Most relics from Denmark's past are "archaeological heritage" that is buried underground, such as prehistoric settlements, graves and burial places, monuments, chattels, production equipment and structures whose functions we do not know.
All such archaeological heritage is protected under the Danish Museum Act. However, only a small part is protected permanently and must remain unchanged. The rest of the archaeological heritage must be examined by a museum before possible destruction. All citizens have an obligation to notify their local museum or the Danish Agency for Culture if they discover archaeological heritage.
Conservation on Site
The objective of the Museum Act is to preserve as much archaeological heritage as possible underground. This helps to secure valuable material for future archaeologists, enabling them to gain new knowledge about the past. The main principle is that whoever intervenes with archaeological heritage must pay for an archaeological investigation.
Archaeological Heritage and Construction Work
Before a building or construction project is commenced, the local museum must be notified.
At the request of the developer, the museum may screen the area for archaeological heritage. If significant finds are made, the developer may either pay for an archaeological investigation, or relocate the construction work so that the site is not touched.
If the museum has not screened the area beforehand and archaeological heritage is discovered, the work must be suspended. The expenses for the required examination of the archaeological heritage are borne by the developer.
In special cases, the Danish Agency for Culture may grant funding if a developer incurs exceptionally high expenses for archaeological investigations.
If archaeological heritage is discovered in connection with ordinary agricultural and forestry activities, the Danish Agency for Culture covers the expenses of any archaeological investigation.
In special cases, the Danish state may opt to purchase a site or monument with a view to permanent protection.
Almost 44 Danish museums undertake archaeological investigations. Together they cover all of Denmark.
The Danish Agency for Culture is the supreme authority and must e.g. approve the museums' budgets and accounts for the investigations.
The Agency does not perform any archaeological investigations itself.
An expert council with representatives of museums and universities advises the Danish Agency for Culture on issues relating to archaeological investigations.