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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Treasure hunters law to change
Lisa Voden-Decker, an employee of the British Museum displays a Bronze Age Torc
Gold Bronze Age torcs were found in Milton Keynes
Amateur treasure-hunters with metal detectors will have to report their finds of pre-historic base-metals under new rules agreed by the House of Lords.

Up until now, enthusiasts have only had to report the recovery of gold or silver objects.


We don't want metal detectorists to lose out financially

DCMS spokesman
But with the proliferation of metal detectors and their operators finding more treasure than ever before, the government has moved to change the law.

On Thursday evening the Lords voted to approve a new designation order which will extend the scope of the Treasure Act 1996 to include all base metal artefacts.

It is hoped the measure will help prevent many artefacts from being dug up and sold to dealers abroad without anyone knowing of their existence.

Salisbury Hoard

It will also give local museums the opportunity to buy the items to add to their collection.

The move follows the recovery of some 500 objects from the Iron Age and Bronze Age in what was called the Salisbury Hoard.

The items were discovered just outside the Wiltshire city by a metal detectorist in 1986.

He disposed of them to a local dealer and they changed hands many times. Nearly a third of the pieces remain unaccounted for and have probably been sold abroad.

Bronze Age finds

A spokesman for the Department of Culture Media and Sport told BBC News Online: "At the moment, the definition of treasure is purely confined to gold and silver metal. We are now extending it to include all base metals.

"It means that Bronze Age finds will have to be reported to the authorities in a way that hitherto they have not.

"The reason it has become a big is issue is the proliferation of metal detectors finding far more stuff than ever before.

People with metal detectors
There is a thriving detecting scene in the UK
"We don't want metal detectorists to lose out financially, what we want is for them to report their find so that local museums have the opportunity to buy them if they wish to.

"At the moment it would be perfectly possible to dig up a Bronze Age metal plate, sell it to a dealer and it goes overseas without anyone ever knowing about it."

Arts Minister Baroness Blackstone introduced debate on a new code of practice, which should become law in January.

Before 1996 it was difficult for treasure hunters to make money out of their discoveries through official avenues because finds of gold and silver more than 300 years old are "Treasure Trove" and ultimately belong to the Crown.

But the revision meant that if a discovery was reported, it would be offered for sale to museums with the proceeds usually split between the finder and the owner of the land on which the treasure was found.

See also:

14 Aug 02 | Entertainment
07 Aug 02 | Wales
01 Aug 02 | England
05 Apr 02 | England
06 Feb 02 | England
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