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BRITARCH  January 2008

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Subject:

Metal Detecting - an easy target

From:

Margaret Struckmeier <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 16 Jan 2008 15:20:49 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Surely the biggest threat to heritage in this country is housing 
development and not metal detectorists.  It seems to me that we all become 
very passive when the government tells us that we need more and more 
houses for ordinary people.

Yet developers do not want to build ‘affordable’ houses because there is 
no profit in them.  As we manufacture very little in this country 
something needs to happen to oil the wheels of industry, so what better 
than to build more houses.

So, archaeology becomes commercial to deal with the vast amount of land 
that is being developed.  Nobody seems to mention the fact that a lot of 
the archaeology is being trashed because the developer does not want to 
pay out what he/she sees as vast amounts of money on something that only 
gets in the way of development.  

Archaeologists also become more complicit because in their struggle to 
survive in the commercial world they do things that compromise the 
archaeology in order to satisfy the developer.  Where does this end.  The 
developer has the biggest clout.
Archaeology is becoming more difficult to justify in this commercial world.

Metal detecting has become the easy target.  Archaeologists are always at 
pains to point out that they don’t really care about shiny things, but 
when metal detectorists find shiny things the shout goes up of “how very 
dare you”.  The vast majority of items that are found and sold would not 
interest any museum as they probably already have a whole stash of similar 
coins etc in a drawer gathering dust.  Surely, it is not the item itself 
that counts (apart from things that are out of the ordinary) but the 
locational information (GPS location) that can inform the archaeologist 
about the potential of a site.  

It seems that the way ahead would be to build up trust between metal 
detectorists and archaeologists by emphasising the need to record finds 
and to make that information available for further investigation.  Maybe 
this is where licensing comes in where a detectorist is given the right to 
work his/her patch which would take away the fear of other detectorists 
muscling in.  This would build up a relationship between the detectorist 
and the county archaeologist as they could liase on such things and 
exchange ideas and advice.  

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