Wednesday 13 May 2020

Artefact Hunters' Obligations to Landowners During Pandemic

It is worth landowners checking first for themselves before agreeing to entry to their land for artefact hunting that the local offices of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) are now open for normal business. Many of them are based in museums and council offices that are either closed, or have restrictions on non-employees entering and/or employees are working from home. In both cases the PAS staff are unable to meet finders to complete the paperwork and there will be long delays before landowners will see a copy.

As the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales (agreed with landowners' and farming organisations), makes clear, responsible detecting means recording with the PAS all finds whether or not they are intended for personal collection or sale. If the local PAS office is not open due to the pandemic, this cannot be done, so therefore it would be irresponsible to carry out this activity if there are not yet the possibilities of doing so responsibly (the same goes for processing any eventual Treasure claims).

It is in everybody's interests that landowners do not encourage irresponsible artefact hunting, as its the beginning of a slippery slope to so-called 'nighthawking' (property theft). Landowners should get a written agreement with metal detectorists, setting out their full obligations concerning paperwork, payment and commitment to responsible behaviour before they agree to anyone coming onto their property during this pandemic. Many of them are currently NOT recording artefacts they find, simply walking off with them, and adding them to their own collections, or selling them online: British antiquities (a few of these soon add up)

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