Biting the bullet: the role of hobbyist metal detecting within battlefield archaeology

Natasha Ferguson

Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, University of Glasgow

Cite this as: N. Ferguson 2013 'Biting the bullet: the role of hobbyist metal detecting within battlefield archaeology', Internet Archaeology 33. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.33.3

Summary

In the UK battlefields are becoming more frequently associated with the label 'heritage at risk'. As the concept of battlefield and conflict archaeology has evolved, so too has the recognition that battlefields are dynamic, yet fragile, archaeological landscapes in need of protection. The tangible evidence of battle is primarily identified by distributions of artefacts held within the topsoil, such as lead projectiles, weapon fragments or buttons torn from clothing; debris strewn in the heat of battle. Much of the battlefield therefore remains as a faint footprint and, where it survives, may provide valuable information, if recorded accurately.

The unrecorded removal of artefacts from battlefields and other sites of conflict is a key issue in the management and conservation of this unique archaeological heritage. With a particular focus on current doctoral research, this paper aims to address the role of metal detecting in the UK as an important factor in this equation, having both a positive and negative impact on battlefield archaeology. Furthermore it will also consider the nature of metal detecting on UK battlefields; the perceived value of battle-related artefacts; the quality of information available for recording material from such sites, and what may co-operatively be achieved.

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