Amateur treasure hunters helping to unearth ancient Scots relics

A new study has shed light on Scotland's increasing number of hobby metal detectorists

A new study has shed light on Scotland's increasing number of hobby metal detectorists

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Many ancient relics of great archaeological significance are unearthed by amateur treasure hunters.

An Ayrshire man discovered a valuable haul of Viking artefacts in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014, just months after finding hundreds of rare medieval coins near Kirkcudbright.

Another enthusiast found four gold Iron Age neckbands worth more than £1 million in a field close to Stirling in 2009.

Now a new study has characterised Scotland’s growing community of hobbyist metal detectorists for the first time.

The research was carried out for national heritage agency Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and the Treasure Trove Unit (TTU) as part of a project to forge closer links between detectorists and the heritage sector.

The report found there are more than 500 hobbyist metal detectorists in Scotland, 87 per cent of whom are male and mainly aged between 45 and 55 years old.

The pastime has been growing in popularity in recent years, with an increasing number of women taking it up.

The areas with the highest recorded activity are Perth and Kinross, Fife, Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders.

Other findings suggest around half of detectorists use GPS devices to accurately record find-spots, that most have been detecting for around nine years and group outings are the favourite means of pursuing the hobby.

The TTU is the first port of call when new objects are uncovered. The team assesses discoveries and works to preserve significant historical artefacts by channelling finds to museums across Scotland.

The TTU’s Dr Natasha Ferguson, who heads up the project, said: “Humans have inhabited Scotland for thousands of years, with each generation leaving behind little pieces of evidence of its existence, just waiting to be discovered.

“It’s no surprise then that exciting artefacts are continually being discovered, sometimes by chance and sometimes deliberate exploration.

“Every significant object found contributes to our understanding of the nation’s history in its own way.

“The metal detecting community in Scotland finds and reports hundreds of objects every year to the TTU – some of which are of national or even international importance.

“However, even with the best intentions some artefacts can be damaged or sensitive archaeology disturbed.

“We want to ensure artefacts discovered through recreational activities like metal detecting are recovered carefully and a detailed find spot recorded so important archaeological information is not lost.”