For metal detectorists

Detecting in Finland

Denmark, England and Wales, Flanders, Finland and the Netherlands allow members of the public to engage actively with their archaeological heritage, recording finds found by members of the general public, and making these finds accessible for research and public interest.

This page summarizes the relevant legislation and best practices in each of the areas where the European Public Finds Recording Network is active, and refers to necessary resources. It is intended for metal detectorists, including those visiting from abroad. 

You will find information on how best to prepare for detecting, things to keep in mind while in the field, and how to deal with your finds. The 'General' section lists more general suggestions for best practice. These may seem obvious, but keep in mind that they are essential for the responsible detectorist. Many of these pointers are also legal requirements in several of the countries discussed further on.

For now this page is only available in English, but our aim is to provide other language versions in the future.

While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, we strongly recommend reading the relevant legislation in full before detecting abroad. The European Public Finds Recording Network will not take any responsibility for misconduct of any kind by people referring to the information provided on this page.

General dos and don'ts:

  • Obey the national and local laws;
  • Do not detect on protected sites or ongoing excavations;
  • Do not detect without permission of the landowner;
  • Be respectful to the environment (e.g. re-fill the holes you dug, close fences you opened, do not disturb animal and plant life, etc.);
  • Stop digging and get expert help as soon as you encounter more than one associated find (e.g. a hoard, an undisturbed burial) or an archaeological object you cannot recover without causing damage;
  • Accurately record the location of each find, preferably by GPS;
  • Do not interfere with human remains or unexploded ammunition and alert the police in such cases;
  • Record your finds with the recording scheme of the country/region you visited, even after returning home;
  • European countries have regulations on the export of archaeological finds, so finders should not remove items outside the territory in which they were found without following the necessary requirements. Contact the relevant heritage authorities for more information.

 

Before you start

Metal-detecting is permitted to be conducted by anyone (also non-Danish citizens and people without permanent residence in DK), as long as finders have the landowners' permission to search and they avoid archaeological excavations and protected sites and monuments (e.g. burial grounds, castle ruins).

It is important to note that all land will have an owner, this includes beaches and 'common land', so finders should never presume it is ok to search without permission. It is required by law that all finds of potentially cultural historical significance are reported to the local museum of the district in which they were found.

Metal-detecting is prohibited on protected sites and monuments

Best practice in the field

Only detect after having obtained explicit permission from the landowner! We recommend that you don't detect on the ‘permission’ of other detectorists, unless they have invited you to do so. Ask the landowner if in doubt.

Follow the heritage agency’s rules and recommendations for the use of detectors in Denmark, and the Danish Amateur Archaeologist’s Association’s ethical rules.

Don't dig below a depth of 30cm!

Whenever you find something below plough soil level and/or something that seems to remain in situ (e.g. a treasure or a burial) do contact the professional archaeologists at the local museum and stop digging.

Record your finds in DIME. You can do so even while in the field!

Dealing with finds

All finds of archaeological interest, including potential treasure trove, are automatically owned by the state. Neither the finder nor the landowner has any ownership rights over archaeological finds. All archaeological finds found by members of the public have to be reported AND must be handed over to the local museums or the National Museum.

The National Museum compensates finders of treasure trove (Danefæ). Treasure trove (Danefæ) is roughly defined in the Consolidated Act on Museums but each case is individually assessed by the National Museum, with regard to 1) material value, 2) rarity and cultural historical value and 3) contextual information provided by the finder. See the Danish National Museum’s information on Danefæ.

DIME is the publicly accessible, online recording tool for detector finds from Denmark and it is recommended that DIME is used to record finds.

Extract from the Danish ‘Consolidated Act on Museums

Part 9: Treasure trove (…)

(1 ) Objects of the past, including coins found in Denmark, of which no one can prove to be the rightful owner, shall be treasure trove (danefæ) if made of valuable material or being of a special cultural heritage value.

(2) Treasure trove shall belong to the state. Any person who finds treasure trove, and any person who gains possession of treasure trove, shall immediately deliver it to the National Museum of Denmark.

(3) The National Museum shall pay a reward to the finder. The amount shall be fixed by the National Museum having regard to the value of the material and the rarity of the find as well as to the care with which the finder has safeguarded the find.

Metal-detecting in England and Wales

Metal-detecting is permitted in England and Wales, as long as finders have the landowners' permission to search and they avoid protected sites, such as Scheduled Monuments (SMs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). There might also be other restrictions to searching, in line with local council bye-laws or on land under countryside stewardship. It is important to note that all land will have an owner, this includes beaches and 'common land', so finders should never presume it is ok to search without permission. It is required by law that all finds of Treasure are reported to the Coroner in whose district they were found within 14 days, normally via the local Finds Liaison Officer (see below).

Treasure

In England and Wales (and Northern Ireland), all finders of gold and silver objects, and groups of coins from the same finds, over 300 years old, have a legal obligation to report such items under the Treasure Act 1996. Prehistoric base-metal assemblages found after 1st January 2003 also qualify as Treasure. Finders of potential Treasure in England and Wales should contact their local Finds Liaison Officer for help in reporting Treasure and for further advice. By law, finds of potential Treasure must be reported to the Coroner in whose district they were found within 14 days of discovery.  

Portable Antiquities Scheme

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) was established to promote the voluntary recording of all archaeological finds made by the public, so that these finds can advance archaeological knowledge. Its network of Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) across England and Wales borrow these finds so that they can be recorded (described, measured and photographed) on its online database. FLOs also can help finders with the reporting of Treasure (see above). Anyone wishing to view these finds online may do so, though only those with research access are able to get full locational information - necessary for research. 
 

Metal detecting in Finland

Metal detecting is permitted in Finland within the limits of the everyman’s rights. Digging is prohibited in places such as ancient monuments protected by the Antiquities Act (295/1963), sites suspected to be ancient monuments, or areas protected under the Nature Conservation Act (1096/1996) without a separate permit. Digging in the soil in the immediate vicinity of an archaeological site is not recommended, because the borders of the site are rarely precisely known. If you are not sure whether digging is allowed in certain area, take contact to the Finnish Heritage Agency and the regional museum.

Ask the landowner’s permission to dig in his or her land. If the landowner or his or her representative has prohibited digging, this must be respected. Make also an agreement on whether the landowner will allow the finder to keep any found objects or not, provided that legislation does not have any bearing on their ownership.

Dealing with finds

According to the Antiquities Act, artefacts or fragments that are 100 years old or older that are discovered must be reported to the Finnish Heritage Agency without delay, accompanied with details about the discovery location. If the discovered artefact is fragile or in danger of breaking, it should be left in the ground, only submitting its discovery information. Discoveries should be delivered to the Finnish Heritage Agency uncleaned. You should avoid touching the artefact unnecessarily.

You should avoid digging in the discovery site in order to make further discoveries, because the entity might be an ancient relic protected by the Antiquities Act. An excavation at a stationary relic site is prohibited without a legal permit.

If an artefact is younger than 100 years and its owner is unknown, it is considered lost property, according to the Lost Property Act (778/1988). Matters concerning lost property are handled by the police. Military material that dates from after World War I is reported to the military, police, border or customs authorities. 

Note: in the federal state of Belgium, immovable heritage (including archaeology) is a regional competence. As such, the following reflects only legislation in the region of Flanders.

Before you start

A licence (erkenning) is needed to detect legally in Flanders. Once you have this licence, you are free to detect in most areas. You can apply for a licence with Flanders Heritage Agency. In addition to the application form, you will need to supply a legalized statement of your criminal record, in one of the official languages (Dutch-French-German). If you are Dutch, a 'verklaring omtrent het gedrag' suffices. Finally, you will also need a social security number for foreigners to be able to login to the Flanders Heritage Agency reporting module (BIS-number). 

Best practice in the field

With a licence, you are allowed to detect in most open spaces, provided you have oral or written permission of the landowner. Besides ongoing excavations, protected archaeological sites are also strictly off-limits. A list of protected sites can be found here (in Dutch).

Wherever you detect, you must abide by the Code of Good Practice. Besides most of the points listed under 'General' above, you are not allowed to dig below a depth of 30cm. Detecting after sunset is illegal.

Dealing with finds

You are allowed to keep your finds, but you have to report them to Flanders Heritage Agency. You can do so via the online form (in Dutch; login required). In particular, finds dating before AD 1800 need to be reported, as well as later hoards and finds from both World Wars.

MEDEA (www.vondsten.be) is the publicly accessible, online recording tool for detector finds from Flanders, without restriction, including finds that predate the current legislation (April 2016). For now, it is not linked to the official Flanders Heritage Agency reporting module. The site is available in Dutch only, but feel free to contact the MEDEA coordinator for support. 

Before you start

Searching on protected archaeological monuments is prohibited. Check on the internet that the area you want to metal detect does not hold protected monuments

In some municipalities (or parts thereof) searching with a metal detector is prohibited. Such regulations are written in the municipal by-laws abbreviated as APV. Every municipality’s APV can be found online. 

Check the website of the municipality where you want to go searching whether the APV contains restrictions on metal detecting. Ask a native speaker for help if you do not read Dutch.

Ask permission from the landowner (or tenant) to access the property with a metal detector. To metal detect in publicly accessible land such as woods, permission from the landowning organization must also be obtained.

Best practice in the field

Never dig deeper than 30 cm; it is prohibited to move and/or take finds deeper than 30 cm. 

Water environments are off limits. Do not search in sea, rivers or lakes and their wet surrounding (riverbeds). This applies to metal detecting and searching with magnets as well.

Record findspots as precisely as possible, preferably by GPS coordinates per find.

If you find live ammunition or human remains, call the police. Do not move or take with you (parts of) weapons produced after 1870 or ammunition, not even empty cases.

Dealing with finds

For hoard finds (defined as matter of value that was hidden on purpose so long ago the owner cannot be found any more) the landowner and the finder share ownership of the find and any revenue that results from sale. Return to the landowner and arrange the property of the finds. Most small finds that are not hidden on purpose can be claimed by the finder without the landowner.

Declare all the finds and the location(s) where they were retrieved to PAN, the database & organisation kept by the National Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. In addition, hoard finds must be declared to the municipality in which they were found.

Within EU-countries it is allowed to transport Dutch soil finds (or send them by mail) if they were legally obtained (top 30 cm, no monuments, access granted, reported). Unlicensed transport or sending of any finds to non-EU countries is prohibited – apply for an export license first. Finds have to stay in the Netherlands pending the application process. If the finder leaves the Netherlands and cannot take the finds, please leave the finds at the Provincial Depot for Soil Finds. Ask PAN or the National Heritage Agency if you want to know more.