Licencing in other countries
There is considerable confusion as to what the licencing of excavation involves, and this can best be explained by looking at the relevant legislation in other countries.
Here we give the relevant legislation from Ireland, from Northern Ireland (where the legislation is of the Irish type, rather than the British type), and finally from France, which is perhaps the most elegant form of all.
It is interesting to note that in France, the licensing provision is Article 1, and thus, logically, the basis of their whole legislation.
One should note however that in all these countries, there is no amateur archaeology as we know it.
26.-(1) It shall not be lawful for any person, without or otherwise than in accordance with a licence issued by the Commissioners under this section, to dig or excavate in or under any land (whether with or without removing the surface of the land) for the purpose of searching generally for archaeological objects or of searching for, exposing or examining any particular structure or thing of archaeological interest known or believed to be in or under such land or for any other archaeological purpose.
(2) The Commissioners may at their discretion issue to any person a licence to dig or excavate in or under any specified land for any specified archaeological purpose and may insert in any such licence such conditions and restrictions as they shall think proper.
(3) Any person who digs or excavates in or under any land in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds.
(4) Nothing in this section shall apply to or render unlawful digging or excavation in or under any land for or in the course of any agricultural or industrial operation nor shall a licence under this section operate to render lawful the doing of anything which would be unlawful if this section had not been passed.
(N.B. This was amended slightly in subsequent acts of 1954 and 1987 – the 1987 amendment laying down that fees should be payable for issuing a licence).
The Northern Ireland Act is similar:
Historic Monuments Act (Northern Ireland) 1971
ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS AND FINDS
Restriction on excavation for archaeological purposes.
11.- (1) A person shall not, save under and in accordance with a licence issued by the Ministry under this section, dig or excavate in or under any land (whether or not such digging or excavation involves the removal of the surface of the land) for the purpose of searching generally for archaeological objects or of searching for, exposing or examining any particular structure or thing of archaeological interest.
(2) Subject to subsection (3), the Ministry may issue to any person a licence to dig or excavate in or under any specified land for any specified archaeological purpose.
(3) A person shall not, under the authority of a licence issued under this section, enter on the land to which the licence relates except with the consent of the occupier of the land and the owner (if the owner is known).
(4) Any person who digs or excavates in or under any land in contravention of this section or of the terms and conditions of any licence issued thereunder shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50.
(5) A licence issued under this section shall not render lawful the doing of anything which would be unlawful if this section had not been passed.
Provisions as to archaeological objects found
12.-(1) The finder of any archaeological object (in this section referred to as a “finder”) shall, within fourteen days of such finding, report the circumstances of the finding and the nature of the object either to the Director of the Ulster Museum (in this section referred to as “the Director”) or to the officer in
charge of a police station, and, subject to subsection (2), shall, together with such report, forward the object found.
The French Loi de 1941 sur les Fouilles archeologique, passed by the Vichy government presents an elegant brevity, as well as coming, logically, right at the start of the law as the first article:
LOI DU 27 SEPTEMBRE 1941 (1)
REGLEMENTATION DES FOUILLES ARCHEOLOGIQUES
De la surveillance des fouilles par l’Etat.
ARTICLE PREMIER. – Nul ne peut effectuer sur un terrain lui appartenant ou appartenant à autrui des fouilles ou des sondages à 1′effet de recherches de monuments ou d’objets pouvant intéresser la préhistoire, 1′histoire, l’art ou 1′archéologie sans en avoir au préalable obtenu 1′autorisation.