How Can Metal Detecting Cause Damage to Archaeological Sites and Objects ?

Unregulated and inappropriate use of metal detectors causes serious damage to Ireland’s archaeological heritage. Unsupervised recovery of archaeological objects by untrained and unlicensed users of metal detectors can greatly diminish, or can entirely eliminate any knowledge or research value that might be gained from a particular discovery .

Archaeological objects must be excavated in a structured scientific manner, with careful recording of their association with other objects, structures, features and soil layers. Failure to expertly record the context from which an object has been removed results in an irreplaceable loss of knowledge of the past.

Random searches with metal detectors cannot determine whether a find is of archaeological importance or if it is a recent discard. The result in either case is that the soil is greatly disturbed and any non-metallic evidence and objects are likely to be destroyed.

Archaeologists are highly trained professionals who are closely regulated by licence and by public policy and codes of practice. Nobody objects to this. Would it not be utterly strange therefore if untrained amateurs using a highly effective technology but a defective and highly damaging methodology were free to act without regulation?

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