Saturday 12 January 2019

Huge Shortfall in Ability to Cope with Major Increase in Numbers of Detector Using Artefact Hunters in England

The private collection of decontextualised archaeological artefacts is becoming increasingly popular in the British Isles due to the positive publicity it is getting (and lack of proper public information about its effects) on the watch of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Treasure hunter John Howland on his "Detecting and Collecting”, blog a go-to place for a detectorists' point of view, is jubilant that a recent DCMS study showed that 1.5 per cent of adults in England had taken part in metal detecting in the last year, without realising the scale of irresponsible artefact hunting that reveals. The figures speak for themselves 1.5% of the current adult population of England is 674 700  people. Nearly seven hundred thousand people (!). The PAS has a capacity to deal with the finds made by just several thousand people. The shortfall is several hundred thousand. That means that if those sorts of numbers of detector users are pocketing archaeological mataerial with no public accountability, without reporting it there are potentially several hundred thousand irresponsible detectorists out there raiding the archaeological record for personal entertainment and profit, and compartively only a much smaller quantity that can have a claim to be 'responsible' in some small way.

Surely, even the most diehard supporter of collecting must admit that this situation cannot go on, either we need to invest much more in the PAS 'mitigating' system to increase its capacity by an order of magnitude commensurate with the scale of the removal of artefacts from the archaeological record by artefact hunters - or we need to place curbs on the activity itself to reduce the clandestine destruction. 

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