What to do when you make an archaeological find in the garden?
Flanders is marking Archaeology Days this weekend. The northern region of Belgium is a treasure trove for (amateur) archaeologists. Many finds are made in the top 30 cm of the soil. The absence of volcanos and earthquakes means Flemish topsoil has had a relatively peaceful past and if there is anything there it will be well-preserved.
Find an ancient object in your garden and you have made a “find by chance”. By law you are obliged to inform the Immobile Heritage Agency within three days by using the handy online form. The agency will dispatch experts to the scene. In the meantime it’s hands off: don’t continue digging as you could wipe out precious archaeological evidence that could shed new light on our ancestors!
People applying for a building licence will be obliged to include information on the archaeological situation in some cases. A recognised archaeologist is able to draw up an “archaeological note” following a preliminary archaeological investigation. He or she will determine whether any archaeological artefacts may be found and will suggest measures to preserve the scene.
Prospective builders will have to foot the bill for the preliminary archaeological investigation themselves though grants are available.
If you do find treasure, the good news is it’s yours! You own the land and everything in it, though you are responsible for the storage of valuable finds.
The best advice is to allow the archaeologists to store the objects if we’re talking about bones or shards. Find a hoard of coins and you’d best contact a museum that will hopefully offer you a fair price.