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By Nigel Swift

A metal detectorist was left “shaking with happiness” after discovering a hoard of Bronze Age artefacts in the Scottish Borders. But what struck me was this: “He found the first item at around 10am, 60 centimetres (24 in) below ground level. He immediately reported it to the Treasure Trove Unit and National Museums Scotland. The site was covered with a tent until the professionals arrived. There followed 22 days’ work on-site, during which Stepien and his friends camped in the field to protect the site and to observe the archaeologists’ work“.

Compare and contrast the fact that he found the first item 24″ below ground level” with what happened in the official searches for the Staffordshire Hoard, using machines that went nowhere near as far down as that and this subsequent “forensic search” that gave the assurance that all/most gold had been found down to a level of 11″.


Better machines with greater depth capability ought to be used there, even at this late stage. Maybe Mariusz Stepien and his friends, who seem pretty responsible, could be financed by the local museums to come down? What could be lost? Much could be gained.

Contrary to the hopes of some, the nagging about this is not going to go away. Why should it?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


February 2021

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