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.