A New Contribution on Amateur Metal Detecting in Poland. Between Theory and Practice
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Katedra Kryminalistyki, Wydział Prawa, Administracji i Ekonomii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego ul. Uniwersytecka 22/26 PL 50-145 Wrocław
Muzeum Archeologiczne we Wrocławiu, Oddział Muzeum Miejskiego Wrocławia ul. Cieszyńskiego 9 PL 50-001 Wrocław
Wiadomości Archeologiczne 2017;LXVIII:33–43
The problem of illegal detecting for artefacts was first diagnosed in Poland in the 1990s. Today, destruction and depredation of archaeological sites continues to be one of the most serious threats to the archaeological heritage. Sadly, actions taken over the last two decades aimed on combatting this harmful practice have not been successful. Searching for archaeological and historical objects using metal detectors has been a highly controversial subject, made worse at present now that additionally to criminal activities recognized in the past new forms have appeared, e.g., metal detecting on battlefields, death camps and POW camps. The large and polarized detectorist community has been complaining about the repressive law, accusing archaeologists of negligence in running archaeological investigations and disregard for issues which are of a major interest to amateur detectorists. Non-compliance with legal regulations is widespread owing to the negligible success rate in persecuting illegal treasure hunting. This is compounded by the low level of awareness of the need for heritage protection among the general public, the archaeological record in particular. This situation should be blamed to some extent on the State, its failure to implement long-term and comprehensive education projects designed to raise public awareness about the specific nature of the archaeological heritage. As a result, illegal metal detecting has been perceived as a harmless hobby. All attempts made to regulate this phenomenon are increasingly being met with a public resistance. Responding to proposals of improving the relations between detectorists and the archaeologist-conservator community the article presents a number of strategies which could solve some of the diagnosed problems. One solution might inviting a group of detectorists selected from among their large and mostly anonymous mass to pursue their hobby openly, only along new rules, in close, and more importantly, regular cooperation with professional archaeologists, involving them in making discoveries relevant for the progress of history and archaeology research. Other possibly useful measures: 1) modifying the currently enacted legal definition of archaeological artefact; 2) changing the terms of issue of permits to detect for buried or lost artefacts; 3) we permit a group of specified amateurs to make searches with metal detectors.