METAL DETECTING IN DENMARK – The landscape of amateur archaeology in Denmark

In Denmark, there are many archaeology societies, with thousands of members. When also including the museum societies, the member numbers are in the tens of thousands, and in general, there is a huge interest for history and archaeology, compared to many other countries. Of course, what interests the individual varies from member to member. Some people act as voluntary guides at the local museums. Some are interested in excavations, reading and study. And last but not least, some are interested in metal detecting. In this short walk through, we will concentrate on the metal detecting activity, the metal detecting background in Denmark, the regulations, and give a thought to the future.


The Danish law, when it comes to metal detecting, is very liberal. You may detect almost everywhere. This is of course not the whole truth; there are limitations and restrictions, like in many other countries. The law, probably the oldest in the world, goes back to “Codex Holmiensis” year 1241, Valdemar the Conqueror, stated that, what is found in the soil and of value, is “Danefæ” and belongs to the king. This has today turned into a more modern form, and the field is now regulated by the Museums Act. The act in short states, that anything found that is of historical importance, has to be handed over to the state (i.e. the museums, local or national). This includes artefacts of all types of material such as stone, amber, bone or metal objects. The National Museum is responsible for determining whether the finder receives a reward. The size of this reward is based on factors such as historical importance of the artefact, material value and how the artefact was handled during it’s retrieval from the ground, and the subsequent recording of the find location.

As an example of the law, all coins up to the year 1536, have to be handed over. This also includes newer coins, if they are made of gold, large silver coins or rare coins of other types. Other regulations are; “Bekendtgørelse af lov om hittegods” (law on Lost property), ”Våbenloven” (the Weapons law), ”bygningsfredningsloven” (the building heritage act), Fredningsbestemmelser” (Preservation regulations for heritage scheduled sites) and probably more. A short summary: when detecting in Denmark, you need the landowners’ permission, and you have to ensure that the area is not a heritage-protected site. Other laws and regulation may also prohibit you from detecting on the site (military exercise areas and national forest). All your finds have to be handed over to the local museum. The museum then evaluates whether the finds are of historical importance or not. You may not dig deeper than the plough depth – approximately 30 cm.

Lastly our best advice: contact a detecting club in the area you want to detect in. They may advice you on where to detect, and who knows, they might even invite you along, on a joint search.



We pursue a high standard during our searches. It has to be mentioned, this is of some debate, and there are many opinions from various organisations – from almost no reporting of finds to long reports with tracking information, time estimates, gps etc. Each viewpoint may be right in certain circumstances. The standard of reporting is not only affected by the individual detectorists view on the matter. The reporting standard is also affected by the minimum requirements, as defined by the local museum. They vary from museum to museum. In general, all finds have to be kept in suitable zip-lock bags, and marked with GPS coordinates, name and date. Along with this a “handover” notice has to be filled in (you get this from the local museum or the national museums homepage).


It is said about Danes, that if there are three or more taking the elevator together – you can be sure that when they reach the top, a new club is founded. This is reflected by the many clubs and archaeology societies, we have many in DK. All with their own spirit and way of doing things. A guess, and this is a guess – there are around 20-30 detecting clubs, together with an unknown number of members without memberships – 2-3000 “detectorists” is a good guess. In general, the clubs stick to some shared rules. To mention a few “rules”; • Never search without approval • Never search where other detectorists are active, before having talked it over with them first. • Do not brake or violate the national laws • Cover your holes and leave the field as you found it. The clubs usually cooperate with the museums and the professionals, especially when rallies are held or at major events. The same is the case, when the clubs a joining special projects.

Glenn Abramsson, John Kristensen, Kenny Thygesen


National museum: Kulturstyrelsen: (Here you find protected area, all registries of findings etc.)

Museums in Denmark:



  1. TSA is the great security system for safety. I think TSA does a good job. Any places to go security is the first of all. So anywhere to go as like the train, Airport, flight theirs has to under security system. Now Airplanes flight has taken a safety security system for people for that safety metal detector play a good role.

  2. Just talked with Cph museum, they told me it is impossible to join archaelogical excavation as a volunteer because safety reasons. Where can I find links with all these clubs and organizations you mentioned?

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