The BBC reports that amateur archaeologists and metal detectorists in 2012 discovered 990 items in 2012 that were classified as “treasure.” Some of these items were more than 1.200 years old.
Verification and resolution of items declared treasure can take many months, which is why 2012’s numbers are just now being released. In addition to those finds declared treasure, over 74,000 other items of antiquity were reported to the government’s Portable Antiquities Scheme.
The Treasure Act of 1996 defines “treasure” as items 300 or more years old that contain at least 10% gold or silver; or items less than 300 years old that are made substantially from gold or silver and that were deliberately buried with intent to recover at a later date, and the owner or heirs cannot be determined. Such items are appraised by an independent panel of experts, then offered to UK museums at that price. The finder and owner of the land where the treasure was found split the proceeds. If no museum is interested, or interested museums cannot raise the sum to purchase the item, ownership reverts jointly back to the landowner and discoverer.
This stands in contrast to the United States, where similar items are routinely seized by state or federal authorities.
The article, which lists several famous finds, cites Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, as saying the scheme was “ensuring that finds found by ordinary members of the public are rewriting history.” The success of television programs such as “Britain’s Secret Treasures” has increased interest in metal detecting in the UK