A harmless hobby? French press on detectorism

The French cultural heritage code strictly frames the use of metal detectors in order to prevent looting of archaeological sites.

Detectorists, however, constitute powerful lobbies, which are very active on the social media. They often found a positive echo in the regional press, sometimes even in the national one.

A rapid browse through articles published in the French newspapers shows that detectorists are often portrayed as passionate amateurs, self-taught connoisseurs of the local history who contribute to our knowledge of the past and enrich public collections. Two romantic figures are particularly highlighted: those of the old man (for example: ‘He has unearthed a treasure buried for 1,700 years’, ‘Côtes-d’Armor. He unearths a treasure from the 3rd century: the septuagenarian outlaw?’) and of the child (for example: ‘Aix-en-Provence: a child discovers a shell with a metal detector’) Le vieil homme et l’enfant is the title of a French movie (The Two of Us in English), and newspapers like stories. The same is true in Italy where tomb looters (tombaroli) are heroes of books (often written by the tombaroli themselves, to be honest).

However, behind these romantic and harmless figures, the reality is different (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-6PM0sYdvY&feature=youtu.be). Detectorists are treasure hunters, who sell their booty. They do not preserve and enhance our cultural heritage, they destroy archaeological sites. They cause irreparable damages in creating orphan artefacts, which escape scientific recording.




[IllustrationArchaeological site with visible looters’ holes (S. Fourrier)]