Felicity Winkley

More than Treasure Hunting: The Motivations and Practices of Metal Detectorists and their Attitudes to Landscape

This study investigates the attitudes of metal detector users in England in order to better understand what proportion feel attached to the landscape on which they detect and to what extent this attachment may impact on their feelings towards finds discovered there. It would suggest that detectorists use the landscape, as well as the objects they find, to reconstruct a buried past.

The continuing popularity of metal detecting in England, along with the unique situation that the country accommodates it, means that sooner or later the heritage sector must come to acknowledge the detectorist community as a constituent no less valid than the country’s local history societies or similar. The vitriolic campaigns waged against the hobby at its zenith - typified by Stop Taking Our Past (STOP) around 1980 - were proven impotent, whilst the government consultation of the National Council of Metal Detecting in the design of the Treasure Act during the 1990s was an explicit gesture of accommodation. Today, almost fifty years since metal detecting first became popular in England, it is apparent that the hobby is widely practiced by a diverse community, displaying a no less diverse range of approaches to it. Some have been searching since the 1960s and ‘70s, whilst others are new starters; some detect only at rallies and club digs, others seek individual landowner permissions and search these areas alone. For those long-standing detector users, some may have searched across the same landscape for many years, and are likely to have developed a rich sense of place constructed from the objects found there. This study aims to contribute original data (both qualitative and quantitative) to the limited body of research into the opinions of metal-detector users by addressing the issue from a landscape-orientated perspective, whereby this innovative direction of approach will hopefully give voice to a community often marginalised amongst the heritage sector.


Educational background

  • BA, Archaeology, University of Bristol 2008
  • MA, Artefact Studies, UCL 2009

Winkley, F 2016 The Phenomenology of Metal Detecting: Insights from a Unique Type of Landscape Experience. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, 25(2): 13, pp. 1–15, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/pia.496

Conference presentations

Winkley, F. (2013) An Assemblage without a Context? Metal-detected finds and their potential. Paper presented at "Assemblage in Practice" Graduate Symposium, School of Art History & World Art Studies, University of East Anglia, 20th April 2013

Winkley, F. (2012) Critics in Rust: Metal Detectorists as Modern-Day Antiquarians. Paper presented at "Popular Antiquities 2" The Folkore Society conference, Institute of Archaeology, UCL 15th-16th September 2012

Winkley, F. (2009) Making a Public Resource Public: The Community Engagement Potential of Archaeological Archives Poster presented at the Engaging Communities Conference, The International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University, 3rd – 4th December 2009

  • How do metal detectorists respond to landscape?

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