Treasures coming thick and fast for Scotland's metal detectorists

Metal detectorists scanning Scotland’s countryside for undiscovered pieces of Scotland’s history have hit something of a boom time.

The hobby, which gained a legion of new enthusiasts during lockdown, has led to unprecedented numbers of treasures being found. As our world shrunk as the pandemic took hold, detectorists searching the ground beneath their feet have unearthed some remarkable finds.

This week, two reports have emerged of previously undiscovered treasures being brought to light.

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More than 8,000 silver coins dating from the 13th and the 14th centuries were discovered in a field near Dumfries and have now been identified as Edward I and II pennies, which date from around the time of the Wars of Independence between the kingdoms of England and Scotland.

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Now it has emerged a new Bronze Age hoard has been found in the Borders, with the finds of axe heads and a bronze ingot weighing some 2.8kg made by the same detectorists who found the nationally significant Peebles Hoard in 2020.

All the finds are adding to Scotland’s stories, with the narrative being advanced by those who have a passion for history that plays out in countryside every weekend.

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Mariusz Stepien, who runs a renovation business, found the latest Bronze Age hoard along with his friends Dariusz Gucwa, who works in a supermarket. They have spoken of the joy of their discovery – and the privilege of finding such artefacts.

With the growth of the hobby, and the level of finds that are being made, comes pressure on the system that closely and carefully records and assesses the discovery of newly found artefacts.

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A selection of Edward I and II silver pennies. A hoard of some 8,000 similar coins was recently found by a metal detectorist near Dumfries with each item now being painstakingly recorded by Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit. PIC: CC.

The Treasure Trove Unit that works on behalf of the Crown – the owners of newly discovered portable antiquities – has been inundated in recent times. Spare a thought for the small team at National Museums Scotland who are now recording each of the 8,400 or so silver coins mentioned above.

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Recently published figures give a sense of the workload being dealt with at Chambers Street. There were 1,551 artefacts received in 2019. And so far this year, more than 12,263 artefacts, including the coins found near Dumfries, have been passed to the unit, which has recently taken on extra staff to investigate these often remarkable objects left behind hundreds – if not thousands – of years ago.

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