Thursday, September 24, 2009
LONDON — An amateur treasure hunter prowling English farmland with a metal detector stumbled upon what has been described as the largest Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered, a massive collection of gold and silver crosses, sword decorations and other items, British archaeologists said Thursday.There is no word on whether Excaliber or the Holy Grail may have been among the articles found.
"The quantity of gold is amazing but, more importantly, the craftsmanship is consummate," said archaeologist Kevin Leahy, who catalogued the find. "This was the very best that the Anglo-Saxon metalworkers could do, and they were very good."
My mother was born and raised in Iowa and read a lot of books during the long winter seasons. We spent hours when I was a child discussing the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round table. That those stories hold sway on families across the globe centuries later is a testament to the power of the written word.
Don’t think these guys will be able to put this stuff on their mantle and display it proudly. Under the British Treasures Act of 1996, the whole batch will be carted right off to a museum. If the discoverer and landowner are polite, and follow the correct paperwork, the British government (by way of the museum) will be so gracious as to give them what the government thinks they should get for finding it (minus British taxes, local taxes, and fees, of course)
Metal detecting Law is twisted and varies depending on where you are. For some reason, going out in your back yard and finding that fork you lost at the Bar-B-Q last year is ok, but going out in your back yard and finding something lost over fifty years ago, well, that belongs to the government, fork it over please, and if you don’t, we can put you in jail. Disclaimer: I am a metal detector dabbler, and have about 30 pounds of junk/nails/toys/silverware pulled out of my yard. I would encourage everybody to rent/borrow a detector and go through your own yard at least once, you will be amazed at how much junk is buried out there, and it makes the yard safer for barefoot kids. As for treasure…I am up to about two dollars in pennies and nickels. At my current rate, my detector will pay for itself in 2095. And always get permission from the landowner, and try not to leave it looking like giant gophers have been at work (a quote from my wife).
Georgfelis: The page you linked explained that so long as the find was made legally (i.e. not by trespassing) then he was obliged to sell the treasure to a willing museum, with the value of sale determined by a third party of experts. If no museum wants or can afford the purchase, he keeps it.
Given the age of England as a civilization and the potential historical value of found treasures, this seems perfectly reasonable to me. Better to take gold Anglo-Saxon metalwork and display it or study it than simply melt it down into bullion, right? Especially since the value of 1500 year old worked gold is probably higher in value than an equivalent weight of bullion gold anyway. (so the finder is still rewarded for his discovery)
And except for the museum purchase option, it is more or less in concurrence with the traditional common law of finders that we follow here in the US.
Great post CV. Wow! I am a little surprised he publicized his discovery as well. re George Felis: Tangentially related perhaps; While not an antiquity, I remember hearing about a farmer in Oklahoma that discovered some fresh digging on his property. Poking around the freshly turned dirt he found over 400k in cash. He turned it in to local law enforcement, thinking that if the cash went unclaimed for 30 days he would get to keep it. No dice. Law enforcement said that under drug property confiscation laws, law enforcement was entitled to all of the money. Never heard if that was the last word or if he did get some money.
I love this quote:
"The hoard was officially declared treasure by a coroner"
Huh? It seems that coroner is a middle English term referring to a royal employee -- as in "crowner". See here: http://www.billcasselman.com/dictionary_of_medical_derivations/dmd_two.htm.
This treasure is Anglo-Saxon, dated from around 700AD. If King Arthur is based on a British war lord from the time the Romans left, that is around 350 years earlier. (350 years before today is 1659, so quite a lot of history can happen in that period.)