Guess Who Came Out of His Burrow?

Well, as I mentioned in my post of April 7th, this blog’s favorite fan, Paul Barford, was the guest speaker Wednesday, at University Campus Suffolk,  Ipswich, UK.  From all accounts the talk was typical Barford BS, as in how detectorists are destroying history, how his Artifact Erosion Counter  proves it, and how, if he had his way, the pastime would be strictly licensed, among other things.

The following in-person account of his talk was sent to me by a friend in the UK, and was posted on a forum there…..



Well, TBH…..anyone expecting anything new would have been disappointed. It was billed as a seminar, with a Powerpoint presentation by his nibs that should have  taken 40 minutes, followed by a similar amount of time allotted to debate. However, due to repeated IT failures with the projector, the debating period was much truncated,  culminating in a move to another auditorium, which was a great shame because that was by far the most interesting part of the afternoon.

Clive, Tom and I represented the ‘unwashed artefact hunters & collectors’ and East Anglian Archaeology was well represented by Jude Plouviez, Robert Rose etc and by  Helen Geake. About 20 people attended.

I videoed the presentation up to a point just prior to the final failure of the projector, but to be honest, there wasn’t much new. It was all very statistic-based,  pretty unscientific and drew heavily on the magical Barford/Swift artefact counter that IMO is about as pie in the sky as it gets. Although it took PB about 10 minutes  to mention Metal Detectorists – it was largely all about us of course…..and the picture he paints of hobby Metal Detecting is not a pretty one.

He portrays us as a group of scheming, self-centred ‘artefact hunters’ who care little for the Archaeological Context of our finds and far more for the value of  the coin/artefact itself – monetary or otherwise. NOTHING was mentioned in the presentation of any of the outstanding contributions made by the hobby to wider archaeology,  the endless volunteering, or the alturistic nature of many of us. He refuted David Lammy’s quote that Hobbyists are the ‘unsung heroes of the UK’s Heritage.’ Surprise,  surprise. Hobbyist metal detecting was always going to be a compromise as far as the Archaeological Establishment was concerned, but in BarfordWorld, compromise is very  much a dirty word.

After the presentation, during open debate, he was asked how he would address some of the the concerns he had raised. And it will come as little surprise to many here  that he advocated:

  • 1. Strict licensing of the hobby.
  • 2. Legislation that re-defines ‘Treasure’.
  • 3. An extension in the scope and scale of the Scheduling of sites where significant finds have been made.

The Crosby-Garrett Helmet was mentioned more than once – and here I did have some sympathy for his argument, until he destroyed it with some fatuous argument  regarding detectorists in Poland. His argument was that Polish (licensed) detectorists (there are a growing number of them), are largely concerned with researching,  detecting and recording WW2 sites.

He was asked what would happen when one of these Polish detectorists stumbled accross finds of a more ancient nature. He intimated that these finders would all be  inclined to report these finds – and when they did, that no restrictions would then be placed upon them, but that more stringent recording criteria might be imposed.  IMO and with experience of the British model, what is more likely to happen is that the more ancient find is likely to go unrecorded, since it would be highly likely   to jeopardize further access to the site. It’s happened here many times. It might be very interesting to discern just how much illegal metal detecting is conducted on  Archaeological Sites in Europe where blanket licensing is enforced, but I expect PB’s magical artefact counter might just blow a fuse!

I said the most interesting part of the seminar was the public debate and I have to say that I was very pleased with the questions posed by Plouviez, Geake and Rose.  They raised some sound points and while it stopped short of endorsement, it seemed clear to me that the PAS model of dealing with hobbyist detecting is preferable among  them to the majority of mainland European models. That at least is something?! Jude Plouviez mentioned that of all the sites in Suffolk listed on the HER, c. 10% were down  to the efforts of Hobbyist Metal Detecting alone. One day, she might forgive me for quoting her! But I think the Suffolk statistics are probably not that extraordinary.

Neither of course, is the wider contribution that hobbyists continue to make to our Heritage, which went completely unacknowledged by PB. In any future debate, I would  like to see a greater number of Establishment experts invited – Martin Allen from the EMC perhaps, experts from the field of Iron Age coinage and certainly the likes of  Rod Blunt and other Big Guns from detectorist ranks, to name but a few. 40 minutes was not long enough for a proper debate, but what was clear from today is that according  to PB, it’s very much business as usual. Disappointing.


Apparently the audience was mainly of the archaeological camp (nothing new there), and the question and answer part of the program, all too short. While Mr. Barford  finally ventured out into the daylight, allowing all to see the face behind the vitriol, I wondered what miracle caused this abrupt turn about. Is he turning over a new  leaf? Could it be that he was paid very handsomely for showing up? Or could it simply be a Barford ego trip? My money is on the latter.

In case you think I am the only one who finds Mr. Barford to be a distasteful individual, check out the comments of April 2nd and April 7th on the   Cultural Property Observer blog.  If you are interested, here is the  NPR Story referenced….

Time will tell what this “coming out” means, but I know for sure it will not alter Paul Barford’s dislike for those of us who enjoy this pastime.



Well apparently there are brainwaves traveling across the pond because Bubba want’s to talk about the  aformentioned Mr. Barford as well.  To read John Howland’s take on  things simply click on the Malamute Saloon link above and scroll down to today’s date!



Thanks again to Eddy Current (UK) for the following articles. If you are on Facebook be sure to type his name in the search area, then “like” his page.  Eddy  is current on all things detecting, and will keep you up-to-date on all the important issues and happenings….

Replica Seal Is Presented

Man Ready to Claim Treasure Found in a Book

Broighter Hoard Part of Town’s  Celebration



Filed under Metal Detecting

7 responses to “Guess Who Came Out of His Burrow?

  1. Oh..he ain’t really after us…here’s a guy with all the hallmarks with an eye to the top job….this is going to be fun to watch! I reckon old PB’s boobed again, unless of course David Gill is leaving his post, or dare I suggest, Mike Heyworth.

  2. Big Tony from Bayonne!

    This again is very one sided. Yes coin shooters look for coins and like them – talk about them – get others interested in history, but Archaeologists dig up more than coins. They dig up your ancestors and bring them to a basement for God knows how long before the authorities have to tell them to please rebury the remains.

    I am like others, amazed at seeing mummies in museums but I can’t help but wonder – why are we allowing the display of the deceased. As we become more sensitive to the human cause the less I want to see folks dig up dead bodies! We must ban together and protest what Archaeologists are doing to these unfortunate souls who cannot defend themselves.

    • Big Tony, already worried about them digging up dead bodies. Jeezus, only in New Jersey!! Oh, and no need to capitalize archaeologist. At least not here.

      • Big Tony from Bayonne!

        Dick, you have to give me some respect. I respect the dead and would never dig them up but archaeoligists do it all of the time and they get paid for doing it.

      • Hey Tony, if there’s anybody I respect it’s you man. You are right. I think they like digging up old bodies because none of the relatives are still living. They call it preserving history, we call it digging up the evidence.

  3. bill from lachine


    Thanks for the update…..The question begs to be asked….if detectorists don’t save finds in plowed fields from the ravages of the plow is it better to let them get destroyed or save them for posterity.

    Due to generations of plowing any finds are out of context anyway and not located in the strata they should be from an archeological point of view.

    Regards + HH


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