Friday 28 February 2020

PAS Legacy: Illegal metal-detecting at English Heritage sites doubles in two years

Wrecking sites the English way
Quelle surprise: Illegal metal-detecting at English Heritage sites doubles in two years. Britain encourages more and more people to take up artefact hunting and collecting, calling it "citizen participation', without bearing in mind that the resource is increasingly limited, as is accessible land.

English Heritage has urged the public to help fight the rise of illegal metal detecting at its historic sites. Ancient locations such as the site of the Battle of Hastings and Old Sarum in Wiltshire have been targeted by illegal detecting, the organisation said. The conservation body said such action, known as "nighthawking", was "robbing us of our past". There were more than double the number of metal detecting activities recorded in 2019 than two years ago, it added. The charity said that December was the worst month for reported incidents in more than four years. [...] The site of the Battle of Hastings in East Sussex and Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire are among the sites that have been targeted. There have been multiple incidents at Old Sarum, the site of Salisbury's original cathedral, and Wiltshire Constabulary has appealed for witnesses.  [...] English Heritage said that in 2019 there were 12 recorded incidents of illegal metal detecting at its sites, with four sites alone targeted in December. It said that "the sheer scale of the attacks, with up to 75 holes found to have been dug at each site" was of particular concern.
What I am concerned about is that somebody here is not singing from the official songsheet. So somehow they forgot to say that "the majority of metal detectorists are law abiding angels who do no harm at all to anyone and anything hoiking all that stuff". Why not? They always have done so far, English Heritage, PAS, the police, artefact-struck archaeologists... Oh well. But more concerning, look at this (we are talking about archaeological sites here):
"Illegal metal detecting robs us of our past, [...] once items are spirited away they can never be replaced
"Illegal metal detecting is not a victimless crime. "We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context."
See that? It's depicted as being about the precious things, not the destruction of contexts and site patterning. Portable antiquities, not archaeological evidence. Even for the British authorities it has become about ownership and not conservation. Just like the collectors themselves. In a word: PAS legacy.

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