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

Suzie Thomas 1
  • 1 Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki FI00014, Uusimaa, Finland


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.

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