Staff Breakfast: The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme

Hello everyone! After a long holiday break, the ITP blog is back in business with a report on last week’s staff breakfast!

British Museum staff were given a presentation last week on the “Portable Antiquities Scheme”. To give you a little bit of information about this scheme, it is a national programme supported by government, designed “to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales.”

In the UK there is a strong tradition of metal detecting and mud-larking (where people walk along the banks of rivers looking for archaeological fragments in the mud) – this leads to the discovery of thousands of objects each year. People also, of course, find some fascinating items completely by accident. The Portable Antiquities Scheme helps UK citizens to learn more about these objects, and if they want to, donate them to a local museum!

"The millionth find" from the Portable Antiquities Scheme Photo credit: D Hubbard, British Museum. Do not use without permissions.
“The millionth find” from the Portable Antiquities Scheme Photo credit: D Hubbard, British Museum. Do not use without permissions.

The scheme is voluntary, however if a UK citizen finds something considered “treasure” (for example made of gold or valuable metal, or a large amount of coins), by law they must let their local representative know under the Treasure Act.

At the staff breakfast, we were allowed to see the latest in this year’s treasure finds, including two beautiful Roman gold rings. They were wonderful objects, and show how important amateur archaeology is to the UK.

Our presenter also discussed how much easier it is now to report finds, with local expert representatives available throughout the country to help people report, learn about and excavate potential sites.

For more information on the scheme, visit

What do you think about the scheme? Do you have something similar in your country? Or is amateur digging and archaeology a difficult issue for your government and museums?

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