Many archaeological finds come to light through metal detecting. It is a legitimate hobby with a large following and the potential to contribute greatly to our understanding of the past.

There are many metal detector users active in Dorset, and we encourage and support responsible detecting through the Dorset metal detectorists liaison scheme.

We are always pleased to record archaeological finds, as even isolated finds may add something to our understanding of Dorset's past. Over a period even apparently insignificant finds may enable us to identify key concentrations of material, or to understand trade or settlement in the county through distribution patterns.

Dorset has a Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) as part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme for the voluntary recording of archaeological finds. You can get help with finds identification and care, and report archaeological finds through the Portable Antiquities team or by contacting the Historic Environment Record. We can also advise on the reporting of finds of potential treasure, as required by the Treasure Act 1996.

Many metal detectorists come along to our Finding Dorset events to handle and learn more about different types of finds.

Metal Detecting on Dorset Council farms

Dorset Council's policy on metal detecting on council land was established in 1996. It sets out the conditions under which metal detecting may be allowed on Dorset Council farms.

Metal detectors may not be used on Dorset Council land without prior written consent from the Senior Archaeologist. Consent will be given for metal detecting on DC farms only if the tenant is willing and the following conditions are met:

  • the detectorist is a member of the Dorset Council Metal Detectorists Liaison Scheme, and agrees to abide by the Dorset Code of Best Practice for Metal Detecting in Dorset
  • detecting is limited to land which has been ploughed recently (ie not pasture)
  • all finds are the property of Dorset Council
  • the detectorist is able to demonstrate that finds will be recorded to archaeological standards
  • the detectorist should have reported at least two previous years' finds to the Dorset Historic Environment Record

Information and guidance on metal detecting on Dorset Council land

We are working, with members of the Dorset Council metal detectorists liaison scheme, on information and guidance for people hoping to detect on county farms.

This is work in progress, and we’ll publish draft documents here as soon as we feel they are reasonably complete. We'd really like to know if we are striking the right tone and level of detail, so please let us have your comments. We'll flag up additions and changes as we make them and as your comments come in.

Senior Archaeologist, Promotion and Liaison

Name: Claire Pinder
Tel: 01305 224921
Full contact details