Under the cover of night, criminals using sophisticated metal detectors are plundering historic sites on private or protected land across the UK. Known as nighthawks, the offenders remove antiquities and other objects of value, which are either sold on or kept in private collections.
In a case just this week at Basildon Crown Court, a 52-year-old man from Essex pleaded guilty to stealing Roman coins from a site at Castle Acre in Norfolk.
Mark Harrison, National Policing and Crime Advisor for English Heritage, says one of the biggest problems is that the nighthawks disturb and destroy archaeological sites and so stories and crucial knowledge about our past are lost forever. Read more.
Archaeologists digging at an Iron Age settlement are keeping the location a secret in a bid to stop people with metal detectors spoiling the site.
The settlement in Guernsey dates back 2,000 years and it is thought mostly pottery will be found.
Archaeologist Dr Phil de Jersey said keeping it a secret gave them a “head start”.
He added there had been a “growing problem” with people using metal detectors on land without permission.
The dig is expected to last up to three weeks.
Dr de Jersey said: “I wanted to be a bit cautious at the start. Read more.
ORANGE COUNTY, Va (WVIR) - People who use metal detectors now have a new way to practice their hobby. A new program is bringing people from around the country to central Virginia to help uncover part of the past. It’s the newest archaeological program at Montpelier.
The metal detector specialists and hobbyists get to stay at Montpelier as part of the program. Their days start with an archaeology lesson where they learn how finds are conserved, cataloged, and curated. Then they load up the trucks and head out to the woods to try to find some of the historic sites on the 2,700 acres of Montpelier property.
During the program, the volunteers with metal detectors will search a 200-acre area for what’s believed to be one acre of historic finds - such a slave quarters, mills, or homes. Read more.
Amateurs using metal detectors have discovered a trove of Roman artifacts, including a bust possibly depicting a male lover of a Roman emperor, a silver and gold brooch of a leaping dolphin and a penis-shaped animal bone.
The wide array of art, found across Britain, dates back about 1,600 to 2,000 years, when the Romans ruled the island.
This art is among almost 25,000 Roman artifacts (the bulk of them coins) reported in England and Wales in 2011. They were documented as part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and published recently in the journal Britannia. Read more.
Two metal detector enthusiasts have uncovered Europe’s largest hoard of Celtic coins worth up to £10 million - after searching for more than 30 years.
Determined Reg Mead and Richard Miles spent decades searching a field in Jersey after hearing rumours that a farmer had discovered silver coins while working on his land.
They eventually struck gold and uncovered between 30,000 and 50,000 coins, which date from the 1st Century BC and have lain buried for 2,000 years.
The Celtic silver and gold coins were entombed under a hedge in a large mound of clay, weighing three quarters of a ton and measuring 140 x 80 x 20cm.
Neil Mahrer, Conservator for Jersey Heritage Museum who helped to excavate the hoard, has labelled the discovery as the biggest of its kind.
He said: “This is the biggest Celtic coin hoard ever found which is tremendously exciting.” Read more.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Legislation that would have allowed treasure hunters to scour state parks and historical sites with metal detectors hit a roadblock Thursday in the Kentucky legislature.
Tourism Development Committee Chairwoman Leslie Combs refused to call for a vote, essentially quashing the measure with only days remaining in the legislative session.
Preservationists had raised concerns that allowing treasure hunters to comb public land with metal detectors could allow artifacts that belong to the people of Kentucky to fall into private collections or be sold for cash.
Nancy Ross-Stallings, a professional archeologist, was among a growing chorus of critics who called on lawmakers to oppose the proposal to keep people with metal detectors from damaging historical sites. Read more.
Gavin Bowen and Gary Barker found the 11 coins, dating back to 1553, while using their detectors in Spixworth.
A treasure trove inquest was conducted this week by Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong, who read from a report by Dr Adrian Marsden, of the British Museum.
Mr Armstrong said: “The coins were found while searching with metal detectors in the months up to September 2009.
“At this point it was realised that the coins could have been a case of treasure.”
He added that the coins were believed to be a group, originally held in a purse or container, “which were lost over time and scattered as a result of farming activity”.
The find was defined as treasure, meaning it belongs to the Crown. The discovery is one of many in the region, which has seen a record number of archaeological finds recently.
At the inquest, Mr Armstrong also oversaw two other finds classified as treasure. Part of an ancient horse harness dating back to 1BC was discovered this April in Shipdam, near East Dereham, as a result of metal detecting on the part of Stephen Ottaway. Read more.