Following the metal detectorists

I read this morning that metal detector enthusiast, James Mather, has found a haul of 186 silver coins from 860 AD which will, historians tell us, re-write English history from around that period.  The find is already beginning to restore the reputation of King  Ceolwulf II of Mercia [central England] hitherto considered to be useless at the time the British was at war with the invading Danish Vikings.

The coins, in fact, show both King Ceolwulf and King Alfred — a successful warrior against the Vikings — sitting down side by side seemingly exchanging gifts on the obverse of the coins. King Alfred was the King of Wessex, a region next to Mercia. so nit looks as though they were both involved together against the Danes.

The news prompts me to recall 50 years ago when metal detecting for archaeological finds from the past was illegal. Professional archaeologists didn’t want amateur detectorists (their name for themselves) looking for ancient objects and not disclosing them.  They didn’t disclose them because, stupidly, the government took all the treasure for itself with, maybe, a small token reward.

Fortunately — because an army of detectorists (potential voters, of course) outgrew the number of archaeologists — common sense emerge and the law was changed. Amateur detectorists will now willingly disclose any treasures they find because they — sharing it with the land-owners — share in the value of the find.

The real reason why I wrote this post is that I have for some weeks  been trying to find a way into another topic which has been simmering in my mind for weeks. This has been such an introduction and I’ll write about it in my next post.

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