Our Portable Past

Guidance for Good Practice

This statement sets out Historic England’s approach to surface-collected portable antiquities in the context of our own archaeological projects. Historic England also recommends the statement as a suitable model to follow for organisations that fund or authorise archaeological projects, and for land managers and individuals involved in giving consent for archaeological projects whatever the legal status of the site or sites involved. It is also a statement of good practice for portable antiquities/surface-collected material in the context of field archaeology and survey programmes (including the use of metal detectors).

This edition updates codes of practice, legislation, the names of organisations, but removes references to the collections and museums of the English Heritage Trust. It also provides a new case study on metal detecting on battlefields. 


  • Introduction
  • International and domestic law and codes of conduct
  • Key principles
  • Field projects
  • Metal detecting
  • Trade in antiquities
  • What Historic England will do
  • Appendix 1: International law, domestic law, statutory schemes and voluntary codes of practice
  • Appendix 2: Definitions
  • Appendix 3: Case study: Metal detecting on historic battlefields
  • Appendix 4: Model waiver of rights to reward
  • Appendix 5: Bibliography
  • Acknowledgements

Additional Information

  • Series: Guidance
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: 40
  • Product Code: HEAG177


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