BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 September 2014
Accessibility help

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Treasure Troves: What Happens to Finds?

By Julian Richards
Treasure Act

Image of a metal detector
A metal detector surveys a field 
In comparison with many other European countries, the rules that govern the ownership of ancient artefacts found in the British Isles are comparatively relaxed. Until quite recently, any artefacts, with the exception of those that could potentially fall under the definition of 'treasure trove' (basically gold and silver), were the property of the person who owned the land on which they were found.

Originally the laws regarding ‘treasure’ and ownership was largely decided on the basis of whether an object or a collection of objects had been deliberately hidden or was a casual loss. But these medieval laws were not suited to a world where increasing numbers of artefacts were being discovered by users of metal detectors.

The Treasure Act (1997) redefined the meaning of the word treasure, and put more emphasis on the cultural and archaeological value of objects rather than simply on their value as precious metal.

Published: 2005-01-24

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy