Why Not a Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) for the US or Elsewhere?

ancient antique antique map atlas

No reason at all. Currently national or State-wide co-ordination of finds made by US detectorists exists, nor are there any ‘signposts’ directing researchers who for example might want to track down expert detectorists in US Civil War artefacts, or even, the sites of skirmishes, campsites, or river crossings. Only detectorists are pro-active in historical research with new data added daily.

To negotiate this fragmentation, a central State agency similar to the UK’s PAS is required. At the very least, a central register of detecting experts along with their sphere of expertise will prove invaluable


This from the UK’s PAS website:

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is currently developing its potential as a tool for “lifelong learning”. The Scheme’s database now holds nearly 700,000 [soon to reach 1 million] objects and over 300,000 images. The records of these objects that our staff, volunteers and the public contribute are quite often the only chance we will get to document their existence. The database provides us with a record of their attributes and an image (if available.)

We make our data available freely, under a creative commons licence, for the academic and lay communities to use for their research. We also have a team of finds specialists (the National Finds Advisers) who are available to answer queries on specific periods/ object types.

Quite apart from its value as an unrivalled research source, the PAS overwhelmingly represents and records finds made by metal detectorists. The UK’s PAS is the perfect template for a US-style version.

A PAS serves several functions; not least by addressing that which Rob Bendus, State Historic Preservation Officer and director of the DOS Division of Historical Resources told the Press: “Artifacts are a finite, non-renewable resource. When they are taken, destroyed or stored in private collections without being documented, they, and the history they represent, are gone forever.”

america arid bushes california

What’s here? Only a Tekkie knows.

Bendus ironically, proves the value of a UK-style PAS-type scheme in the US. At a stroke, it shrugs off two anomalies; firstly, by supporting private collectors. Secondly, the State is sanitized of pandering to, or supporting, the totalitarian dogma promoted by the same politico-archaeos working to agendas to outlaw private collections and collectors.

The problem is these detector-hating apparatchiks with their rabid heritage dogma have demonstrably, the ear of easily-led politicians.

Collecting is both wholesome and legal. With a PAS in operation, the State gets to see and record all that’s found and is thus able to purchase from finders those items it wants and at the going commercial rate. What could be fairer?

For the detectorist, the PAS is a boon. Every artefact recorded has a provenance. Should the State not want to buy it, it’s returned to the finder with a written provenance proving it was legally found, a fact that adds confidence in the buyer and in the value to the piece itself. Indeed, it further protects at best the detectorist from unfounded accusations of theft, misappropriation or at worst, a night in the slammer!

behind prison bars

“If only I’d done some research”

Why would anyone oppose such a brilliant scheme? Just take a look at Florida’s bureaucracy (for example) and the detector-averse archaeologists, academics, and State officials (for example), who feed the red-tape monster. Archaeologist Lisa MacIntyre excepted! Now she’s a go-ahead gal, who, with the right support could pioneer ground-breaking changes across the State.

In the UK the PAS – now nearing 1.5million detector-found items – is central in providing priceless information on 656 research projects ranging from Master Degree level through to archaeological society projects.

So, why not a Portable Antiquities Scheme State-side or elsewhere? No reason at all.


9 thoughts on “Why Not a Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) for the US or Elsewhere?

  1. No. The worst thing for detectorists in the U.S. is visibility and attention to what we do. Our history is mostly recorded already as we are not that old of country. We basically know what metal objects were in use in the U.S. Detectorists here, for the most part, want to be left alone to find them. When an item is found ,and the finder does what they wish with it, the natural history of that item continues.


    • When the PAS was initially introduced in the UK, I was sceptical, but as it blossomed I realised what a great scheme it was. It served two things; first it gave official recognition to the pastime and secondly, it showed beyond doubt that detectorists contributed more than they removed.

      Why not throw some light on our hobby and let the world see what we do? After all we are not drug dealers operating in dark alleys. So on that point we’ll have to agree to disagree.


      • Well, I wouldn’t compare us to drug dealers in a dark alley, but we need to try to avoid any attention. Unlike the U. K. we have the right to detect on many types of public property without permission. We can legally keep what we find on those properties as well as private properties.
        If detectorists in the U.K. had those liberties ,I doubt many would be in favor of the PAS.
        I don’t think the majority of detectorists here would be in favor of a PAS system. Those that would push it would damage the hobby and cause more property to be off limits.


  2. On February 17th, 2014, I represented the Task Force for Metal Detecting Rights at a meeting in Chicago, hosted by Minelab, and featuring Mr. Norman Palmer, one of the authors of the English “Portable Antiquities Scheme” (PAS) law. Invitees to this meeting included US metal detecting manufacturers, distributors, an archaeologist, and others interested in working together to promote a system similar to the PAS here in the United States…
    Unfortunately, nothing ever came of it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It would be a good idea for the US, but as a practical matter there will be no funding on a national level for such a scheme. I do see a possibility that a State University could manage a state level program, but it will only happen if someone takes responsibilty and pushes the issue.


    • Hi Peter:
      Good to hear from you. The PAS here in the UK is a valuable resource that provides excellent data for researchers. Perhaps at State level, a University could be persuaded to collate data from amateur researchers; there’s a lot of genuine information swilling around that ought to be recorded – skirmish sites, trail fords, encampments etc, etc.

      Best wishes


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