Reflections on a meeting on Portable Antiquities and Open Data.

By Suzie Thomas

On 25th January I attended a workshop meeting hosted by the Römisch-Germanische Komission, part of the German Archaelogical Institute, at their offices in Frankfurt. The meeting was intended to bring together researchers interested in using open data to record portable antiquities, particularly those found by hobbyist metal detectorists.

This meeting was interesting because it brought together, in addition to international researchers from Finland, the UK, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands (see about SuALT’s “cousin” projects elsewhere on our blog), state archaeologists from the different German Federal areas. What was clear, was that while something is known of how much metal detecting activity there is and what its impact might be, it seemed that much of this knowledge is still also rather patchy in places. This is likely one symptom of having different heritage laws in different federations, and it is hopeful that the meeting in Frankfurt may have marked the beginning of more communication between regions on this issue.

The meeting was also an opportunity to update on the various finds-recording open databases and platforms across Europe, including our still-early progress with SuALT in Finland, and hearing more about the progress of the projects of DIME (Denmark), PAN (Netherlands) and MEDEA (Flanders, Belgium). The longest-running finds-recording program, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (England and Wales) was of course also presented.

Finally we had a discussion of the larger linked open data schemes, and specifically ARIADNE. There are hopefully more cooperation opportunities in this impressive program for Finland. Furthermore, the existence of transnational datasets further highlights the importance of integrating our own future databases into existing infrastructures as much as this is possible.

The next day several of us spent the morning user-testing the PAN database, finding out what we as researchers could do with the database as it is currently presented, and what else we might want to see. This was very useful for PAN’s development of course, but also gave important insights into the kinds of capabilities SuALT will need in the future.

In the end, the workshop was extremely useful for reconnecting with many international colleagues, especially when SuALT is planning its own Expert Advisory Panel meeting soon with our overseas specialists in early March. It also highlighted how much dialogue is still needed, not only for developing ways to record finds data that is useful to finders and researchers without compromising archaeological sites, but also for general understanding between different regions concerning the nature and scale of hobbyist interactions with the cultural heritage environment.

Auta meitä kehittämään SuALTia vastaamalla kyselyyn / Help us to shape SuALT with this survey

Suomen arkeologisten löytöjen linkitetty avoin tietokanta (SuALT) on Suomen akatemian rahoittama monitieteinen hanke (2018-2020), jossa kehitetään metallinetsijöille ja muille arkeologian harrastajille uusi helppokäyttöinen verkkopalvelu. Sen avulla voi muun muassa ilmoittaa arkeologisia löytöjä Museovirastolle kansalaistieteen keinoin, saada lisää tietoa arkeologiasta ja osallistua alan tietämyksen kartuttamiseen Suomessa ja kansainvälisesti.

SuALT tulee jatkossa olemaan se työkalu, jolla kansalaiset voivat ilmoittaa löytöjään ja samalla osallistua maamme arkeologisen tietämyskannan tuottamiseen. Viranomaiset, tutkijat ja kansalaiset pystyvät jatkossa SuALTin avulla hakemaan tietoja ja analysoimaan niitä omissa tutkimuksissaan. Hankkeessa huomioidaan myös eri kokoelmatietojen välinen yhteentoimivuus, koska löytöihin liittyvää aineistoa on saatavilla jo olemassa olevissa kokoelmissa.

Ennen kuin ryhdymme kehittämään SuALTia haluaisimme pyytää tulevilta käyttäjiltä apua. Mitä toimintoja ja palveluita siinä pitäisi ehdottomasti olla mukana? Miltä SuALTin sinun mielestäsi tulisi näyttää?  Auta meitä kehittämään siitä helppokäyttöinen ja toimiva työkalu juuri sinulle!

Vastaa kyselyyn suomeksi täällä

Sähköposti: sualt-project(at)

The Finnish Archaeological Finds Recording Linked Open Database (SuALT) is a multidisciplinary project funded by the Academy of Finland (2018-2020), which will develop a new easy-to-use web service for metal detectorists and other archeology enthusiasts. Among other things, it will report archaeological finds to the Finnish Heritage Agency through civic means, record more information on archaeology and contribute to the development of knowledge in Finland and internationally.

In the future, SUALT will be the tool for members of the public to report their discoveries and at the same time to participate in the production of our archaeological knowledge base in Finland. Authorities, researchers, and the public will be able to use SuALT to retrieve data and analyze it in their own studies. The project also takes into account the interoperability between various known collections, linking material related to discoveries that is available in existing collections.

Before we start developing SuALT, we would like to ask future users for help. What activities and services should it definitely be involved in? What do you think SuALT should look like? Help us to develop it as an easy to use and functional tool for you!

Complete the survey in English here.

Email: sualt-project(at)