From the Blog
Metal Detecting and Its Part in Discovering Ancient Artefacts
Coins, jewelery and antiquities are excellent ways of looking into the lives of those who have gone before us and one of the most popular ways of finding such items is with a metal detector. It is only in recent years that these machines have made it possible for people who are not museum staff or archaeologists to find and actually see or own antique jewelery or other pieces of a bygone age.
Metal detectors began to appear on the 1960's in a very basic format but by the 1970's the technology had improved and more and more people were taking up this new hobby. Initially the favorite places were the beaches around the UK coast but it soon became identical that there was a great deal to be found inland as well.
Huge numbers of items were discovered, giving a much greater insight into how people lived in earlier eras and museums were continuing adding to their collections. Unfortunately, some believed that amateur detectors could prove a threat to nation's hidden heritage rather than a benefit and attempts were made to have restrictions put on the use of metal detectors. Fortunately for those who love to explore and discover compromises were reached and codes of conduct agreed upon to allow metal detecting to continue.
This has proved to be hugely beneficial as there have been some major archaeological discoveries made by amateur detectors who have informed the authorities immediately and left the discoveries as found for the archaeologists to excavate and protect.
Unfortunately there are also occasions when detectorsists have searched on unauthorized property such as the Thetford Treasure which was found at Gallows Hill in 1979. The discovery was made on land cleared for building work by someone who did not have the permission of the land owners to search there. When he discovered silver spoons, gold rings and bracelets among other items, he did not report his find as he should have done because he had not been authorized to search there. He later attempted to sell to private buyers which is when archaeologists learned of the find but by this time, the land had been built on and the finder was terminally ill and died a month or so later so there was no way to establish what else could have been there. The collection which dates from the 4th century AD is now at the British Museum but there is no way of telling how much larger the collection could have been.
On a more positive note, a discovery in Germany by a British Army officer with a metal detector was later confirmed by archaeologists to confirm that a battle in AD 9 where over 20,000 Romans were killed was previously thought. History had to be revised!
As technology improves, the design and ability of metal detectors also improves and there is still plenty of hidden treasure and ancient antiquities out there to be discovered. But you must adhere to the regulations and ensure that any finds are reported and suitably investigated to maintain the items and hopefully to restore them to their former glory.