Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Metal detectorists made a record 1,378 discoveries in Britain last year


Finds of buried treasure broke records last year in England and Wales – driven in part by a Covid-inspired boom in metal detecting.

There were 1,378 discoveries in total, according to provisional figures for 2022, which, if confirmed, will be the highest number of finds since records began in 1996.

Norfolk took the top spot as the county with the most amount of treasure uncovered.

It had 95 finds compared to 83 in Hampshire and 81 in Kent.

Suffolk – the site of one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time in 1939, the Viking treasure of Sutton Hoo – was in fourth place, with 75 discoveries in 2022.

Next up was North Yorkshire, Wiltshire and Swindon, Lincolnshire, Essex and Shropshire.

In terms of region, it was the South East that had the most discoveries of treasure reported to coroners last year, with 349 (25 per cent of all finds).

East Anglia had 272, the South West 200 and the West Midlands 140.

There were 76 discoveries in Wales and 10 in Northern Ireland.

It is the ninth year in a row where reported treasure finds in the UK have exceeded 1,000.

In 2021 there were 1,072 finds, which represented a total of 15,443 individual artefacts – including objects and coins.

The majority (96 per cent) of objects were discovered by metal detecting, similar to the proportion in 2020 according to the official figures.

In 2021, a further 3 per cent (37 cases) were archaeological finds and 1 per cent (11 cases) were chance finds or were found via mudlarking.

Norfolk was once again the top county for treasure, with 85 discoveries.

The second richest location was Kent where 74 treasures were dug up, and joint third was Hampshire and Wiltshire.

Of all the reported treasure finds in 2021, 212 (20 per cent) involved coins and 860 (80 per cent) were objects.

Around a third of them were dated to the post-medieval period (15th to 18th Century) and a quarter to the medieval period. (5th to 15th Century).

There were also a number of Roman coins, Bronze Age artefacts and early medieval objects uncovered, as well as those dating back to the Iron Age.

A total of 231 finds were acquired by museums, 39 were donated to museums (at no cost to the public), 498 were returned to the finder and 62 did not meet the definition for treasure. A further 242 discoveries are still being analysed.

Under the Treasure Act 1996, 'treasure' includes prehistoric objects, coins containing 10 per cent gold or silver and are at least 300 years old, or more recent valuable objects that have been deliberately hidden.

The number of finds of treasure is soaring. In 1997, just 54 finds were recorded.

Next year, even more treasures are expected to be recorded, as the definition of 'treasure' is set to be expanded to include objects of historical importance more than 200 years old and containing metals such as bronze.

Discoveries of treasure meeting these new criteria will be assessed by a coroner and will go through a formal process in which they can be acquired by a museum and go on display to the public.

The change to the law has been prompted after a number of discoveries fell outside the scope of the Act – although they were thankfully saved for the nation.