Metal-detecting is a valid method for locating archaeological artefacts, and sometimes sites. In the past its reputation has, unfortunately, been tarnished by a few detectorists ignoring the code of conduct. Thankfully, this is now passing as more and more finds are reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Finds Liaison Officers often attend metal-detecting rallies and club meetings to identify and record artefacts and this information is passed on to Historic Environment Records so that the information can be taken into account in planning advice and research and sensitive sites protected.
Metal-detecting is sometimes practised on archaeological excavations in order to alert the excavators to any upcoming metal artefacts that may need special care or to find metallic objects that have been overlooked and ended up on the spoil-heap.
Going the extra mile
Responsible metal-detecting includes getting permission from the landowner first, not detecting on protected sites such as Scheduled Ancient Monuments and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, detecting only in the topsoil and reporting finds to the relevant Finds Liaison Officer. Click on the link to the Portable Antiquities Scheme website above or download the leaflet attached to this page for details of the Treasure Act and what kind of artefacts you are legally obliged to report and more advice. There is also national guidance on responsible metal-detecting developed by the Council for British Archaeology and the National Metal-Detecting Council that can be found on the Council for British Archaeology's website. Perhaps you could join a club; see the National Metal-Detecting Council's website for a list of clubs in your area.
If your discovery looks like an important find such as a hoard or it is clear that you have opened an archaeological context rather than just found something loose in the topsoil you should contact the Finds Liaison Officer and the County Archaeologist who will assess the find and arrange for proper archaeological recording, if appropriate.
Artefacts on their own are less useful to archaeology than those where the precise location of its discovery is recorded. If they are excavated from a reliable context, associated with other artefacts and within archaeological features such as pits and ditches, then the artefact can tell us a lot more than if found alone. More can be deduced about what they were used for, why and how they were deposited and what changes might have happened since they were buried.
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