Ahoy there! Treasure hunters targeted

Plan aims to stop loot being lost

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Treasure hunters beware: the British government wants your ill-gotten gains.

Plans announced on 1 February would widen the definition of “treasure”, so that more finds can be kept for the benefit of the country as a whole.

Anything worth more than £10,000 (€11,400) would be considered treasure under the proposal, and made available to museums. At present, treasure is defined as found artefacts that are over 300 years old, are made of gold or silver, or are found with other artefacts made of precious metals, and which have no owner.

“Each year, dozens of items of national importance are believed to be lost to private sellers because they do not meet the treasure criteria or are sold by those who do not declare the find,” the government said.

“These include the 1,700 year old Roman era Crosby Garrett helmet that was found by a metal detectorist in 2010. Despite its archaeological importance, because the helmet was made of a copper alloy it did not meet the treasure criteria and was sold to a private collector for £2.3 million [€2.6m].”

More items than ever are now being discovered by treasure seekers, according to the government. It said that the number of finds had increased by over 1,500% since 1996.

“The search for buried treasure has captivated people’s imagination for centuries,” said heritage minister Michael Ellis. “These new proposals will help our museums acquire these treasures and make it harder for nationally important finds to be sold for personal profit.”

The proposals will now be consulted on.

Words: Craig Nicholson

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