It would be hard to not recognise that Metal Detecting can be beneficial to Archaeology and detectorists are often called upon during archaeological digs. Detectorists find and record through the PAS many more artefacts than Archaeologists each year, including some impressive hoards. Archaeologists it seems, now sometimes follow in the footsteps of the detectorist and further researching areas after the detectorist has made an initial find.
So why the perceived negativity toward people who are hobby metal detectorists ?
Concerns remain that despite the huge numbers of finds recorded through the PAS, many more are found and never reported and a quick look on Ebay seems to confirm that theory.
I believe that the detectorists who fail to record to the PAS fall mainly into two catergories.
Those who are purely in it as ‘treasure hunters’ and knowingly enter fields without gaining permission and often on protected sites. Dubbed ‘nighthawkers’ in the press, they cause a tremendous amount of harm to the reputation of responsible detectorists and cause a distrust of the hobby and those who participate in it.
I also believe that many people purchase a metal detector without any knowledge that permissions have to be obtained, many of the people will logically assume a ‘castle’ for example, would be out of bounds but would potentially see no harm in detecting along a footpath that crosses a field. These guys are not ‘bad people’ they are just ignorant to the law and codes of responsible detecting. If they did come across an interesting artefact, they would probably have no idea it should even be reported, let alone who to and how to go about it.
In My opinion, it’s this second group of unknowingly illegal detectorists that the PAS and the NCMD should be trying harder to educate, even a simple thing such as asking the major retail suppliers of metal detectors to send a copy of the NCMD guidelines and a leaflet on the PAS with each order could make a huge difference to the knowledge and conduct of these new detectorists.
Detectorists can and do contribute a huge amount to archaeology and the vast majority are in it for the right reasons, have a love of history and report relevant finds through the Portable Antiquity Scheme.
It’s regrettable that all too often the relationship between Metal Detecting and Archaeology is soured by the few and the aim of The Archeology and Metal detecting magazine is help to bridge the gap between the two groups.
Archaeologists benefit from Detectorists and Detectorists in turn benefit from Archaeologists who are capable of giving us all a much bigger, more detailed picture of our nations long and rich history than a solitary find ever could. Both groups need to learn to come together when needed and respect the important role that each ‘side’ contributes.
Archaeology Britain England Heritage History Medieval Metal detecting Roman
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