Archaeology is a profession, the use of metal detectors outside the legal framework is prohibited
The use of metal detectors for archaeological purposes is conditional on obtaining a prefectoral authorization.
The Law of 18 December 1989 made the use of metal detectors for archaeological purposes subject to the dual authorization of the State and the landowner.
The article L. 542-1 of the heritage code states that "no person may use equipment that permits the detection of metallic objects, for the purpose of researching monuments and objects that may be of interest to prehistory, history, art or archaeology, without first having, obtained an administrative authorization issued on the basis of the applicant’s qualification and the nature and manner of the search.”
The use of metal detectors outside the legal framework is prohibited: it threatens the study and preservation of archaeological heritage.
“Detection of leisure” or “scavenger hunt”, these expressions cover a single reality: probing the ground with a metal detector, digging and extracting, without scientific methodology, metallic objects and collecting them for personal or commercial purposes.
It is not the monetary or artistic value of the finds that motivates archaeological research, but the significance of each element in relation to its direct context, as time has preserved it until now. Extracting objects without observing and examining this archaeological context is tantamount to dislocating the meaning of buried remains, ruining the understanding of a site and permanently losing entire sections of knowledge of the past. This is why even archaeology professionals must obtain prior authorization from the State for any archaeological research project, especially with the use of metal detectors.
Archaeological heritage is a precious and non-renewable resource: let us leave the invisible sources of history in place so that they can retain their full significance.
Which department to apply for authorization from?
The request for authorisation must be made in writing to the Regional Director for Cultural Affairs of the region concerned or online via the portal for administrative procedures.