Archaeologists, concerned citizens and their families are harassed and threatened by metal detectorists in the UK

Violence against cultural heritage workers, and law enforcement agents who protect cultural property, is a grimly recognised problem in insecure places. And it is at its worst extreme in places such as Syria and Iraq. But it is not only a problem in those places. Threatening (and endangering) behaviour is a feature of the heritage “debate” in secure societies as well.

Cultural heritage-concerned citizen Nigel Swift has documented threats from metal detectorists – and attempts by other people in the antiquities trade to help to realise those threats. Threat-makers include U.K.-based detectorist(?) Steve Taylor. The wilfully on-off facilitators include U.K.-based detectorist John Howland, U.S.-based detectorist Dick Stout and Canada-based numismatist John Hooker. (Swift and archaeologist Paul Barford have recorded threats elsewhere, too, but obviously keyword searches find every mention of threats to cultural heritage.)

Barford, another target of the threats, notes that John Hooker is currently a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. Such behaviour is surely a violation of the Society’s values. It certainly does not ‘promote the honour… of the Society’.

British police have taken these violent attempts at censorship seriously. They have warned the threat-makers. So, I believe that it is reasonable and important for others to recognise the intimidation as intimidation.

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