Historic England has noted that metal-detectorists have been active on part of the scheduled Roman site at Corbridge in Northumberland.
Do we need to change the language used to describe such activity? Do archaeologists need to start talking about the intellectual implications of such illegal activity? What information is being lost from the finite archaeological record?
Part of Hadrian’s Wall at Brunton Turret has been damaged by metal-detectorists “‘Nighthawk’ metal detectorists damage Hadrian’s Wall“, BBC News 20 June 2018). Some 50 holes have been noted around this well-preserved section of the Roman frontier. This raises questions about how internationally significant heritage assets can be protected for future generations. Equally important is the question, how can the archaeological and heritage communities make it clear that such activity cannot be accepted?
Some 450 delegates attended a conference at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds to hear about the results of the survey and excavations (2008-14) at the vicus regius of Rendlesham in Suffolk. One of the themes explored was the relationship between this apparent elite site on the Deben with the ship-burial site at Sutton Hoo. A further discussion was on the place of the former Saxon Shore fort at Walton Castle (near Felixstowe).
Sir Michael Bunbury, The landowner’s perspective
Faye Minter, How Rendlesham has been investigated
Jude Plouviez, Results: the Roman period
Christopher Scull, Results: the Anglo-Saxon period
Andrew Woods, Interpreting the early medieval coins
Charlotte Scull, Beasts and feasts: the animal resources
Kelly Kilpatrick, The place-names of a royal Anglo-Saxon landscape: a toponymic survey of Rendlesham and the Deben valley
Tom Williamson, Rendlesham in context: the changing geographies of early medieval England
Andrew Rogerson, Not always a backwater, the northern half of the East Anglian Kingdom in the 5th-9th centuries
Christopher Scull, Suffolk, East Anglia and the North Sea: the importance of Rendelsham in the 5th to 8th centuries AD
Martin Carver chaired the final session and emphasised the international significance of the discoveries. Christopher Scull outlined plans for publication (including an article in Antiquity) and future grant applications.
The conference was organised by Suffolk County Council with support from the Sutton Hoo Society, Council for British Archaeology East, and University of Suffolk.
The conference was sponsored by Suffolk Archaeology, Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, Suffolk County Council, British Sugar and the National Trust.
In 2010 I was invited to write a forum piece for the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology on the Portable Antiquities Scheme [online]. My paper raised a number of issues including under-reporting, damage to the archaeological record, and a reflection on the scale of removal of antiquities. There were several invited responses, including one from Paul Barford who will be presenting a paper at the April Heritage Seminar. Barford has raised a number of concerns about the long-term impact of metal-detecting on the archaeological record. The seminar will, I am sure, debate the issue and while I suspect that not all will agree with Barford, there will be some constructive dialogue.