SuALT visits Denmark and DIME

By Ville Rohiola
In the end of November, Ville Rohiola from the Finnish Heritage Agency visited Denmark as a part of research mobility plan of the SuALT project. During the visit, Rohiola met colleagues in Aarhus, Odense and Copenhagen. The mobility was part of the co-operation with other public finds database recording projects, in this case, with the recently launched DIME, a digital portal for metal detecting finds in Denmark. At the time of the visit, DIME had been in use for two months and it showed that the new digital tool sparks enthusiasm among metal detectorists.

The Manor House of Moesgaard, Aarhus (Photo: Ville Rohiola).

The main goals of the trip was (a) to get an overview of the metal detecting archaeology in Denmark, and (b) to see how the DIME portal has been developed and built up to its form, and (c) become familiar with how different users, local museums and the National Museum of Denmark, use the database in their workflow.

Dr. Andres Dobat’s lecture in Kulturhuset Skanderborg (Photo: Ville Rohiola).

The statistics of the first two months show that almost 800 users have already registered to the platform and almost half of them have made a notification of a find to the database. The number of finds after two months was about 7 000 which is a great amount. At this point, most of the local museums working with metal detecting finds are initiating to use DIME in their workflow. The platform seems well received by its users and the feedback has been positive.

The travel of one and a half week included meetings with people from different institutions working with DIME. In Aarhus, most of the time was spent in and the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies of Aarhus University. After visiting Museum Skanderborg, the day continued in Kulturhuset Skanderborg with lecture by Associate Professor Andres S. Dobat, the DIME project leader from Aarhus University and SuALT’s international partner. In his public lecture, Dobat presented DIME and showed new possibilities to work with metal detecting finds. The lecture audience, mainly local metal detectorists, followed the lecture intensely and the room’s atmosphere was filled with co-operation.

Moesgaard Museum (Photo: Ville Rohiola).

After Aarhus, the mobility continued in Odense where Rohiola visited Odense By Museer. In the local museum, it was possible to observe how the museum archaeologists as public officers deal with metal detecting finds. The last stop of the travel was Copenhagen where Rohiola visited the National Museum of Denmark and met people working with Danefae finds, a declared treasure trove find in Danish. The conversations about metal detecting process and tour in different units of the National Museum were very interesting.

The National Museum of Denmark (Photo: Ville Rohiola).

The research mobility in Denmark indicated clearly the reasons why Danish metal detecting archaeology is internationally renowned. One of the main reasons is that Danish archaeology has had a close and long-standing cooperation with metal detectorists. It is the result of a liberal model of metal detecting where focus is on cooperation and inclusion. DIME is a good example and continuity to that – a new way to put even more effort to the cooperation among people working together with collectively shared cultural heritage.

Observations from Oklahoma: Responsible and Responsive Stewards

By Suzie Thomas

During my research mobility period to the University of Oklahoma, I have been able to learn much about how the archaeologists and anthropologists here work to engage with the wider public. One key area of great interest to my colleagues at OU – especially SuALT Expert Advisory Panel member Prof Bonnie Pitblado – is the impact of artefact hunting and collecting in the region. Through talking to members of the Oklahoma Public Archaeology Network (OKPAN) and through accompanying Prof Pitblado and others on visits to collectors’ homes, I have learned that collecting is a long tradition for many current enthusiasts – who in some cases are perhaps the second or even third generation within their family to collect artefacts.

In the context of Oklahoma, the majority of collected artefacts tend to be lithics, often from Palaeo-Indian cultures such as the Dalton and Clovis typologies. The collectors I have met tend to take very good care of the items in their stewardship, and they have detailed notes and documentation, as well as sometimes engaging anecdotes about their own stories of acquisition, which add to the individual object’s biographies. The scale, and long history of collecting, means that to ignore or discount these private individuals that have amassed material but also knowledge (both of the artefacts and of the landscapes in which they were found), would be a disservice to archaeological research, as is the case with many documented metal-detected finds in Europe. It is also unfair and oftentimes inaccurate to assume that the existence of these collections automatically means a fascination only with the objects’ intrinsic (monetary) value, or that the collectors and searchers of this material are automatically deliberate law-breakers. For this reason, Prof Pitblado and others talk about the notion of Responsible and Responsive stewards.

Responsible stewards are those individuals who are – quite literally – taking on a stewardship role, taking care of cultural material and ensuring that it stays together. One collector that I have come to know has even gone to the lengths of spending his own money to buy collections of older artefact hunters (sometimes active way back in the early 20th century) in order to ensure that their field notes and collections stay together for future researchers to access. This has been in contrast with the alternative outcome, which would have been that the objects and papers dissipate onto the market through relatives who are less interested in the collection and look simply to sell or otherwise dispose of their inheritances. An active non-professional researcher himself with several published archaeological articles to his name and a history of working alongside professional archaeologists, and with a long term plan to bequest his collections to the Sam Noble Museum in the city of Norman, this person is most certainly a responsible steward of the objects for which he cares.

Some of the lithic artefacts on display at the Sam Noble Museum, Norman, Oklahoma.

Responsive stewards, by contrast, may not yet be at the stage of fully documenting and allowing access to their collections in a way that maximizes their research value, and may even be engaging in irresponsible practices such as removing objects from the ground without due care and find spot recording. However, as Prof Pitblado and others have noted already elsewhere, many if not most people are prepared to change their practices with regard to artefact hunting and collection, once the importance of doing this – such as the greater richness of archaeological knowledge to be gained – is pointed out to them. Another collector that I have met possibly falls into this category. It became apparent that, unfortunately, some objects in their collection were found on land for which permission to remove material would not have been forthcoming (although it is not clear whether this was explained to the collector during their many decades of active searching). Yet at the same time, the collector has kept their finds together, in a situation where many others were also searching on the same land, and likely taking objects away for sale or other forms of dispersal. In addition, this person has for a long time allowed access to their collection to local archaeologists and museum curators, and in recent discussions appears open to digitizing some of their objects so as to allow worldwide access via the web. These people, responding to outreach, communication and education efforts, are hence responsive in their outlook.

Another vitally important aspect of cultural heritage in the USA is that, like Finland, the country is home to indigenous peoples. With some 39 officially recognized Native American Tribes, Oklahoma has one of the largest and most diverse representations of indigenous culture in the USA, with only the states of Alaska and California having more Tribes within their territories. These are essential communities with whom archaeologists and anthropologists must engage, especially as much of the archaeological material discovered in Oklahoma has a direct connection to indigenous cultures represented in the state today. In this regard, Oklahoma has a fascinating and also troubling history, in that – additional to the groups who already lived in the land that now makes up the state of Oklahoma – many more Tribes were displaced to here after white European settlers seized their original habitats. It is not my intention to go into a detailed history in this short blog post, but needless to say that the legacy of this difficult past continues to play out today, and thus involvement with and control over cultural heritage is a particularly important issue for many of the Tribes in the present.

Section of the Chickasaw Cultural Center exhibition in Sulphur, Oklahoma, depicting the difficult migration of the Chickasaw people to Oklahoma from Mississippi in the nineteenth century, along the so-called “Trail of Tears”.

I have had a truly instructive and enriching experience thus far, simply observing and learning about the patient and inclusive approaches that Prof Pitblado, Dr Amy Clark, Dr Debra Green and many others at OU are taking with the communities around them. We are similarly aiming to be inclusive and collaborative in our development of SuALT in Finland, and I have really appreciated seeing how the work is going in Oklahoma. Similarly, in early October I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker for the Oklahoma City Chapter of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society – a state-wide society for interested avocationals – at which I was able to present my research on working with non-professionals in the UK and Finland, and to introduce SuALT. I was happy to receive positive feedback from Society members, who seemed very interested in the work we are doing in Finland.

Although a finds-recording scheme such as SuALT does not currently exist in Oklahoma, and the logistics, resourcing issues and legal complications of rolling out such a scheme across the whole of the USA make it virtually impossible and more than a little bit unlikely, discussions here have nonetheless turned to digital possibilities. There are plans afoot within OKPAN, for example, also working with enthusiastic avocationals with an interest in photogrammetry, in making 3D images and even 3D prints of some cultural objects in the future. Placing large archaeological finds databases online – as we have seen already with such as the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and anticipate seeing with SuALT – can open up new research avenues, and allow access to scholars situated far away from the physical collections. There is also a new group in formation – the Gang of Oklahoman First American Researchers (GOFAR) is in early stages of formation, but is collecting ‘gang’ members from academia, from Native American groups, and from the avocational community.

Although I only am at the end of my research mobility in Oklahoma, I have found this an enriching and rewarding experience. My enthusiasm is renewed and I am keen to look even more closely into meaningful ways of increasing community engagement with SuALT – across increasingly diverse community groups – and I feel certain that I have deepened links and possibilities for collaborative partnership between what is happening in Oklahoma, and what I and the excellent SuALT team are trying to do in Finland.

SuALT took part in the HELDIG Summit 2018

The HELDIG Summit 2018 was held on the 23rd of October. This year the Summit presented diverse topics about ongoing projects surrounding the Finnish Digital Humanities Infrastructure landscape with the theme “Infrastructures for Digital Humanities”.

During the day we heard about what services are available at the moment and what is still being developed. The day started with an excellent keynote lecture by professor Charles van den Heuvel from Huygens Institute and University of Amsterdam. In his talk “Infrastructures and Interfaces for Digital Humanities Research: Dutch Experiences and Expectations” professor van der Heuvel stressed the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration and data management skills. Digital Humanities is not only interface design, it’s also important to ask the right questions of the data through research.

After this followed 22 presentations, including a short presentation by Ville Rohiola, Anna Wessman and Mikko Koho from SuALT. In the paper we presented the project and its aims shortly.

Anna Wessman, Mikko Koho and Ville Rohiola presented the SuALT project. Photo: Eero Hyvönen.

The outcome of the day hopefully underlined to everyone that digital humanities is a rapidly growing field, and an increasing number of projects are already applying digital methods to their studies. During the Summit it also became clear that there is an enormous potential offered by digitalisation. All the new available methods, techniques and software tools offer advantages that we could not even dream about 10 years ago and the development is rapid. Furthermore, we learned that there is a need for closer collaboration between scholars in the field of Humanities and Computer Science. These new digital projects need deep knowledge of both the source materials and applicable computational methods in order to succeed. That is why it is important that the different disciplines work hard to understand each other.

DIME has launched!

SuALT’s cousin project in Denmark, DIME (Digitale Metaldetektorfund/Digital Metal Finds), is since September 20th available online. During its launch day DIME had 6.700 visitors, 289 new users and 760 finds submitted, which tells that this is a true success story from the beginning.


DIME is a database where amateur archaeologists including metal detectorists can register their finds. There are among 4000 metal detectorists in Denmark. The detectorist community can from now on self-record their finds into a digital platform with the help of their mobile phones. DIME is also a tool for researchers and the public. Through DIME people can now see different kind of artefacts and follow where in Denmark they have been found.

DIME is one of the biggest crowd-sourcing and citizen-science projects ever in Danish archaeology. It is a research project between three museums (Moesgaard Museum, Odense City Museums, the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland) and the University of Aarhus in collaboration with the KROGAGERFONDEN Foundation. The project leader Dr Andres Dobat from Aarhus University is also project partner for SuALT.

SuALT visits British Museum and ARIADNE

Jouni Tuominen and Eero Hyvönen from the Linked Data team of the SuALT project, Aalto University and HELDIG – Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities, visited our colleagues in United Kingdom for a 10-day trip in June–July 2018. The main goal of the trip was to gather and evaluate the experiences of our British collaborator, Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) for implementing the forth-coming SuALT system in Finland, and to investigate possibilities of reusing and linking the data in British databases. The trip also included a visit to York university and the ARIADNE EU infrastructure project on archeological data.

Our trip started at the British Museum by visiting the head of PAS, Michael Lewis, and Ian Richardson, treasure registrar, who introduced us to the Treasury department and PAS and the national processes for dealing with finds. The PAS finds database was started in 1998 and it contains now some 1,361,000 objects within 870,000 records, being the largest of its kind in the world. The work covers England and Wales and is systematically funded and organized: the work is coordinated by the British Museum PAS office, and includes some 40 Field Liaison Officers (FLO) collaborating with the metal detectorists locally in different counties and collecting the find reports.

The impressive inner court of the British Museum

In UK, a find is considered a “treasure” if it is a metallic object with at least 10 percent gold or silver, and if it is at least 300 years old. The Treasure Act, passed in 1996, states that such a treasure has to be reported to the local Coroner within 14 days for evaluation. The state has the right to purchase the find, if it is considered worth it, and the value of the find is evaluated based on its market price by a national committee. In some case the price can be substantial. For example, the price for famous Staffordshire hoard now on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery was deemed worth over 2 million pounds. Typically, the price money is divided between the landowner and the finder. In PAS some 12,000 treasures have been reported thus far of which 3,800 were acquired by over 200 museums. Most common finds include medieval and post-medieval jewelleries, dress accessories, and belt buckles.

Anglo-Saxon England objects of the Staffordshire Hoard at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from the 7th century

We were kindly invited to the semiannual PAS general meeting, which hosted most of the FLOs of PAS. We also had a chance to visit the FLO of the London area, Stuart Wyatt, at the Museum of London, and discuss the matter with Robert Webley, a former FLO. The meetings were a nice opportunity to get to know the experts who are the point of contact for the metal detectorists, learn how they work and record the finds, and advise the finders of best practices. Support like this would be needed in SuALT, too. As FLOs are at work as they are inputting data into PAS, they try to make the data compatible with Historic Environment Records (HER) held by County Councils, District Councils or Unitary Authorities. PAS and HER are two completely different systems, and the the data is exported from PAS into HER. As in Finland, find databases, museum collection databases, and heritage site databases are maintained in their own data silos although these resources are related content wise, which is not an optimal solution. This matter was discussed in a separate PAS/HER working group meeting in Birmingham. A goal of SuALT is mitigate this problem by data linking.

PAS Field Liaison Officers’ semiannual meeting at the British Museum

There was also a possibility to meet the technical developers maintaining the PAS system, i.e., Stephen Moon and Maxwell Keeble from the Information Systems department of the British Museum. We also got a welcome opportunity to meet and have a discussion with Michael Johnson of the London-based L&P Archaeology, a company that is developing DIME, the Danish metal detected find database.

An important use case to the SuALT system will be to use the data for research purposes. PAS data is already been researched in many ways, and we were pleased to have a meeting with Eljas Oksanen, who showed new research results and analyses he and Michael Lewis were working on.

During our stay we also visited Julian Richards and his colleagues at the University of York to discuss Archaeology Data Service (ADS) and the ARIADNE EU infrastructure project. In the same vein as SuALT, ARIADNE is based on Semantic Web technologies. SuALT, via University of Helsinki and HELDIG, is a member in a consortium that has received funding for developing the current ARIADNE infrastructure further (ARIADNEplus).

Meeting prof. Julian Richards (right), Katie Green, and Holly Wright at the University of York working on ARIADNE and ADS infrastructures for archeology

Thanks for staying tuned!

SuALT goes Lapland

Standing remains from the second World War outside of Vuotso, Sodankylä. Photo: Suzie Thomas / Toisen maailmansodan aikaisia jäänteitä Vuotsossa, Sodankylä. Kuva: Suzie Thomas.

Next week, SuALT members Anna Wessman and Suzie Thomas from the University of Helsinki will be in Finnish Lapland. As well as giving presenting the project, in English and Finnish, at a special public evening in Siida museum on Tuesday 14th August they will be visiting locations such as Inari, Vuotso, Tankavaara and Kolari.

In particular we hope to interview archaeologists, curators and hobbyists on their opinions concerning how the citizen scientist initiative SuALT for recording archaeological objects found by the public should take shape. For example, what kind of material should be recorded? What other features should the database have? Who should be able to access the data it collects?

Contact us on if you are in northern Lapland from 12-20 August and would be interested in talking to us.

SuALT matkustaa Lappiin

Ensi viikolla SuALTin jäsenet Anna Wessman ja Suzie Thomas Helsingin yliopistosta ovat Suomen Lapissa. SuALT projekti esittäytyy yleisöluennolla suomeksi ja englanniksi Siidan museossa tiistaina 14. elokuuta klo 17-19.

Saamelaismuseo Siida, Inari. Kuva: Creative Commons / The Sami  Museum Siida, Inari. Photo: Creative Commons.

Tämän lisäksi projekti vierailee esimerkiksi Inarissa, Vuotsossa, Tankavaarassa ja Kolarissa. Haluaisimme matkan aikana haastatella erityisesti arkeologeja, museotyöntekijöitä ja harrastajia heidän mielipiteistään siitä, miten SuALT tietokantaa tulisi kehittää yhdessä kansalaisten kanssa. Minkälaista löytömateriaalia tulisi esimerkiksi tallentaa löytötietokantaan? Mitä muita ominaisuuksia tietokannassa pitäisi olla? Kenellä olisi oikeus käyttää tietoja joita kerätään tietokantaan?

Mikäli olet Lapissa 12.-20.8. ja haluat keskustella näistä teemoista, ota yhteyttä