Compared to the UK the heritage laws in Germany and Austria are much more restrictive when it comes to metal detecting. But are these stricter laws really an effective deterrent? If so, the number of metal detectorists should be higher in the UK than it is in Austria and Germany. However, due to the stricter laws, the actual number of metal detectorists in the latter two countries is unknown.
To compare numbers of metal detectorists in the countries mentioned above, this case study looks at metal detecting online fora, especially their membership numbers. These indicate that there are more metal detectorists in Germany than there are in the UK. This suggests that laws alone do not prevent people from looking for archaeological material. Laws do, however, influence other patterns of behaviour, particularly the reporting of finds to the authorities by their finders. Stricter laws do not seem to deter metal detecting, they deter finds reporting.
Thus, to ensure that as much archaeological information as possible is preserved or recovered and recorded properly by its finders, another solution must be found. Allowing for more public participation in archaeology in Austria and Germany might be one way to achieve this goal.