Www Hu, Tibor Ákos Rácz
The current legal framework governing the use of metal detectors is characterised by its strictness. Even the employees of heritage protection institutions may only perform instrumental surveys of archaeological sites under comprehensive official control. Such rigour is understandable given that the use of metal detectors results in a very significant proportion of the archaeological material hidden underground, which forms a part of the nation's assets, being either destroyed or transferred to
more » ... d or transferred to private collections, often abroad, meaning that their value is lost as items of material and cultural history. The most important condition that private individuals contemplating the use of a metal detector must meet is the conclusion of a cooperation agreement with the museum responsible for the area in question. With that provision, the law has delegated the responsibility for overseeing activities with metal detectors to museums. The recent legislation has presented a new challenge to the decision-makers of the institutions concerned, and the experiences of the last few years indicate that no national consensus has been reached on the issues. Museums with local collection areas apply various rules and practices in their respective catchment areas, and that introduces additional confusion into an already opaque situation. Within the framework laid out in the legislation, our institution is attempting to develop a model that is capable of turning activities conducted at the fringe of the archaeological profession, partly illegally, into an asset that serves heritage protection. We are quite aware that only a programme built on solid scientific foundations and long-term cooperation can really furnish an alternative to the pillaging of archaeological sites. We can increase social awareness of the value of heritage protection by setting an example, and not through rigid rejection. A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NEW REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE USE OF METAL DETECTOR INSTRUMENTS In 2016, completely new legislation was introduced to govern the use of metal detector instruments (Government Decree no. 496/2016 [XII. 28.]), outlining a novel way of dealing with the problem. In Hungary, the level of trust in heritage protection institutions is low; museums and national heritage as a whole lack appropriate prestige and, to ameliorate against that, these strict regulations were introduced. For Hungarian nationals who find archaeological objects, delivering the objects to a museum or reporting the archaeological site that they have discovered it is not a natural reaction. On the other hand, compliance with the law remains uncontrolled as long as on-site protection of archaeological sites is not practicable. Those who have previously used their metal detectors specifically for profit will not be stopped by the regulation, and the network of internet metal-detector forums, online stores and illicit trading will also offer opportunities to sell the treasures found. The law-abiding segment of the metal-detector community, those who have always considered the activity a hobby and are quite willing to cooperate with museums, have put down their instruments in disillusionment. The legislators failed to take their interests into account-indeed, they were unable to do so since metal-detector hobbyists have not formed an association in the legal sense, and they have found it difficult to form groups together. In essence, they have only formed informal groups of friends, so there was no one to negotiate with. The experience has left a rather bitter taste in the mouths of the staff of the heritage protection institutions involved whose opinions were not taken into account either, or were only taken into account rather tangentially, during the drafting of the legislation. Very many of the citizens who own a metal detector are actually not aware of the details of the applicable legislation; indeed, there is some variation in the interpretation of the statute even among heritage protection 1 Ferenczy Museum Centre, Szentendre