Monday, 28 April 2014


The blog Artefactsandarchaeology has a post about a project called MicroPasts which it seems was officially launched this month.

As per their website MicroPasts is

'a web platform that brings together full-time academic researchers, volunteer archaeological and historical societies and other interested members of the public to collaborate on new kinds of research about archaeology, history and heritage. It is a place where enthusiasts (of any background) can not only create high-quality research data together, but also collaboratively design and fund entirely new research projects. In particular, we want to improve how people traditionally distinguished as ‘academics’, ‘professionals’ and ‘volunteers’ cooperate with one another (as well as with other people out there who as yet have no more than a passing interest).'

From a brief little play on my lunch break it seems that you can join in with archaeological research from the comfort of your own sofa.

I note that the PAS has the project on it's website as well as I would imagine they both work closely together. Certainly how MicroPasts aim of getting people to cooperate with one another will be interesting.

Another of MicroPasts aims is to be a crowd funding site for small projects. This part is under development but I look forward to reading the sales pitches.

I imagine these sorts of projects require a lot of word of mouth marketing to be successful so well here's my part!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

I found it, so I can keep it, right?

On the Metal Detecting Forum is an interesting thread about whether you should sell stuff that you find.

It would appear that some detectorists think that if they have permission from the landowner to go and detect on their land that anything they find is theirs to do with what they may, including selling the find if they want. 

I believe this assumption is incorrect. Just because you have permission to detect metal doesn't mean that any metal you find is automatically then yours. 


Well in short then from digging around I think the simple answer is that if you own land then you also own everything in the land regardless of how it ended up in the land. This comes from a case called Elwes v Brigg Gas Co. (1886) 33 Ch.D 562 where the Judge, Chitty J, stated that lawful possession of land includes possession of everything in the land, naturally there or otherwise.

As such if a landowner gives someone permission to detect, or 'find', metal items on their land then that person, or 'metal detectorist' is merely finding what is the land owners. Just because the 'metal detectorist' has permission to find and dig,  it doesn't mean they have permission to 'take away'. 

If you are the 'metal detectorist' then if you have not entered into an agreement with the landowner that anything you find is yours then the find belongs to the landowner. 

Without such an agreement it doesn't stop the landowner letting the metal detectorist sell the item on say a 50/50 share basis. 

The ownership of property found in or on land is discussed in depth in Waverley BC v Fletcher 1996. This is a story about a chap who went detecting on a Council park and found a gold brooch. He thought the brooch was his, the Council thought otherwise. He went to the County Court and won his case. The Council then went to the Court of Appeal and won. 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Camber Sands hoard

Just got back from a week in Camber Sands with the partner and the little man. I had hoped to do some blogging but on arriving at our rented house I soon found out there wasn't any wifi. Ooops. In hindsight though it was actually rather nice to be free from the shackles of the internet.

Being that Camber Sands is a Crown Estate beach I thought I would take my euroace with me on the off chance that I might grab an hour or two detecting time. 

The weather was great and on Easter Monday I grabbed a few hours in the evening. I've never detected a sandy beach before and it was nice being able to get the targets easily. Unfortunately that was about the only good point as the two hours consisted of mainly ring pulls, bottle tops and cans. I think I spent half of my detecting time trying to find a bin to put the next newly discovered can into. 

I did manage to dig out the following mighty hoard. 

Yup 3p. I tried not to spend it all at once. It was tricky.

Anyway a fab very relaxing week.
Dymchurch beach
Me and my little dude

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Some finds from a park

One of my Local Councils allows you to metal detect on certain bits of their land with a free licence. Hrm as I'm writing this I'm wondering why I'm not saying which Council. Fear of some other detectorists ruining it? Selfishness? Not sure. Probably both.

Anyway one of the bits of land is near to where I often go to work. It consists of a number of old fields that were regularly ploughed till the 20th century when they were gifted to the Council as a park.

It makes for some interesting detecting. It was used for bonfire nights for quite some time until the health and safety folks stopped it so there is a fair amount of old decimal coinage, big 50 pences, decimal half pennies etc. There is also a zillion ring pulls. However there are also some older bits. I haven't done it much but have found a crotal bell and an old buckle,as below, in the past both of which have been recorded with the FLO.

Last week I found the below. No.6 I believe is a 'beehive thimble' (more info on thimbles here) which could be from the 12th Century onwards and No.7 is a part of a sword belt mount.

Since I started this blog I wonder if I should carry on detecting the park.

There are a number of things floating around my mind as to what a responsible detectorist would do. Some of these thoughts are, in no order of priority the following.

1. I don't have a lot of land to detect so would do ploughed if I could but don't have any.
2. Anyone with a permit can detect on it and it has been detected on before
3. If I make a little slide and show it to the 'Friends of the Park' would that be a 'good' thing to do?
4. At least I get the bits that I find recorded whereas others might not.
5. I make damn sure i'm neat and tidy when I dig my holes.
6. Should I just stop thinking and just carry on detecting!

Oh yes one question for the Archaeologists who don't like detecting because it takes an item out of 'context'. Let's say a local archaeology group came in, dug a pit and did their Archie stuff, is it then any better to detect or should you then leave the rest of the field in case the entire park is subject to a archaeological dig?

Life is easier when you don't think.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

If you saw

If you saw a metal detectorist detecting on an Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) would you

a) Call 101
b) ignore them
c) inform them it's an SSSI and hope they move on
d) ask them what they've found.

Thinking about why you would take a particular action is quite interesting.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Elizabeth I and coinage

To all you hammered coin lovers, like me, an interesting article of coinage in the time of Elizabeth I.

Spotted on the BAJR Facebook page.

Rewards for Treasure finding

Janner53 posted an interesting piece on a gentleman called Steven Walker who was unhappy with his £550 reward for a Bronze Age axe and 4 gold rings. Steven and the thought the valuation should be more.

[65] - [70] of The Treasure Act Code of Guidance lay out the guidelines for the valuation of Treasure.

Janner's article was picked up by Paul Barford and The Modern Antiquarian.

For me Janner's article and subsequent discussions raise a number of points to consider (Mr Anonymous I am again considering the points not making one, there is a difference).

1. Why was there such a difference in valuations? The Treasure Valuation Committee came to a decision that was considerably lower than the finder and Suffolk Archaeology Service. I'm not saying this is right or wrong merely that it would be interesting to know the reasoning behind the decision. I understand the views that metal detectorists should be happy with anything they get, however as it stands this is not what the Code of Practice says at [65]

'...taking account of all relevant factors, to what may be paid for the object(s) in a sale on the open market between a willing seller and a willing buyer; '

Again and for the avoidance of doubt I am not saying he should have been paid more. I am merely interested to see how the decision was come as it would be interesting to know if there is any possible merit in the argument that the TVC are coming to lower Treasure Valuation decisions because they think that 'metal detectorists should be happy with anything they get.' which I do not believe can be considered a relevant factor as per [65] (happy to be corrected here).

If the Government / society isn't happy with the amount of money being paid out on Treasure finds then perhaps the Code should be adjusted appropriately. This is opposed to the TVC lowering rewards on the sly IF (very big IF) this is happening.

2. Are rewards entirely discretionary? Both Paul Barford and Nigel Swift make the point that detectorists should also be happy with anything they get because detectorists are not entitled to any reward. Paul says that rewards are 'entirely discretionary'. I have to say that when I first started detecting I thought that I was entitled to a reward.

Reading through the Treasure Act Code of Guidance and Treasure Act 1996 I think it is more a case of fettered discretion as entirely discretionary to me implies the SoS can do what they like, free from any constraints, when deciding when considering whether or not to pay a reward.

The Treasure Act states the following,

10 Rewards.

(2)The Secretary of State must determine whether a reward is to be paid by the museum before the transfer

(7)In a determination under this section, the Secretary of State must take into account anything relevant in the code of practice issued under section 11.

11 Codes of practice.

(1)The Secretary of State must

(a)prepare a code of practice relating to treasure;

(b)keep the code under review; and

(c)revise it when appropriate.

(2)The code must, in particular, set out the principles and practice to be followed by the Secretary of State

(a)when considering to whom treasure should be offered;

(b)when making a determination under section 10; and

(c)where the Crown's title to treasure is disclaimed.

This seems to show that the Secretary of State must take into account anything relevant the Code of Practice says before deciding whether to pay a reward.

[71] of The Code states that

The paramount objective in the payment of ex gratia rewards for finds of treasure is to encourage the reporting of finds and to ensure that there are adequate incentives to finders while at the same time discouraging wrong behaviour
This would seem something that the SoS should take into account when exercising his discretion.
Also [84] states that

...In making its recommendations, the Committee shall seek to find a balance between the objective of rewards to encourage the prompt and proper reporting of finds, and the need for rewards not in themselves to provide an incentive for illegal or improper behaviour

I have to say I didn't find 63 [7] very helpful when it said mentioned a 'right to reward' but maybe this was referring to the fact that at the stage the SoS would have come to a decision that a reward should be paid.

63 (7) If finders and anyone else with an interest in the find wish to waive their right to a reward on condition that the find is deposited in a particular registered museum, their wishes will be taken into account.

So it seems that I'm not legally entitled to a reward as I first thought, however it would seem that there would have to be a good reason for SoS to decide that I was not entitled to a reward (which could then be abated if I had say destroyed the find site).  I wonder if the SoS has ever determined that a reward should not be offered.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Anonymous comments

I'm thinking about banning anonymous comments. They just seem a bit 'trolly' really. Being new to this blogging malarkey it's difficult to know whether to invite all comments no matter how little they bring or not. Blah.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The HMS Victory

Over on  Stout Standards I was reading an interesting piece entitled 'Treasure Hunting at its very best' on the recovery of bullion from the SS gairsoppa, the bullion consisted of 1574 silver ingots weighing about 1,100 ounces each. To a bloke who thinks a silver half crown is a lot of silver that's a whole lot of treasure.

The SS Gairsoppa was discovered by an organisation called Odyssey Marine Exploration.

Odyssey Marine Exploration (OME) have apparently pioneered what they call 'commercial marine archaeology'.  

Amongst their other discoveries is HMS Victory (not the HMS Victory that was Nelson's flagship).

 It would appear that the wreck was found in May 2008 by OME and this was announced on 1 February 2009. HMS Victory was at the time property of the British Government but was gifted to the Maritime Heritage Foundation in January 2012 (Heritage Daily investigation in the whole affair here). The Maritime Heritage Foundation was created and is chaired by Lord Lingfield, a Conservative Peer. Claims had been made that Lord Lingfield was a descendant of Admiral Balchen, who went down with the HMS Victory along with the crew of about 1150, but it appears that these claims may be false (1150 crew on a 250 odd year old ship is amazing in itself to me).

There are now plans to salvage items from the Victory although they are awaiting ministerial approval something which may not be forthcoming given that Admiral Balchen's actual descendant Richard Temple West and many others are concerned about the commercial exploitation of a war grave. Furthermore OME may have been rather naughty in exploring the wreck without a licence.

OME has been in the Courts before after unlawfully retrieving 17 tonnes of gold and silver from a Spanish Wreck.

I do wonder if there really is there any archaeological benefit in salvaging the items from the HMS Victory or if Treasure Hunting really is the only motive.

Whilst some of this might be old news in the light of the furore over the Nazi War Diggers I thought the story of the HMS Victory is an interesting one as both tales involve disturbing the dead to find artifacts.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Questions for the heritage crime officer

Got the ok for my meeting with the heritage crime officer and his boss today which I'm quite excited about. My idea was to ask more about heritage crime in Sussex including how much of a problem it might be and what sort of things the officers have to deal with. I'm also interested in how hard they find it to prosecute and what the Community can do to help.

I appreciate that illegal metal detecting is only one type of heritage crime but given that many detectorists go out in the field then it would be good to know what sort of dodgy activity to look out for and report including dodgy metal detectorists!

If anyone has any suggestions about what sort of questions you would ask if you were meeting with a couple of heritage crime officers then please let me know.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

PAS Job vacancy

I was just browsing the PAS site when I noticed a job being advertised via their Twitter feed.

A few clicks later I saw the PAS are recruiting for a Finds Liaison Assistant for Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside funded by the Headley Trust. I'd never heard of a Finds Liaison Assistant or the Headley Trust and it was interesting to read that the Headley Trust is one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts. As their website states it recognises the problems that Museums can have in purchasing Treasure finds.  

As I stated in a previous post one of the main reasons I first started detecting was the dream of finding Treasure, preferably mega valuable treasure at that. The fact that Museums may well need charitable help to purchase such Treasure had never really crossed my mind. 

I can't say, sitting here now on my sofa, that if I found Treasure that I would waive the reward but it's something to ponder as if the Trust don't have to spend their money helping Museum's buy Treasure finds then maybe more of it would be available to fund such posts.

It was also interesting to see that the PAS also need such charitable donations to help them reduce their backlog of finds. 

Maybe all detectorists should have to be 'members' of the PAS and pay £10 or something a year which would help fund more FLO's. Ok just a random thought really. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Treasure Valuation Committee members wanted

Committee members are wanted for the Treasure Valuation Committee. Details here. closing date 25th April 2014.

Whilst they seek someone to represent the views of finders, especially metal detectorists they don't want you to use a metal detector whilst a Committee member. This is discussed on the Metal Detecting Forum here where I read the news first.

Just a bear?

Slightly off topic but on Sunday I had a different form of detecting session. I took my 3 year old out for the day and we went out for some food, a walk and then to a local farm shop.

As we got home he asks 'where's Alfie?' his favourite bear. 'Oh god'. So I drive back to all the places we had visited but no bear. He spends Sunday night sobbing himself to sleep. We desperately try to see if there are any similar bears on the internet to buy as whilst it wouldn't be the same it might help, however no joy.

On monday morning as the farm shop had been closed I drive back there but no bear, again.

I get home and as I'm walking down our street on the phone to my partner giving her the bad news I see a little brown bundle, sodden, sitting on a wall. It's Alfie.

All is well with the world.

To many that bear is just a tatty old thing. To my little man he's everything.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Think I hit the dump

Was out detecting for a few hours yesterday. Went into a little forested bit of the permission and found what has to be their old dumping ground. only dug a few bits that were pretty much on the surface. Oddly I found myself thinking the Local archaeology club might like to dig it. Must be this blogs influence as never thought such things before.

Found a nice little brown bottle laying on the surface and a piece of broken pottery to try and identify seems to say 'dogrose'. also found what looks like a door knob or something and an old bit of a clip perhaps. I shall pop them up on a metal detecting forum as there are lots of kind folks who will help identify things.                                                                   


Saturday, 5 April 2014

Metal Detecting For Beginners - Insurance

So you've bought your metal detector and want to get out into the field that you've secured permission to detect on.Wait a moment. What happens if you accidentally put your spade through a water pipe or telephone cable? Could be expensive!

Hrm this might cost me a bit
For the price of a few pints of beer you can get insurance to help pay for any unfortunate expenses you might occur in the course of your metal detecting.

The National Council Of Metal Detecting (NCMD) will insure you for just 8 quid a year. Not only do you get insured but you become a member of the Official Representative body for Metal Detectorists and a newsletter.

If you are thinking about joining a metal detecting club then they will probably want you to be insured to

Thursday, 3 April 2014

There is no versus.

Deep Digger Dan is a popular detectorist. He has 47k odd subscribers and over 200 odd videos. A lot of people listen to what he says. He represent's for the want of a better word a lot of detectorists. On 1st April 2014 Dan had put out a video about detectorists vs archaeologists.

There are over 100 comments on the video. There is also discussion about the video on Detecting Wales and Paul Barford's blog.

From my experience I do not share Dan's point of view.

I don't believe there is any archaeologists vs detectorists war nor should there be. What there should be more of is debate regarding how metal detectorists can best work with archaeologists and vice versa with the realisation that detectorists and archaeologists are not completely separate homogeneous groups.

Where I disagree with Dan is that I think that if an archaeologist is going to spend years studying the best way to conserve history then they deserve the respect that their studies bring. Whilst they might not be right, just because they criticise some detectorist's practices doesn't mean they are all being 'snooty'.

Many detectorists spend half an hour buying a detector and then say they are 'conserving history'. Isn't an archaeologist entitled to wonder and question just how they think they are doing this?

What Dan does not discuss is the fact that, nighthawkers aside, detectorists are not the same. Many detectorists don't report treasure finds, many don't care about the plough line, many don't show their Finds Liaison Officer their finds over 300 years old, those who think an SSSI is some sort of sexually transmitted disease and the many don't give a stuff about anything that isn't silver or gold. It is right to question if these practices make for 'bad' detectorists only marginally below nighthawkers.

An archaeologist or indeed a fellow detectorist should therefore be able to show what metal detecting practices are not exactly 'conserving history' or that 'history hunting' with a metal detector might not actually be in the best interests of society without being accused of starting a war or breaking some weird unwritten tribal metal detecting code.

Just as an archaeologist can ask questions of detectorists practices then so to a detectorist is free to ask questions of an archaeologist and in my experience the responses to such questions have been fair and respectful. No war at all.

Many archaeologists will recognise that many of the recent hoards that have been found have been through metal detecting. Great this is just one point, it does not in my opinion justify the wholesale failure to record 1000's of other items as maybe society has lost more with these unrecorded items?

It is not a simple question of archaeologists vs detectorists as there is no us and them,I think there are just differently weighted perspectives on what constitutes the best way to conserve history. Perhaps the more we as metal detectorists learn the more weight our arguments might hold?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Metal Detecting for beginners - Treasure

Whilst in UK it is lawful to buy a metal detector and then with the landowners permission go out metal detecting there are laws for what you have to do with some of the stuff you find. The below applies to finds made in England and Wales. Northern Ireland and Scotland have there own rules


The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) gives the definition of treasure as

  • Any metallic object, other than a coin, provided that at least 10 per cent by weight of metal is precious metal (that is, gold or silver) and that it is at least 300 years old when found. If the object is of prehistoric date it will be Treasure provided any part of it is precious metal.
  • Any group of two or more metallic objects of any composition of prehistoric date that come from the same find (see below)
  • Two or more coins from the same find provided they are at least 300 years old when found and contain 10 per cent gold or silver (if the coins contain less than 10 per cent of gold or silver there must be at least ten of them). Only the following groups of coins will normally be regarded as coming from the same find: Hoards that have been deliberately hidden; Smaller groups of coins, such as the contents of purses, that may been dropped or lost; Votive or ritual deposits.
  • Any object, whatever it is made of, that is found in the same place as, or had previously been together with, another object that is Treasure.

Any object that would previously have been treasure trove, but does not fall within the specific categories given above. Only objects that are less than 300 years old, that are made substantially of gold or silver, that have been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery and whose owners or heirs are unknown will come into this category.

Note:An object or coin is part of the'same find' as another object or coin if it is found in the same place as, or had previously been together with, the other object. Finds may have become scattered since they were originally deposited in the ground.

If you think you've found the holy grail, a Saxon gold ring or medieval silver buckle then you can't just sell it as the item may be considered Treasure which in effect means the item or items are to historically important to belong to you and should belong to the nation. The UK is good enough to reward you for finding treasure (you can waive this), but if you don't follow the Law and guidance on finding treasure that reward might be reduced or taken away completely.

The Treasure Act 1996 sets out the Law regarding Treasure. The Code of Practice that goes with the Treasure Act sets gives the full in depth guidance as to what you should do if you find what you think might be Treasure. The PAS website has a shorter leaflet for what you should do if you find treasure.

The first and most important step is that any possible treasure find MUST be reported to the Local Coroner within 14 days, this is usually done by contacting your local Finds Liaison Officer (FLO), do that and you've made the first start in recording your possible treasure item. You could face a £5000 fine and / or 6 months imprisonment if you don't report a find.

If you are out digging and come across what might be a hoard, say a container full of silver coins, then you should stop digging and call your Local FLO. If they aren't in try the British Museum or a different FLO. Contact details can be found here or on the PAS leaflet. Why should you do this? Well because if you just dig the container out the ground the 'context' of the find will be lost. IE it may be harder to tell how it got there in the first place or who put it there and as such it would be better if your find is removed by trained archaeologists (don't worry you'll still be considered the finder even if they find other bits whilst they are digging).

Why should you care? Well if you don't you shouldn't be detecting but ultimately if you do just hoick it out then you may have your reward taken away from you for irresponsible.

If you've gone to the effort of buying a detector and securing permission for land to detect on then you can spend an hour learning what you should do if you find what might be treasure.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Update on the PAS Volunteer expansion lottery bid

Further to my post about the PAS's bid to expand its volunteer base here I have received a response from Claire at the PAS who is happy for me to publish her email which gives a bit more detail about the scheme.

We are currently developing a funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to widen the PAS volunteer base and reach new audiences in local areas, in the process increasing the PAS’ capacity to record finds. The PASt Explorers: finds recording in the local community project has passed the first round funding bid and we are now in the development phase, aiming to submit the second round bid in April and if we are successful, to start the project in November 2014.
The project aims to create community finds recording teams based around local FLOs. There will be one FLO who will act as lead FLO in a 'Regional Training Centre', covering several counties in an area, who will oversee activities. The teams will cover their local county and will help the local county FLO record finds and do other aspects of finds recording work, including outreach. The project will provide high standard training for the volunteers and we are currently developing this training programme. The idea is that the volunteer teams will eventually be able to look after themselves, guided by one person appointed as lead volunteer in the project but ultimately steered by the local and lead FLOs and also that the volunteers are equipped with new skills. As part of the project we will also be developing an online resource, the County Pages, which will be a part of the PAS website devoted to finds recording in the county by the volunteers. We will be including self-recorders and detecting club reps who wish to record their clubs finds as volunteers in the project, which means that they will also be able to access training and support in recording their finds.

As part of the development phase we are currently running a pilot project in Leicestershire to establish how the project could work practically and to assess what resources we will need longer term. The pilot project has been working very well, with the FLO and volunteers getting a lot out of the project.