Saturday 19 January 2019

Artefact Hunting not About 'History', Portable Antiquity Prostitution is a Growing Business. Artefacts Going Abroad (II)

American metal detectorists during a 12 day tour in
Norfolk in 2017. Picture: Norfolk Metal Detecting Tours
Two weeks ago the Mail was telling us about 45-year old Chris Langston's Metal Detecting Holidays in Shropshire dismembering the archaeological record so the organizers can pocket the money - and the searchers bits of the British archaeological heritage. Now we learn of another one who can hardly claim that artefact hunting is not about making money and has little to do with an altruistic interest in 'history'. This next example of disgraceful heritage prostitution is is from Norfolk, apparently the 'number one destination for US detectorists coming to the UK to join organised group trips led by specialist local guides'    (Simon Parkin, 'Norfolk’s hidden treasures luring American metal detector tourists', Evening News 18th January 2019). the artefacts are scattered between many ephemeral personal collections: 

Past clients of Norfolk Metal Detecting Tours have come from Louisiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and Boston and they will be running four tours for overseas visitors again in 2019. The company says it has access to more than 33 historic Norfolk farms covering over 11,800 acres of ancient soil. Guests pay up to £2,340, excluding flights, for 12 full days metal detecting and accommodation in Norwich.[...] History enthusiast Steve Elden, who runs the tours and has 25 years experience of metal detecting, said: “This is their past. It is where they stem from, via the founding fathers and the Mayflower, so they are interested in their history from the pre-America days. [...] Mr Elden said some of his American clients had made significant finds that had been donated to both Norwich Museum and the British Museum. “These visitors feel honoured that a museum would want something they have found and they won’t take money for most of the time. They love the thought of being helpful,” he said.
'Helpfully' ripping up the heritage for the fun of it. The article tells us about another example, Discovery Tours 'which says it has introduced thousands of Americans to metal detecting in the fields of Norfolk over the past 27 years'. Then there is:
Steve Clarkson, a detectorist who has worked with Norfolk Museum Service and on archaeological excavations, launched his company Iceni Metal Detecting Tours last year. His 2019 tours are already three quarters full. He said: “It is predominantly Americans, but also Canadians and Australians. Our history is what draws them in. They want to find gold and rare historic artefacts, which you can’t guarantee of course, but that is what predominantly they are after. They seem to love it. [...] Mr Clarkson said; “On my tours everything found goes to the Norfolk Heritage Explorer at Norwich Museum. They record and photograph it all. If the Americans then want their items I have to issue export licences so that they can officially have them in the States. It is all done by the book as it should be.”
The Roman key handle pictured and found back in August 2018 seems not to be in the PAS database , the medieval(?) lion mount also is missing. Steve Elden, Steve Clarkson, you should be ashamed of yourself, selling off the archaeological heritage like that. PAS you should be ashamed of yourselves that you've not stopped this kind of thing. This is not 'best practice' by a long shot - and neither is it a responsible use of the archaeological record.

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy".  

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