Letter: Legal protection for antiquities found in British soil

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Sir: In your leading article on Lord Perth's Treasure Bill, you criticise the Bill because it does not go far enough and state that a more comprehensive law is needed.

Legislation to make compulsory the reporting of all finds of antiquities would be welcomed by most archaeologists, but stands little chance of receiving government support since it would probably require up to 100 extra people to be employed just to record all those finds.

In any case, such legislation would also be strenuously resisted by metal detectorists, with whose point of view you otherwise appear to be in sympathy, as, for example, when you repeat their assertion that objects ploughed out of the soil deteriorate rapidly (itself a controversial proposition).

Certainly, those who are promoting Lord Perth's Bill would like to encourage finders to report more of their finds, but we feel that at present this is best achieved by a voluntary code of practice. On the other hand, the most important finds - such as the torques found at Snettisham in 1990 or the Middleham jewel found in 1985 - undoubtedly do need more legal protection than they have at the moment.

The Treasure Bill simply attempts to remove the main difficulties faced by those who have to operate the present archaic law of Treasure Trove without weakening the present system of paying full rewards to finders for any

objects that are retained by a


Yours sincerely,



Department of Coins and Medals

The British Museum

London, WC1

2 March

(Photograph omitted)