Irish Metal Detectorists Want to ‘Rescue’ Ireland’s Buried Heritage. By Digging It Up Themselves.


Image: Pindoc / Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In recent days several (bemused) archaeologists have received an unsolicited email advertising an event entitled: ‘Rescuing Irelands Buried Heritage before it vanishes forever’ – detailing a ‘Public Debate’ to be held at the Crowne Plaza Blanchardstown* on Tuesday 8th November 2016.

It turns out it is the latest attempt by Irish Metal Detectorists to promote their ‘harmless hobby’ and their long held ambition of overthrowing national legislation that protects Irish archaeological objects from being looted by people engaged in unregulated and inappropriate use of metal detectors.

Far better (and more patient) people than myself have written on this before. For in depth background and details regarding the present ‘campaign’, I recommend Stuart Rathbone‘s excellent ‘Sixty Three Thousand Euros or Twelve and a Half pence in old money’; the ever ready Paul Barford’s ‘Campaign For Metal Detecting Change in Irish Republic’ and The Heritage Journal’s ‘A shambolic, UK archaeologist-backed call for metal detecting to be legalised in Ireland’.

Unlike many other jurisdictions, metal detecting for archaeological objects in Ireland without a ministerial license is illegal. Digging for suspected archaeological objects, even without a metal detector, is illegal. Indeed, under Irish law (the envy of many archaeologists throughout the world) all archaeological finds belong to the nation – with the Irish State automatically being the legal owner of all archaeological objects.

Not the finder. Not the landowner. Certainly not an archaeologist. Nobody in Ireland can own, profit, buy or sell newly discovered archaeological artefacts. Its one of the things we do well as a country.

The people behind the ‘Public Debate’ are advocating a change in Irish Law along the lines as that of the situation in parts of the UK. In short, they want to be allowed to rip certain archaeological objects out of the ground in an uncontrolled haphazard fashion. They want to be able to keep, curate and/or sell certain archaeological objects for personal profit. They feel they are qualified, experienced and most of all ‘entitled’ to do this.

“Irish metal detectorists have become the emerging “Alternative Archaeologists” and are passionate about rescuing Irelands buried heritage before its entirely destroyed by the plough or modern farming chemicals. We do it for free, in all sorts of weather, often are more knowledgeable about history than those paid (by us) to sit in warm offices all day and dream up all sorts of newer draconian anti-detecting laws”

Irish Metal Detecting Society Spokesman

Of course what they are seeking to be able to do (i.e. actual archaeological excavation) is something that no qualified Irish archaeologists could, or would, ever do, without a myriad of things in place —  such as a dedicated research strategy, a directors excavation license, mitigation plans in place for conservation, study, storage, dissemination and publication, let alone an initial electronic detection license from the minister.

Seriously. If someone showed the average Irish archaeologist (someone with one or several university degrees, and/or with several years of commercial experience; with or without an excavation license)  a random spot on the ground and said, ‘I think there’s something metal under there. You should dig it up’. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t.

Morally. Professionally. Legally. For fear of it actually being archaeological. For fear of not being able to record it properly. For fear of damaging the context and losing the really valuable archaeological information to be gleaned from such.

And if, just say if, for some reason, the Irish archaeologist actually went and assembled a crack team of specialists and professionals and magically got all of the appropriate licenses, permissions and equipment and actually dug it and found something archaeological. Guess what. They wouldn’t want to keep it. Or curate it. Or sell it. Or split the profit between themselves and the landowner, resulting in the local community having to fundraise to buy back their own heritage that already belongs to them. Which is what happens in some parts of the UK.

The people behind the Irish ‘Public Debate’ want to be able to have the option to do any or all of that. In part or in whole. Any time they want and in certain places. They essentially want to be able to engage in archaeological activity without the whole professional, legal, civic-minded thing of actually being an archaeologist.


Image: kabdar / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Irish Metal Detectorists don’t see Ireland’s legislation (which was, get this, specifically brought in because some Irish people were trying to make a killing from exporting looted archaeological objects that were found…with a metal detector) as protecting Irish archaeology for everyone in Ireland, present and future. They actually see it as something ‘draconian’, something ‘unjust’ that impacts them personally. Something that gets in the way of a ‘freedom’ denied to them that they feel entitled to. For themselves. For their own personal satisfaction. For their own personal collection, potential profit and gain.

Irish Metal Detectorists revel in trumpian second amendment-esque brexiteering levels of persecution mythology. The State, the archaeological authorities, the archaeological community and profession, are all apparently denying them their god given right to dig old shit up and either keep it or sell it. They want to do this without actually studying, qualifying or being archaeologists themselves.

Irish Metal Detectorists genuinely cannot understand why on earth they can’t, and shouldn’t, be let do so and faced with this startling prospect, are now attempting to lobby for legislative change. Think about that. They actually want the law the of the land to be changed in order to allow them, personally, to more fully engage in their ‘harmless hobby’.

Irish Metal Detectorists claim to love Irish heritage. Well, the metal bits anyway. They claim that many of them are not interested in monetary gain. Which is presumably why they specifically want to be allowed look for metal archaeological objects. They say they want to be a part of Irish Archaeological practice. By working for free and helping to find just the metal archaeological objects  – as opposed to all other archaeological objects –  that are coincidentally, potentially, ‘worth something’ in market or reward terms.

Irish Metal Detectorists say they want to be ‘responsible’ detectorists. Yet the most responsible thing in the world to anyone with half a brain is having national laws that prevent just anyone ripping metal things up out of the ground wily nilly. And pocketing it. For later. Because they feel like it.

Irish Metal Detectorists say that many of them are ‘responsible’ detectorists. Staying away from known archaeological sites. Looking in places where they wont be prosecuted under Irish law because they respect it. Which is great. Until you remember that they want to change it. And that, in seeking to be so ‘responsible’, they are actively engaged in breaking existing Irish law. Remember the second paragraph above?

Digging for suspected archaeological objects, with or without a metal detector, is illegal in Ireland.

Archaeological objects in Ireland are defined as:

any chattel whether in a manufactured or partly manufactured or an unmanufactured state which by reason of the archaeological interest attaching thereto or of its association with any Irish historical event or person has a value substantially greater than its intrinsic (including artistic) value, and the said expression includes ancient human and animal remains…

Section 2, National Monuments Act 1930.

If anyone in Ireland (without an excavation license), let alone someone holding a metal detector, actively and intentionally digs up anything on the off chance it may be an archaeological object, they are breaking the law.

It shall not be lawful for any person, without or otherwise than in accordance with a licence issued by the Commissioners under this section, to dig or excavate in or under any land (whether with or without removing the surface of the land) for the purpose of searching generally for archaeological objects or of searching for, exposing or examining any particular structure or thing of archaeological interest

Section 26, National Monuments Act, 1930

Irish metal detectorists, by their very own admission, go out to deliberately search for, find, and dig up, old metal objects previously deposited underground. i.e. objects of archaeological interest, associated with various historic periods, and personages. They get a signal. A manmade object of one type or another. They suspect its metal. They hope its something old, collectable, valuable, sell-able, melt-able. And they subsequently dig it up, intentionally, to have a look, without knowing if it is or isn’t an archaeological object.

Every time they do so, they are breaking the law.

The raison d’être for their entire ‘hobby’ is, by cautionary default, illegal.

This is what they call being ‘responsible’. A form of Metal Reservation. This is what they say is them ‘respecting’ current Irish legislation. So much so, they want to change the same laws, so they can do it even more ‘responsibly’.


Image: B3CFT / Andy Brockhurst / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

As you may have gathered I have little time for Irish Metal Detectorists, or as I like to call them…those Gormless Feckin Gobshites With A Penchant For Walking Around With Long Cylindrical Metal Mickey Extensions Swinging Between Their Legs And Twiddling Their Little Knobs.

Unlike some archaeologists, I am not interested in hearing half-witted fatuous attempts at justifying their rights to a ‘hobby’. I don’t think they have any tangible role to play or indeed anything at all to offer the rest of Irish society. I am not interested in ‘debating’ anything with them. I have no wish to aid, or in any way contribute toward anything connected with them. I honestly do not believe they should be given the time of day. Like Internet Trolls, to do so, gives them currency, a vague sense of self-legitimacy and oxygen.

That may seem overly harsh. Maybe it is. I’ll live with myself somehow. Because…all the above. That selfish mindset. That over inflated sense of entitlement. Personal desires over the general public’s concern and protection. The complete inability to comprehend legal, technical and theoretical simplicity, let alone complexity – and no desire to ever do so. The overwhelming hypocrisy in pretending they stick within the letter of the law, and the code of protective silence and secrecy inherent in their online group mentality and half-arsed organization.

If I’m being brutally honest, at the end of the day, its also because the vast majority of the species in Ireland are absolute raging fucktarded ignoramuses who need to get in the fucking sea.

No really. Just look at this.


An Irish Metal Detectorist Defending his ‘Hobby’.

I’ve watched and read them, online, for several years, on their internet forums, prattling around their testosterone fueled playpen, trying to defend themselves to others. I’ve seen them twist interpretations and outright lie to new people about what they can and cannot do under Irish legislation. I’ve watched them develop defensive replies to challengers, and do things like making fake ID cards to add a false air of legitimacy to their activities.

I’ve watched them salivate over newspaper articles of genuine Irish archaeological discoveries and seen them practically pull themselves off at similar Get Rich Quick examples in the UK. I’ve watched them delight in the advent of Irish archaeological internet resources, sharing and recommending websites and applications which enables members to actively ‘stay away’ from known sites. Especially those in the middle of nowhere.  Hint. Hint.

I’ve read discussions on what type of large knife is best to bring with them when out and about, in order to calibrate their machines, cf. also useful for having something ‘inconspicuous’ for digging up targets, and you know, just having them around on ones person in general, I suppose. (In case of bears, or wolves, maybe?)

I’ve read discussions on camouflage clothing and balaclavas. I’ve read them talking about the best way to convince landowners that all they need is their permission to detect on their lands. I’ve watched them organize their own events, meet ups and illegal rallies, some of which were filmed and put on youtube to show off. [See here for the organizer of the present ‘Public Debate’ congratulating some of them on their illegal activities and flouting Irish law].

I’ve watched them share stories, and pictures of their adventures. I’ve watched them set up an ‘extra private’ members section for special pictures and special chats about aspects of their ‘harmless hobby’ that may get them in trouble. I’ve watched them talk about archaelogical artefacts and historical objects and how much they’re maybe worth. Most of all, I’ve watched them always, always, always discussing how on earth they can get around existing Irish laws and what should, what could, possibly be done to change them.

Don’t believe me? See here for some small and randomly selected insights into the general calibre, sophistication, and level of intelligence expressed on their forum. In their own words…

These are the people who are trying to lobby for archaeological legislative change in this country. A change that would not only have a catastrophic commodifying effect on Irish archaeological heritage but would also result in the loss, to everyone (including their pecker-headed selves) of something actually priceless. The right to automatically own and enjoy their own heritage, without fear of having to buy it back from some utter walter mitty prick stick with a metal pole, looking to get rich off the back of the Irish public and a ‘finders keepers, losers weepers’ mentality.

Remember that, should you by chance ever happen to come across any of their steaming scuttery bullshit.


Update: 7th Nov 2016:

* It is my understanding that, over the weekend, the event in question has suffered certain setbacks and will not be going ahead in the proposed venue.


Update 10th Nov 2016:

As you can perhaps imagine, since writing this post, there has been much rabid consternation within Irish Metal detecting circles. Today, the cerebrally-challenged inglorious spunk bubbles over on their internet forum ‘responded’ with this…


I’ll spare you the rest of the thread which consists of the untersturmführer members chiming in, commending the ‘news’, pledging allegiance and attendance and offering to supply it with contents.

As is apparent to anyone who isn’t in a coma, this is of course a puerile attempt at fabricating a story (designed with such cunning aplomb as to blunt one of their dearly beloved jugend-fahrtenmessers) with which they hoped to, a) test out their recent online ‘security’ purge; and b) produce a false story with which to fool archaeologists et al.

Leaving aside the fact that there are fungal amoebas wallowing in primordial ooze at the bottom of the Mariana Trench that would have done a better job (bless, it took them three days to work on it, too), it nevertheless serves as a great reminder of the calibre, sophistication, and general level of intelligence of the aforementioned sticky dick whistling, twatwaffling, shite-hawking, fuck tumpeting, piss plonking, cock juggling thunder cunts in the Irish Metal Detecting world.

It also serves a more pertinent point. Faced with trenchant criticism of their ‘hobby’ and the highlighting of its stupidity, greed, hypocrisy, illegality, criminal tendencies and lack of accountability  – this, is how they chose to respond. With a half arsed, wank-stained whimper of an attempt to create an avenging faux-uproar, to which they are no doubt slapping their own backs whilst sniffing their own farts.

I wish to thank them. Really. For illustrating and proving my point. What an insight into how much they think of themselves and how little they think of Irish heritage, Irish legislation and most of all, the Irish public at large.

It is, of course, everyone in Ireland, from whom they continue to take and profit from. Given half the chance, these model citizens would only be too delighted to sell our own heritage back to us, or indeed, to the highest bidder. Whichever comes first.