Lonely Planet Writer

Amateur archaeologists in Denmark are so good that the National Museum can't keep up

Denmark’s  National Museum  has reported that amateur archaeologists in the country are so good at finding ancient artefacts that the institution simply can’t keep up with processing them.

Artefacts on display at Denmark's National Museum.
Artefacts on display at Denmark’s National Museum. Image by Catherine Wilson / CC BY 2.0

Under Danish law, all archaeological artefacts belong to the state, and those who find them and turn them in will be given a financial reward for doing so. But the number of items being handed over to the National Museum in recent years has become so huge that the treasure hunters are currently facing a delay of around two-and-a-half years for their finds to be processed.

Mads Schear Mikkelsen, a spokesperson for the National Museum told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, “We are behind and at the moment we are falling further and further behind. I don’t want to complain about resources, and our treasure trove area is given a high priority but the National Museum has a lot of other tasks that are also priorities.”  

Denmark has been experiencing something of a boom in archaeological discoveries recently. This year alone, several high-profile finds have hit the headlines, including the largest ever cache of Viking gold, and the discovery of an 1100-year-old Danish crucifix indicating that Christianity arrived in the country much earlier than previously believed.

National Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark
National Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark Image by Leonora (Ellie) Enking / CC BY-SA 2.0

Mikkelsen confirmed an increase in the number of treasures being filed: 9756 items were filed in 2015 – with a total compensation value of DKK 4.2 million – and he estimates that that number could reach 12,000 in 2016.

But although there’s the chance that a discovery could be worth a lot of money, many confirm that investing in a state-of-the-art metal detector isn’t a good idea. Even for Jan Andersen, President of the Association of Danish Amateur Archaeologists, the process took several years; he submitted a piece of Bronze-Age jewellery in 2013 and has only recently received payment of DKK 500 (roughly £56). “It takes a very long time,” he said. “It may well stifle interest – maybe not for those who most (sic) go out for archaeology, but for those who go out for sensation’s sake.”