Novice finds £1 million Iron Age treasure


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The Independent Online

A novice metal-detecting enthusiast said today he was "stunned" to unearth a £1 million Iron Age treasure hoard during his first outing with the machine.

Safari park keeper David Booth, 35, had owned his metal detector for just five days when he discovered four 2,000-year-old gold neckbands in a Stirlingshire field.

The neckbands, dating from between the 1st and 3rd century BC, are worth an estimated £1 million and the find represents the most important hoard of Iron Age gold in Scotland to date.

Mr Booth, the chief game warden at Blair Drummond Safari Park, near Stirling, joined experts at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh as the treasure was revealed today.

He said he was still trying to come to terms with the importance of his discovery.

He said: "It's absolutely unbelievable, I don't think it's really sunk in yet since the moment I discovered it."

He described how he uncovered the hoard just minutes into his first outing with his new metal detector.

"I'd only had the detector for five days. I'd just practised around the house with nails and bits and pieces. I went with it for the first time, parked the vehicle up, got out, picked a direction to set off on, and about seven yards away that was the first thing I came across.

"I was completely stunned, there was a bit of disbelief. This was my first find."

Mr Booth took the bands, known as torcs, back to his home near Stirling and contacted the authorities.

Under Scots law, the Crown can claim any archaeological objects found in Scotland.

Finders have no ownership rights and must report any objects to the Treasure Trove Unit.

But Mr Booth may receive a reward equal to the value of the jewellery.

Asked about any financial reward he could receive, he said: "There are loads of figures getting banded about, so you just need to wait and see what the valuation committee values it at.

"I'm trying not to speculate about it at the moment."

Despite making such an important find at such an early st age , Mr Booth vowed to continue his new hobby of metal-detecting.

He said: "A lot of people say you might as well throw it away, but I'll keep on going, there might be other stuff out there.

"It's a good hobby and it gets you out in the fresh air."

Experts said the hoard was of European significance, showing the wealth and connections of people in Scotland at the time.

The exact location of the September find is being kept secret to stop it being swamped by other metal-detecting fans.

The collection consists of two ribbon torcs - a local style of jewellery made from a twisted ribbon of gold - half an ornate torc of southern French origin, and a unique braided gold wire torc which shows strong influences of Mediterranean craftsmanship.

They are currently under the protection of Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit, an independent body based at the National Museum of Scotland.

The unit, along with a team from National Museums Scotland, is now continuing to excavate the site and analyse the find.

Dr Fraser Hunter, Iron Age and Roman curator at the National Museum of Scotland, said he "almost fell off my seat" when he first set eyes on photographs of Mr Booth's discovery.

He said: "The archaeological value is stunning. Archaeologically speaking, this is a remarkable find.

"It's one of the most important hoards from Scotland ever. We haven't found anything of this quality.

"It's one of the most important hoards from the Iron Age in Britain and it's a find of European importance."

The Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel will now value it.

A similar band found in Newark, Nottinghamshire, in 2005 sold for £350,000.

Earlier this year, metal detector Terry Herbert unearthed the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, in a Staffordshire field.

The haul of about 1,000 items was officially declared to be treasure by a coroner.