Friday, 26 January 2018

Denmark, Inventory of metal Detector Finds

An online database for Danish detector finds has been launched at the National Museet. The project (project leader Dr Andres Dobat, archaeologist from Aarhus University, Denmark) is a joint initiative of several  Danish museums which have come together to create a new database, where artefact hunters and others can register their finds. The database is called DIME – Digital Metal Finds ('Database created to register archaeological detectorist finds in Denmark', Archaeofeed).
According to the creators, the purpose of the database is to get a better overview of the thousands of discoveries made each year in Denmark. The database will help both amateur and professional archaeologists and is expected to go online in 2017. Amateur finds are an untapped knowledge bank and organising them has been a challenge for museums as the institutions find it difficult to keep up with the sheer amount of discoveries. The number of finds is said to increase rapidly each year – the number of reported finds has doubled from 5,556 in 2013 to 9,756 in 2016. The database tries to introduce a new approach to handling these antiquities as the amateur archaeologists will be able to log the discoveries into the system themselves.
Metal detecting has always been legal in Denmark, and the curatorial bodies have from the beginning of metal detector archaeology pursued a liberal model, focusing on cooperation and inclusion rather than confrontation and criminalization. In an article on the Danish model (Dobat, A.S., ' Metal Detecting in Denmark' Pløyejord Som Kontekst [The Plough Zone as Context], : Nye utfordringer for forskning, forvaltning og formidling, 2016, p. 51-68), it is
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.
Here, though most of the objects found come under so-called 'Danefæ' and are thus acquired by museums (so there is little scope for making private collections of archaeological objects), and the finder gets a market-value reward.  The number of finds is relatively low compared to Britain and the annual budget required to purchase them is lower than in the UK.  According to one metal detectorist, one of the main categories of objects handed in are 'Borgerkrigsmønter' (Civil war coins) issued by various emitters from 1241-1375. Perhaps this new database will change that.

For some more thoughts on the Danish system see: Heritage Action, 'A bit more evidence the tanker is turning?', 16/02/2011.

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