Monday, February 16, 2009

Illegal Metal Detecting in Britain and the World

Today the nighthawking survey in Britain is released and already there have been several news reports. Although the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) in the Britain has been successful in deterring some irresponsible metal detecting, the media reports demonstrate that illegal metal detecting persists in that country. Ill-gotten finds are typically sought after to supply dealers and collectors who are not so concerned about due diligence and where material is coming from. The PAS is a wonderful scheme, but this shows that, as long as some collectors and dealers do not really value its goals or mission, and do not conduct due diligence, its real effectiveness is minimized.

We should also keep in mind that in other nations, illegal metal detecting is even more rampant and damaging, as is the case in Bulgaria and other Balkan nations which are the primary suppliers for the indiscriminate trade in portable antiquities (ancient coins, fibulae, buckles, weapons, and other small metal finds).

Nighthawks and illegal metal detectorists around the world largely supply the voracious and unquestioning market, not those operating ethically within the Britain's PAS scheme.

For some news reports on nighthawking in Britain visit: D.W.J. Gill, "From an Illicit Hobby to a Semi-Professional Criminal Industry," Looting Matters (16 Feb. 2009).

For some recent discussions here on Numismatics and Archaeology about looting in Bulgaria and the Balkans and its relationship to the indiscriminate trade in ancient coins and antiquities see:

The lecture, "The Trade in Ancient Coins in the USA: Scale and Structure" also addresses Bulgarian and Balkan sources.