It’s a question I and others have posed many times; Why are amateur archaeological ‘magpies’ not reporting finds to the Portable Antiquities Scheme? While official PAS figures show that it has nearly 1-5million detector-found artefacts on it database, whereas those having an archaeological provenance are almost non-existent. Why this huge discrepancy?
The reason’s obvious. This Collection Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record (CDotAR) will continue unabated until archaeology’s upper echelons put their own house in order; or demonstrate the wisdom, courage, or forward thinking to demand their own kind be brought into line with the high standards set by the UK’s metal detecting and collecting community.
Doubtless the PAS will have to be expanded to accommodate the extra workload caused by bringing the weekend flint-fondlers into line.
Stemming the haemorrhage of this vital data demands the tourniquet be tightened now. The £66,000 spent on producing the Nighthawking Report (NR) while handsomely lining the pockets of its authors, had what many saw as a veiled implication that Nighthawks were bona fide detectorists gone rogue. In any case, the NR’s data showed that looting incidents were miniscule.
The false claims and deliberately inflated crime figures relating to heritage criminality allegedly committed by detectorists regularly spewed out by the usual suspects in the anti-detecting lobby have been thoroughly discredited by the NR. What the expensive NR singularly failed to recognize is the menace of ‘Dayhawking’; a daylight crime perpetrated by the army of woolly-hatted (and often woolly-headed) Sunday afternoon amateur archaeological strollers, who wander willy-nilly harvesting valuable flint tools, pottery shards and surface coins none of which will ever be seen by gullible landowners nor shamefully, by the PAS.
One British heritage blogger, a discreet, diplomatic, archaeological polymath, not widely known for his love of detectorists or collectors, writes that cultural items repeatedly vanish from archaeological sites only to resurface under suspicious circumstances. Given the high international demand for antiquities he claims exists, then heritage criminality may well be closer to home than even he dares to concede. If what he claims has even a scintilla of truth, then corruption amongst the faceless bureaucrats administering archaeology worldwide in the form of dodgy Provenances and export licences is rampant.
Who, one wonders, is churning out these near fraudulent tickets? No doubt the aforementioned gifted polymath will get to the heart of it all.