Treasure finds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland reached record levels in 2017, according to the latest annual report for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).
The provisional number of treasure finds - defined as gold and silver objects, groups of coins or prehistoric metalwork over 300 years old - was 1,267 in 2017, the report showed. It was the highest number of treasure items recorded for the second year running. Wales also reported its highest number of treasure cases yet, with 40 items listed under the scheme.
Significant finds cited in the report include a 3,500-year-old gold bulla and gold lock rings sealed in lead, which were found in a field in Shropshire. It is hoped that many of the treasure finds will end up in public collections.
In total, 78,000 archaeological finds were recorded by the PAS in 2017, with metal detectorists responsible for 93% of these.
Major discoveries include a number of new archaeological sites, such as a prehistoric wetland in Shropshire and a post-medieval kiln site in Wiltshire. Another recently reported object was a 2,000-year-old Roman statue of the goddess Minerva, which was kept for a decade in a margarine tub after mistakenly being identified as a modern copy.
The discoveries have been added to the PAS database, where they sit alongside previous finds such as the Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in 2009, and the Frome Hoard, discovered in 2010. The database now features more than 1.3 million findings dating from the Palaeolithic era onwards. Most items are returned to their finders after being recorded on the database.
The PAS, which is overseen by the British Museum, works in partnership with a network of 119 national and local partner museums to promote archaeological understanding. It encourages those with an enthusiastic interest in the past and metal-detecting to carry out their hobby responsibly and record their finds.
Hartwig Fischer, the director of the British Museum, said: “We’re delighted to have worked with so many passionate organisations and individuals over the past year to ensure that the PAS continues to go from strength to strength.”
Meanwhile, the 2016 annual report for the Treasure Act, which was released alongside the PAS report, showed that 363 of the 1,116 treasure cases reported that year were acquired by museums, with 91% of those acquisitions going to local museums. Norfolk recorded the highest number of treasure discoveries in 2016, with 130 finds.
One of the most notable treasure finds that year was a cache of four gold torcs found in Staffordshire, thought to be the oldest iron age gold discovered in Britain. Julia Farley, the curator of British and European Iron Age Collections at the British Museum, described the discovery to BBC news as a “unique find of international importance”. The jewellery, which consists of three necklaces and a bracelet, has been acquired by the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent.
The growing public interest in archaeological finds has led the British Museum to create a new exhibition on treasure, which is touring the UK. Hoards: A Hidden History of Ancient Britain is at the Salisbury Museum and will travel to sites including the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Buxton Museum in Derbyshire and the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull.