1. Introduction

While Ireland and Italy already had laws in place explicitly relating to archaeology, France has only had legislation to protect archaeological remains as part of public heritage since 1941. This preoccupation with safeguarding our collective memory is not therefore specifically French, as some like to think. The Valetta Convention, signed by the Council of Europe on 16 January 1992, even displays a willingness to have a common political agenda concerning the protection of archaeological heritage. However, although many European countries have shown an interest in such protection by legislation, the results enable very different levels of economic and public expectations to be identified. Since it is not possible to review each country, this article will focus on France. Thus the issues involved in differentiating between professional archaeologists, voluntary archaeologists and treasure hunters can be best assessed through one of the tools of archaeological research: the metal detector.

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