Grab your metal detectors: Michael Booth says you have more chance of finding buried booty in Britain than winning the lottery. Illustration by Joe Magee
At last, the map you've all been waiting for, a real live treasure map. Unfortunately, the Xs mark the spots where major treasure hoards have already been unearthed in Britain over the last 50 years. But you never know, if the current National Lottery ads are to be believed, there could be a Bronze Age jewelled pendant with your name on it just inches beneath the vegetable patch. Of course, the irony is that the odds of finding treasure (Norfolk and Suffolk are particularly fertile hunting grounds) are probably better than those of winning the lottery. What's more, find the right piece of treasure and you could be talking a lottery-jackpot-sized payout. Treasure, as defined by the 1996 Treasure Act, means coin hoards or other objects over 300 years old, made from gold or silver. If you find something shiny and old in your garden it is legally yours (unless it is George Hamilton) but you must report it to your local coroner within 14 days. It's then passed on to the British Museum or National Museum of Wales (depending on where it was found) which have first refusal to buy. According to Richard Hobbs of the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme (which records all archaeological discoveries, not just treasure), the number of finds has increased dramatically since the Act came in to force: "We are getting about 170 uncoverings of treasure a year referred to us, before the Act it was 25. The most common discoveries are medieval coins"

Thanks to the British Museum. Visit its Portable Antiquities website at

Holderness, East Yorkshire A gold and garnet pectoral cross dating form the early 7th century which came to light earlier this year after spending three decades in a matchbox. Farmer Ronald Wray, 86, found it in 1965 in a field but only took it to Hull Museum to be examined in March last year. Not yet sold, it is expected to net the widower tens of thousands of pounds.

Cunetio, Wiltshire This is the largest hoard of coins ever found in Britain and it netted metal detectorists PD Humphries and JF Booth the princely sum of pounds 120,000. It was discovered by the pair at the Cunetio site to the east of Marlborough in Wiltshire. In 1978, the British Museum subsequently acquired the 55,000 coins, which date from the late 3rd century AD.

Mildenhall, Suffolk Immortalised in a Roald Dahl story, the Mildenhall treasure was a find so astonishing that many believed it was Nazi booty that had been flown in from North Africa. Consisting of late Roman silver tableware, it was found in 1947 by farmer Gordon Butcher and was valued at pounds 20,000; today worth hundreds of thousands, it is housed in the British Museum.

Salisbury, Wiltshire Spanning 2,500 years, these 500 objects come from the largest deposit of prehistoric metalwork ever found in Britain. The shields, tools, axes and razors were found by metal detectorists in the mid Eighties and sold to a number of dealers before being traced and reassembled by the British Museum. Today, the shields alone are worth pounds 55,000.

Middleham, Yorkshire This sapphire and gold pendant was found in 1985 by a metal detectorist (who remains anonymous) alongside a path between two abbeys near Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. It turned out to be the most important piece of 15th-century jewellery discovered in England this century and was bought in 1991 for pounds 2.5m by Yorkshire Museum Services.

Snettisham, Norfolk A haul which included 75 torcs (necklaces and armbands); over 100 ingot rings and bracelets; and 170 coins from the early 1st century BC, and are evidence of one of the first fiscal systems in Britain. Unearthed in 1948 by a farmer, yet more was found by a metal detectorist in 1990. Over 50 years, hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of treasure have been found here.

Hoxne, Suffolk In 1992 Eric Lawes, while looking for a friend's lost hammer with his metal detector, stumbled upon this amazing Roman treasure find which included 15,000 silver coins, 565 gold coins, a large number of silver tableware items, gold jewellery and an elaborate body chain. The total value of the hoard is estimated at pounds 1.75m.

Sutton Hoo, Suffolk The most important Anglo-Saxon find ever made. In 1939, Edith Pretty asked archaeologist Basil Brown to investigate some mounds on her land. Items found included a gold belt buckle, a gold and garnet enamel clasp, shoulder clasps, Roman tableware and an entire ship. Although this find is now worth millions, Pretty donated the lot to the British Museum.