Treasure Trove

What is Treasure Trove?

Treasure trove is a law that was originally put in place that decried that any gold or silver that is found in the ground hidden that cannot be traced to an owner belongs to the Crown once it is discovered.

According to this law, when a treasure trove is found it has to pass through the coroner’s court at an inquest to determine how it was lost or who might have deposited it into the ground from which it was found.

Many times archaeologists come up against the treasure trove law or are required to present evidence to inquests that are trying to find the source of a treasure that has been unearthed.  In many cases those who found the original items end up being granted permission to keep the items or an historical institution like the British Museum will pay the finder so that they can add items to their personal or national collection for others to view.

Treasure Trove is no longer a law in most of the UK, as it was replaced in 1996 by the Treasure Act of 1996 in the regions of Northern Ireland, Wales, and England.  The difference is the new act removed the stipulation that it had to be proven that objects were hidden on purpose so that they could be recovered later which was often the main test of if an item was truly a treasure trove or not.

Now, the Treasure Act defines certain precious metals as the only mark needed to define a finding as a treasure and associates other items that may be archaeological in nature as treasure also.

According to the Treasure Act, any object that contains at least 10% of precious metal and is over 300 years old qualifies as treasure.  Items that are made mostly of gold and silver that cannot be traced back their original owners can also be defined as treasure.

Today, Treasure Trove is still the main law of the land in Scotland and all finds in the region regardless of whether they are made of precious metals or not are considered treasure trove and belong to the Crown unless an inquest can establish a previous owner.

Although in Scotland the Crown will not always seek out the items that are found, all objects that are found must be reported to a museum and if they do not hold significant value then they will returned to the original finder.