I cannot for a moment agree that private collections are better. There are
a lot of faults with the public provision of archaeological services and
access can sometimes be difficult but at least there is an effort to
provide context and location information. I am aware of at least a dozen
private collections in the Newark area compiled by metal detectorists, one
of which was, in part, put up for auction a couple of years ago. All this
material has been stripped from sites in the area over the last 30 or 40
years and there is almost no infomation on where it was obtained. Of those
dozen collectors only one has been willing to provide any access for
More insidious than even this is the habit of metal detectorists of
stripping fields of non metal objects which might indicate the presence of
a site. We have come across two sites in the last 4 years (one roman and
one medieval) where the detectorists collected all the pottery as they
searched the field and then dumped in in nearby hedges when they were done.
In one case where we managed to talk to the detectorists without them
knowing who we were they said that this was done specifically so that other
people coming on to the site later would not know there was anything there.
And just to emphasise, in both the cases mentioned above the detectorists
were official clubs who had paid the land owners for rights to detect on
However detectorists keep their collections almost all of them are
destroying archaeological eveidence either conciously or unconciously and
something (though what I admit I don't know) must be done to stop them.