On Treasures Trail; Remarkable Recent Finds by Metal Detectors Have Cast a Much- Maligned Hobby in a New Light,as Ian Parri Reports
Byline: Ian Parri
ONE could be forgiven for thinking that the metal detector enthusiast's lot is not a happy one.
Dressed in anorak and wellington boots to ward off the elements,plodding across the countryside with bleeping electronic gadgetry to hand, some see it as being the field-bound equivalent of train spotting.
But the success of a trio of enthusiasts who uncovered a hoard of Bronze Age treasures near Wrexham earlier this year has thrown a completely new light on the activity.
And Brian Kingsnorth,from Wrexham,chairman of the eclectically-titledHistorical Search Society Mold,insists that it always contained a degree of thrill.
``There's a certain element of excitement about it,it gets you out in the fresh air -summer or winter,and we derive pleasure from generally being out in the countryside looking for items,''he says.
``Then there's the research of items once you do find something; coming home,cleaning it a little and digging out the books to try to identify and dating a coin or an artefact.'' Peter Skelly,William May and Joseph Perry uncovered the Bronze Age hoard in the Burton area in January this year. It was recently declared to be treasure trove at an inquest,and is now in the hands of the National Museum for Wales.
Adam Gwilt,curator of the Bronze Age collections at the National Museum, said that it was a find of international importance.
He added: ``The wide range of artefacts of gold,bronze and pottery buried together in this hoard is extremely rare. It was probably buried as a gift to the gods by a wealthy and well- connected farming community living in this part of Wales over 3,000 years ago.''
After years of animosity between trowel wielding archaeologists and their hi- tech detectorist cousins,it would seem that a truce has broken out. Scientists with tight budgets realise that their amateur comrades can help rather than hinder their search for the historical truth.
Now they are being encouraged to record their finds by the voluntary portable antiquities scheme now in its fifth year in Wales. ``It's been very successful, with something like 56,000 objects published on the database of finds from across England and Wales,'' says Mark Lodwick, the scheme's finds co-ordinator for Wales.
``It's a huge amount of material that's been seen and recorded that wouldn't otherwise have been seen by archaeologists. It includes some incredibly important artefacts that have yielded a great deal of information on our heritage.''
The scheme comes under the spotlight in a conference on Treasure and Portable Antiquities at the National Museum in Cardiff this weekend. It coincides with the exhibition Buried Treasure: Finding Our Past which runs until September, including some of the most spectacular finds made by metal detector enthusiasts. …