In recent years the discourse on artefact hunting and portable antiquity collection, and their relationship to archaeology in Britain, has become dominated by a particular blend of ideas grown up around the ethos of 'liaison'. These have had a far-reaching impact and are reflected in almost anything that is currently being written about artefact hunting and portable antiquity collection. This book takes as its starting point an examination of some of the fundamental assumptions on which this model is based and subjects the rhetoric of this discourse to careful analysis. As a result, a somewhat disturbing alternative picture emerges.
After a historical chapter, artefact hunting and collecting are discussed with reference to basic principles of archaeological practice and ethics. The phenomenon is also examined against the background of portable antiquity collecting and the antiquities trade. The authors then move on to consider justifications offered by the advocates of collecting both in the hobby itself and the profession; the role of the media in forming public opinion; the part played by metal detecting; the use of personal collections as a means of curating Britain's archaeological record; and the role of the Treasure Process and export licences in creating a national heritage from the finds of artefact hunters. Alternative proposals for dealing with the problem are also presented.