Protecting Worthing’s historic monuments

RING pulls and washers could be scattered around historic monuments to thwart treasure hunters who are illegally pillaging ancient sites on the outskirts of Worthing.

The National Trust said it had seen an upsurge in metal detecting at historic locations including Highdown Hill and Cissbury Ring.

It called on the public to be vigilant, and report suspicious activity, mainly carried out by “night hawks” under cover of darkness.

Charlie Cain, head warden of downland sites stretching from Highdown to Devil’s Dyke, Brighton, and beyond, said he had considered using ring pulls and washers in a bid to frustrate the “thieves”.

Black market

Many of the finds found their way onto the black market, after evidence of the historical context in which they were unearthed had been destroyed.

Mr Cain said: “It’s a constant, ongoing problem, which has increased recently.

“If you go on to someone’s land without their permission with the intention of finding and taking items, that has got to be going equipped for theft.

“There are penalties, but the problem is the courts don’t actually take it that seriously.

“Somebody has been doing a lot of the known archaeological sites in the area.

“You walk around and find small squares of lifted turf, sometimes replaced, sometimes not.

Treasure hunters

“If you make a find and take it away it’s treasure hunting, not archaeology.

“Even if you take it to a museum, frequently what’s interesting isn’t the item but the strata of archaeology in which it was found, and the pollen around it.

“You are actually destroying far more evidence than you have found. It’s just wrong.

“I do wonder if one way of breaking it is to deliberately put down ring pulls and washers randomly until they got bored.”

Cissbury Ring is an Iron Age hill fort which was occupied by the Romano-British, who buried cremation urns and grave goods. Highdown was also a Roman site, later turned into a cemetery.