no other word for it.

Come on CBA, you've got plenty of "better left alone" text which should have been written by PAS, why not lay out precisely what to do if you come across a hoard (which should have been written by PAS)?

Unknown said...

The green eyed monster comes out again, stay in Poland old man.

Unknown said...

Your a complete and utter disgrace to human society, you stay behind your keyboard giving it the big I am, I offer you to come and see the pot for yourself and meet the team who found it? But I much doubt you will. I believe you are very much in the frame of jealously as you cannot and did not get your dirty hands on this find and claim to fame for your personal gain.

Kind Regards

Unknown said...

Such a shame you can't make it, I'll take you've swallowed a dictionary at some point in your life also. Proud to be apart of this historic find, I hear rumours you have bought a new metal detector, congrats by the way.

Kind Regards

Unknown said...

"Mr Bartford" for your information.

You seem to be quick off the mark to disrespect people who find history like yourself.!You've been outdone on your blog, it must feel horrible inside. Crawl back into your cave of plastic artefacts and watch the world go by while. (FLO and coroner informed) I suppose you live and work in Poland as you have no friends left in the UK.


Paul Barford said...

No, you have provided no "information". You and your "team" have destroyed a bit of history.

Richard Joynson said...

Hi. I have 3 of my finds in museums all found on land I have permission to work. Details at
I have dug many deep things and they've all been rubbish. If I called the museum every time I got a deep signal, I would be a laughing stock. He should have stopped when he saw it but otherwise what is he and I supposed to do?

Paul Barford said...

Oh dear, you poor lost souls. What part of "st-op dig-ing" do you find difficult to get your brain around?

Unknown said...

Next hoard we dig up Paul we will name it after you lol

Unknown said...

Just look up the weekend wanderers hoard that was reported and had to be covered up and left over night. The pot and it's contents were dug and stolen over night as an archeologist could not attend at the time. Things should be reported when found if an archeologist can't attend the sufficient instructions should be given on how to excavate correctly and what to look out for after all surely that is better than something being stolen ending up on the black market and nothing recorded at all. You obviously lack respect towards anyone who has not been to university or been educated to your levels but after all that is you profession. Without the the collaboration between detectorists and archeologists alot of sites would have remained undiscovered. The museums would have less wonderful things for the public to view and we would have less of a picture of our beautiful past. Instead of throwing all negative remarks as you always do and jump down any detectorists throat at every forseen opportunity try speaking like person to people we are not baboons who lack intelligence and you sir are arrogant and rude when anyone questions you or says something constructive. I bet you remove this as you normally.

Paul Barford said...

We've been over this before. The Code is perfectly explicit. Get the farmer to park a tractor over the hole, put someone on site. There are a dozen ways to secure the site, you should go prepared for that eventuality. The only truth is, these people were unprepared to do the job properly so hoiked it out.

There was no "collaboration" here. This is irresponsible detecting, why can you not bring yourself/yourselves to admit it?

Would appreciate details of the Weekend Wanderers fiasco. More unpreparedness and lack of forethought.

Unknown said...

The weekend wanderers website has since been changed this happened about 10yrs ago so unfortunately it is no longer published.

And honestly have been prepared? This occurrence happens once in a life time for most clubs never mind detectorists it is a rare occasion. At least it will be recorded correctly and although the surrounding ground has been disturbed it is likely that it was dug in a place away from prying eyes and features so not sure how much information the ground would give alot comes from the material within the pot which has been left in situ from what I can tell to be deconstructed by professionals.

Whilst you are ready to point out any thing you seem as incorrect how come you don't mention people who actually steal and get caught red handed with in your own community rather than just detectorists?

For example

Isolated incidents the same as with in your own profession. And archeologists have collections too. As in your profession their are more honest people then the few that spoil it for the rest.

As for hoiking that's abit extreme as the item was carefully dug out and removed in one piece had this been hoiking then then this would have been another story. No damage to the artifacts and vessel have been done and it didn't take hours because there was more than one person carefully excavating. Photographs were taken throughout for record. If fellow British archeologists are happy with how this was conducted then it shouldn't concern you. Our heritage. Our museums. This is a personal vendetta if it were up to you all metal detectorists would be banned. More items would be left to rot and our beautiful country would miss out on seeing unique items laying undiscovered.

You can say anything you like to make us look bad we could all do same back but the truth of the matter is we need each other. We should be working together to uncover what missing history this lovely country holds and not fighting at every opportunity. It is a shame you have nothing better to do with your time then look for something else the post all over and yet mostly the replies you get are from detectorists. I won't be making anymore comments after this as I've aired my thoughts. If you wish to carry on insulting others and preaching how we are all of low intelligence that's up to you but I don't see that as constructive criticism which people of intelligence will give you. Have a nice day

Detectorbloke said...

I think one of the problems is that if it's a club dig then u don't really know people that well and given that x percentage of detectorists lack moral fibre then there is a good chance of a hoard being nicked pending investigation.

However as say Paul then there should be ways of keeping it safe pending at least speaking to a flo or the bm or someone.

I would like to know from andy why they didn't stop digging after it became apparent it was a vessel?

Whilst a lot of things are buried without any useful context sometimes this isn't the case and by digging it up as they did one will never know.

This is not to say great well done on a historic find but there could have been more history to the find.

Paul Barford said...

Mr Wright,
Surely being prepared for what might happen is what responsible detecting (responsible anything) is about. You give thought to the consequences of your actions.

>>At least it will be recorded correctly <<
Not in a raggedy hole like that, 100% it was NOT. The context of deposition has been trashed. Yours is an object-centred view, archaeology is NOT just digging up "things". the PAS should be telling collectors that.

>>the few that spoil it for the rest<<
But this is a pretty general problem with Treasure finds. Most are hoiked out by the finders in total disregard of what it says in the Code of Conduct.

>> If fellow British archeologists are happy with how this was conducted then it shouldn't concern you. <<

Are they? Your FLO refuses to answer my letter about it. You get the FLO to send me a statement that they are "happy" with the level of recording here and I'll gladly publish it. Go on, I dare you both.

Your argument about "thieving archaeologists" is a two-wrongs one. And a well-worn one, detectorists love Mr Vessey.

Perhaps you might like to check before falsely accusing me of not "mentioning Mr Vessey"...

Here I am discussing a procedural problem with artefact hunting, why can you not admit that there is a problem here to be dealt with by BOTH sides. You say we are to "work with" you in digging everything up (heard of resource conservation?) and yet your side gets miffed any time anyone says that from an archaeological point of view things should be done differently. You lot are just immaturely chip-on-the-shoulder defensive all the time and refuse to see there is a problem here.

The issue of the cognitive abilities of a large part of those who go detecting is important precisely in cases like this, where the record of the context of deposition of hoiked artefacts is reliant on the reasoning powers of those finders, because what thy do not observe and understand and record is lost forever. This is an important issue.

Paul Barford said...

Thank you detectorbloke, nice to see someone who understands what it is we are talking about.

Anonymous said...


"I would like to know from andy why they didn't stop digging after it became apparent it was a vessel?"

Well, since the "to keep it safe" excuse is so obviously phoney we're left with "because we couldn't resist". There's no other explanation. Which means that x in your "x percentage of detectorists lack moral fibre" is a mighty big figure.

Logic suggests that you, as one of the y percentage should be calling for legal regulation as loudly as you can.

Detectorbloke said...

Maybe, however one could say that if the Treasure Act 1996 was enforced properly by withholding so much of the reward if items aren't recovered properly then maybe things would have been done differently in this case.

Perhaps like a lot of things in life it's not about new regulations it's about enforcement of existing ones.

The test for any detectorist including myself is when you actually do find something like this. I appreciate it is easy for me to say what i would think i would do without having been in a similar situation.

Paul Barford said...

The reward is discretionary, I have always advocated cutting it for infringement of the Code.

As for leaving things undug, can you not imagine that this happens at the end of EVERY working day on an archaeological excavation? For example the excavation of a rich Anglo-Saxon grave, it's not all grubbed out in an hour, but takes several days to explore and document. Precautions have to be taken to prevent disturbance, so why cannot "partners" expect to have to do the same?

Detectorbloke said...

Doesn't seem unreasonable. Shouldn't go out in a club where you can't trust members not to nick a hoard you might leave overnight.

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