Friday, October 7, 2011

How Many Recordable Artefacts are "Metal Detectorists" in Wales Keeping?

There is quite a discrepancy between the average numbers of finds shown to the regional officers of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales and the number of finds predicted by the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter. Which is closer to the actuual number of finds made by an average active metal detectorist in the course of a year's going out and searcching for things to add to the collection? Some members of the "Detecting Wales" forum helpfully tell us what they find. "Chef Geoff" for example, on July 4th had already added to his own personal private collection, at least:
86 Roman coins ('nummi' 73, 5 folii, 4 'sesterci', 3 denarii, and a 'dupondius'), 24 hammered coins (including a Celtic stater), seventeen Roman fibulae, 2 Roman rings and 4 silver rings (post medieval)
One hundred and thirty two finds. The "Metal detectorist" called "Dances with badgers" by the fifth of July reports:
finds of 9ct gold "57.5grams", finds of 18ct gold, "7 grams", 22ct gold "12 grams", plus a 1921 sovereign. Hammered coins, an Elizabeth I sixpence, Edward I groat, Mary groat, Charles I sixpence and "LOADS OF SILVER !"
This shows that the common mantra "we're not in it for the money, we are not treasure hunters" does not apply to all Welsh "detectorists". Then we have the forum member calling himself Casa-Dos (kev)who reports on August 23, 2011, his "2011 FINDS so far.." as consisting of:
four hammered coins, nine milled silver, a silver ring, a silver cuff-link. Three spindle whorls, part of bronze age axe, a Roman fibula, a Roman mount, pottery & clay pipe.
Then we have nfl on September 19, 2011 who reports that his finds for 2011 so far include:
33 hammered coins, five Roman denarii, a George III half guinea, 3 Victorian and four pre-Victorian silver coins, one "Tudor Treasure item", a gold gentleman's ring, two parts of a medieval gold ring
Again the emphasis on the finds of bullion value is notable. The same applies to "Deadlock" who reports so far:
Two silver rings, a silver annular brooch, a silver coin of Gallenius, half a spindle whorl. Hammered coins of James I, Charles I, Henry III 3rd cut quarter, Edward III, William III sixpence.
And so on. Quite obviously these people are reporting the 'highlights', one cannot imagine metal detecting a Roman site and finding just silver coins and no copper alloy ones accompanying them, or a medieval site which produced just silver hammered coins but no copper alloy personal ornaments. It seems that this Welsh milieu seems mainly interested in swapping boasts about their silver and gold finds.

The "Detecting Wales" forum sections: Rally Reports and 2010 Predictions - How many finds? are also both quite revealing.

Quite obviously from the evidence provided by their own discussion forum, given the number of items we have seen are being added to the PAS database by "partnership" with Welsh "metal detectorists" compared to the sort of accounts we see above of what some of them are finding, Welsh "metal detectorists" are not showing even a small fraction of what they find to the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

The PAS is not making much of a dent on the non-reported removal of archaeological finds from archaeological sites and assemblages from one end of Wales to the other. These finds are coming out of the ground at a huge rate and being lost - despite the existence for almost a decade of a Scheme to encourage their reporting and recording.

Vignette: Treasure Chest full of freshly dug up but unrecorded ancient artefacts.


  1. i really wouldent worry about the amount of finds coming out of the ground,they say every dog as its day and i believe metal detecting as had its day,,with big clubs now targeting areas rather than individual farms,the days of the independant detectorist has gone as the land is being detected by 100 or so people at a time and obviously this isnt a trend that can carry on for much longer ,there is only so many areas in the u.k to detect in and with many areas even now have several detectorists sharing sites without each others knowledge ,,give it another 10 years and i think there will be a major decline in amongst the metal detecting fraternity. {to faced and greedy as it may be} and that will be its biggest downfall.

  2. Umm, I really am unsure whether or not this is some kind of joke. Assuming it is not, I rather think you have not quite grasped the issue here. The problem is not that "metal detectorists" ARE. The problem is what they DO. In other words it is the denudation of the sites to fill their pockets and collections which is the problem. So to suggest that we allegedly "need not worry" because all the sites will have been totally denuded of significant metal finds in the next decade is to sadly miss the whole point.