With Cadw, Historic Scotland, National Museum Wales and the Portable Antiquities Scheme, English Heritage funded Oxford Archaeology to undertake a survey of ‘Nighthawking’ (the illegal search for and removal of antiquities from the ground using metal-detectors) to attempt to establish the impact and suggest appropriate responses. The survey covered the whole of the UK and Crown Dependencies, with support in kind provided by Guernsey Museums Service, Jersey Heritage Trust, Manx National Heritage, The National Museums Scotland and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

The survey sought information from as many groups and interests as possible, including farmers and landowners, metal detectorists, archaeological societies and members of the general public, as well as Heritage professionals. Representatives of the National Council for Metal Detecting acted as observers on the Project Board.

Understandably data proved difficult to collect as the project was concerned with illegal and clandestine activity, as had proved to be the case in a previous survey undertaken in 1995 (C Dobinson and S Dennison Metal detecting and Archaeology in England, CBA). The 1995 survey was primarily concerned with illicit detecting on scheduled monuments and raids on ongoing archaeological excavations, although wider issues were covered. The present survey sought to cover all illicit activity, whether sites benefit from any type of protection or not.


  • PDF fileNighthawking Survey summary report
  • PDF fileNighthawks and Nighthawking: Damage to Archaeological Sites in the UK & Crown Dependencies caused by Illegal Searching & Removal of Antiquities

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