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PAN: Portable Antiquities of the Netherlands

The name Portable Antiquities of the Netherlands refers to mobile archaeological finds such as coins, brooches, buckles, shards of pottery and glass, but the name is also hinting at the Greek word pan, meaning ‘all’.

Archaeological research is usually based on finds from excavations, but large collections of antiquities in private ownership also exist. These are for instance collected by people searching for archaeological remains on agrarian field or construction sites. Their private collections are very valuable for science and heritage studies, but have never been systematically documented and therefore hardly known in professional circles.
The aim of PAN is to document and publish finds of archaeological interest, mainly those of metal, found by members of the general public and in private collections. By publishing the collections online, the objects and their find locations are made available for heritage purposes, academic research, museums, and members of the general public to enjoy.

Relevance for society
PAN is relevant for scientific research, but also serves wider societal issues. PAN closes the gap between science and the broader public because it invites private individuals to participate actively in research. Because PAN seriously studies the private finds, PAN offers recognition to volunteer archaeologists for their searching activities. Furthermore, PAN has educational value: members of the general public can see what antiquities have been retrieved in their municipality,  which will lead to increased awareness of the past. Finally, the results of PAN are relevant for development planning in The Netherlands. The finds that are reported via PAN can be indicative of important archaeological sites in the subsoil, and when development plans for a given area are scheduled, additional research can be included in the plans.

It is no coincidence that PAN started in 2016. On July 1st, 2016, the new Heritage Law was effectuated, in which metal detection was legalized in the topsoil of 30 cm. Until that date, metal detection was illegal, although it was practiced a lot and generally not prosecuted. From September 1st onwards the documenting of private collections started immediately, because some collections are endangered. Collectors who started searching in the 1970s, when the metal detector became broadly available, are now ageing. The scientific value of the collections is not only in the objects themselves, but primarily in the location where the objects were retrieved. Knowledge of the findspot is rarely ever written down, and present in the finders’ memory only. This information must be passed orally from the finder to a researcher, to be plotted on a map and combined with photographs and descriptions of the finds. The PAN project aims specifically at the large collections of the ages collector, to document their scientifically valuable collections.

The most visible part of PAN is an online database and a Facebookpage. The organisation consists of a staff of seven Finds Liaison Officers who visit collectors at their homes or meet with them in museums to document the finds, several Finds Specialists who care for the scientific object identifications, and the project coordination. In the near future, volunteers are welcome to aid the staff.
PAN is a project of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU). The primary partners of the project are the National Heritage Agency (RCE), University of Leiden (UL), University of Groningen (RuG). Coin identifications are provided by the specialists of NUMIS, provided by De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB). Pilgrims badges are described by specialists from KUNERA, hosted by Radboud University (Nijmegen). Associations of volunteer (detector) archaeologists De Detectoramateur (DDA), Coinhunter Company (CC), the Archeologische Werkgemeenschap Nederland (AWN) as well as the online forum support PAN. The Noordelijk Archeologisch Depot (NAD) at Nuis, the Fries Museum (Leeuwarden), the Gelders Archeologisch Centrum (GAC) liaised to Museum het Valkhof, as well as the Stichting Cultureel Erfgoed Zeeland (SCEZ) and ArcheoHotspots in several cities provide hospitality to PAN Find Liaison Officers. Landschap en Erfgoed Utrecht (LEU) and the provinces Noord-Brabant, Drenthe and Zeeland co-operate with PAN.

International cooperation
PAN is part of the North Sea Area Finds Recording Group, a cooperation of European partners aimed at archaeological finds registration. Other members are the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Engeland and Wales (British Museum), MEDEA in Flanders (Vrije Universiteit Brussels) and DIME in Denmark (Aarhus University).

Financial support
PAN is primarily financed by the Dutch organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and additionally by the National Heritage Agency (RCE) and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).

Do you have a question about PAN? Contact us at