Metal detecting holidays in England

with the Worlds most successful metal detecting club

Twinned with Midwest Historical Research Society USA

Treasure Laws in other countries

There is not much up to date information on the web on the latest laws for each county so make sure you check with the countries consulate before you consider taking a holiday to these countries to metal detect. The list below is only a guide and witten 10 years ago. In the UK the laws are clearly laid out in the Treasure Act 1997 - See Treasure Act page


I have posted at the bottom of this page some stories that I came across of 'Looting' while trying to update these laws. Unfortunately these thieves give detecting a bad name as people associate 'night hawking' and looting with legitimate detecting. These people are not metal detectorists but thieves that use a metal detector like a house breaker uses a crowbar.

Press Release

The conviction that the real threat to metal detecting will come from Brussels has compelled David Cowell to form the Standing Conference for European Metal Detecting (scemd). "Every attempt to introduce restrictive legislation in the United Kingdom has been met with fierce resistance from the hobby" says David "so why would self-interested parties continue trying to exert partisan influence in a country with on of the most structured and disciplined hobby in the world?"
"Far better to wait until the job can be done as an extension of the European harmonisation programme" he continued "When the French government adopted, on 18 December 1989, Law Number 89-900 (NOR: MCCX8900 163L), which imposed considerable restrictions on the use of metal detectors and imposed criminal penalties on transgressors, there was very little opposition and a similar situation was experienced in Eire although I acknowledge the valiant efforts made by some hobbyists in these countries in attempting to resist the threat"

"In reply to a question asked by the Socialist MEP Mr James Ford on 18 December 1989, the Commission of the European Communities said the issue of member states and their intentions regarding banning metal detecting, was outside its jurisdiction. Before the hobby gives a sigh of relief it should just remember that the important lesson is that there is already interest being shown, for whatever reason, in metal detecting in the European community and it is only a matter of time before a convenient and potentially successful legislative mechanism is found."

The hobby in the UK has been successful in opposing threatening legislation because the overwhelming weight of reason and intellectual credibility rests firmly on its side and it has an effective national organisation to defend its interests. The wealth of historic knowledge that is attributed to metal detectorists has been well documented and this has all resulted from co-operation being encouraged.

The scemd has three members from each country and, although frequent meetings are geographically prohibitive, modern technology will be employed to ensure that communication is effective. "Conference call facilities are an ideal way of ensuring important issues are discussed" explained David "and I will be using every modern method available to make sure that the various representatives are able to influence and determine policy"

"More important is the scemd's ability to respond to threats from anywhere in Europe and, as the legislative processes do not often allow for lengthy discussion and deliberation, the scemd is structured to allow executive decisions to be made quickly and incisively with the elimination of length bureaucratic processes"

The scemd submitted a response to the Environment Department in Northern Ireland following the draft proposal for the Historic Monuments and Archaeological objects (northern Ireland) Order and has investigated the likelihood of successfully approaching the European commission of Human rights should the Order in Council be enacted.

"The hobby in the UK has, by its professionalism, made great strides in demolishing the old arguments and this is reflected in the numerous areas of co-operation being witnessed but we should be vigilant. There are still areas of resistance to change and they are still attempting to influence opinion at the highest level. The scemd's role is to provide support, when requested, to all responsible metal detectorists throughout Europe, to co-ordinate activities in countries where the hobby's institutions are still being formulated and to filter information regarding potential anti-metal detecting legislation. The scemd is not an alternative to national organisations."

Further information from David Cowell on (01303) 257022 or write to him at 248 Dover Road, Folkestone, Kent, England. CT19 6NS

The Law Regarding Metal Detecting Outside the United Kingdom
A report by David Cowell on the known law relating to the use of metal detectors throughout the world.

Sunday 6th June, 1993 Issue no 3

(Since this was written the UK now has the Treasure Act)

This report has been written to provide available information on the law in other countries. Every effort has been made to verify its correctness but anyone wishing to metal detect overseas should satisfy themselves of the legal situation at the time they intend travelling.

Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey


The use of metal detectors in archaeological contexts on land or underwater requires an excavation permission issued by the Austrian Federal Monument Authority (Bundesdenkmalamt) because such use is considered to consitute an `excavation for the purpose of discovery and exploration of movable and immovable monuments' in the sense of Section II of the Austrian law for the protection of monuments. Such permissions are in general not issued to private individuals.



Under Section 2(1) (a) of the antiquities law of 1935 (amended 1973) any object whether movable or part of immovable property is protected by law.

Section 14 (1) states that ` no person shall excavate or cause excavations to be made whether on his own land or elsewhere for the purpose of discovering antiquities without a licence'.

Although not specifically mentioning metal detectors, section 14(1) implicitly rules them out, nor can a landowner legally give permission for a search to be carried out if it resluts in excavation.


Finds and rewards - the rights of the finder
Future trends

There are a number of historical and archaeological sites where it is totally forbidden to use a metal detector.

On public land it is the local community that decides whether metal detectors may be used. It is estimated that approximately 50% of the public land is closed to metal detecting.

On public woodland the forest superv isor decides whether or not a metal detector may be used. In most cases permission is not granted.

There is hardly any problem on public beaches as to forbid metal detecting would discriminate against a class of people and, therefore, a child would not be able to use a bucket and spade etc.

Apart from seeking the permission of the landowner, there are no restrictions on private land.


Any coins minted after the coin reform in the 19th Century can be retained by the finder otherwise all coins and artefacts must be delivered to the National Museum.

The finder is awarded a cash sum for the find although, as this is determined by the National Museum, it is always below the market value. It is very rare that the finder is allowed to keep his find.


Archaeologists recognise the benefits to be derived from seeking cooperation not confrontation and this is improving the relationship.

The method of calculating rewards is being challenged by the media and will probably result in change in the future.


All moveable objects, such as coins, weapons etc over one hundred years old should be reported with an indication of context (Antiquities Act 1963, Section 16).

This legislation does not rule out the use of metal detectors.


The use of metal detectors was controlled by the use of the war time Patrimony Act 1941 but, on the 18 December 1989 Law Number 89-900 (NOR: MCCX8900 163L) was adopted which states:

Article 1: No one may use metal detecting equipment for the purpose of searching for monuments and objects which could interest (concern?) prehistory, history, art or archaeology without first having obtained administrative authorisation issued according to the qualification of the applicant and also the nature and method of searching.

Article 2: All publicity and instructions on the use of metal detectors must carry the warning of the prohibition stated in Article 1, the penalties involved and also the reason for this legislation.

Article 3: Every infringement of the present law will be noted by officers, police agents and other law enforcement officers, as well as by officials, agents and guardians of Article 3 of the law number 80-532 of 15 July 1980 relative to the protection of public collections against acts of vandalism.

Article 4: The reports drawn up by the various persons designated by Article 3 above will, until proved to the contrary, be given or sent, without delay, to the public prosecutor of the Republic in the jurisdiction where the offence was committed.

Under French law the enactment of legislation is followed by the Decree which determnines how the law will be applied. In this case the Decree states:

Article 1 The authorisation to use metal detectors, provided for by Article1 of the 18 December 1989 Law is granted, on the demand of the interested party, by the licence of the Prefect of the region in which the land to be searched is situated.

The request for authorisation must establish the identity, competence and experience of the applicant as well as the location, scientific objective and the duration of the searches to be undertaken.

When the searches are to be carried out on land which does not belong to the applicant, the written application must be accompanied by a document of consent written by the owner of the land and, if appropriate, anyone else who has the right.

Article 2 Anyone who uses a metal detector to carry out searches of the sort described in Article 1 of the Law without having first obtained the authorisation required or who does not observe the requirements described in Article 1 of this Decree will be punished by the fine applicable for contraventions of the fifth class. The equipment used in the infringement will be confiscated.

Article 3 Whoever publicises or draws up publicity for, or draw up information about the use of metal detectors and fails to draw attention to the requirements of Article 2 of the Law will be punished according to the penalties applicable for offences of the fifth class.

Beaches are believed to be outside this Law.


The 1992 law on the search for, and preservation of antiquities, covers all objects belonging to the ancient period, early Christianity and the Middle Ages.

Excavation requires a licence and work may not be carried out, without permission, near an antiquity in such a way as to affect it directly or indirectly. All accidental discoveries must be reported. Rewards are made equal to 50% of value if found on public land and 100% if on private land.

Although the 1932 Act does not refer to metal detectors, any items found by its use are covered by the Act.


The law in Northern Ireland is not the same as mainland England and the use of metal detectors is covered by the Historic Monuments Act (NI) 1971 which states:

Part IV Section 11: A person shall not, save under and in accordance with a licence .....dig or excavate in or under any land ..... for the purpose of searching generally for archaeological objects ....

Part IV Section 12: The finder of any archaeological object ..... shall, within fourteen days of such finding, report the circumstances .... to the Director of the Ulster Museum .... or to the officer in charge of a police station.

SOUTHERN IRELAND The National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1987 (Section 2) states:

Subject to the provisions of this section a person shall not:

1a: Use or be in possession of a detection device in, or at the site of, a monument of which the Commissioners or a local authority are the owners or guardians or in respect of which a preservation order is in force or which stands registered in the Register or

2a. in an archaeological area that stands registered in the Register or 3a. in a Registered area


b: Use, at a place other than a place specified in paragraph a of this subsection, a detection device for the purpose of searching for archaelogical objects or

c: Promote, whether by advertising or otherwise, the sale or use of detection devices for the purpose of searching for archaeological objects.

Note: `Archaeological area' is defined as ` an area which the Commissioners consider to be of archaeological importance but does not include the area of a historical monument standing entered in the Register'.

Section 40 states that `Where in a prosecution for an offence under this section it is proved that a detection device was used, it shall be presumed until the contrary is proved that the device was being used for the purpose of searching for archaeological objects'.


The Antiquities Act 1978, Section 9a states that `no person shall excavate in a private property for the purpose of discovering antiquities, nor search for antiquities in any other manner, including the use of metal detectors, nor gather antiquities unless he has received a licence for such from the Director. Breach of this section carries a liability to imprisonment for a term of 3 years or a fine of =A3150,000'.

Section 38 of the same Act states that `any person found on an antiquity site, in whose possession or in whose immediate vicinity are found excavation tools and it can be assumed that they were recently used in excavation work at the site, or in whose possession or in whose immediate vicinity is found a metal detector, is presumed to have intended to discover antiquities unless he proves that he has no such intention.


The 1939 Act of the custody of artistic and historic objects affords protection to all objects and coins of historical or archaeological value including coins. All objects are State property and must be reported to the Superintendency of Arts. Rewards may be offered up to 1/4 of the value.

Metal detecting is forbidden in the following areas:






Coins found minted after 1500 can be kept by the finder and 10% of their value has to be paid to the landowner.


The 1977 Monument Protection Act requires the declaration of any antiquities found in the soil. A government permit is necessary for archaeological excavations.


The 1966 Act on excavations and movable cultural objects states that `all search and excavations with the aim of discovery or bringing to light objects or sites of historical interest can only be made with the authorisation of the Minister for Arts and Sciences'.

The use of metal detecting for unauthorised searching is widespread and, in the view of the Ministry of Justice, is in contravention of the law.


The 1925 - 1974 Antiquities Protection Act affords protection to all objects, both movable and immovable, which are more than 50 years old. Excavation can only be carried out with government authorisation (Article 1). The reporting of accidental finds is compulsory (Article 10).

Since 1979 there has been a ban on the import of any metal detectors of sufficient sensitivity to be of any danger to archaeological sites.


Information to follow.


Section 4 of the Cultural Heritage Act 1978 lists a wide range of specified objects, both fixed and movable, dating from before 1937 which are protected. Section 3 also provides protection from unauthorised excavation. The ownership of all objects older than 1537 and of coins older that 1650 is vested in the State (Section 12, a and b). Section 13 requires that all finds should be reported to the authorities who will fix a suitable reward. There is no specific reference to metal detectors.


Information still required.


The Spanish Tourist Office in London advises in their General Information sheet:

Metal Detectors: The use of metal detectors is not allowed unless an import license for the detector has previously been issued. Further enquiries should be made to the Spanish Commercial Office.

The Commercial Office at the Spanish Embassy, if asked, provide the following written information:

1. The use of metal detectors could involve considerations of the Law and Regulations governing artistic or archaeological finds, involving national heritage and treasure trove, as provided by the very detailed Law of 25th June 1985 (Historical Heritage); and the Royal Decree of 10th January 1986 which develops it.

2. If anything is found, therefore, it would be necessary to comply with the complex procedures outlined in these enactments; and it would certainly not be possible for any finds to be taken out of Spain until the proper Authorities had given their consent. That could take months; and if the article in question is classified as part of the national artistic heritage, and/or is over 100 years old, it is not likely to receive an export permit either at all, or for a very long time, owing to the complexity of the procedures.

The second aspect is a technical one. The Royal Decree of 25th November 1987, which deals with nuclear energy and radio-activity, lays down rules and safeguards against radiation. The Order of 20th March 1975 sets out the homolagation rules for radio-active apparatus. The metal detector in question may not comply with those rules.

There is a third aspect. The local Naval Authorities have been known to complain because the use of metal detectors has interfered with electronic communications.

All in all, therefore, it is preferable not to use metal detectors in Spain.

December 1989

Metal detectors: metal detecting is a strictly controlled activity in Spain and its practise in public places requires a permit from the relevant local council. Permits are normally granted for investigation purposes only.


Section 19 of the 1988 Act which prohibited metal detecting in the countries of Gotland and Oland has now been extended to include all of Sweden.


No legislation specifically refers to metal detecting by private individuals, though legislation exists to ban unauthorised search or excavation of antiquities.


The 1973 Antiquities Act carries very extensive lists of movable and immovable objects protected including places of ancient settlement or places where there are vestiges of ancient civilisations (Article 1). All objects are the property of the State (Article 3 ) and reporting is obligatory (Article 4) but a reward system exists (Article 47).

There is a specific provision against treasure hunting, illicit excavation and dealing in antiquities (Article 51 - 52). Unauthorised treasure hunting carries a penalty of 2 - 5 years imprisonment and fines of =A35,000 to =A310,000 (Article 47).

Looting in the United Kingdom

Yeavering Bell, one of the UK’s most important Iron Age hill forts has been seriously damaged by illegal metal detectorists, who have dug at least 34 holes into a secluded part of the site, since a public access agreement was negotiated by Northumberland National Park. Archaeologist Dr Rob Young, and landowner Lord Anthony Hill expressed concerns that looting had never occurred in the National Park on such a scale before and potentially brings the large numbers of responsible metal detectorists into disrepute, while damaging relations with landowners. Under British Law illegal digging on a scheduled ancient moment carries a penalty of two years’ jail or an unlimited fine.

Archaeologists in the north of England fear more than 150 Roman objects, including coins, glassware, jewellery, shoulder plates and a Viking bone comb, may have been stolen from six boxes in a Carlisle council storage building and sold via the Internet. Archaeologists said some of the items were extremely rare. The matter is currently under police investigation, and some of the artefacts have been recovered from various research offices. The items were found on the site of the Millennium Gallery by the Roman fort of Luguvallium near Hadrian’s wall.


Tales from Italy

A smuggling ring operating from the southern Italian port of Bari has been discovered by Italian police who have charged 16 people, including shopkeepers who allegedly sold illicit antiquities. With branches in five regions of both north and south Italy, the ring dealt in religious art treasures and illegally excavated archaeological material, some of which came from sites near Taranto in Puglia.

Rory Carroll, writing in The Guardian (4 May 2002) interviewed 66-year old Italian tombarolo Antonio, who began illegal digging in his 20s and uses the money to supplement his income as a house decorator. It emerged that:

Antonio estimates he has destroyed more than 2200 tombs over the years.

That he prefers Etruscan tombs which are shallower than Roman, so apparently easier to ransack.

That he believes modern tomb robbers have ‘no patience, no finesse’ and destroy much material when they open a tomb.

Israeli arrest

May: The Israel Antiquities Authority’s Theft Prevention Unit caught a man, from the nearby area of Silwan, with a metal detector digging for ancient coins on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Use of metal detectors is prohibited under Israeli law.

Sudanese mummy

Two antiquities smugglers in Sudan were arrested, in an undercover police operation, trying to sell the country’s first fully-preserved mummy for $586,000. Police had been staking out the men since their arrival in Khartoum to find buyers for the mummy, which they had discovered in its grave at the royal cemetery of Napata. Siddeek Mohammed Gism al-Seed of the Sudanese Museum said the mummified body, fantastically well-preserved owing to extremely skilled mummification and burial in desiccating desert sands, was a member of the family of Pharoah Taharka of the Cush Dynasty.

Irish metal detecting

In August Anthony Molloy and his son Kevin pleaded guilty to charges of illegal possession of archaeological objects found in Ireland. Judge Michael Reilly, of Birr District Court heard that Molloy used his retirement present, a metal detector, to help him raid sites in north Tipperary and pointed out that as he had been employed by the national heritage service as wildlife ranger he knew where archaeological sites were located. Nearly 800 artefacts, including two Bronze Age daggers, an Iron Age pin, bronze sword handle and hundreds of perfectly preserved coins, were found at the defendant’s home by officers from the Art and Antiques Unit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations and handed over to the National Museum. Irish law, updated in the 1990s to counter wide-spread illegal treasure hunting, requires that finders must notify authorities of finds within 96 hours or risk fines and prison time.

Crisis in Ukraine

Professor Vikto Myts, of the Crimean Institute for Archaeology in Simferopol says that criminal gangs can actually be seen watching and waiting for excavation teams to pack up for the night before they move in to strip sites of valuable Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Bronze Age artefacts. • In a parallel development Ukraine’s powerful mafia now employ archaeologists to work directly for them, illegally excavating sites with the aid of mechanical diggers, floodlights and armed guards to ward off police, other gangs and concerned academics.

Half a square-mile of the Hellenic city of Olvia was recently looted out by thieves.

In most cases, the few tomb robbers who reach the courts receive only a suspended sentence.

Prized artefacts — gold, statuettes, decorated pottery and Hellenic period vases — are snapped up at the Sevastopol flea market for immediate transfer to Moscow where they will fetch bigger sums and then be smuggled abroad.

Philippe Coumarianos (Kathimerini, 16 August 2002) describes an outing with Volodya, leader of a gang of tomb robbers in the Ukraine, who work on commission from wealthy dealers. During the night:

A stone slab, 3 metres undergound, is shattered with a steel bar to allow access to an ancient tomb.

The remains of the woman buried within are raked over to recover a few pieces of bronze artefacts, some paste-glass beads, and some red terracotta jars.

Volodya reveals that during previous nights the team have looted 12 burial sites only to recover a quantity of clay pottery not worth much on the black market.

Greek illicit antiquities

Interpol reports that of 141 art-theft cases reported in Greece in 1999, 27 were from archaeological sites although real figures are difficult to gauge since thefts often remain undiscovered until material appears on the official art market.

The Greek anti-Antiquities Smuggling squad announced that from 1999–2001 they recorded 101 law violations, involving 142 Greek nationals and 8 foreigners. 2014 archaeological artefacts, 157 Byzantine icons and 3367 coins were logged.

Cases of antiquities smuggling, having risen only slightly in the 1990s, have increased considerably in the last 3 years because of a building boom and intensified police action.

Kathimerini (10 October 2002) reports that there are no more than 65 legally-designated collectors in the whole of Greece, compared to another 800 antiquities owners. According to Greek law owners are people who have inherited certain objects, but are not permitted to acquire more. Licenced collectors on the other hand own collections whose intrinsic interest has been recorded. They are entitled to add to their collections and are under no obligation to reveal the source of their purchases.

In June the Greek Paliament passed a new antiquities law according to which anyone possessing objects dating prior to 1453 must declare them to authorities within 12 months of the law’s publication and may then be permitted to keep them.

In April, Athanassios Frangos, a municipal employee from Evia, Greece was arrested trying to sell two Hellenistic statues and a fifth-century bc golden figure of a goat. 45 coins were also seized.

August: Three jewellers in the Plaka area of Athens and one from the south of the city, were arrested and charged with illegal possession and sale of antiquities when 74 pieces of jewellery incorporating ancient coins were discovered in their shops. 417 small-denomination ancient copper coins from Macedonia were later found by police in a jewellery workshop.