I completely agree that there should not be a conflict between detectorists and archaeologists.
In Spain, where I live and work, heritage laws make it illegal to uncover and traffic national heritage. This has resulted in an extended habit of raiding archaeological sites when they are not guarded (which is always). The results of these raids ends up either in the black market or, more rarely, "turning up" somewhere and entering museum collections. As an archaeologists, and, more broadly, a heritage manager, I am concerned that this division between the legal and the illegal has ended up resulting in having the heritage lost to science altogether. I would favor a more tolerant view to detectorists, as long as they acknowledge that what they find is not theirs, but national heritage. Perhaps through some sort of compensation, or agreement, detectorists could be used as a frontline in geophysical reconnaisance of sites. Unfortunately, detectorists don't usually (don't ever, in Spain) do that out of hobby, but in order to make money by robbing the nation of its heritage without it being adequately documented and its context (which confers it with historical meaning and value) analysed. I, for one, would love to have a team of detectorists to do just what they do best: a geophysical survey in which metal finds are found and documented on- and off-site. In that way, they complement regular field surveys (my team has done just this, with fairly good results).
The most useful information about a coin, or a treasure, is to know what its depositional process was: when, how and why it ended up where it was. Otherwise, it is just one more coin on ebay. That is why, up to now, detectorists are so at odds with heritage, which is unfortunate for all involved.
> Date: Thu, 14 Oct 2010 08:52:05 +0100
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [BRITARCH] Professional discussion list
> To: [log in to unmask]
> These days my interest in archaeology is no longer a full-time professional one, but I am conscious that I have undertaken professional training and qualifications in order to provide the best service to the community that I can - regardless of the particular community.
> I have been reading the discussion about the helmet and the Treasure Act with increasing despair. The attack on archaeologists using deliberately offensive terminology does nothing to meet what are (allegedly and genuinely) the views of most detectorists - the thrill of the discovery through hard research and the excitement that arises from finding something that is special. All conventional archaeologists know and enjoy the same motives and emotions. I still reckon that the day that I fail to get a kick out of something new and unusual is the day I should give up archaeology.
> My concern is that there is an element (probably on both sides) which gains by creating 'warfare' between 'detectorists' and 'archaeologists'. The issue of this helmet is that it _should_ be in a publicly accessible collection, and this seems to be a pious wish - my guess is that it will leave the UK sooner or later.
> The law is wrong when such items are not protected for the common good. Plain and simple. But the obscene price paid is also wrong - it should not be possible to profit so much from a chance find. Our heritage should not be a form of national lottery.
> My main concern though is that there is nowhere that archaeologists can maintain a 'private' conversation including all of the 'academic' insults and robustness that such conversations need. We have no private discussion list in the way that other groups have, in which the ability to thrash out awkward issues and arrive at a generally held viewpoint can occur.
> I may be wrong, but why can we not have a list that does not include those who clearly have a completely twisted view of the reasons why we are archaeologists?