How To Metal Detect Legally In Sweden

A friendly Englishman who recently settled in southern Sweden wrote me to ask how a law-abiding metal detectorist should go about getting a permit to pursue their hobby in this country.

The first thing to understand is that the Swedish system makes it effectively impossible to metal detect on a whim while vacationing (unless you’re a nighthawk). Paperwork, overburdened county officials and long waits are always part of the process. A sustained metal detector hobby is only really possible if you stick to one or two län counties and establish a good relationship with the County Archaeologist and County Museum.

I’ll explain the pertinent laws, then I’ll give some instructions.

  • Metal detecting is illegal in Sweden without a permit from the County Archaeologist, Länsantikvarien. Metal detecting is never legal for amateurs on the islands of Gotland and Öland in the Baltic.
  • Sweden has no trespassing laws: as long as you don’t interfere with crops or livestock, or bother someone at home, you can go wherever you want.
  • When a member of the public makes an archaeological find, he (not the landowner) has ownership of it except in the following cases, where he is obliged to offer the find to the State before possibly gaining ownership:
    • Objects that consist at least in part of gold, silver or copper / bronze / brass.
    • Objects that are found together in some kind of cluster.
  • This means that if you find a single iron object, it is not illegal to keep it, but you are concealing potentially valuable archaeological data. If you find a flint chip and a potsherd together in one spot, then you are obliged to offer them to the State. And if the State decides to keep any of your finds, you are entitled to remuneration.
  • The find spot of an archaeological object becomes a known archaeological site the moment you show your finds to the museum staff. This means that if you find something really interesting in a field and follow the rules, chances are you will not get continued permission to metal detect in that field, as most County Archaeologists do not let detectorists anywhere near known archaeological sites.

With all this in mind, to enjoy metal detecting legally and constructively in Sweden, follow these steps.

  1. Identify a likely field/beach/park far from the nearest registered ancient monument (runic Rs on the map, also check the on-line register).
  2. Check with the landowner & tenant that it wouldn’t cause them trouble to have you walking and digging little pits on the land in such and such a season.
  3. Print out or photocopy a map and circle the area you want to metal detect with a marking pen. A field or two is realistic: a parish is not.
  4. Write an application letter to Länsantikvarien at Länsstyrelsen (i.e. the County Archaeologist at your County Council) where you specify the time frame (weeks or months are realistic, years are not) and emphasise that you will get the landowner’s & tenant’s permission and you will show your finds to your County Museum. Append the map.
  5. Wait two weeks and then start nagging the County Archaeologist politely by phone.
  6. When metal detecting, bring your permit and a GPS navigator. Bag all finds except those of which you’re absolutely positive that they are of post-WW2 date. (Hint: all aluminium is post-WW2.) Write coordinates in the Swedish National grid on the bags.
  7. Once a month or so, make an appointment with an archaeologist at the County Museum to look through your recent finds.
  8. Everything will be much easier if you get to know people: join the local historical society and offer the County Museum your services as a volunteer (or, if you’re lucky, paid subcontractor) on its excavations.

Now, what have I forgotten? And is anything unclear? Tell me!

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86 thoughts on “How To Metal Detect Legally In Sweden

  1. It would be more than different – I’d say that a national interest organization is a basic condition to get anywhere with this in Sweden, otherwise you’ll end up treated like a bunch of happy geeks. It might take a while to arrange, but I think it would be well worth the effort. An interest organization backed up with fresh and solvent research results both from archaeologists and metal conservators is harder to dismiss than one single enthusiast.

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  2. Even so, it still might prove (very) difficult. I was part of the start-up of Svenska Metalldetektorföreningen (Swedish Metal Detecting Association), which came to be because of the law of 91 with the specific purpose of either effecting a change in the law or establishing realistic conditions for carrying out or hobby. However, it was dismantled after some 3-4 years due to the massive opposition (or rather, the silent treatment). After a while, the SMF got no further permits or opportunities for cooperation with archaeologists. And it was more or less made clear that none would be forthcoming, which reduced SMF to a pure lobbying organisation.

    However, there are loose discussions of starting up something new. At least the support from the professional side has improved during the last decade, which is very welcome.

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  3. Me too,
    I’m living in Häljarp, outside Landskrona in SkÃ¥ne(Scania)
    I have applied for and received permit to detect on beaches in the west side of skÃ¥ne, from Ängelholm to barsebäck. and some areas in the “woods” close to me. There’s not much forest here, but some recreational areas exist between the fields, and I have gotten a permit for that.

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  4. Thanks for the info Lars. And that’s actually really good news!

    If the CAB in Scania now all of a sudden is willing to give permits in woodland, where there is a real risk of disturbing the context of any interesting finds, then they should happily give permits on ploughsoil (where the risk is slim to none) as long as we steer clear of the Rs.

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  5. they should happily give permits on ploughsoil as long as we steer clear of the Rs.

    Yeah, generally speaking it’s probably a good idea to steer clear of the County Archaeologist’s arse.

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  6. Woohoo Lar’s,that gives me confidence.Just applied to detect Ängelsback,BÃ¥stad,Vejbystrand and Hemmerslöv beaches 🙂 too much? lol,guess we’ll see.
    Maybe i should reapply and add Ängelholm,we could battle for the goodies! 😀

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  7. Nahh, would love to see you there.

    I haven’t met anyone yet with a detector.

    I’m planning to go to Ängelholm quite soon, and try the area out before the mugglers arrive. There must be loads of stuff left from last season? On the other hand, I don’t know how many of us that actually go there and detect. ( with or without a permit)

    I was doing a short test in Rydebäck three days ago, but they had “cleaned” the beach with a large machine, and dumped the top layer in big piles. Added to that was some strong winds the day before that, so the sand had drifted heavily. not much to find in the thick dry sand which the wind had deposited.

    better luck next time.
    i hope

    Lars

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  8. Dunno why they spend all that money on those beach cleaning machines when we do a much better job of clearing all the crap!lol, Blah 😦

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  9. Well I personally think it’s a shame, I’ve been a Detectorist for 3 or 4 years now.

    To me it seems that the law does punish those who want to do it legally. Think about it, it’s them we limit.

    The nighthawks carry on since they don’t care about the law any way.
    They organize I would suspect, making it easier on them to plunder/loot the area none the less.

    I would also like to join Svenska Metalldetektorföreningen or similar should it get up and running again.

    If we want change I suppose we do need to organize, otherwise we are talking to deaf ears.

    I also like the Danish law, it’s a middle game of our law (Sweden’s, to harsh) and England’s. (to loose, some claim)

    Best Regards,
    Willie K.

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  10. Update:

    Well i applied for and got permission from SkÃ¥ne to detect magnarp strand,vejbystrand,Ängelsback,Torekov,BÃ¥stad and Hemmerslöv beaches.(Oddly enough NOT the small beach in BÃ¥stad behind Pepe’s bodega,which is the most popular.Blah.)
    And from Halland to do Skummerslöv,Melbystrand and (yay)Tylösands! 🙂
    I now have to get permissions from EACH Kommun too!
    Wanting to be “legal” i’m in the process of doing all that,but have been detecting most of the beaches already coz i’m the impatient type,lol.Apologies to the purist’s but it’s all a pain in the arse.

    @Lar’s ..I met another detectorist on Skäldaviken beach,(which i’m also applying for as well as Ängelhölm)but he’s the only other dectectorist i’ve seen,and he just seems to whizz about grabbing coins “for gas” from the top layer.I usually find a few more if i go over his ground once he’s gone lol.Could be you for all i know? 😛

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  11. I’ll certainly do that mate thanks.Unfortunately apart from coins i’ve not found anything of significant interest upto now.My oldest coin is only a 1907 5 öre,and the only other “old” thing i’ve found is a reflector from the back of a very old bicycle.The outer casing appears to be copper or brass.
    I did find an encrusted axe head,but it was a fairly modern one i suspect broke while being used to chop wood for a beach fire.
    I’ll let you know if anything turns up,don’t hold your breath though mate. 🙂

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  12. Hmm.. A GPS to mark finds?

    Wonders.. Will they (the state) sponsor me since I don’t own one?? ;-P
    Maybe they even will sponsor me with a good video camera for recording finds with laser to get accurate depth readings.
    *grins*

    Re SMF, they should have stood firm if you ask me, the silent treatment should only have resulted in higher screaming from their side. And also media contact/attention.

    I still think us detectorists should organize.
    Question is how to do it effectively.

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  13. great stew!
    keep us posted on the results from these beaches. I’m especially interested in finding out if tylösand turns out to be a good site.

    I haven’t been very productive lately. been on holiday, and i did not bring my detector with me, since a) the laws in Spain seems to ban detectors now and b) the wife did not approve of me going hunting while on a family holiday 🙂 Safely back home and I catched a flu (perhaps the swine kind?)

    But any day now I’ll go out and use my beeping machine.

    Best regards,
    Lars

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  14. @ Lars – Glad you’re back safely mate and hope the holiday went well.
    The Spanish law states you do need permits and all kindsa crap to detect,and if you do find anything,even modern day coinage,you have to hand it in!
    From what i can tell,(from other detecting forums and such) nobody gives a toss about spanish laws and they just detect the beaches anyhow lol.(same as some people here i’m guessing.)
    Kept the wife happy though eh? lol.

    I’ve not done Tylösand yet.Got the permit from Halland but now have to get permission from Halmstad Kommun now.
    That other detectorist i met told me Tylösand is THE best beach! I doubt he has permits and permission,but also doubt he gives a toss either,and just does it!No idea how many others target there.We’ll see.
    Good hunting mate 🙂

    @ Willie – I also think it would take a massive and organized plan of action by us detectorists here to get anywhere.Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an organization or people WILLING to put in the time and effort.I can’t even speak Swedish,so i can’t be leader lol.
    Still,we can hope eh?

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  15. @Stewart – G’Day mate! I was actually thinking of bringing my detector with me to mallorca, and use it anyway, without a permission. There is however a an upside to keeping the wife happy: If mummy is happy – everybody is happy 😉 We had a great time on our holiday.

    I would like to go to for a detecting holiday some time in the future. It would be great if we could round up a small group and go somewhere. A weekend, a week or something. It could be close like Denmark or the Baltic countries, or it could be further away, like the Mediterranean area. North Africa would be great – Carthage? Finding 2000 year old coins and relics…

    Anyway summer here will soon end, and then its our time to take possession of the beaches 🙂

    Happy hunting!

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  16. I think it would be a really ugly thing to do, to go to a poorer country with lax laws or insufficient policing, and rob their heritage. I’d be really ashamed to see Swedish detectorists in Cartage unless they were part of a research team.

    But Swedish detectorists can become members of Danish detector associations that cooperate with museums and universities on their projects. It’s not far across Öresund. At least one of Aard’s regular readers and guest bloggers does this all the time.

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  17. @Stewart:
    I’ll be working on it. Hopefully soon, a Swedish detecting forum is soon to open I hear according to gossip I picked up.
    (Expect this fall/autumn?)
    If that’s up it may be easier to organize?
    I’d be willing to give it a shoot, but not alone and then as a student on top of that.

    We need somewhere to start, and tops would be a few companies as support and a forum to meet.
    I possibly know 2 companies who would be interested. 😉

    But that’s a matter of the future, I’m going to study way up north and little time for such fun stuff.
    (Northern Lappland)

    Regards,
    Willie

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  18. Northern Lappland?? you’ll be studying where ya nuts vanished to! Cold up there i believe mate,lol.Let us know when this new forum is up and running,and tell them they all have to speak English!! 🙂

    Have to agree with Martin on Carthage and places like that.Part of an excavational team etc would be fine,but not just arrive and pillage.(we leave that to the vikings 😛 )
    I’m all for free rein on beaches for gold and coins though.

    A trip to Denmark or the Baltic could be interesting though.I’ll chat with you about this when we meet up.I think Tobias pops over there from Helsingbörg a lot.Maybe he can tell us the rules and places to go etc..or even join us?

    What the hell does anyone go to Northern Lappland to study?…

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  19. @ Stewart,
    Yes.. My nuts?? Heck I am so nuts already so that only does compensate a bit. ;-P
    Yes temps can go down to -40 C there. *grins*

    Actually a military jacket from surplus supply’s is a excellent choice for that, 5.11 makes nice jackets.

    I’m telling ’em to put up a English corner for you mate. 😉

    In Northern Lappland one can study “Ädelsstens Teknik” which is related to gem stones and jewellery making.

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  20. Hi folks,

    I am a MD enthusiast from Italy who recently moved to Sweden (been married to a Swede) and guess what? It´s kinda harsh not being able to practice my favourite hobby on a country with so many restrictions. I have been detecting since I was a child so twenty odd years or so.

    To be honest I am not that interested to get permission in Sweden just to hunt recent Kronor on a playground, if I do detect I do it properely not just for the sake of it but at least to contribute to the preserving of the Swedish Heritage.

    Entries on this topic date back to 2008-9 and I do not know if the the law has now chanced in our favour or not (I´ve heard sth is on the move) however it seems like archeologists do not even consider asking for help to members of the public who enjoy detecting for the sake of their nation and its history.

    How do you think it´s possible to change the rules on the table? I am a simply a dreamer and should perhaps take up fishing?

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  21. I know the import laws have changed dealing with metal detectors, as far as I can understand, its not illegal to own one, or import. I have done beach searches in and around Stockholm, keeping a good distance from any declared historic sites or noted burial places. You have to calculate the land rise factor if its viking age ( ca. 10 meters sea level difference) so far I have had no problem with the locals or authorities, as using “a meteorite hunter” seems to be accepted…..

    There are a hand full of us who do regular searches, *cough…”meteorites”… and have stumbled on *other objects.
    If this is classed as “nighthawk” so be it…. but it is a hobby….and NOT a plunder of historical artifacts. Its absurd in this day and age to deny or class a simple hobby as criminal…..but yeah, Sweden has a tendency to get so tied up in over the top bureaucratic law creation that you need “permission” to breath….

    I say use your common sense and enjoy your hobby.

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    • I disagree. If you are finding old metalwork, not putting GPS coordinates on it, not sharing information about your finds with other interested people, then you are plundering the archaeological record.

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  22. key word here, beach…. new stuff.. junk…beer cans… and all around fun things….obviously you missed the part about “using your common sense” which would mean ANY object that would be classed as historical is off limits.

    MY point here is the use of a MD as a HOBBY… and the good sense that would go along with that mind set. This is the problem, its taken for granted that any MD user is already suspect, even if on a beach ( which is where we search.)

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  23. Then I agree. I don’t think anybody would want you to put coordinates on beer cans from beaches. But I do think that it would be even more fun for you and way more useful for archaeology if you were given a licence to search for ancient stuff in ploughsoil and report it to the county museum.

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  24. Granted I would love to work those areas, I have asked locally with the kommun I live in, but no one seems to know who exactly is the authority for the area ( perhaps you know?) I hold a degree ( BA) in Geology and have a good working knowledge of bronze age history and would be VERY interested in helping or at least meeting those that do work in this field. ( Stockholm)

    Thanks for your response.

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  25. You know, we lose a great deal in this world when we doubt the better side of humanity. The state may have the best of intension’s, but its based on the negative of what we could be, and its a shame not to use the creativity and imagination that comes with discovery.

    There is so much that could be added to history, if fear didn’t run things.

    Thanks for the links:

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  26. Was thinking metal detecting could be a really fun hobby here in Sweden. Very disappointed to read this article!

    Would definitely be cool if the authorities involved in setting up the red tape instead organized training and licensing of metal detectorists. Absolutely seems like a waste of an incredible resource.

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