The first ever Code of Practice for Treasure Trove in Scotland is designed to ensure everyone involved with found objects of archaeological, historical or cultural significance understands the procedures which enable them to be claimed on behalf of the public.
Since ancient times, the 'regalia minora' common law of Scotland has been that Treasure Trove and other property which is lost or abandoned, or has no obvious owner, belongs to the Crown.
These objects are held by the Crown on behalf of the people of Scotland. They do not belong to the owner of the land where they were found, or to the finder, but are allocated to public museums for research or public exhibition.
The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR) accepts these objects on the Crown's behalf, and arranges for them to be housed in public museums around the country, acting on the advice of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Advisory Panel (SAFAP).
The QLTR recognises the contribution of members of the public who make chance finds and will, in most cases, make an ex-gratia payment to the finder.
The new Treasure Trove Code of Practice sets out the chain of responsibility for the various bodies involved and clarifies the process of determining the appropriate award for a particular object.
The code was officially unveiled at the Royal Society of Edinburgh at an event attended by QLTR Norman McFadyen CBE, Chair of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Advisory Panel, and Professor Ian Ralston, of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh.
Mr McFadyen said:
"Publication of the Code is a major step forward and will be of great interest, value and benefit to the diverse communities affected by it, whether they be in the field of museums or archaeology, metal detector users or indeed members of the general public with an interest in Scotland's Heritage.
"Treasure Trove has to date been an obscure area. The concept is well known, but the detail is not. In particular, there is a lack of public appreciation that there is a difference between the applicable law and the practical systems in Scotland and England. I am very grateful to the Scottish Archaeological Finds Advisory Panel for the care which they have taken in producing the first comprehensive Code of Practice for Treasure Trove."
Prof Ralston added:
"The Panel hopes that the Code - available on-line and in printed form - goes a long way to explain the steps taken to ensure objects are allocated to public museums the length and breadth of Scotland - and that finders are properly recognized for their responsible actions in notifying their discoveries to the Treasure Trove unit. Metal-detectorists and the general public who discover any archaeological objects - not simply those of precious metal - can enrich our national collections in significant ways."
There is no statutory definition of Treasure Trove, but it largely relates to what may be described as 'portable antiquities' and can cover virtually anything (stone, wood, metal, woven material) which has lain concealed and which is thought, on the basis of its age or rarity, to be worth preserving for the nation.