The Nighthawking Survey
Open letter from Oxford Archaeology and the Project’s Funders
On the 21st of June 2007 a partnership of leading Heritage organisations launched The
Nighthawking Survey, a major investigation into the problem of nighthawking - the illegal
search for and removal of antiquities from the ground using metal detectors, without the
permission of landowners.
Most farmers are well aware of the fragile nature of the archaeology beneath their feet, and
take care to follow the DEFRA guidelines to minimise farming’s impact upon it, so its all
the more frustrating when criminals armed with metal detectors trespass on their land
and help themselves to whatever they find. Quite apart from the damage to the archaeo-
logical heritage, it causes disturbance and distress to farmers, their families and often to
their livestock. It is no wonder that responsible metal detectorists also condemn night-
hawks, because the illegal activity blackens their reputation,
Responsible metal detectorists take their hobby seriously, and obtain the farmer’s /
landowner’s permission to search on their land and to record their finds which may
provide vital clues to the activities of our ancestors. If they find potentially important
objects, they know how to record them properly. They work/liaise with archaeologists, not
against them, and the country’s heritage benefits.
Unfortunately, there are those that see metal detectors purely as a tool to illegally obtain
potentially valuable remains and often sell them on. It is these whose activities deserve to
Attempting to address this problem is made more difficult by the fact that there is not
much hard information on the scale of the nighthawking problem. Before law enforcement
agencies can be persuaded to take the problem more seriously, we need more information:
Where is it happening?
When is it happening?
How many people are involved?
What happens to the stolen material?
This survey is attempting to gather such information by means of a confidential online
questionnaire, aimed at as wide a spectrum of the population as possible. We are asking
for help from farmers, metal-detectorists, archaeologists, landowners, antiquities dealers,
members of the public - anybody who may have information on nighthawking and the
illegal trade of artefacts. The questionnaire will be backed up by voluntary personal
interviews, and a review of the current legislation and its effectiveness.
So if you have suffered from nighthawking on your land, please go to The Nighthawking
Survey website at www.nighthawking.thehumanjourney.net and take part in the survey.
There is plenty of time - the website will stay open until April 2008. If you would rather
give us a ring or email us with the information please do so (contact details are on our
website). For further information email email@example.com
The survey is covering the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and the Crown
Dependencies of The Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey and is being undertaken by Oxford
Archaeology. The project is funded by English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw, The
National Museum Wales and the Portable Antiquities Scheme, with support from Guernsey
Museums, Jersey Heritage Trust, Manx National Heritage, National Museum of Scotland
and Northern Ireland (Environment and Heritage Service).
The only detectorists that we are against are the
same ones that you are against - the thieves.