Swedish metal detector regulations are uniquely restrictive. They have never been good from the perspective of knowledge advancement, artefact rescue or public participation in cultural heritage. And in recent years they have become worse. But with this blog entry I don’t aim to tell you what I think of the current rules or why. I’m just summing up what the rules are. Thanks to Olle Södergren and Ny Björn Gustafsson for insightful comments and corrections on a draft of this entry!
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). Long waits are always part of the process.
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 members of the public find an object older than 1850 on or next to a registered site, it is public property and must be handed in to the County Archaeologist, regardless of what material it is made of.
- When members of the public find objects older than 1850 somewhere else, they (not the landowner) have ownership of them except in the following cases, where finders are obliged to offer the finds to the State before possibly gaining ownership:
- Objects that consist at least in part of gold, silver or copper / bronze / brass.
- Objects irrespective of material that are found together in some kind of cluster.
- This means that if you find a single iron object somewhere distant from registered sites, it is legal 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 an archaeologist. This means that if you find something really interesting and follow the rules, chances are you will not get continued permission to metal detect in that spot, as most County Archaeologists do not let detectorists anywhere near known archaeological sites.
- Private individuals can receive a permit to metal-detect a certain spot for a certain time, provided there is no known archaeology there and the person expresses no interest in archaeology.
With all this in mind, to enjoy metal detecting legally and constructively in Sweden as a private individual, follow these steps.
- Identify a likely field/beach/park far from the nearest registered ancient monument (runic Rs on the map, also check the on-line register).
- 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.
- Screenshot a map and circle the area you want to metal detect with drawing software. A field or two is realistic: a parish is not.
- Fill out an on-line application form on Länsstyrelsen’s web site (i.e. the County Council). Append the map. Emphasise that you already have the landowner’s & tenant’s permission and you will show any pre-1850 finds to the County Archaeologist. Do not mention archaeology. The permit is typically good for one year.
- Pay a 870 kronor fee for them to process your application (€85, £72, $100). This does not guarantee that you will get a permit.
- Wait two weeks and then start nagging the County Archaeologist politely by phone.
- When metal detecting, bring your permit, a GPS navigator and zipper baggies. Bag all finds that you believe are pre-1850. Write coordinates in the SWEREF 99 TM grid on the bags.
- If you find something you believe is pre-1850, e-mail pictures of the object and its GPS coordinates to the County Archaeologist as soon as possible.
The above procedure is designed to keep private individuals away from archaeological finds as far as possible. There is however a way for a person to take part in targeted archaeological fieldwork in their spare time. This is by joining the Swedish Metal Detector Association and waiting for one of the collaborative efforts they organise with a few friendly organisations, notably Örebro County Museum. I work part-time at this museum, and organising big detector investigations is one of my tasks.
Now, what have I forgotten? And is anything unclear? Tell me!
This is an updated version of an entry from 2009.