I guess some would view my use of a metal detector with a degree of horror, so I think it only fair to give my views as to why I use one.
In the early days of “popular” archaeology, the use of metal detectors was considered a distinct “no-no”. Metal detectorists were seen as treasure hunters , out for personal enjoyment and in the worst case personal gain at the expense of the nations heritage. I am sure that their are some detectorists out there that are still like that, but today I believe a more modern and pragmatic approach by archaeologits and the PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme), means that responsible meteal detectorists can be welcomed and trusted by the more academic and “professional” archaeologists.
Each metal dectorist should, in my opinion, work closely with their local PAS Finds Liason Officer and accurately record ALL the finds they make. I believe it is the responsibility of the Metal Detectorist to photograph, research and record their finds in as much detail as possible. Only in this way will the hobbyist become recognised and trusted by the professional.
Take a recent example:
Having gained permission from a local farmer to walk and detect on a small field in my village I was delighted to discover a significant scatter of 12th & 13th Century pottery, along with two buckles and a key from around 1250 AD. This has all been shared with the local FLO, plotted onto the SMR and followed up the the CAFG (Cambridge Archaeological Field Group) who have confirmed the likelihood that the pottery indicates a settlement site. If I had not discovered and recorded such information – say by just sweeping up these early medieval trinkets and putting them on display in my home – researchers into early medieval Cambridgeshire would be wholly ignorant of the settlement I have dsicovered and how it confirms the thoughts for the villages development post Conquest.
In my opinion its simple, responsible Field Walking and Metal Detecting by amateurs can significantly enhance the aracheological record to the benefit of amatuer and professional alike.