RESCUE have written to the Dr Roger Bland of the Portable Antiquities Scheme to express our alarm at the well-substantiated rumours that are circulating regarding the participation of the British Museum in the production of a television series for ITV entitled ‘Britain’s Secret Treasures’ which will take as its focus the activities of artefact hunters and metal detector users.
RESCUE has grave concerns that the apparent endorsement of this destructive activity by a body such as the British Museum will do nothing to lessen its impact on our buried archaeological heritage and will in all probability encourage more people to purchase a metal detector and set out to recover ‘buried treasure’ leading to the an increased level of damage to archaeological sites, scheduled and unscheduled, known and unknown.
There is ample evidence of the damage done to archaeological sites by artefact hunters operating both with and without the consent of landowners and there is also good evidence that sites under excavation are being targeted by such individuals in their quest for saleable objects. Even when the object is not a ‘fast buck’ obtained through the agency of on-line auction sites or the less than reputable end of the antiquities trade, the accumulation of private collections of objects ripped from their archaeological context is of little or no value in archaeological terms. We are, frankly, astonished, that the British Museum is prepared to lend its considerable weight to the furtherance of activities of archaic concept and damaging to the practice of modern archaeology. We urge the British Museum to break off negotiations with the television production company involved and to issue a strong condemnation of the practice of artefact hunting at the earliest opportunity.