In the UK sites of conflict, in particular battlefields, are becoming more frequently associated with the label ‘heritage at risk’. As the concept of battlefield and conflict archaeology has evolved, so too has the recognition that battlefields are dynamic, yet fragile, archaeological landscapes in need of protection. The tangible evidence of battle is primarily identified by distributions of artefacts held within the topsoil, such as lead projectiles, weapon fragments or buttons torn from clothing; debris strewn in the heat of battle. Much of the battlefield therefore remains as a faint footprint, and where it survives, may provide valuable information, if recorded accurately. Drawing evidence from numerous sources, including a two year monitoring programme of the auction site eBay, from October 2008 until November 2010 and data produced by the heritage sector, this research intends to highlight the activities of hobbyist metal detectorists as a key issue in the conservation and management of sites of conflict. Whist the research recognises the positive contribution of hobbyist metal detecting through engagement with archaeologists, responsible practice and the discovery of previously unknown sites of conflict, it also identifies the negative impact of this activity through the unrecorded removal of battle-related material resulting in the erosion of artefact scatters and ultimately the loss of important national heritage. Another important element of this research has been to further understand the nature of this activity and the motivation to metal detect on sites of conflict, achieved through the presentation of detailed case studies and the application of sociological frameworks such as ‘serious leisure’ (Stebbins 1992). Overall, the fundamental aim of the research has been to inform heritage management strategies to ensure the future protection of landscapes of conflict in the UK.
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