Following Wayne Jacobs (who heroically hung out for a £225 reward for his find, forcing his local museum to launch a public appeal to raise it) come two more “purely-for-the-love-of-history” detectorists.
Alistair McPherson and “another treasure hunter who wishes to remain anonymous” (one wonders why!) have made various treasure finds but once again donating them to their local museum doesn’t seem to have occurred to them and once again an appeal is having to be run to pay them. The items comprise gold jewellery dating from the Bronze Age to the 12th century and come from a field at Clarkly Hill near Burghead and so far Elgin Museum members have donated £2,100 to the fund. [To make a donation send a cheque payable to the Moray Society or visit the museum at 1 High Street. Cheques should be accompanied with a note stating the donation is for the Burghead archaeological fund.]
Curator David Addison said: If everybody in Moray gave 50p or £1 to the museum we’d have no problem at all. To which we might add – and if Alistair and his pal simply renounced their right to payment there’d be even less of a problem!
It transpires though that these aren’t the only artefacts they have recovered from the field. Since September they have dug up 66 Roman coins, Roman brooches, a suspected bronze shield stud, a glass gaming piece thought to be Viking, a star brooch that appears to be identical to one worn by a Jewess whose statue stands in Germany – and just last week an elaborate snake-shaped belt buckle, thought to be Iron Age. What’s more, according to the press report at least, they have already sold six additional items to the museum – including the Jewess star brooch, a child’s brooch and a Bronze-age strap end.
Clearly, this is an intriguing site and Fraser Hunter, of the National Museums of Scotland has expressed an interest in conducting a proper archaeological excavation. One might therefore think these two love-of-history hobbyists would wish to stand back until that happens and maybe ask to be part of it rather than carrying on treating an intriguing site that’s deemed worthy of propoer archaeological investigation as their personal treasure pit from which they hope to extract a succession of items to sell to the museum or (had the items been found in England or Wales rather than Scotland) anywhere else.
She recently found a bronze age arrowhead while helping clear an allotment and promptly donated it to the town’s museum. Well done Isobel! Perhaps the Portable Antiquities Scheme will feature her on their website, as an example of proper behaviour. We fear that won’t happen though – for fear of offending the “I found it so I want paying for it” brigade.
We should emphasize that many detectorists wouldn’t dream of selling finds and think the practice is contemptible. But many others do. Since neither thoughtful detectorists nor PAS say what they really think about selling finds fresh from the soil, it falls to us to say it:
It’s moral pigmyism. And the Treasure Act rewards system isn’t there because anyone thinks anyone ought to be rewarded, it’s there because it is recognised many heroes would keep quiet and sell the items elsewhere.