Unlocking Hidden Fortunes: The Thrilling Quest for Buried Riches in the Modern Era

Secret Stashes and Buried Riches Continue to Captivate Modern Treasure Hunters”

Staffordshire Hoard Treasure

gold and silver artifacts from the Staffordshire Hoard, which was found in 2009 in Staffordshire, England, date to the sixth and seventh centuries. (Image through Wikipedia Commons; CC BY 2.0)

Every small child dreams of finding buried treasure, hidden by pirates or an ancient king. While adults may abandon these whimsical dreams, all hope is not lost for adventurers. Treasure troves—also known as hoards—are still being found across the world. Ordinary people continue to stumble upon caches of ancient coins, gold bracelets, and silver plates to this day.

Finding a buried treasure trove can make someone millions, turning the life of a metal-detector hobbyist or farmer in a new direction. Each discovery also advances knowledge of local history in priceless ways. Read on to learn more about hoards, treasure, and how your childhood dream could (maybe) still happen.

Hoxne Hoard Body Chain Gold

A gold body chain from the Hoxne Hoard of late Roman items, discovered in 1992 in Suffolk England. (Photo: Photograph by Mike Peel via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0])

What Is a Treasure Trove or Hoard?

Treasure troves, or hoards, are defined by archeologists to be a type of wealth deposit. Precious metals and stones, ceremonial artifacts, and everyday coins—hoards can comprise a variety of different metal-based objects. How these pieces come to be underground can depend on societal conditions. Political instability or war in ancient times could inspire wealthy people to hide their valuables. Typically, these people intended to return to recover their deposited wealth. Circumstances—such as war or death—could interrupt recovery, leaving the hoard to wait for chance discovery. In general, valuables found at gravesites or shipwrecks are not classified as hoards.

Treasure troves can be found across the world; however, Great Britain and Ireland can boast some of the largest and most famous discoveries. Treasure trove also has an important legal definition. Coin and bullion are defined to be treasure depending on the content of silver and gold, as well as the age of the items. In the UK, the Treasure Act 1996 governs all discoveries. In general, any finds older than 300 years and containing at least 10 percent gold or silver qualify as treasure. Pre-historic finds often qualify as well, regardless of metal content. Discoveries must be reported to the local coroner within 14 days, as found treasure has long been considered Crown property. To hide discovery can even result in prison time.

The coroner next holds an inquest—or investigation—to see if the discovered items are in fact treasure. A Treasure Valuation Committee formed of experts examines the pieces. The committee decides if the find fits the definition of treasure, and then makes a valuation. If the items are in fact within the scope of the law, the finder (and owner of the land) are required to offer the pieces for sale to a museum. These laws are in place to ensure that historic national treasures go to institutions where they will be studied, rather than merely vanishing into the hands of private collectors. In general, this scheme works well for all involved—knowledge is advanced, and the finders of the treasure make a pretty penny from their sale.

Famous Treasure Troves

The Broighter Gold

Broighter Gold Dublin Hoard-2

A golden boat from the Broighter Gold hoard. (Photo: Ardfern via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

This cache of Iron Age Gold was found in Northern Ireland by farmers in 1896. Dating from the first century BCE, the gold is a fine example of intricate metal work. A  torque  (or torque, a twisted necklace), a bowl, and other jewelry show off the artistry of the ancient Celtic craftsmen. The most unique element of the hoard is a golden boat, complete with oars. Scholars believe the hoard was a  votive deposit  to a Celtic sea god.

The Preslav Treasure

Byzantine Varna Necklace

Byzantine necklace from the Preslav Treasure. (Photo: Yelkrokoyade via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

Discovered in 1978 in Castana, Bulgaria, the Preslav Treasure comprises 170  Byzantine  artifacts in gold, silver, and bronze. The coins date to the 10th century CE when the items were buried during political turmoil; however, other items may date back to the 3rd century CE. The highlight of the cache is a grand golden necklace bearing a  medallion  of the Virgin Mary. It is possible the necklace was a wedding gift from a Bulgarian Tsar to a Byzantine princess.

The Saddle Ridge Hoard

Saddle Ridge Hoard Coins

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