MEDEA – online platform for metal detecting finds launched in Flanders.

screenshot-2017-02-19-at-18-33-37

The 11th of February marked the official launch of the “MEDEA” platform. Previously, this project was in a testing phase and only a select number of people could participate. However, it is now open to all metal detecting enthusiasts who want to share their discoveries with experts and other detectorists.

We have mentioned this platform several times in the past. It was set up at the Brussels Free University in 2014 and is designed to provide archaeologists and other experts with sufficient information about archaeological objects found in Flanders. It is designed to encourage metal detectorists in Flanders, where metal detecting is legal since 2016, to record their finds on an online platform.

Here is a brief summary of the steps that need to be taken in order to report a discovery using MEDEA:

After registration, it is necessary to fill in a special form. The person who made the discovery must provide some basic information about the find, such as material type and dimensions, as well as some good-quality pictures. The precise location where the object was found must also be specified. However, this information will only be visible to registered experts. Other users will be presented with an area of approximately 7x11km. Once the document is complete, it can then be sent to a person who will examine it and look for any potential errors. If all the details are correct, the discovery will be published on the platform where it can be viewed by everyone, including non-registered users, although some confidential information will obviously be excluded. In some rare situations (for example, when a treasure is found) information about the discovery will not have to be published until further research has taken place.

The MEDEA platform is a very promising project, part of an exciting developments in “Open Science” – movement to make scientific research, data and dissemination accessible to all levels of an inquiring society, amateur or professional. It encompasses practices such as publishing open research, campaigning for open access, encouraging scientists to practice open notebook science, and generally making it easier to publish and communicate scientific knowledge. MEDEA endeavours to be a ‘collaborative project’ in which users of the platform participate in the analysis of the data, and not just in creating a product benefitting a small group of professional scientists. We look forward to seeing how it will develop in the near future. Perhaps experts and authorities from other countries will be inspired by this project, which could encourage them to incorporate something similar into their own systems.

(Wiki, Open Archaeology, MEDEA FB profile)

ECMD at the European Parliament

fil1

ECMD believes strongly that responsible metal detecting should be treated fairly in all European countries. As promised earlier, we’ve also started lobbying at the European Parliament in Brussels, hoping that eventually one standard of practices related to detecting will be adopted throughout Europe. In our introductory letter, presented to various MEP’s we wrote:

“Dear Member of The European Parliament,

The European Council for Metal Detecting (ECMD) was set up on the 17th of April 2016 by the representatives of major metal detecting organisations from seven different European countries (Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Jersey, Poland, Spain and the UK), with the help from the National Council for Metal Detecting, during an international conference in Birmingham, UK. Since its inception, the organisation has welcomed four new members: Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Sweden. The ECMD strongly believes in the importance of responsible metal detecting. In the last few decades, many detectorists have contributed to the discoveries of some of the most significant and iconic historical artefacts all around the world. In addition to being an enjoyable and fulfilling hobby, metal detecting, if properly regulated, is also a very effective method of protecting cultural heritage.

The main goal of the European Council for Metal Detecting is to contribute to the development of the laws in Europe currently regulating metal detecting in a way which makes it possible to protect cultural heritage without excessively limiting this hobby, as well as to educate those who are not aware of relevant regulations.

Metal detecting in a fully legal and structured way.

In some European countries metal detecting is unjustly restricted, mainly due to misunderstanding of the hobby and the lack of appreciation of using volunteer detectorists to supplement often stretched archaeological resources. The are some international treaties which actually point out the relevance of citizens participation in heritage protection. One such treaty is the Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society (also known as the Faro Convention 2005). This Convention, which was ratified or signed by more than 20 European states, is largely based on article 27 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which makes it clear that “everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”. Among other things, the Faro Convention encourages everyone to contribute to the process of study and presentation of the cultural heritage, as a result of which metal detectorists should be allowed to analyse and report their finds. ECMD believes that metal detecting can be structured and regulated in an effective way in order to exploit the passion and knowledge of amateurs and implement and combine metal detecting techniques with a range of archaeological methods so that those techniques would be used during most archaeological surveys.

Challenges facing the ECMD.

Some authorities are not adequately educated about the topic of metal detecting. As a result, metal detecting is governed by ambiguous and unfair laws in many different European countries. For example, it is entirely possible to accidentally come across an ancient artefact without actually intending to find it. However, simply finding such objects is illegal in some countries. As a result, many people are forced to hide their accidental discoveries in order to avoid getting prosecuted, as opposed to simply informing a museum or an archaeologist about their find. Certain countries do not even have any laws related metal detecting, which makes it very difficult to act in an ethical way.

We are convinced that these strict laws do more harm than good, as the vast majority of detectorists wish to respect the law. A more lenient legal approach, would make it easier to protect and preserve cultural heritage, as this would encourage amateurs to look for and report artefacts which are buried close to the surface, while leaving more challenging work to the professionals. There are several countries where detectorists work closely together with archaeologists (and to a very good effect), such as Flanders, Denmark, England, Netherlands and Wales, but in many places this type of cooperation does not exist. One of the aims of our organisation is to encourage the two parties to join forces in countries where this has not happened yet.

ECMD – Change in European laws relating to metal detecting.

It is our intention to promote responsible and ethical practices with regard to metal detecting in all European countries. We hope that examples of workable compromises achieved in countries such as Denmark or Flanders can become a road map for other countries to follow, as as it is apparent that we are all working towards a common goal – the protection and preservation of European cultural heritage.

We sincerely hope that you will support our work and will help us to make sure that the hobby of metal detecting, undertaken in a responsible way, is treated with fairness and respect.”

fil2
On the left Janusz Lewandowski, MEP with Filip Jarosz. ECMD 

fil3

North Sea Area Finds Recording Group

robotarmy

Denmark, England, Flanders and the Netherlands are among the most progressive areas of Europe in terms of mechanisms to record archaeological finds found by members of the general public, and make these finds accessible for research and public interest in the past. Thanks to the cooperation between Portable Antiquities Scheme, operating in England and Wales, and archaeological institutions from other countries, special group was formed with the following aims:

  • Advance archaeological knowledge through the recording and research of public finds;
  • Encourage best archaeological practice in the field when searching for and recording public finds;
  • Support museum acquisitions of important archaeological material found by the public;
  • Advance international cooperation in the field of archaeological finds recording.

The group aims to achieve these goals by:

  • Making the information on archaeological finds discovered by the public accessible to all, including international researchers as well as the wider public;
  • Distributing knowledge on regulation and responsible behaviour for the public when searching for (and recovering) archaeological objects;
  • Acting as an intermediary between finders of scientifically important finds and museum and heritage professionals in a responsible way;
  • Exchanging information on regulations, experience and expertise with international colleagues;
  • Support research through our finds recording databases and other means, by acting as intermediary for finds experts in different regions around the North Sea, and by identifying gaps in archaeological small finds knowledge.

Vision:

  • Stimulate and enhance public engagement and access to the archaeological heritage at local, region, and national level;
  • Improve standards of archaeological work done by members of the public to engender a sense of shared ownership in the past;
  • Enable members of the public to contribute to the recording and handling of archaeological heritage in order to advance knowledge;
  • Advance the democratisation of heritage management in Europe through the incorporation of principles of citizen science and crowd-sourcing.
  • Promote the study of recorded finds as an internationally important body of archaeological evidence for human behaviour and interaction around the North Sea.

ECMD welcomes this initiative and aims to work very closely with North Sea Area Finds Recording Group and all bodies which understand the relevance and potential of responsible metal detecting.

(https://finds.org.uk/news/story/284)

ECMD opens up an information point in Belgium

15380335_293884504346238_6357698162524421012_n

The European Council for Metal Detecting opened up its first information point/office in Belgium. With help and support from our Belgian colleagues (especially Olivier Van den Bergh) we’ve created a friendly space where we can plan our strategy for the coming months. This first of its kind office is located in a beautiful and historical town of Bruges in West Flanders, in a close proximity to Brussels as well as France, Holland, Germany and the UK. We hope that this location will help us to engage with decision makers in the European Parliament and facilitate better contacts with all responsible metal detectorists throughout Europe. We aim to provide up to date information about law and regulations in various countries but also to provide an informal space for discussions related to all aspects of European metal detecting.

UNESCO encourages discrimination of metal detectorists?

13895057_10154009974033853_236365156687194286_n

Between the 29th and 30th of September, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has discussed the issue of metal detecting and its effect on cultural and historical heritage. During this debate, a number of arguments have been raised by the Committee to show that metal detecting has a generally negative impact on the protection of heritage. It was argued that many detectorists fail to obey the laws and regulations in their respective countries, either due to malice or ignorance, as a result of which the archaeological context is often lost. Certain metal detector sellers have also been criticised for using adverising methods which arguably encourage illegal activities, such as looking for artefacts at registered heritage sites. Some members of the Committee seem to believe that the rising popularity of metal detectors and their relatively cheap price are only going to increase the likelihood and impact of unlawful behaviour.

The ECMD is disappointed with some of the claims made by the Committee, as the document outlining their arguments seems to suggest that most metal detectorists are plunderers, even though a very large proportion does report its finds to the legitimate authorities. This is a form of discrimination which is not compatible with the EU Recommendation 921 (1981).

It is also important to note that many metal detectorists that do declare their discoveries are often wrongly prosecuted by the justice system, especially when a complaint is made by a lobby of defenders of archaeology. But those who complain about metal detecting tend to forget that a simple ‘thank you’ can sometimes be an adequate reward for the person who discovered a treasure, so there is no need to ‘bring them to justice’. Prosecuting metal detectorists is completely counter-productive, as it forces many people to ‘hide’ their finds from the authorities in fear of getting punished for simply trying to contribute towards the discovery and protection of their own heritage. Because of the decreased number of reported finds, many scientists, politicians and members of the public falsely believe that all detectorists are criminals. As a result of this misconception, numerous decisions made by some national authorities have had a negative impact on the world of archaeology and detectorism.

We have contacted UNESCO back in October to explain our point of view and possibly work together, but we are still waiting for their a response. The list of their suggestions can be found at https://goo.gl/hxLAAh

(FJ)

Metal Detecting Show and Conference in France

13427818_10153865639148853_5956536118729916888_n

The delegates from the French Federation of Metal Detectorists – FNUDEM, Sébastien Potet and Sebastien Joly, have represented the ECMD at the second French Metal Detecting Show (2ème Grand Salon de la Detection) held in Paris on the 8th and 9th of October. During their official presentation, they have introduced the ECMD to the members of the public and explained its current goals and achievements. The event was attended by hundreds of visitors over the two-day period, including special guests like Harry Bain, the editor and publisher of “The Searcher” magazine, as well as some of the major metal detector manufacturers, namely Minelab, XP, Nokta and Makro. Many vendors were also present, offering a wide range of metal detecting equipment. Our French delegates found that a large percentage of metal detectorists are not fully aware of the metal detecting laws in France. One vendor in particular was criticised for encouraging night-time metal detecting, claiming that some people are just too busy to engage in their hobby during daytime. On the bright side, many people were very honest about their lack of knowledge and expressed the desire to learn more about the subject, showing that breaking the law is largely caused by the lack of proper education in regards to metal detecting, rather than greed or malicious intent.

This is a very important distinction, as many French academics and archaeologists often criticise metal detectorists for being driven by self-interest, rather than genuine desire to uncover and protect material traces of our common history. It is the ECMD’s goal to educate metal detectorists and the experts alike, explaining to them each side’s concerns and arguments. The hobbyists must learn the importance of responsible metal detecting, while the professionals must realise that treating all of the former as nighthawks or criminals is simply unreasonable, as it is detrimental to the protection of cultural heritage.

Overall, the second French Metal Detecting Show was a big success. Despite the arguments about the attitude of some of the vendors, the members of the public have responded positively to the general theme of responsible metal detecting. Most people want to learn more about this hobby and ways of protecting their cultural heritage. The members of FNUDEM expect to have similar presentations in the future, providing more information about the objectives of ECMD and showing how international cooperation between responsible metal detectorists is the way forward.

FNUDEM website: http://www.fnudem.net/

ECMD – YouTube channel

ytube

We are pleased to announce that ECMD has opened up it’s own YouTube channel. We start with a presentation “Treasure Hunting and Metal Detecting in Europe – Law and Reality”, which was delivered by ECMD president Igor Murawski during a “Festiwal Tajemnic” event in Poland this summer. What is the difference between treasure hunting and metal detecting? What is the story behind some of the most spectacular treasures? Is metal detecting legal in Europe? This and a lot more in our first video which we hope you will enjoy. This video is in Polish with English subtitles. More videos, showing different aspects of metal detecting, coming soon! Link to our channel: ECMD YouTube channel

Sweden joins ECMD!

new-image

We are very excited to announce that a new member has joined the ECMD – Sveriges Metallsökarförening (SMF), set up in 2012, is a society of metal detecting enthusiasts who will now be representing Sweden in our organisation. With almost 200 members throughout the country, the society is working very hard to provide Swedish detectorists with extensive knowledge about responsible metal detecting. The members of the SMF also take part in various events around Europe, as a result of which they have a very active and united community. The SMF wanted to join the ECMD so that all of our members can work together to protect the rights of detectorists and promote responsible metal detecting not just in Sweden, but all around Europe. Their country is currently going through some massive changes in terms of metal detecting regulations and the ECMD will try very hard to support them during this process. More information about SMF can be found on their website: http://www.sverigesmetallsokarforening.se/

smf

MEDEA – artefacts database from Belgium. A sign of things to come?

MEDEA

Metal detecting in Flanders, one of the main four regions in Belgium, has recently experienced some major changes. Since April 2016, registered metal detectorists can legally search for archaeological artefacts and sites around the region. (You can find more information about those changes here: https://ecmd.eu/2016/06/10/metal-detecting-in-europe-belgium-case-for-flanders) In addition, a very promising project was set up at the Brussels Free University in 2014 – the “MEDEA” platform¹. Even though metal detecting in Flanders is now officially legal, archaeological professionals still find it difficult to access the information related to some metal detected finds, as a result of which they cannot use these artefacts for any kind of meaningful research.

The MEDEA project is designed to, among other things, create a platform which can provide archaeologists and other experts with sufficient information about archaeological objects found in Flanders. Pieterjan Deckers, the coordinator of this project, has found that the lack of trust in cooperation with archaeologists and often inadequate feedback on finds are some of the major barriers which prevent detectorists from consistently reporting their discoveries². The platform, which is currently going through a testing phase, was set up in order to provide a resolution to these problems. The project was inspired by successful systems in other countries, such as the Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales, as well as the Danefæ law in Denmark, which encourage detectorists to report their finds.

In order to understand how MEDEA works, it is best to explain the discovery reporting process step-by-step.

First, it is necessary to fill in a special form. The person who made the discovery must provide some basic information about the find, such as material type and dimensions, as well as some good-quality pictures. The precise location where the object was found must also be specified. However, only registered experts will see the exact location, whereas other users will be presented with an area of approximately 7x11km. Once the document is complete, it can then be sent to a person who will examine it and look for any potential errors. If all the details are correct, the discovery will be published on the platform where it can be viewed by everyone, including non-registered users, although some confidential information will obviously be excluded. In some rare situations (for example, when a treasure is found) information about the discovery will not have to be published until further research has taken place.

As already mentioned, the platform is currently going through a testing phase and it will take some time before it is fully ready. However, it already looks very promising and it is definitely a step in the right direction for metal detectorists in Flanders and possibly in other parts of Belgium too. The real question of course is whether MEDEA , or similar platform, will be adopted by other countries where currently there are also some problems with find reporting and recording. Let’s hope that it will.

¹ https://medea.weopendata.com/

² http://www.dhbenelux.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/28_Deckers-et-al_FinalAbstract_DHBenelux2016_short.pdf