PAN: Portable Antiquities of the Netherlands online

Finally, the Portable Antiquities of the Netherlands (PAN) is online. All started with a project of Prof. dr. N.G.A.M. Roymans, University of Amsterdam.

PAN is similar to the English and Welsh PAS, the Danish DIME, and the Flemish MEDEA, and all are part of the North Sea Area Finds Recording Group, which registers archaeological artefacts.

The Dutch PAN intends to register and to publish online metal artefacts that were found by metal detecting, and are owned by private collectors. The open access of these data (location of the finds, description,…) will facilitate scientific researchers, cultural heritage, museums and other interested institutions in gathering more detailed information about the objects. PAN also created a classification of the various types, some of them include drawings and a description to determine the objects, with a link to reference literature and weblinks such as English Heritage.

Portable antiquities (small metal artefacts of prehistoric or historical date) are found in large quantities by metal detector users while walking arable fields or trenches of building plots and other construction works. These private finds greatly outnumber the collections of metal artefacts usually retrieved by professional archaeologists during excavations. Therefore, they have a high scientific potential for studying economic, social and cultural aspects of past societies. For professional archaeologists distribution maps of portable antiquities are major tools, but at present such maps are notoriously incomplete as through a lack of a centrally organised database privately owned items cannot be taken into account. Apart from a scientific interest, as indicators of archaeological sites the portable antiquities are also highly relevant for heritage management in the context of spatial planning. PAN aims to establish close cooperation between the private metal-detector community, the academic world and heritage institutions regarding the registration, scientific enrichment and use of the collections of portable antiquities for decision-making in planning policy. Metal detection as a leisure time activity started to spread in the 1970s. With the first generation of detectorists now being in their 70s, there is an urgent need to document their collections before with their death an enormous potential of scientific information will be lost forever. While the objects themselves might remain available for further research in the future, the crucial information on the exact find spot of the metal objects can only be retrieved orally from the finders themselves.

Although private individuals have a legal obligation to report their finds to municipal, provincial or state authorities, in practice this is hardly done, also because reporting finds is not well facilitated at present. This investment proposal aims at developing an infrastructure for find reports, encompassing a digital find reporting site (online database with a linked data structure) as well as the manpower to digitise the backlog of existing collections. Examples of similar reporting infrastructures outside the Netherlands and recent developments in digital humanities, networking services and crowdsourcing have been major sources of inspiration for the lay-out of the national infrastructure proposed here.

You can follow PAN at Facebook. For further information, contact

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