Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …
Open Access

Open Archaeology

Editor-in-Chief: Harding, Anthony

Covered by:
Clarivate Analytics - Emerging Sources Citation Index

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

The Future of Studying Hobbyist Metal Detecting in Europe: A Call for a Transnational Approach

Suzie Thomas
  • Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki FI00014, Uusimaa, Finland
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2016-10-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2016-0010


Much research on hobbyist metal detecting has either focused on the archaeological impact only, conflated hobbyism with criminal activity (namely looting and illicit trade), or generalized the motivations and drivers for metal detectorists. Studies to date have targeted specific countries and regions, with only limited reference to metal detecting activities elsewhere. This has meant that the transnational aspects of metal detecting – such as the international trade of metal-detected objects, and transnational movement of metal detectorists themselves (for example through touristic activities) – has mostly been overlooked or merely speculated upon. Much debate has revolved around assumptions, stymied by perceived ethical barriers and accepted attitudes which limit deeper engagement with the metal detecting community. Approaching the study of hobbyist metal detecting at a trans-European level would encourage greater understanding of the scale of hobbyist metal detecting and the world views, activities and contact and trade networks of metal detectorists. This may challenge traditionally-held perspectives concerning what should be valued as cultural heritage and who is entitled to make use of it. In this paper I set out our current state of knowledge, and propose directions for future research.

Keywords: Metal detecting; transnational research; archaeology; Europe; worldviews


  • Altschul, J. (2015). From the President. The SAA Archaeological Record 15(2), 3-4. http://www.saa.org/Portals/0/SAA/ Publications/thesaaarchrec/March2015.pdf (accessed 9 February 2016).Google Scholar

  • Becker, E. (2009).The Legislative Position of Metal Detector Use at South African Archaeological Sites. In S. Thomas & P. Stone (Eds.), Metal Detecting and Archaeology, 25-31. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.Google Scholar

  • Bland, R. (2005). A pragmatic approach to the problem of portable antiquities: the experience of England and Wales. Antiquity 79(304), 440-447.Google Scholar

  • Bland, R. (2009). The development and future of the Treasure Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. In S. Thomas & P. Stone (Eds.), Metal Detecting and Archaeology, 63-85.Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.Google Scholar

  • Brockman, A. (2014). New “Nazi War Diggers” allegations. http://thepipeline.info/blog/2014/10/01/nazi-war-diggers-riskedgoing- out-with-a-bang/ (accessed 8 February 2016).Google Scholar

  • Brodie, N. (2015). Syria and its Regional Neighbors: A Case of Cultural Property Protection Policy Failure? International Journal of Cultural Property 22(2-3), 317-335.Google Scholar

  • Campbell, S. (2013). Metal detecting, collecting and portable antiquities: Scottish and British perspectives. Internet Archaeology 33. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.11141/ia.33.1CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cornelison, J. & Smith, G. (2009). Archaeology, Metal Detecting, and the Development of Battlefield Archaeology in the United States. In S. Thomas & P. Stone (Eds.), Metal Detecting and Archaeology, 33-50.Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.Google Scholar

  • Darvill, T. & Fulton, A. (1998). The Monuments at Risk Survey of England 1995, Bournemouth, London: School of Conservation Sciences, Bournemouth University and English Heritage.Google Scholar

  • Deckers, P. (2012a). “Productive” Sites in the Polders? “Griffin brooches” and Other Early Medieval Metalwork from the Belgian Coastal Plain. Medieval and Modern Matters 3(1), 21-43.Google Scholar

  • Deckers, P. (2012b). EverbeekRoman Silver Hoard. http://traffickingculture.org/case_note/everbeek-roman-silver-hoard (accessed 29 February 2016).Google Scholar

  • Dobat, A. (2013). Between Rescue and Research: An Evaluation after 30 Years of Liberal Metal Detecting in Archaeological Research and Heritage Practice in Denmark. European Journal of Archaeology 16(4), 704-25.Google Scholar

  • Dobat, A, & Jensen, A. (2016). “Professional Amateurs”. Metal Detecting and Metal Detectorists in Denmark. Open Archaeology 2(1), 70-84. doi: 10.1515/opar-2016-0005CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Dunnell, R. & Simek, J. (1995). Artifact size and plowzone processes. Journal of Field Archaeology 22(3), 305-319. Ferguson, N. (2013). Biting the bullet: the role of hobbyist metal detecting within battlefield archaeology. Internet Archaeology 33. doi: 10.11141/ia.33.3CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Fowler, P. (2007). Not archaeology and the media. In T. Clack & M. Brittain (Eds.), Archaeology and the Media, 89-107. Walnut Creek: Left Coast.Google Scholar

  • Hardy, S. (2014). Virtues Impracticable and Extremely Difficult: The Human Rights of Subsistence Diggers. In A. González- Ruibal & G. Moshenska (Eds.), Ethics and the Archaeology of Violence, 229-239. New York: Springer.Google Scholar

  • Hardy, S. (2015). Is looting-to-order “just a myth”? Open-source analysis of theft-to-order of cultural property. Cogent Social Sciences 1(1), doi: 10.1080/23311886.2015.1087110CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hart, S. & Chilton, E. (2015). Digging and destruction: artifact collecting as meaningful social practice. International Journal of Heritage Studies 21(4), 318-35.Google Scholar

  • Herva, V.-P., Seitsonen, O., Koskinen-Koivisto, E. & Thomas, S. (2016). “I have better stuff at home”: Alternative archaeologies and private collecting of World War II artefacts in Finnish Lapland. World Archaeology 42(2).Google Scholar

  • Hollowell, J. (2006). Moral arguments on subsistence digging. In C. Scarre & G. Scarre (Eds.), The Ethics of Archaeology: Philosophical Perspectives on Archaeological Practice, 69-93. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Karl, R. (2011). On the highway to hell: Thoughts on the unintended consequences for portable antiquities of § 11 (1) Austrian Denkmalschutzgesetz. The Historic Environment 2(2), 111-133.Google Scholar

  • Kobyliński, Z. & Szpanowski, P. (2009). Metal detector users and archaeology in Poland: The current state of affairs. In S. Thomas & P. Stone (Eds.), Metal Detecting and Archaeology, 13-24.Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.Google Scholar

  • Koskinen-Koivisto, E. & Thomas, S. (2016) (in press). Lapland’s Dark Heritage: Responses to the legacy of World War II. In H. Silverman, E. Waterton & S. Watson (Eds.), Heritage in action: making the past in the present. New York: Springer.Google Scholar

  • Lewis, M. (Ed.). (2013). The Portable Antiquities Scheme Annual Report 2013, London: Department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory, British Museum.Google Scholar

  • Lewis, M. (2016). A Detectorist’s Utopia? Archaeology and Metal-Detecting in England and Wales. Open Archaeology 2(1).Google Scholar

  • Mackenzie, S. & Davis, T. (2014). Temple looting in Cambodia: Anatomy of a statue trafficking network. British Journal of Criminology 54(5), 722-740.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Matsuda, D. (2005). Subsistence Diggers. In K. Fitz Gibbon (Ed.), Who Owns the Past? Cultural Policy, Cultural Property, and the Law, 225-265. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar

  • Moreau, T. & Aldeman, D. (2011). Graffiti Hurts and the eradication of alternative landscape expression. Geographical Review 101(1), 106-124.Google Scholar

  • Moshenska, G. (2010). Portable Antiquities, Pragmatism and the “Precious Things”. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 20, 24-27.Google Scholar

  • Palmer, N. (1981). Treasure Trove and the protection of antiquities. The Modern Law Review 44(2), 178-187.Google Scholar

  • Pitblado, B. (2014). An argument for ethical, proactive, archaeologist-artifact collector collaboration. American Antiquity 79(3), 385-400.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Polk, K. (2014). The Global Trade in Illicit Antiquities: Some New Directions? In L. Grove & S. Thomas (Eds.), Heritage Crime: Progress, Prospects and Prevention, 206-223. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar

  • Portable Antiquities Scheme. (n.d.). Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting. https://finds.org.uk/getinvolved/ guides/codeofpractice (accessed 19 July 2016).Google Scholar

  • Rasmussen, J.M. (2014a). Securing cultural heritage objects and fencing stolen goods? A case study on museums and metal detecting in Norway. Norwegian Archaeological Review 47(1), 83-107.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Rasmussen, J.M. (2014b). Reply to Comments from Suzie Thomas, Martin Mesicek, Raimund Karl, Mads Ravn, Maria Lingström. Norwegian Archaeological Review 47(2), 212-217.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Redmayne, T. & Woodward, K. (2013). The Metal Detecting Forum - an online community. Resource, education and co-operation. Internet Archaeology 33 http://dx.doi.org/10.11141/ia.33.6 (accessed 29 February 2016).CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Reeves, M. (2015). Sleeping with the “Enemy”: Metal Detecting Hobbyists and Archaeologists. Advances in Archaeological Practice 3(3), 263-274.Google Scholar

  • Renfrew, C. (2000). Loot, legitimacy and ownership: The ethical crisis in archaeology, London: Duckworth.Google Scholar

  • Robbins, K. (2014). Portable Antiquities Scheme: A Guide for Researchers, London: British Museum. https://finds.org.uk/ documents/guideforresearchers.pdf (accessed 20 August 2016).Google Scholar

  • Smith, L. & Waterton, E. (2012). Constrained by commonsense: The authorized heritage discourse in contemporary debates. In R. Skeates, C. McDavid & J. Carman (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Public Archaeology, 153-171. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Stebbins, R. (1996). Volunteering: A serious leisure perspective. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 25(2), 211-224.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Stine, L.F. & Shumate, D. (2015). Metal detecting: An effective tool for archeological research and community engagement. North American Archaeologist 35(4), 289-323.Google Scholar

  • Taylor, B. (1995). Amateurs, professionals and the knowledge of archaeology. The British Journal of Sociology 46(3), 499-508.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Temińo, I.R. & Valdés, A.R. (2015). Fighting against the archaeological looting and the illicit trade of antiquities in Spain. International Journal of Cultural Property 22(1), 111-130.Google Scholar

  • Thomas, S. (2012a). How STOP Started: Early Approaches to the Metal Detecting Community by Archaeologists and Others. In G. Moshenska & S. Dhanjal (Eds.), Community Archaeology: Themes, Methods and Practices, 42-57. Oxford and Oakville: Oxbow Books.Google Scholar

  • Thomas, S. (2012b). Searching for answers: A survey of metal-detector users in the UK. International Journal of Heritage Studies 18(1), 49-64.Google Scholar

  • Thomas, S. (2015a). Collaborate, Condemn or Ignore? Responding to Non-Archaeological Approaches to Archaeological Heritage. European Journal of Archaeology 18(2), 312-335.Google Scholar

  • Thomas, S. (2015b). Multiple-role actors in the movement of cultural property: Metal-detector users. In S. Musteață & Ș. Caliniuc (Eds.), Current Trends in Archaeological Heritage Preservation: National and International Perspective (British Archaeological Reports S2741), 117-124. Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar

  • Tsirogiannis, C. (2015). Mapping the supply: usual suspects and identified antiquities in ‘reputable’ auction houses in 2013. Cuadernos de Prehistoria y Arqueología 25, 105-142.Google Scholar

  • Wilson, J. (2012). The Cave Who Never Was: Outsider Archaeology and Failed Collaboration in the USA. Public Archaeology 11(2), 73-95.Google Scholar

  • Winkley, F. (2016). The Phenomenology of Metal Detecting: Insights from a Unique Type of Landscape Experience. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 25(2). Art. 13. http://www.pia-journal.co.uk/articles/10.5334/pia.496/ (accessed 29 February 2016).Google Scholar

  • Worrell, S. (2010). The Crosby Garrett Helmet. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 20.30-32. http://www.pia-journal. co.uk/articles/10.5334/pia.338/ (accessed 29 February 2016).Google Scholar

  • Worrell, S., Egan, G., Naylor, J., Leahy, K. & Lewis, M. (Eds.). (2010). A Decade of Discovery: Proceedings of the Portable Antiquities Scheme Conference 2007(BAR British Series 520). Oxford: Archaeopress. Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2016-03-01

Accepted: 2016-08-30

Published Online: 2016-10-14

Citation Information: Open Archaeology, Volume 2, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 2300-6560, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2016-0010.

Export Citation

© 2016 Suzie Thomas. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Louise Grove, Suzie Thomas, and Adam Daubney
Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, 2018
Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Natasha Ferguson, Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis, and Suzie Thomas
Open Archaeology, 2018, Volume 4, Number 1, Page 322
Louise Grove, Adam Daubney, and Alasdair Booth
International Journal of Heritage Studies, 2018, Page 1
Adam Daubney
International Journal of Heritage Studies, 2017, Page 1

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in