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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Research Postgraduates

Publication details for Dr Benjamin Roberts

Murgia, A., Roberts, B.W. & Wiseman, R. (2014). What have metal-detectorists ever done for us? Discovering Bronze Age gold in England and Wales. Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 44(3): 353-367.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This paper discusses the impact of metal-detecting and legal frameworks on the reporting of Bronze Age gold discoveries in England and Wales between 1740 and 2010. The 13-year period after the introduction of the Treasure Act (1996) saw a major increase in the reporting of gold finds in England and Wales: one third of all known Bronze Age gold sites and objects were discovered in this short time. Almost all of these findings were made by members of the public: chiefly metal-detectorists. Professional archaeologists have discovered less than 5% of Bronze Age gold sites or objects, despite the rapid expansion of developer-funded archaeology in England and Wales during the same period. We believe the legal obligations imposed on metal-detectorists by the Treasure Act (1996) are a pragmatic solution to the differing goals of metal-detectorists and archaeologists, while also generating valuable archaeological materials and information that would otherwise be lost. It has also led to a far higher proportion of find-spots being investigated by archaeologists than in the years before the implementation of the Treasure Act (1996). The immense research implications are only gradually being explored.