Thursday, 12 February 2015

Police issue warning over Hadrian’s Wall nighthawking

"Gophers, innit?" says Baz Thugwit
in denial, "anyways, we aren't all night'awks"

Illegal metal-detecting at Hadrian’s Wall is being discussed in the news. Areas close to the 1,900-year-old world heritage site have been targeted by metal detectorists.
Turf has been pulled up and searchers have raked through the dirt to steal items that may have been hidden since Roman times. In recent months, illegal excavations have taken place at National Trust land at Steel Rigg and Peel Crags on Hadrian’s Wall. These sites have special protection as scheduled ancient monuments, and using a metal detector there without authorisation from English Heritage is an offence. [...] “The objects they are stealing belong to the landowner, in this case the National Trust, and the history they are stealing belongs to all of us.” Eric Wilton, the National Trust countryside manager for Hadrian’s Wall country group, said: “It is disappointing at a time when archaeologists and legitimate metal-detectorists are working together more closely that this incident has occurred. The National Trust wants the public to enjoy its many and varied sites, such as these at Steel Rigg and Pele Gap, but cannot tolerate illegal metal-detecting that harms the appreciation of our collective heritage.”
The article contains the de rigeur assurance that "we" "recognise that the majority of the metal-detecting community comply with the laws". It seems to me that the discussion has tended to get stuck in a groove. The detectorists, playing the victim, say EVERY time "I bet we get tarred with the same brush" and never follow that up with a comment that this time, too, they were not.  Archaeologists and policemen almost fall over for all the genuflection in the direction of the PAS partners and we all move on.

Policemen are warning the artefact hunters that what these people are doing is an offence and any perpetrators can be expected to be prosecuted. So when was the last time they issued a public service announcement to the effect that it is in fact illegal to have sex with little girls and boys in Great Britain, and that anyone walking into a bank pointing a weapon at a cashier and saying "please out all the money in this bag" can be expected to be prosecuted if caught? Perhaps this is the way to bring down Britain's crime figures.

Anyway, the way to deal with nighthawking is to attack the problem from the other end, make collectors accountable for the licit origins of the items they have in their collection. Make the laundering of illgotten artefacts more complex for the criminals and clean up the market. That is after all one of the key recommendations of the Oxford Nighthawking report paid for out of public funds.

Source '
Police issue warning over Hadrian’s Wall nighthawking' Guardian, 11 February 2015

See also: Tony Henderson, 'Heritage crime concern on Hadrian's Wall because of illegal digging' Chronicle 10 February 2015.

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