Wednesday 2 January 2019

Artefact Hunting not About 'History', Portable Antiquity Prostitution is a Growing Business. Artefacts Going Abroad [UPDATED]

Trophy hunting in foreign lands
The Portable Antiquities Scheme cannot cope with growing numbers of artefact hunters that are hoovering the British archaeological record for finds so that they can be 'added to history'. Yet some metal detectorists think its a really  brilliant idea to sell of Britain's heritage to foreigners who'll take the lot away in their pockets. In fact they and their 'business partners will make a fortune - thousands of pounds, not a penny of which will go to the PAS for servicing their hoiking (Ed Riley, 'Britain's ancient gold rush! Instagram is fuelling flood of US tourists paying thousands to trudge UK fields in a bid to find Roman coins or lost artefacts' Mail Online 2 January 2019).
Metal detecting tourists from the US are paying thousands of pounds to join treasure hunting tours in Britain in the search for ancient artefacts. Hundreds of detectorists are flocking the UK every year to take part in organised group trips led by specialist operators in an industry fuelled by Instagram. Posts on social media of Roman coins and medieval artefacts attract hundreds of likes on social media and have helped provide a surge in visitor numbers scouring the country's muddy fields and beaches.
Chris Langston (centre in camo, alongside two clients) launched
Metal Detecting Holidays in 2017 that operates in Shropshire (Mail)
And obviously none of them see anything wrong with taking advantage of people who prostitute teh archaeological record.
Chris Langston, 45, launched Metal Detecting Holidays in 2017 that operates in Shropshire. Guests pay £1,499, excluding flights, for a 12 day tour. They stay in a house in the village of Whittington, near Shrewsbury and scour 500 acres [202 ha PMB] of land that lies close to a 12th century castle and a Roman road. He told The Times: 'I've been detecting for six or seven years and realised I wanted to make a business out of it — give Americans their bucket-list holiday of a lifetime. 'My business partner has the accommodation and land that could make it happen.' [...] Mr Langston, who leads about eight tours a year from February to June and September to November, added [...] They're mostly keen to find Roman, medieval and Bronze Age artefacts, especially hammered coins.' [...] The tours are potentially controversial as some archaeologists consider private detectorists to be plunderers. However, operators register older finds with the Portable Antiquities Scheme,
Ah, so if all those finds made by eight 12-day commercial artefact hunting sessions over two years are reported to the PAS before they are whisked away across the Atlantic, it'll not be too difficult to spot the 500-acre search site on this PAS map should it? Anyone see it? Whittington is where there is a blue circle with the number 7 in it just to the right of Oswestry and up a bit. Seven. The number seven. let that sink in a moment.

The news article features a number of finds made by these transatlantic heritage pilferers. A groat of Mary (seems not to be on database), a Roman coin (Vespasian, apparently not on database), a St George (it says) badge - yet the only St George badge from the whole region is this one and its not from anywhere near Whittington. The one figured in the mail article does not seem to be in the PAS database (the finder will no doubt correct me if I am wrong) and is very odd if it really dates to the fifteenth century - most St Georges ride to the right, this one looks all the world like a hussar and rides left with a sabre, not spear. Odd. I'd like to see that cleaned up. And then there is the 'carved stone owl that were discovered during a trip' I admit I did not look that one up. It is not ancient.

So, in fact none of the showcased finds are in the PAS database, which in any case has just seven from the whole area where the search site is supposed to be. Then there is the issue that if you hoik artefacts out of 202 hectares, once, twice, thrice.... sixteen times, how can you be sure when you take the 1500 quid from a burly camo-clothed punter, that they'll find anything? There's a question for the FLO, if even one of the objects from this 'business' venture lands on his table.

UPDATE 27th Jan 2019

For more details on the reporting process of MDH, see here.

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