Denmark has an excellent system in place to enable and govern a responsible and constructive metal detector hobby. While the UK's ploughsoil heritage is largely being trashed by nighthawks (despite the valuable efforts of the Portable Antiquities Scheme) and Sweden's is left to corrode untouched out in the fields, the Danes organise metal detector festivals, inviting skilled amateurs and professionals alike! One is taking place at Halsted on Lolland between 3 and 5 April. The public is welcome to watch on Saturday the 4th. Rest assured that the international crew of 70 detector-wielding participants will re-write the area's history and later prehistory in those scant three days.
Thanks to Tobias for the press clipping.
Update same day: A few commenters feel that I've overstated the problem with nighthawking, i.e. clandestine metal detecting, in the UK. I based my assertion on an article on page 5 of the April issue of Current Archaeology (#229), which reports on a recent investigation by English Heritage:
"The survey found that nighthawking was rife on scheduled ancient monuments and 'honey pot' sites (mainly Roman settlements and villas) that have been targeted repeatedly, with considerable damage to crops and fields, as well as to archaeology." There is "... a vicious circle of under-reporting of the crime, which in turn creates a false picture of the seriousness of the situation, making this a low priority crime for the police."
Update 26 March: For some perspective on whether the UK nighthawk problem is serious or not, see these links provided by Aard regular Jonathan.
Regardless of the nighthawks, of course the UK has major legislative problems in this area. Landowners own all finds (!) and the archaic "treasure trove" law presupposes an interpretation by the county coroner of why each individual find was buried back in the day. (Did I get it right now, Jon?)
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While the scale of night-hawking in the UK is very hard to assess, and is nothing compared to some countries, I just want to make clear what you may already know, but don't say, that this sort of event is also common in the UK.
Interesting! That I did not know. Links please!
"...While the UK's ploughsoil heritage is largely being trashed by nighthawks (despite the valuable efforts of the Portable Antiquities Scheme)..."
That statement is totally inaccurate. The PAS works very well, and nighthawking is not as big a problem as some try to make out. Please check facts before publishing !
English Heritage is hardly an unbiased source. Could be it be that archaeologists are jealous that these days they aren't the ones making most of the discoveries?
You're misunderstanding the situation. Among professional Swedish archaeologists, I am among those who have worked the most together with amateur detectorists. I recently published an opinion piece advocating a liberalisation of the Swedish rules regarding metal detectors, to allow amateurs greater freedom to contribute to the exploration of the archaeological record.
Neither the UK nor Sweden has a good system right now. Denmark has.
Swedish policy has some interesting effects. One is that Swedish detectorists, which in general are not held in very high esteem in their own country, assist Danish archaeologists instead. Out of the six Swedes invited to the Lolland event, five of us are members of Holbo Herredes AmatÃ¶rarkeologiske Gruppe (Holbo Parish Amateur Archaeologists), which is affiliated with Gilleleje Museum in Northern Zealand.
I hope that this event will aid in opening the eyes of more Swedish archaeologists and policy makers. As amateur archaeologists, we want to make a real contribution to the Swedish history record. But when faced with suspicion on one side of the pond and appreciation on the other, the choice is not a difficult one. However, the opportunities I do get to detect in Sweden are always of special significance to me and I hope that the tide will change in the near future.
Keep up the good work Martin! Itâs a treat working with you, and I hope weâll team up again soon.
You bet. Very few Swedish professional archaeologists are any good at detecting, and I most certainly am not one of them.
I am not so sure about that. You do have a detector, and more importantly, you make use of it. That sets you, and a few others, apart from the main body of Swedish archaeologists. Also, there is no scoring of how good a detectorist is. My personal experience - and I am sure that most, if not all, other detectorists would agree - is that fieldtime is what counts. Keep it low and slow!
Martin, links in my original comment! But here are some cherry-picked ones:
Re what you mention here:
'...the archaic "treasure trove" law presupposes an interpretation by the county coroner of why each individual find was buried back in the day.'
For your information, the old law of treasure trove was replaced in England and Wales by the Treasure Act 1996. See here for the Code of Practice for the Act:
and a very brief summary here: