2. Manx Archaeological Objects (Portable Antiquities)

Most of the roles, as well as the governance of MNH, are laid out in the Manx Museum and National Trust Act 1959 (MMNTA 1959). There are a number of provisions directly relating to finds of antiquities—referred to as archaeological objects. The definition of this is, in itself, interesting:

'... any chattel including ancient human and animal remains, whether in a manufactured or partly manufactured or unmanufactured state which by reason of the archaeological interest attaching thereto, or of its association with any Manx historical event or person, has a value substantially greater than its intrinsic (including artistic) value'. Manx Museum and National Trust Act 1959 Section 2 (1).

(Please note: This applies to terrestrial artefacts only—underwater finds below the high-water mark are subject to the Isle of Man Wreck and Salvage (Ships and Aircraft) Act 1979 and reported to the Isle of Man Receiver of Wreck.)

Aside from being concerned only with antiquities having a Manx connection, this definition also suggests that human remains can be classed as archaeological objects. Certainly, the policies of the Ministry of Justice surrounding human remains in archaeology that were of such concern to the archaeological profession in England and Wales from 2008 were not applicable to the Isle of Man. A subject for another article, perhaps, but it is worth noting that because of the above definition, everything that relates to archaeological objects on the Isle of Man can also be applied to ancient human remains.

The MMNTA 1959 also details a number of distinct provisions for the protection of archaeological objects (there are also separate requirements for ancient monuments that are outwith the scope of this article). Firstly, there is a legal requirement to report the discovery of any archaeological object within 14 days of its discovery to allow MNH to record the find. Bearing in mind the general definition of 'archaeological object', that means everything archaeological. This covers chance finds and also the material uncovered during any archaeological excavations. Secondly, there are licence requirements for export from the Isle of Man, to the UK and elsewhere, as well as for any alteration and/or destruction of archaeological objects. This has implications for loans and research—potentially any type of physical intervention to an object will require alteration or destruction licensing, including surface preparation for techniques such as X-ray fluorescence analysis. There are also restrictions in place on metal detecting in certain areas:

'If a person uses a metal detector in a protected area without the written consent of the Trust he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ₤1,000.' Manx Museum and National Trust Act 1959 Section 21A (1).

With the above measures in place, the question may be asked: does a place as small as the Isle of Man have enough archaeological objects to warrant such protection?


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