Sunday 1 August 2021

'Scotland's heritage sites under attack from thieves, vandals and treasure hunters',


Sandra Dick, 'Scotland's heritage sites under attack from thieves, vandals and treasure hunters', The Herald 1st August 2021.

Incidents of illegal metal detecting [...] are said to have soared during the pandemic [...] as hunters scoured the landscape for trinkets. [...] Peter McGrath, head of physical security at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), said crimes at its sites across Scotland have spiked since March last year [...] “We have seen an increase in metal detecting, wild camping, fire starting and general vandalism. “We have found a great deal of amateur interest in metal detecting in locations such as the Antonine Wall, where we found a number of incidents of digging. “There’s a perhaps bigger group who found metal detecting as a hobby during that period of time who are not aware of the illegal issues, but there are also individuals who know exactly what they are doing. “The Antonine Wall is a real target for metal detectorists because of lot remains unexplored below the surface making it a particularly attractive location for unscrupulous metal detectorists”. He added that the potential damage caused by illegal metal detectorists was “unquantifiable”, with fears artefacts are sold online or disappear into private collections.

Well, of course this is totally typical of the object-centric view of the British archaeologists in general. Damage is done to sites. Archaeologists study sites. Archaeological context is in the sites. How many times does that need repeating?  

Scotland has 8,000 scheduled monuments, 47,000 listed buildings and 47 protected shipwrecks – making the challenge of protecting them all from potential damage or criminal activities almost impossible.  

One person's protected site is another man's happy hunting ground for a legal hobby. 

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