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5.2 Hobbyist metal detecting activity as an impact on battlefield archaeology

Mapping the extent of metal detecting activity and assessing the volume of unrecorded material removed from sites of conflict is vital in forming an accurate impression of the current state of preservation of battlefield heritage and, importantly, identifying sites potentially at risk. Gathering this evidence is only the first step, as the key lies in our ability to understand the nature of this impact, as well as the motivations that drive it. Only then can appropriate and durable heritage management strategies be put in place to reduce the negative impact of hobbyist metal detecting activity.

The first question to ask is what do we consider to be negatively impacting metal detecting activity? During the course of her research the author has identified four key attributes observed within hobbyist metal detecting that can have a negative effect on battlefield heritage. These are: a lack of awareness or recognition of the significance of artefact scatters and the spatial relationships that define them; not recognising certain artefacts as potential signatures of conflict; deliberate searching, i.e. relic hunting for battle-related artefacts, including rallies; and when battle-related material is considered as background noise in the search for objects of more 'intrinsic value'. So as not to create an artificial impression of the nature of these attributes, examples from three case studies will be used to illustrate these points; the battles of Sedgemoor (1685) in Somerset, Prestonpans (1745), East Lothian, and Philiphaugh (1645), Scottish Borders.


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