Scotland launches review of Treasure Trove system - Museums Association

Scotland launches review of Treasure Trove system

Public consultation underway on process for preserving archaeological finds
The Peebles Hoard, a late bronze age (c.1150-800 BCE) hoard found near Peebles in June 2020 by a metal detectorist, is going through the allocation process
The Peebles Hoard, a late bronze age (c.1150-800 BCE) hoard found near Peebles in June 2020 by a metal detectorist, is going through the allocation process Crown Office

A large-scale public consultation is underway in Scotland on the future of the Treasure Trove system for assessing and recording archaeological finds.

The 12-week consultation forms part of the first comprehensive review of the process for more than 20 years. The findings will inform a report and recommendations on the future of the Treasure Trove system, which was adopted in its present form in 1999.

The consultation aims to gather views from anyone who uses and benefits from the system, from museums and public heritage organisations to metal detecting clubs and individuals with an interest in archaeology and Scotland’s cultural heritage. 

It will run until 13 May and offers an opportunity for organisations and individuals to contribute their views on “sustaining and improving the Treasure Trove system for present and future generations”. 

The Treasure Trove system plays a key role in preserving Scotland’s archaeological record and ensures that objects of archaeological, historical or cultural significance are recorded, preserved and allocated to Scottish museums for public benefit. 

The King’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer – the Crown’s representative in Scotland for dealing with ownerless property – is responsible for the Treasure Trove system, with authority devolved to the Treasure Trove Unit.

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Under Scottish law all portable antiquities of archaeological, historical or cultural significance are subject to claim by the Crown through the Treasure Trove system and must be reported.

The King’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer says the review will consider the changing context of archaeology and heritage in Scotland, including continuing growth in the popularity of metal detecting, significant interest in professional and community archaeology throughout Scotland, and the challenging financial climate for museums and heritage organisations. 

John Logue, the King’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer, said: “The role of Treasure Trove is to ensure that objects of cultural significance from Scotland’s past are protected for public benefit and preserved in museums across the country. 

“We want to ensure that artefacts found in Scotland continue to provide maximum benefit to the public in understanding the significance of Scotland’s archaeological heritage. 

“I would urge all those who have an interest in the future of the Treasure Trove system to fully engage with the public consultation.”

Stuart Allan, chair of the Treasure Trove Review, said: “We want to hear from the public and interested parties on a range of topics about the operation and potential of the Treasure Trove system. 

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“This review is tasked with improving and strengthening the Treasure Trove system for the immediate future and beyond.”  

Important finds reported under the Treasure Trove system include a mesolithic harpoon dated to c. 5700–4000 BCE, which was allocated to the West Highland Museum in Fort William in 2023, and the Peebles Hoard, a late bronze age (c. 1150–800 BCE) hoard found near Peebles in June 2020 by a metal detectorist, which is currently going through the allocation process.

Portable Antiquities Scheme announces record year

Meanwhile the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), which oversees the process for reporting archaeological finds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has announced a record year for discoveries, with 53,490 archaeological finds and 1,384 Treasure cases recorded in 2022.

Important finds reported that year included a bronze age hoard from near Malmesbury, Wiltshire; an early medieval grave assemblage from near Northampton, Northamptonshire, which was excavated by archaeologists as part of HS2; and an early medieval gold mount in the form of a fish from Creslow, Buckinghamshire.

More than 94% of the recorded finds were discovered by metal detectorists, reflecting a boom in the popularity of the hobby. In the scheme's annual report, published last month, British Museum interim director Mark Jones said “the degree to which the PAS has brought archaeologists and metal detectorists closer together for the benefit of our heritage cannot be overestimated”.

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