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.