So you finally get on some land and you discover something that you think may well be classed as treasure? How do you know what you need to report, Who do you report it to? What is classed as treasure trove? In this section our our beginners guide to metal detecting we will explain the treasure act as defined in 1996.
The Treasure Act is a legislation that was created to primarily define what would need to be declared, and to deal with finds mainly made by the detectorist’s in England and Wales. It is a law in place that obliges the metal detectorist to report their finds to their local coroner (your local finds liaison officer will point you in the right direction) within a 2 week time frame. The inquiry made by the coroner subsequently determines whether what you found is classed as treasure or not. If the coroner decides that it is classed as treasure then you must offer it for sale to a museum, for a price that will be set by an independent team of antique experts. You can only reclaim the item if no museum wants to purchase the item.
Laws on Metal Detecting in the UK
What is classed as treasure?
Any metallic object, other than a coin, provided that 10 per cent by weight is of a precious metal content (gold or silver) and that the Item is of a minimum of 300 years old at the time of the find. If the item is prehistoric it will be then classed as treasure if any part of it is gold or silver.
Two or more metallic objects made from anything of prehistoric date that come from the same find.*
*An item or form of coinage is classed as part of the “same find” as another item or coinage if you are to find it in the same place as, or had at some point been together with the other item. Finds may have been separated since they were originally deposited in the ground
*Prehistoric is classed as from the Iron Age or any period before.
A group of coins (two or more) from the same find if they are of at least 300 years in age when found(If the coins however contain less than 10% precious metals then there must be at least ten) The following groups will usually be classed as coming from the same find.
Hoards of coins that have been purposely hidden
Purse spills, and smaller groups of coins that may have been lost, misplaced or dropped. Ritual or votive deposits.
Any item that would have previously been treasure trove, but does not fall within the categories listed above. Items that are less than 300 years old, that are made substantially of precious metals, that have purposely been hidden with the intent of recovery and whose rightful owners or heirs are unknown will fall into this category.
Under the English Laws, landowners have the sole title and ownership to any archaeological artifacts found on their land or property. It is good practice to make an agreement, preferably a written contract with the landowners or tenants before you metal detect on their land. This agrees that you will share any monetary proceeds from sales of the treasure. As I have previously mentioned people who detect illegally, without permission or on SSSI sites can not benefit from the Treasure Act. It has been known that people who metal detect illegally have had their finds and equipment confiscated and can face large fines and a prison sentence.
The Portable Antiquities scheme
The Portable Antiquities scheme is not a legal requirement however it actively encourages use and highly recommends recording your finds.
The PAS is a voluntary programme that is run by the UK Government to record the numbers of small finds, or finds of historical and archaeological interest made by members of the general public. It began in 1997 and covers the most of England and Wales.
They primarily focus on metal detectorists who make discoveries regularly through their hobby that would otherwise go unrecorded. Other members of the public can report any objects they may have found and that also includes non-metallic objects. The PAS exists to record non-prehistoric and non-metal finds.
The scheme funds the posts of Finds Liaison Officers at county councils and local museums to whom finders can then report the objects they found to. The Finds Liaison Officer is qualified enough to analyze, research and examine the find and then give the finder more information on it. They also record the find, what it was used for, the date, material and location. They then place the information into a database which is then analyzed. They use the information on the find spot (the place where it is found) to organize more research in the area. Because of the PAS and Finds Liaison Officers, many previously unknown archaeological and historical sites have been identified through the scheme and it has made many great contributions to the level of knowledge of history. Finds Liaison Officers maintain a good relationship with local metal detecting societies and have contributed to building relationships and bonds between metal detecting enthusiasts and archaeologists who usually don’t see eye to eye.
In a nutshell anything else that you find other than what I have explained above you and the landowner are free to keep or dispose of. I hope that you have found this treasure act guide useful and we will now move on to cleaning metal detecting finds and coins in part seven of the beginners guide to metal detecting.