Free University of Amsterdam and Dutch Ministry of Cultural Heritage have created a database of portable finds from the Netherlands. Database called PAN – Portable Antiquities of Netherlands, was established in order to enable metal detectorists to record their finds and facilitate better contact with archaeologists and museum staff. Database of this kind was planned since 2016, when it was decided that metal detecting for archeological artefacts will be legal in the Netherlands. It is part of the North Sea Area Finds Recording Group and cooperates with many organisations, including Portable Antiquities Scheme in the United Kingdom and recent Medea Database in Belgium. On the PAN website finds are classified according to the time periods and there is also a facility for identification of artefacts as well as maps with finds in each region of the country: https://www.portable-antiquities.nl/pan/#/public
The hunt, organised by Robert Bytner, detectorist, history lover and our colleague from Swedish metal detecting club SMF – Sveriges Metallsökarförening, took place in Rzucewo in northern Poland. 40 detectorists from Sweden, England and Denmark gathered at the Castle “Jan Sobieski” outside Gdynia, to detect during three days on historic grounds.
Detectorists received permission from the archaeologist authority in Gdansk to search for metal artefacts in the castle’s parks and nearby fields. Everybody met on Thursday evening, where after a three course dinner Robert held a briefing about the search fields and the way of reporting findings. The evening was spent in the castle pub where detectorists acquainted themselves with the varieties of Polish beer. On Friday morning the proper search began in the local park. The castle’s owner had informed detectorists that the current castle was built in 1840, but there was a residue of an earlier castle ruins in what are now the paddocks. The park provided many finds, but the most interesting was a Roman silver coin from the time of Emperor Antoninus Pius 138 – 161, found by Duncan Patey. The next day Martin Theures found another Roman silver coin, this time it was Antoninus wife Faustina. A fibula found by Stefan Agurell was the third Roman discovery, which proves extensive trade contacts with the Roman empire. Polish archaeologists, who were accompanying and overseeing the search, were very impressed by the finds. Since most of the searchers had not been in Poland earlier, Robert organised a special briefing about the history of Poland in general and the area visited in particular. He mentioned that Napoleon’s Grand Armée marched there on their way to Russia in 1812 so nobody was surprised when one of the participants found a French button from Napoleon’s artillery regiment the next day. There were many finds, ranging from the Bronze Age (one piece raw bronze artefact) to communist-era aluminium coins. Traces of World War II were discovered in the shape of a Wehrmacht button and ammunition.
In Robert’s own words: “For me the biggest benefit of the trip was an opportunity to meet with other detectorists. Most of them I hadn’t met before, but already during the first evening, after a few Polish beers, we were like a big family. We were loud and had many laughs. To live in a real castle, dine on three course dinners and lunches, and have a lot of history under your feet make this a memory for life. I have already been asked to organise a new rally in the area and I’m planning it for the fall of this year.”
All found artefacts have been handed over to Polish archaeologists for detailed examination. All participants were awarded a special diploma by the authorities for their effort to enrich the Pomeranian history.
Organisers wish to thank Zamek Jan Sobieski Rzucewo and the archaeologists Dorota Szmyt and Edyta Przytarska from Pomorski Urząd Wojewódzkiego Konserwatora Zabytków.
Photos: Robert Bytner, Olavi Virta, Aarno Orell, Stefan Agurell, Hans Rosie, Jimi Wentzel Johansen, Joakim Henriksson, Patrik Svantesson, Martin Andersson, Jesper Zettergren.
It was the first time that Belgian metal detectorists and archaeologists met during an official event, which aimed to present finds and positive impact of responsible metal detecting on national heritage. Recent changes in law permitted legal searching for archaeological artefacts on the territory of Flanders with a special government licence. During a special event organised by Brussels Erfgoedlab (Open Source project) and supported by the Free University of Brussels, part of a broader citizen science project that aims to digitize archaeological finds, detectorists were able to present their finds for identification and take part in a range of activities and workshops, including recording finds in the new database called MEDEA , as well as meet other detectorists from Flanders. The event, called “Day of the Metal Detectorist”, took place in Roman Archaeological Museum in Oudenburg in Flanders, where the exhibition entitled “Forgotten – Metal Finds From the Flemish Coastal Region, 600-1100 AD” is currently taking place. Many really spectacular finds from the early medieval period are on display and the key role of metal detectorists is clearly explained. Organisers plan to extend the range of activities and events and hope that they will be able to present the important role of responsible metal detecting.
Photo: ECMD, EOS Wetenschap, Anna Brzezinska.
In recent months, the ECMD has been working vigorously to promote the hobby of responsible metal detecting. This update will summarise the recent activities of our members organisations and highlight some of the major issues and developments, as well as outline our plans for the near future. In the second part of this year, the ECMD will hold its General Conference, where we will elect new board members and make important decisions about our policies, including admission of new members. More details soon.
As we have reported earlier, the MEDEA platform for the recording of small finds is now fully operational. At the time of writing it has 171 metal artefacts recorded by detectorists from Flanders. NVD-ANP representing Belgium in ECMD is currently working on a Detectorist Code of Conduct and closer cooperation with archaeologists. Their main concern at the moment is increasing the number of recorded finds.
Bulgarian National Metal Detecting Federation BNMDF sent newsletter to all regional directorates of Ministry of Interior in Bulgaria, and to all District police departments, presenting the documents of the BNMDF: example of the membership card for 2016; court order for establishing of BNMDF; rulings of the Supreme Court about the registration of metal detectors which are used for hobby. BNMDF are sending a clear message that they have nothing to do with the so called ”illegal treasure hunting”. All members of the Federation are familiar with the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria and know that they must inform the nearest museum within 7 days of the finding of object of cultural value. At the moment there is a lack of political will in Bulgaria to introduce sensible solutions to a conflict with archaeologists but the Federation hopes that the situation will change in 2017.
BNMDF was engaged in organising many meeting and detecting rallies in 2016 and plans many more in 2017
During the recent meeting, the members of HARJA have analysed various ways to research old maps and track down older settlements. Many groups are run as part of a Harja club, including Archaeological Mapping, Detecting, Marine Research, Viking Roads etc. One of the new developments is the Idea Bank, where members can suggests new ideas for lectures, trips and research projects. On the 11th of March, Harja had a General Assembly meeting where members had a chance to vote for the new president (Eigil Nikolajsen elected President with Glenn Abramsson vice-President and John Kristensen new board member) and other board members. On the 18th of March, the Tellus group will also have a similar meeting.
FNUDEM, the ECMD’s representatives in France, have contributed to a number of events in the past few months. The major one was the 2nd Metal Detecting Meeting, where the ECMD was represented at two conferences.
Our French members have also organised two meetings with the Ministry of Culture, intended to encourage cooperation between the state and the responsible detectorists.
Furthermore, FNUDEM has launched a major campaign designed to promote responsible metal detecting in France. This was done on the internet through various means of communication such as social media, as well as through the magazine “Detection Passion”.
FNUDEM will be organizing its Annual General Assembly in mid-March in order to establish the program and guidelines for 2017.
Liam Nolan, the ECMD’s vice-President and the organisation’s representative in Ireland, has been very active since the start of 2016. He was involved in a debate regarding ‘Archaeology2025’, a 10-year strategy set up by the Royal Irish Academy to define how archaeology would operate in the future. He was very well received by everyone who attended the discussion. By the end of the day it became clear that there was an urgent need to have a conference regarding how responsible detecting can complement established archaeological practices.
Ireland is working towards allowing already detected historical finds to be recorded and become part of its history, for regional archaeologists to link up with Irish Metal Detecting Society IMDS members and share knowledge of sites and finds. 2017 has seen the next phase of lobbying of politicians and all those in Ireland concerned with recovering the past before it vanishes.
The same arguments that were stifled in November 2016 will appear alive and kicking through 2017 and beyond if necessary. Irish detectorists want a fair deal and they are willing to work for it.
MD Club Italia is the only officially registered association which deals with responsible metal detecting. They have concentrated their efforts on an education plan and provide a sequence of articles on their website through which they spread advice and instructions about responsible metal detecting. They also wrote a handbook which is freely offered to those who join the club. They also engaged in dialogue with some institutional entities and are preparing an internal study on a potential new national regulation. MD Club Italia is extremely active in terms of promoting the ECMD and they include our logo in all of their products.
They also started a cooperation project with national metal detector dealers in order to encourage responsible metal detecting and educate as many people as possible about the importance of this hobby.
The cooperation and trust achieved from working with the archaeologists has opened many doors for our members in Jersey, including new sites to search. Cooperation with the professionals is often seen as impossible, but that is clearly not the case.
The ECMD’s representatives from Jersey have been involved in several major events and discoveries. A Celtic Hoard found in 2012 has finally been dismantled and our members were given a chance to work with one of the museums. The Gold torques and other objects from the Hoard have delighted the general public, and the whole conservation process has been on show to the public daily, attracting many thousands of visitors and promoting the hobby of responsible metal detecting.
The debate about the possibility of metal detectorists in Poland joining forces and forming a single federation is still raging. Several meetings are planned at the end of March, where members of various metal detecting and exploration organisations will meet in Warsaw to discuss the idea of the federation.
Various projects involving detectorists working hand in hand with archaeologists are planned to take place this year, including the Grunwald 1410 battlefield project in which a special team of ECMD members will also take part. Regular updates are printed in “Odkrywca” magazine and http://www.poszukiwacze.org portal.
Our Spanish members have been very active recently and they will be even busier within the next few months. Regular updates on the activities of Federacion Espanola Deteccion Deportiva FEDD are published in D&M magazine (http://www.revista-dm.com) A variety of events and rallies will soon be held all over the country. These include:
-19th of March – ADC – Catalonia, Decontamination
-2nd of April – AEDA – Plasenzuela – Extremadura – Official Concentration
-17th of May – Minelab Day – (Beach) Benicassim
-June – SANDE – Estepa, Sevilla
-June – AEDA – Madrigalejo – Extremadura
-October – ADC – Official Concentration
-November – AEDA – Official Concentration
Despite the growing concern about the soon to be implemented legislation, which will introduce a new fee system in Sweden, Sveriges Metallsökarförening SMF members have been working hard to promote responsible metal detecting and minimise any detrimental effect that this new law will have on Swedish detectorists.
The SMF will be celebrating their 5th anniversary this summer. This will be done in conjunction with the association’s annual meeting in Ädelfors, where the association has originally started with just 7 people. Last year, this meeting was attended by over 200 members. Between the 28th and 29th of July, the SMF will also attend a large festival concerned with things such as metal detecting and the Gold Panning Championships.
The members of the association will also participate in several interesting detecting and archaeological projects. One of them will be held in Northern Poland, where detectorists from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, UK and Poland will search with full cooperation and supervision of an archaeologist. The other project is planned for April, when the participants will get a chance to explore ancient burial grounds. In addition, the SMF will investigate an ancient Vendel castle located in Upplands Väsby, outside of Stockholm.
The NCMD continues to monitor the situation in the UK, as well as organise and take part in conferences regarding metal detecting in the country. An example of this is the 2016 PAS conference, where Roy Stephenson from the Museum of London compared detectorists to archaeologists, as both groups are heavily involved in the study of human history and artefacts. Dr Michael Lewis, the head of the PAS, and Dr Pieterjan Deckers from the Free University of Brussels also spoke about the recent development of responsible, legitimate metal detecting in Denmark, Flanders and the Netherlands.
More information about our members organisations can be found here: https://ecmd.eu/ourfriends/
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 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.”
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.
- 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.
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.
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
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/