Metal detecting laws in Sweden are not fair
Land owner permission alone is not enough to allow the use of metal detectors in Sweden. Home owners cannot even metal detect legally in their own gardens, with risk of a prison sentence if they do. This is an astonishing breech of our freedom.
Metal detectors are not illegal to own, but their use is restricted. You must apply for permission to use your detector via the County administrative boards (Länsstyrelsen). Each application, which covers just a small area of land and applies to only one person, costs 700 Swedish Kronor (around £60 or $77 USD). Länsstyrelsen decides if you will be allowed to detect your chosen site based on the known history of the area. This can take months. If there’s a chance of making historically interesting finds, your request will be denied with no refund. In the rare event your site is deemed suitable by Länsstyrelsens overly strict guidelines, there is a time limit on searching. Another charge of 700 Kronor is then required when applying to renew it. If more than one person in your family detects, all must pay and apply, then wait separately for a decision. I know of a husband and wife team that must pay 45,000 Kronor (around £3,900 or $4,970 USD) when their multiple permissions come up for renewal. Also, if you find anything older than 1850, you must stop detecting immediately and your permission is revoked – with no refund!
The 1849 cut off date for reporting finds is wholly unrealistic, especially since there is little budget in Sweden for an established system for recording finds. This results in many artifacts declared being forgotten in a drawer, or worse still – sent for recycling!
Swedish politicians claim the strict rules are there to protect history, but Industrial farming and the levels of acidity in Swedish soil puts archaeology at far bigger risk. Ploughs destroy metal finds with their blades and the chemicals used in modern farming are highly corrosive to bronze and other copper alloys – the most common metals used throughout history. Plus, Swedens own National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet) have research documents outlining the impact on archaeological material in Swedish soil. Written by Anders G. Nord and Agneta Lagerlöf in 2002, they tell us that soil in Sweden has some of the highest acidity levels in the whole of Europe and how it’s quickly destroying archaeology.
Read their study here:
Along with the problems of farming and acidic earth. New roads and housing developments which involve deep earth works go ahead every day and there are no laws saying you can’t dig a swimming pool in your garden. So why shouldn’t we dig little holes with our spades? Swedish authorities argue history should be preserved for future generations and that metal detecting can damage this history. But when left in the ground, artifacts are being crushed by ploughs, disolving in acidic soil, or at risk of being lost forever under carparks and shopping centres.
The urge to search and save this history is so strong for many detectorists in Sweden that they risk prosecution just so they can do the thing they love. Upstanding people like gold medal winning athlete Jimmy Nordin, who currently faces a potential prison sentence for finding a silver coin from the 1700s and writing about it on his blog. These history enthusiasts don’t detect with a goal to profit from looting historical treasure, but because it fills them with a joy like no other activity can. To them, the Swedish laws equate to telling an avid reader that they can’t open their books, or an artist that they can’t paint. So they use their detectors anyway… When they find interesting things and want to tell the world, as Jimmy bravely did, they’re often too scared to do so for fear of prosecution. Even when detecting in accordance with current Swedish law, a fear of losing the permission they paid for and waited months to aquire, often makes them hesitate. Swedish authorities claim that their strict rules are there to protect history, but it’s clear for all to see that they have the opposite effect entirely and, for the most part, encourage finds to go unreported. This is not what we want.
Metal detectorists want to help save this archaeology and share it with the Museums. We are people with a fascination and love for history. Far removed from the looters and grave robbers on Sweden’s Gotland Island in the 1980’s and 2010; the criminals who helped fuel such a harsh politicial stance towards metal detecting in Sweden. It’s time Swedish politicians understood our hobby and what 99.9 percent of us want to achieve, not judge us by the few who use metal detectors on historically important sites for financial gain. Alice Bah Kuhnke, the Swedish Minister of Culture is campaigning for a “Museum for the People”. We as detectorists can help fill that museum with wonderful things. Swedish politicians have a responsibility to preserve the history of their neighbours too, since this country has been inhabited and ruled through the ages by Danes, Fins and Norwegians. But instead they’re doing them a disservice by giving little budget to metal detecting and archaeological studies.
1) Landowners would be given the right to detect, plus give permission for others to detect on their property. This is key and would include privately owned areas of historical occupation and building ruins, but would not include monuments such as bronze age burial mounds, Viking stone boats, battlefields or other highly important historical sites. These areas would be respected as off limits with a 2m perimeter.
Ref. Scheduled Monuments – England, Wales & Northern Ireland
2) A “Treasure Act” obligating finders of objects which constitute a legally defined term of treasure to report their findings to Länsstyrelsen within 14 days of discovery. With the finder and land owner sharing a monetary reward (matching market value) as an incentive to report the find.
Ref. Treasure Act 1996 – England, Wales & Northern Ireland
3) Budget for and the creation of an organisation tasked with researching and recording finds. This is one of the biggest issues we face. Swedish authorities have given a figure of 15m Kronor (£1.3m or $1.7 USD) needed to organise this. It is a drop in the ocean of tax paid in this country. This money must be put forward for the creation of such an organisation. This would also provide employment opportunities for the many Swedish archeaologists forced to work part time between digs.
Ref. The Portable Antiques Scheme (PAS) & Finds Liason Officers (FLO) – England, Wales & Northern Ireland
4) A revised cut off date for finds that must be reported to Länsstyrelsen from 1850 to 1535, with possible acceptions for larger items of precious metals, matching that of Danish law. This would also relieve pressure on any organisation tasked with recording finds, plus reduce its budget requirements and workload.
Ref. Danefæ, the Danish treasure trove law.
5) A metal detecting licence with a fee to cover the administrative costs involved. This permanent licence, which could simply be a quotable reference number logged in a database, would be available to anyone and involve no tests. However, it would include a mail out upon application with reading material outlining the law, metal detecting code of conduct and information written by qualified archaeologists on how to best extract, clean your finds and/or preserve finds for handing over to museums.
6) General Discussion, compromise and understanding between Länsstyrelsen, The Department of Culture, Swedish archaeologists and patrons of Swedish metal detecting from Sveriges Metallsökarförening (SMF).
Let’s make positive changes.
Thank you for reading and signing our petition.