The government plans to change the official definition of “treasure” to include more rare and precious archaeological finds so that such artifacts can be stored for the nation rather than sold to private collectors.
Under the Treasure Act of 1996, objects are referred to as treasures if they are more than 300 years old and are found in artefacts made of gold or silver or made of precious metals.
If officially identified as treasure, such objects become the property of the crown and are available for public display by local or national museums.
But this medieval view of treasure does not cover many important discoveries of the 21st century. Metal detection has produced a large number of objects Roman Britain They do not meet the criteria as they are often made of bronze rather than precious metals.
In addition, the Department of Culture has reported that some items of national importance have been lost to the public or are at risk of being sold to private collectors.
Recent inventions include the spectacular bronze-enamel horse brooch Leasingham Horse From between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, it was discovered this year by an inventor in Lincolnshire. Restoring the earlier designs of the Iron Age, the brooch is a rare example and of national importance, but it could not be treasured. However, thanks to the generosity of the inventor, it has been put on display Collection Museum At Lincoln.
The exceptionally rare copper-alloy Roman figure wore a battered dress, which a Byrus Britannicus, Was found near Chelmsford, Essex, and lost sight of the public. Here the government entered and imposed a deferred export license to delay its sale. The Chelmsford City Museum was later able to raise funds to purchase the statue.
Plans for a new definition of treasure, whether historically or culturally significant, are intended to ensure that significant discoveries can be commissioned regardless of their material properties.
Announcing the plans, Culture Minister Carolyn Dinaj said: “The search for buried treasures by emerging inventors has become more popular than ever, and many antique artefacts now see daylight in the museum’s collection. However, it is necessary to pursue plans to preserve our precious history and make it easier for everyone to follow the treasure process. ”
Inventors, landowners, museums and members of the public were invited to participate in the consultation process that led to the government’s proposals. Discoverers, archaeologists, museums, academies and curators will have the opportunity to contribute to the new definition. Plans to streamline the treasure process will also be introduced.
Metal discovery is a popular hobby. In 2017, 96% of the discoveries that were declared treasure were discovered through metal detection.
These projects were welcomed by the British Museum. “We look forward to working with you [culture department] It continues its work to reform the treasure law to preserve our shared heritage and promote better practice among inventors, ”said Michael Lewis, its small archeology and treasure chief.
Roger Plant, chairman of the Treasure Appraisal Committee, welcomed the announcement, saying further work was needed to redefine the treasure “to ensure that the most important discoveries are preserved.”