A few weeks ago, news made the round in archaeological circles (in Britain and abroad) that a commercial provider (MDH 2017) had begun organising foreign metal detecting tourism in England and Wales (e.g. HeritageDaily 2019). In fact – perhaps quite shockingly for many an archaeologist – the core facts of the story are true: the provider offers, on its website, a 12-day package, including ’10 days digging in prime locations’, for £1,499 per person, or a long weekend or one-day ‘tour’ for £195 per person; transport to the UK not included (MDH 2017). Not just that: it also promises that ‘Export Licenses’ will be arranged for detecting tourists ‘for finds over 50 years old’; that they will gain ‘access to more than 200 historic fields covering over a thousand acres’; and that they offer an ‘excellent track record of finds’, as evident on their gallery and Facebook page (MDH 2017). Both from the fact that (when I checked on 11/2/2019) their Facebook page has 930 likes and is followed by 963 accounts, and from the ‘Testimonials’ on their website (MDH 2017), it is evident that there is at least some interest in their business, and that at least some metal detectorists have already holidayed with them.
Thanks to Facebook and other social media, the news about this business broken by HeritageDaily (2019) spread quickly in January 2019; and caused quite some consternation among many archaeologists, especially outside the UK. Most reactions from within the profession expressed shock and disbelief: “That can’t be right, can it?”, “How can that even be legal?”, “Why do archaeologists in the UK even allow this?”, “This must immediately be stopped!”. That was the general tone of archaeologists’ reactions, at least as far as I could see on those social media that I am on. Given those reactions, and since Roderick Salisbury twisted my arm to do so, I would like to offer some information and a few thoughts on the issue of commercial foreign metal detecting tourism, mainly, but not only, in England and Wales.