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Metal Detecting in Denmark: Advantages and Disadvantages of the Liberal Model

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Since the early 1980s, metal detector surveying conducted by non-professional volunteers (amateur archaeologists) has contributed significantly to archaeological research and heritage practice in Denmark. Metal detecting has always been legal in Denmark, and official stakeholders have from the beginning of metal detector archaeology pursued a liberal model, focusing on cooperation and inclusion rather than confrontation and criminalization. Like no other surveying method, the metal detector has contributed to increasing enormously the amount of data and sites from metal-rich periods. Virtually all of the spectacular and ground-breaking discoveries of the past decades are owed to metal detectors in the hands of amateur archaeologists.
In order to serve as a contribution to the discussion on the upsides and downsides of liberal metal detector archaeology, this article addresses mainly three questions: 1) Why does the liberal model work in Denmark, 2) which downsides of the liberal model of metal detector archaeology in Denmark can be identified, 30 years after its inception the beginning, and 3) what are possible solutions to these problems. It will be argued that a user-driven national inventory of metal detector finds as the basis for research and dissemination is a precondition for the liberal model; and that, in the absence of such an inventory, metal detector finds are better off if they were left in the ground.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPløyejord som Kontekst : Nye perspektiver for forskning, forvaltning og formidling - artikelsamling
EditorsJ Martens, M Ravn
Number of pages18
Place of publicationOslo
PublisherPortal Forlag
Publication year2016
ISBN (print)978-82-8314-073-6
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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