|Nighthawks - treasure hunters or plunderers?|
Out investigates Nighthawks - the treasure hunters who refuse to abide by the
BBC One's Inside Out programme uncovers evidence of an ancient
golden cup, which could be only the third of its kind ever found in the UK.
For the past five months, Inside Out has been investigating illegal
treasure hunters who plunder archaeological sites in the South East of England.
A find is
regarded as treasure if it is:
- more than 300 years old
- more than 10%
gold or silver
The finder has to report it to the local coroner within
Failure to do this can result in prosecution.
treasure is logged by a 'Finds Liaison Officer' from the Government's 'Portable
Antiquity Scheme' based in London but with officers in every English region.
The coroner takes the find to a local museum or archaeological centre.
The museum receiving the find has to notify the Sites and Monuments Record.
If the find is important, the site will be excavated.
If the museum
decides to keep the find, the coroner holds an inquest to decide if it is treasure.
If it is treasure, it is valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee.
The money is shared between the landowner and the finder.
Dr. Paul Wilkinson from the Kent Archaeological Field School says that
the treasure hunting business has become extremely controversial.
been punch ups on fields. Cars are being rammed. Yes, its war, its
as simple as that," he says.
This is the world of the 'Nighthawk'.
is a term attributed to people who trespass on archaeological sites and farmland
with the sole intention of removing any historical artefacts they can find.
offences involved are theft, trespass and contravention of 'The Treasure Act'.
the Nighthawks themselves see the plundering of treasure as fair gain.
can see little difference in the way they and museums acquire antiquities.
past belongs to us, as much as them," says one Nighthawk.
all that stuff in museums, half of that was stolen. Whos the thieves there?
While doing this research the team uncovered the evidence of an
ancient golden cup.
If authenticated, it could prove to be priceless.
two Bronze Age Gold Cups have ever been found in the UK.
|"It really disgusts me because they are physically removing
|Liz Wilson, Portable Antiquity
Scheme Officer, Sussex |
The Ringlemere Gold Cup was unearthed
in a field, also in Kent in 2002.
It is on display next to the Rillaton
Gold Cup at the British Museum, which was found in Cornwall in 1837 and is listed
as one of Britain's top ten treasures.
18 August, and following lengthy negotiations with a gang of illegal treasure
hunters, BBC's Inside Out took possession of a gold handle believed to be from
a third Bronze Age cup buried somewhere in Kent.
The story of how it was
handed over will be revealed to the viewers in this 30 minute documentary into
the dark world of criminals who will stop at nothing to raid archaeological sites.
The 'handover' took place in a field just outside Tunbridge Wells and was
witnessed by Dr Paul Wilkinson of the Kent Archaeological Field School.
Dr. Wilkinson met the Nighthawk and witnessed the handover, he said, You
know its important, you know where the rest of it is. Youre finding
the Crown Jewels of a Bronze Age Chieftain.
"This was buried by a Bronze
Age Chieftain. If he thought 3,000 years on there would be two people in a field
with a BBC crew arguing over it, he would probably have laughed."
|Golden find - the handle of the ancient cup|
film shows a masked man agreeing to hand over the golden handle he claims to have
dug up somewhere in the county so it can be authenticated by experts at the British
His aim is simple: after two years trying to secretly locate the
rest of the cup with his metal detector, he has given up and now seeks immunity
This is so he can legitimately work on the land with archaeologists
to find the treasure and claim his reward.
During the programme, Inside
Out talks to archaeologists whose sites are regularly being plundered.
also talk to the police tasked with tackling the problem and investigate the 'Nighthawks'