7. Conclusion

In the contribution made by hobbyist metal detectorists we cannot underestimate the importance of the supporting role played by those within the heritage sector to encourage the recording and reporting their finds. However, although the discovery of previously unknown sites may be regarded as a contribution, we cannot afford to be complacent when dealing with the issue of irresponsible metal detecting activity on battlefield sites. As demonstrated by activity on sites such as Philiphaugh and Sedgemoor, the indiscriminate removal of artefacts has caused irreparable damage to the archaeological fabric of these battlefields; sites we consider to be of national importance. The scale of the adverse effects of metal detecting activity on registered battlefields across the UK not only undermines their status as sites of historical and archaeological importance but also sends a mixed message to the metal detecting community on how we should value and protect this heritage. Drawing from the evidence presented here I feel there is enough weight behind the argument to restrict metal detecting activity on battlefields listed within the English Heritage Register for Battlefields and the Historic Scotland Inventory of Battlefields. An outright ban may represent a draconian measure; however, some form of licensing system, as proposed by Foard within his doctoral thesis (Foard 2008), is required. A system similar to the granting of consent for investigations on Scheduled Monuments, which requires application, rigorous research aims and subsequent reporting of results, would be effective. This system would at the very least ensure accurate recording and reporting of all recovered material, as well as the ability to monitor the level of activity on such sites. Although registered battlefields may be afforded some protection, how may we begin to protect the thousands of other sites of conflict that pepper the British Isles? As has been demonstrated at Philiphaugh, impacting activity does not need to be an endemic feature of hobbyist metal detecting. Refusing to work with metal detectorists will accomplish little, nor will dividing them into neat categories of good and bad—contributor versus destructive treasure hunter. Changing attitudes and practices through collaborative work is a far more rewarding and durable process and should be regarded as an opportunity to inform and engage with metal detectorists to encourage a greater level of understanding of the fragile nature of battlefields as archaeological sites. I believe this strategy represents the most enduring path to ensure the survival of battlefield heritage.


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