A nation of treasure hunters

Enthusiastic treasure hunters in Britain are shunning their right to a reward for finding historical bounty worth thousands.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Imagine finding a medieval golden ring, rare weaponry from the Stone Age or the valuable fragments of a Roman statue, all worth thousands of pounds, and then giving them away for free.

This is exactly what more and more of the country’s treasure hunters are doing, according to a report by the British Museum, which will be published in January. The findings will comprehensively detail the contents of a precious haul of valuable heritage items, many of which have been found by people who are waiving their right to claim a reward for their finds.

Under the Treasure Act, any museum that wishes to acquire an artefact must pay a reward to both the finder and to the owner of the land in which the treasure was discovered. However, roughly 10 per cent of people are waiving their rights to this money.

One of the most exciting finds of the past year was by Imogen Rickman, aged nine, who discovered a 5,000-year-old axe head from the Stone Age in a muddy field on the Isle of Wight.

Some 70,000 artefacts were unearthed by the public last year – nearly 90 percent of archaeological artefacts in the UK are found by amateur treasure hunters, helped by metal detectors, although plenty of historical relics are found by walkers and gardeners. The British Museum now has around 900,000 portable antiquities in its vast collection that helps tell the story of our country’s past.

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