Monday 4 January 2021

UK: Looting Suspended due to Covid

The NCMD is expected to make an announcement today suspending artefact hunting in the British countryside by its members. This is because of the new lockdown regime imposed by the government between 4th and 5th January to keep Britons safe by trying to restrict the transmission of two new highly-infectious strains of the Covid-19 virus. It remains to be seen how the "responsible" metal detectorists of the UK react to that. 

The new regulations for England, hopefully to be passed into law on Tuesday, refer to everybody. Artefact hunters have so far attempted to represent looting archaeological sites and assemblages for collectable items as "exercise". In the new regulations therefore let us see what applies to that.

"You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. [the latter defined in law, fines for not complying]
[...] Exercising and meeting other people
You should minimise time spent outside your home."
So doing Nordic Walking along a footpath across a field is exercise, stopping every few steps or so to dig up a signal where a metal detector has beeped is delaying your return to home, and does not conform with the regulations.
You can only leave your home to exercise, and not for the purpose of recreation or leisure [...] This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
You can exercise in a public outdoor place:
[...] Public outdoor places include: ● parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
● public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them)
● the grounds of a heritage site
● Playgrounds
Outdoor sports venues, including tennis courts, golf courses and swimming pools, must close.
In the light of this, anybody in England seeing a metal detectorist or metal detectorists in a field should (without approaching them) report them to the local police. In order to ascertain that all and any artefacts that they are handling have been obtained legally, Portable Antiquities Scheme recorders now need to obtain confirmation of the date of discovery (a protocol assigning title issued by the responsible landowner should suffice) and a search permission from the administrators of the public outdoor place should be enough for their files. 

1 comment:

Brian Mattick said...

PAS has yet to update its advice beyond 19 December. No doubt it will soon and it would be nice if it adopted the same clear tone that you have used because, as we know, there will be some detectorists who carry on regardless, citing confusion over what was allowed.

On that subject, it would be sensible from a conservation point of view for PAS and the Government to state "hoards said to have been found in a back garden will NOT qualify for a Treasure reward but WILL be subjected to a forensic examination of the soil attached to them".

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