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Nighthawking Report

New Survey Reveals Low Levels of Prosecution and Crime Reporting

A survey commissioned by English Heritage and supported by its counterparts across the UK and Crown Dependencies has revealed that the threat to heritage posed by illegal metal detecting, or nighthawking, is high but arrest or prosecution remains at an all time low and penalties are woefully insufficient.

The Nighthawking Survey, published today (16th February 2009), found out that over a third of sites attacked by illegal metal detectorists between 1995 and 2008 are Scheduled Monuments and another 152 undesignated sites are also known to have been raided, but secrecy surrounding the crime means that it is significantly under-reported. Only 26 cases have resulted in formal legal action, with the punishment usually being a small fine from as little as £38. (Illegally parking a car carries a £120 fine.)

The crime is most prevalent in the central and eastern counties but rare in the west and south-west and almost unheard of in Northern Ireland and the Crown Dependencies. Counties where the highest incidences of nighthawking have been reported are (in descending order): Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, Oxfordshire, and the Yorkshire region. ‘Honey pot’ sites such as Roman sites are often targeted repeatedly and the period after ploughing is the most common time, with considerable damage caused to crops and fields.

Illegal metal detecting is the search and removal of antiquities from the ground using metal detectors without the permission of the landowners or on prohibited land such as Scheduled Monuments. It is a form of theft and can be prosecuted under the Theft Act.

The heart of the problem lies in the vicious circle of under-reporting of the crime, which in turn creates a false picture of the seriousness of the situation, making this a low priority crime for the police. It is also compounded by the difficulty in collecting evidence.

Over time, the lack of successful prosecution has led to the lack of confidence of the victims in the legal process. The survey found out that only 14% of landowners, when afflicted by nighthawking, have reported it to the police. Most of them responded by tackling the culprits themselves or imposing a complete ban on metal detecting on their land.

The survey also calls for the setting up of a central database of reported nighthawking incidents and a tightening of the Treasure Act requiring all who come into contact with treasure finds, not just the finder, to report them. Full details of the survey including its recommendations are downloadable from http://www.helm.org.uk/nighthawking

Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, Interim Chairman of English Heritage, said: “Responsible metal detecting provides a valuable record of history, but illegal activities bring responsible ones into disrepute.

“Nighthawkers, by hoarding the finds or selling them on without recording or provenance, are thieves of valuable archaeological knowledge that belongs to us all. Even in the case when the finds are retrieved, the context of how and where exactly the finds were found has been lost, significantly diminishing their historical value. In the cases of internationally important material the loss of the unique evidence that these objects provide on our common history and origins is especially poignant. By establishing a clearer picture of the crime, this survey will help us to combat it more effectively.”

Read more here from teh Guardian:


The suvey:


The report should be here:




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Heritage and Armed Conflict in the 21st century

Culture Wars: Heritage and Armed Conflict in the 21st century

Culture Wars: Heritage and Armed Conflict in the 21st century

Thursday, 11 December to Saturday, 13 December
Location: The Fitzwilliam Museum/Gonville & Caius, Stephen Hawking Building


Closing date for registration is 5 December 2008. Fees range from £20 – £60.

The online booking can be found by clicking onto the link on the right hand side of this page.


Professor Mary Jacobus (CRASSH)
Dr Joanna Kostylo (CRASSH)

Warfare and civil strife of the sort recently witnessed in the Balkans and the Middle East become crucibles in which core convictions about identity are boiled down to their essential elements. As material manifestations of culture, sites and monuments are at once metaphorical weapons and physical casualties of war.  Situations of intense conflict challenge our assumptions about the role of institutions as ‘Keepers of Culture’ and give rise to seemingly insoluble contradictions. Focusing on boundaries, networks, and cultural transmission, this combined CRASSH, Getty Research Institute, and Macdonald Institute conference offers a timely opportunity to test ideas and responses to the acute circumstances created by civil and political conflict.

Controversies arise when heritage sites are simultaneously viewed as cultural, religious, aesthetic, and educational artifacts. At once ‘theirs’ and ‘ours’, competing ideas of heritage are mutually exclusive, while fragile conceptual polarities such as local and universal tend to collapse. The fraught intersection of material heritage, local geopolitics, and the universalist mission calls for an urgent reevaluation of how we manage ‘Culture’ in a culturally fragmented world. With growing frequency, war is not confined to nation-states, but involves ethnic, sectarian, and insurgent groups that cross or contest political boundaries. The conference examines issues raised during and after the Gulf, Balkan, and Afghanistan Wars, with a focus on what (paradoxically) is known as ‘immovable’ heritage:  historical monuments, archaeological sites, and cultural and human landscapes. It poses the following questions:

•    How does the nature of 21st-century conflict bear on immoveable heritage?
•    Are international conventions appropriate to recent scenarios?
•    Why are sites destroyed and to what ends?
•    Is intervention ethically justifiable?
•    What are the appropriate uses of expertise?
•    Does the intensity of the contest over heritage open paths to reconciliation?
•    What new approaches to knowledge sharing can help bridge divides?
•    What is involved in stewarding culture in a post-ownership world?

Responding to a growing concern about on endangered sites in the Middle East and elsewhere, the conference will focus on the following main themes:

•    Cult and Culture: Iconoclasm and the Museum
•    Iconoclasts And Idolators: the Destruction Of Cultural Heritage.
•    The Laws of War and Cultural Policy: Transnational and Internal Disputes
•    Contemporary Conflicts and the Ethics of Intervention
•    Culture and Conciliation: Stewarding Culture in a Post-Ownership World

Confirmed speakers include:

Abbas Alhussainy (Former Chair of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage)
Michael Barry (Princeton University)
Reinhard Bernbeck (Binghamton University (SUNY))
Patrick Boylan (City University, London)
Hugo Clarke (Headquarters 3 (United Kingdom) Division)
John Curtis (British Museum)
Saad Eskander (Iraq National Library)
Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly (Archaeologist – Journalist, Al Akhbar newspaper)
Tatiana Flessas (LSE)
Dario Gamboni (Université de Genève)
Jan Hladík (UNESCO)
Jonathan Lee (Researcher and Cultural Advisor)
Jolyon Leslie (Aga Khan Foundation)
Margaret Miles (UC, Irvine)
David Myers (Getty Conservation Institute)
Alistair Northedge (Université de Paris I)
Roger O’Keefe (Cambridge)
András Riedlmayer (Harvard University)
Marie-Louise Sorensen (McDonald Institute)
Peter Stone (Newcastle University)
General Barney White-Spunner (GOC 3 ( United Kingdom) Division)
Oliver Urquhart-Irvine (British Library)

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