Tuesday 10 May 2016

Norfolk Museums Helps the Looters of British Archaeology Once Again

Over on the 'Operation Europe.co.uk website (the link opens very reluctantly on my computer)  there is a special interest group called 'metal detecting in Norfolk' obviously aimed at foreign collectors. Come to England it says and loot away to your heart's content. It's legal innit?
Located in the richly historic (sic) county of Norfolk, this hands-on detecting tour promises the opportunity to ‘touch the hand of history’. Detecting expeditions search private land, in archaeologically interesting places, to uncover many spectacular finds including ancient coins and artefacts, dating from the Bronze Age through to Celtic, Roman, Medieval and the present day. Metal detecting tours are available for 8 or 12 full days detecting on researched fields [...] Searching on farmers’ private fields for coins and relics dating back over 2000 years. These natural finds are detected on ploughed farmlands originally the locations of, or near; ancient villages, market places, villas, forts, roads or other populated areas. [emphasis mine]
So, targeting known sites. They offer
Identification and recording of finds every evening in a special identification suite by an expert team, Guest speakers and evening visits from local archaeologists and museum experts [...] Guided visit to Norwich Castle Museum [...] An evening meal joined by the Curator of the Castle Museum to give a talk on ‘Boudica a Warrior Queen - Her Life and Times’ [...] have finds identified and recorded by the specialist team, who are available to answer questions and discuss finds. All finds are checked by an expert from a local museum to ensure everything found complies with the UK Portable Antiquities Schemes recording requirements, the 1996 UK Treasure Act and UK Export Regulations. Full liaison and co-operation is maintained with official museums, archaeologists and landowners. [...] We only conduct tours that have the full backing of the local museums and comply fully with the National Council for Metal Detecting Code of Conduct, the 1996 UK Treasure Act and its Recording Requirements and UK Export Regulation. [emphasis mine]
I'll bet. Now look at this, first they say "complies with the UK Portable Antiquities Schemes recording requirements", so that means bugger all, because as every metal detectorist in the land will tell you, "its voluntry innit M8", then they admit that what they are really talking about the 1996 UK Treasure Act and its Recording Requirements [capitalisation original] which is something else entirely. Basically not much that the average metal detectorist is going to find in eight days.

I wonder though what the Museum staff, bless them, will actually say about what finds "comply" (sic) with UK Export Regulations. It would be nice to see a written statement from them what they understand by that. I'd also welcome a written statement from Norfolk County Museums why they think "compliance" with the "shut-the-gates" NCMD Code of Conduct is preferable to the PAS-approved official one - or even permissible in the circumstances. Why lower the standards here? What on earth is going on in Norfolk? Why are they supporting this loot-and-take private money-raiser? Are they getting a cut of the profits and if so, in what form? Are the people legitimating this commercial grabfest employees of the PAS? I think we are entitled to know.

Can you imagine any other country in the world (apart from the USA where I gather a worrying proportion of the population actually believes in Donald Trump) where a major museum would be giving "full backing" to such deliberate and commercial archaeological erosion? Unconscionable anywhere else.

I see also these people run trips to Cyprus and:
also run these tours to France and Croatia and have sample itineraries available
Do they have the "full backing" of the museums and heritage professionals there too for this activity? How do both they and the museum get round the very clear laws against it in France?

Vignette: Helping hand

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