Artifact Erosion Counter…Fact or Fiction?

John Howland just submitted a lengthy update to the Malamute Saloon, and I would urge all of you to read it.  As I’m sure you know both John and I  have been taken to task many times by two archaeological blogs, one in the UK, one in Warsaw, and they both use something called the Artifact Erosion  Counter (which they invented) to discredit the treasure hunter in the UK, claiming most do not report their finds to the PAS.  I think you will find  John’s post informative, and to my mind, accurate. Hope you will take the time to read it, and also to share your thoughts and comments here.

To read John’s update click on the Malamute Saloon link above and scroll down to today’s date!



Thanks again to Eddy Current for the following articles. If you are on Facebook be sure to look up his page and subscribe. Always, always
great information there.

Ring Unearthed in   York Field May Have Been Royal

Treasure Hunter Homes in on Roman Treasure and Detects Site of An Ancient House



Filed under Metal Detecting

28 responses to “Artifact Erosion Counter…Fact or Fiction?

  1. bill from lachine

    Well written article on the ficticious counter…..just for a lark maybe your detecting brethen should flood them with a bunch of greenie coppers and see what the response would be…lol

    Regards + HH


    • Well that just might confuse them Bill…don’t want to make it any worse.

    • John H

      Tut, tut, Bill! I wouldn’t flood them with greenies, that would be most unprofessional…I find it hard to imagine you’d think me capable of such a thing! Flood them with raw sewage to make them feel at home, perhaps!

  2. Big Tony from Bayonne!

    Interesting insight from folks whose salaries are paid by the tax payers.
    They say that 8,000 detectorists in England and Wales find a daily total of 447 artifacts that they keep for themselves. Then they give a year’s total of 63, 021. Wow, hard to believe that folks go detecting every day of the year and are always finding very old items. Amazing to say the least.
    These numbers indicate that each of the 8,000 detectorists find about 8 gold or rare or bronze coins per year. Then they have multiplied that by several years to an astounding eleven and a half million coins since 1975.
    Wow, these folks must have quit their day jobs!
    This is not reality at all. Most folks who go out metal detecting are in it for fun and enjoyment. They want to find old gold coins and the like but truth be told most people do not know how to find gold rings let alone gold artifacts.
    I would like to know what libation the author was using at the time of inception?

  3. Robbie

    It is a shame that a knowledgeable accredited archaeologist ( in his own words)as the gentleman from Wales professes to be,uses a factless imagionary item as the Artifact Erosion Counter…. to provide “facts” about metal detectorists and their alleged “illegal” activities———–perhaps all the baseless unfounded attacks on metal detectorists required him to resort to using other tactics to try and discredit detecting…………

    • Maybe we could come up with an Archaeological BS Counter? On second thought that wouldn’t work. We would have to hire too many people to keep track.

  4. Phil

    Hard to believe that those so called “educated archys” really believe the AEC is valid!! As a researcher myself I can honestly say if I tried to introduce something with the lack of empirical evidence that their counter is based on, I would be immediately discredited. They are obviously using cheap drugs! They are simply clutching at straws albeit thin ones. I’m sure if their AEC was sent to university professors to peruse with the arguments they currently use to validate the counter, they would be shocked at the negative responses. C’mon archys, shit or get off the pot! Use credible verifiable data to back your claims, or offer some compromise that will bring us all to the same end goal…the discovery and preservation of artifacts. We are willing to have intelligent dialogue with you, but not when you offer such bullshit as fact (or almost fact).

    • Thanks for taking the time to respond Phil….couldn’t agree more.

    • John H

      Succinctly put. I like the bit about using ‘credible verifiable data’ ….Jeez, this is Heritage Action we are talking about, and we’ve more chance of them doing that, than Lord Nelson has of getting his eye back or being able to scratch his arse with his right hand.
      Great stuff mate!
      John H

  5. bill from lachine

    Are there any reliable statistics as to the number of artifacts recovered, recorded, etc….by the archeological community since the PAS was enacted in 1996 versus the 800,000 or so voluntarily submitted by the detectorist community during that time frame.

    As they say the proof is in the pudding….lol.

    Regards + HH


    • Hi Bill
      Er…how can there be reliable statistics when the now-discredited Artefact Erosion Counter is a sample of archaeological precision? The CBA backed the long-shot and it fell at the first fence. Remember too, the PAS is getting government backing while archaeology ain’t! Small wonder they are getting a bit sniffy!
      John (D/D)

  6. Jessie Thompson

    Just maybe a class action liable lawsuit against them for their blatant lies against us as hobbiest would put them in their places

  7. Robbie

    For them to make up an imagionary counter with made up numbers when most in that field strive to be accurate with factual data just shows that these two “experts” don’t have a clue as to what they are doing.

    • Apparently Robbie they work hard at supporting their bias toward anyone using a metal detector. Suspect they thought no one would give it a second thought and take it at face value.

  8. Lisa

    Hi John…I first must admit I have never heard of this Artifact Erosion Counter. So being the good little researcher that I am, I first read their article looking for the justification you surly must have missed. I read, read, and re-read. And I am stumped, shocked, and angered. (At them, not you) Science takes a shot in the face on a daily basis simply due to the nature of the discipline. It is based on questions and assumptions. However, true science, follows the protocol of a process that is strictly adhered to in order to provide credibility to the discipline. We MUST follow the scientific method across the board!

    1. Question…how many unreported artifacts do detectorist take a year?

    2. Do the background research….any statistics anywhere else for comparison? what methods were used to collect the data? Sample size? Any bias in the data collection?

    3. Construct a hypothesis…well, based on X I think Y must be an accurate number.

    4. Test the hypothesis…(I am at a quandary here as I cannot think of a reasonable scientific method to use in the “test”…maybe because I am just tired?)….The test must be “fair”. In other words, all variables must remain the same throughout with changes occurring with only one variable at a time.

    5. Analyze and draw the conclusion…Based on these FACTS, the data shows that detectorists take Y amount of unreported artifacts a year.

    6. Report your findings

    They conducted the first step, of course. We can all ask a question. Their research is based on asking a sample and using the answers in a logarithm to draw a conclusion. Many problems occur right here, which as any scientist knows, makes the rest of the study flawed.

    Where did they obtain their data? From a very small sample size. Say what they will about this, small sample sizes lead to very inaccurate responses. eg…I ask 100 people if they like metal detectors…40 say no..OMG, 40% of people don’t like metal detectors. Who are these people? Are they archaeologists, doctors, historians, children? Now I ask 1000 people. Lets say 100 say no…we are now down to 10%.

    I have been involved personally on over 10 excavations. I have personally seen evidence of “looting” at two sites. So 20% of sites are looted? What about the archaeologist that has been at 100 excavations and experienced the same two incidences? 2%? See how that works? We can “make” numbers seem bloated simply by using very small sample sizes. I also see no evidence of background research except assumptions.

    There is a table with no references attached (Anyone can make a table in Excel or SPSS and call it accurate). There is a link to a study that also does not list any supporting evidence. And there is a question posed, which makes it seem as though a question of such magnitude must indicate fact. They did construct a hypothesis, however as mentioned before, it is based on flawed evidence so it is moot. The testing involved a logarithm and assumptions, which is followed by their conclusion.

    The reporting of the findings is irresponsible. Credibility to any report relies on accuracy and transparency in the findings, most of which is missing here. That all being said, I cannot assume that there is, or is not, a problem of this magnitude. Stating that as fact would make me no better than what Heritage Action has reported.

    Science provides us with valuable tools for finding theories. The value of these theories lies in the use of proper methodology. Without this we have nothing but an assumption. And we all know what an assumption can do!

    • Thanks Lisa for your reply, and for your honest assessment. It’s nice to know that there are few archaeologists who can look at things objectively and without any pre-conceived bias. I don’t doubt there are detetorists who do not report their finds….just that these numbers or percentages are extremely skewed to validate someone’s personal agenda.

  9. Phil

    Lisa: You are right on the mark. As a fellow researcher I thought of the same things but wasn’t as succinct as you in my reply. Perhaps if “someone” in the archy field were to take these 2 yahoos to task, it would help reduce the damage that archeology will take based on their model.

  10. Lisa

    Dick…TY. and, EVERY archaeologists out there should be conducting their research, any research, objectively and without per-conceived biases. My goodness, every class we take this is rightfully drummed into our heads. It is not an easy concept (especially in ethnology) but it cannot be compromised, or as many have stated, you discredit anything and everything you have ever stated.

  11. Lisa

    Phil. TY! ( I loved your post!) And agreed. It makes our entire discipline, and any research agenda, look like bafoons when this kind of recklessness is used as a backdrop for evidence. Imagine if medicine used this kind if empirical evidence to support a cure for a disease? Maybe I will make a comment to them. hmmmmm

  12. bill from lachine

    Just a bit of background info. The PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) has criteria for which types of metals or objects are required to be declared as well as an age factor.

    That said anything metallic that doesn’t fall under that criteria is exempt and only declared on a voluntary basic…..if all the detectorists in the UK were to flood the system with their bits and bites of irrelevant finds the entire system would shortly grind to a halt for lack of staff/time to process.

    The sites most often hunted are farmers fields and they turn up loads of bullets, casings, common civilian buttons and other odds and ends of very little historical interest other than to the detectorist community.

    I thought the above would help put the whole issue in context somewhat.

    Regards + HH


    • Lisa

      Bill… In a factual archaeologists world, nothing is exempt from context. It is noted on the forms along with any other artifact found. It may be deemed irrelevant at some point, however it is still noted just in case. (I am not speaking of modern surface objects here). So if we eliminate the objects that fall into PAS criteria, we are in fact eliminating data.

      Now this in and of itself may or may not be a problem depending on the working hypothesis. eg. I want to re-create a battlefield using archaeological evidence, thus bullet casings would be relevant to my theory. However if you are going to attempt a theory, which they attempted to do with this “study”, and you are eliminating variables, then in essence you have eliminated data. Again, maybe not a problem unless you choose not to reveal such a fact and account for it in your study. That actually adds to the complexity and problems with the issues. Would you agree?

      And TY for the additional info! It tends to back up what we have all been saying. This study is flawed at best.

      • bill from lachine

        A bit more info contextually…..pretty much all of the known historical sites in the UK are off limits to the detectorists and there’s probably enough protected sites to keep the archeological community busy for hundreds of years.

        The sites that detectorist hunt are plowed fields and they are saving artifacts from the ravages of the plow, fertilizer and erosion…..better to save the PAS designated artifacts from destruction… or out of context for posterity than to lose them forever….at least that’s my view and that of many other detectorists.

        The 800,000 or so declared artifacts under the PAS would either have been destroyed or never have seen the light of day otherwise to be shared with the general public.

        Regards + HH


  13. John H

    Hello Lisa:
    Have just poured a large Scotch in your honour. I too have many friends in archaeology and I’m very sad that they will be getting a backlash because of these two clowns (I’ve toned that description down) and for CBA Director, Mike Heyworth’s support for such flawed research. On the other hand, I’m quite pleased that he has …..!

    John H

    • Lisa

      I do have to apologize as I royally messed up. I mistakenly used the noun logarithm when I should have been using the noun algorithm. That was unprofessional and an inadvertent slip. I really do know the difference, however, you wouldn’t know it from my post. My BAD! However, my use of capitalization of the word “science” was indeed intentional. The meaning behind the use, however, was “whoosh”. (Right over the head).

  14. Lisa


  15. For those of you who don’t know who Lisa is, it’s Lisa Hume MacIntyre, and her bio can be found on my post of March 17th. Thanks for your professional expertise Lisa…appreciate it.

  16. Dave

    I will admit back in the seventies few people incl myself didn’t declare finds due to been riped off by the realm, there are many instances on record just put it in the search engine … UK Metal detectorists getting raw end of the deal.
    Things have changed now we are in constant contact with PAS and other relevant authority’s.
    You still get the moon lighters going on land without permission but that has nothing to do with us at all, its a crime for the police to sort out.
    Unless of course you want to start blaming all the archeologist’s for a Team” that often does damage to finds by going in with bulldozers instead of spades and trowels because of there dead line.
    O yes seen it with my own eyes many times and sure most of you have, so when the foot is in the other boot its a different story.
    Really hope that ever who wrote that fiction gets in contact with me so I can voice my opinion to them, people like that make me angry because there tunnel visioned and tuned to there own little box and cant see out of it.
    Dave UK .

    • Thanks Dave for the input, and for taking the time to respond… I agree it’s very easy to use a broad brush when
      expressing your opinion or perhaps bias. Just it difficult when people have to go through the trouble to create
      graph’s based on guess work.

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