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The Treasure Trove in Scotland: A Code of Practice publication has been superseded and can now be found on the Office of Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR) website

Treasure Trove in Scotland: A Code of Practice



2.1 Definition. Treasure Trove system is the traditional descriptive phrase given to the practices governing the administration by or on behalf of the QLTR of the Scots common law about portable antiquities found in Scotland. 'Treasure Trove' has been applied in Scotland since medieval times, but the system was substantially modified in the 1990s and was adopted in its present form in 1999. 2

2.2 Purpose. The Treasure Trove system safeguards portable antiquities of archaeological, historical and cultural significance found in Scotland, and enables their allocation to Scottish museums.

2.3 Policy. In 2004 the Scottish Executive published the following statement of policy:

The Treasure Trove system forms an important part of the Scottish Executive's approach to the preservation of the nation's cultural heritage. The Treasure Trove system will be used to safeguard Scotland's heritage of portable antiquities and archaeological objects by preserving significant claimed objects in the public domain. In accordance with the Executive's policy of increasing access to, and understanding of, our cultural heritage, claimed objects will be held by suitable institutions (usually the National Museums of Scotland or a local museum) for the benefit of the Scottish public. The presumption will be that display worthy objects will be placed on exhibition and, where appropriate, will be made available on loan to other museums. 3

2.4 Responsibility. Policy and financial responsibility for the Treasure Trove system lie with Scottish Ministers and are exercised through the Culture Division of the Scottish Government.

2.5 Statement of the legal position.

(i) Found items from anywhere in Scotland (on land, in buildings, from inland waters, from within harbours, and from the coast and other tidal waterways down to mean low tidal water level) which are not otherwise owned and for which there is not a demonstrable heir ( bona vacantia) are the property of the Crown at Scots common law. Portable antiquities form a subset of bona vacantia.

(ii) Found portable antiquities must be reported to the Crown by the finder through the Treasure Trove Unit or an appropriate intermediary (e.g. a museum). Misappropriation of found portable antiquities is the crime of theft and dishonest dealing in such items is the crime of reset, or receiving stolen property. Failure to report the finding of portable antiquities or the removal of found portable antiquities from Scotland (including to elsewhere in the United Kingdom) may provide evidence of misappropriation. Cases of apparent dishonesty will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal or Police for investigation and consideration of criminal proceedings. Offences are punishable by a fine or a term of imprisonment or both.

(iii) Non-reported portable antiquities have the status of being unclaimed Crown property. They cannot be owned by anyone else if the Crown has not been given the opportunity, by reporting, of exercising its right of ownership. There is no time limit with respect to non-reporting of items which thus remain the property of the Crown in perpetuity. Finders have no ownership rights to found objects unless and until the Crown determines, after they have been reported, not to claim, or subsequently to disclaim. Landowners have no property rights to portable antiquities, nor do sponsors of organized archaeological fieldwork have any claim to any finds made on their projects. Finders must ensure they have any appropriate permission to search land for portable antiquities.

(iv) Many chance finds are made with the aid of a metal detector. It is a criminal offence (under section 42 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979) to use a metal detector on a scheduled monument or a monument in the ownership or guardianship of Scottish Ministers, or of a Local Authority, without prior written permission from Scottish Ministers (further information can be obtained from Historic Scotland's Inspectorate - see Appendix O - and from Local Authority archaeologists).

TT.103/06 Neolithic carved stone ball from Pitmilly, Fife. Allocated to Fife Museums Service

TT.103/06 Neolithic carved stone ball from Pitmilly, Fife. Allocated to Fife Museums Service