Treasure found in Bedfordshire EIGHT TIMES last year

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If you don’t declare your find, you could end up in prison

Detectorists discovered treasure eight times in Bedfordshire last year, figures show.

The Institute of Detectorists said finding treasure gives historians a valuable insight into the past, but encouraged hobbyists to practice "responsible" metal detecting.

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Figures from the Ministry of Justice for 2021 show there were eight finds reported to Bedfordshire and Luton Coroner's Court, which is responsible for holding treasure inquests.

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This was up from one the year before – ​and among 170 found in the area since records began in 1995.

The Treasure Act, introduced in 1997, defines treasure as discoveries older than 300 years.

These include coins, prehistoric metallic objects and artefacts that are at least 10% precious metal such as gold or silver.

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All potential treasure finds are processed by the British Museum, whose experts advise coroners on whether the find fits the definition of treasure.

If a coroner rules it is treasure, both local and national museums are given the chance to acquire the pieces, and the finder will be paid a sum depending on the treasure's value.

But if the find is determined not to be treasure, or no museums want it, then it is returned to the treasure hunter.

Keith Westcott, founder of the Institute of Detectorists, said: "Beyond the fascination which surrounds treasure and monetary rewards, is an important value of detecting finds – a historical value which provides a valuable insight into our past."

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He encouraged amateurs to follow responsible metal detecting and leave important finds in place ready to be excavated by archaeologists.

He said a recent example of this was when amateur detectorist Mariusz Stepien stopped digging when he realised he had discovered important objects in Scotland in 2020, allowing archaeologists to recover a rare haul of Bronze Age artefacts.

Anyone who discovers something they think is treasure must report their finding to the coroner within two weeks, so the court can hold an inquest to decide who should get to keep it.

Failure to do so can result in an unlimited fine or up to three months in prison.

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