A first-time metal-detecting enthusiast who discovered a hoard of Iron Age gold in a field could be in for a £460,000 windfall, officials confirmed today.
Safari park keeper David Booth, 35, had owned his metal detector for five days when he discovered four 2,000-year-old gold neckbands in a Stirlingshire field last year.
Dating from between the 1st and 3rd century BC, the bands - known as torcs - represent the most important hoard of Iron Age gold in Scotland to date. They were buried just six inches beneath the surface.
Today, the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer announced that she was "minded" to allocate "Scotland's most outstanding treasure trove find" to National Museums Scotland, provided they meet the ex-gratia award of £462,000 which would be payable to Mr Booth.
Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR) Catherine Dyer said: "This is a very significant find, the most important hoard of Iron Age gold ever found in Scotland. That these stunning artefacts have been unearthed in such excellent condition after being buried for 2,000 years is simply amazing.
"I am pleased to announce that if National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh meets the ex-gratia award, which would then be payable to the finder, then I am minded to accept the recommendation of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel (SAFAP) that these wonderful items be allocated to National Museums Scotland."
Mr Booth, the chief game warden at Blair Drummond Safari Park, near Stirling, made the find last September.
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.
At the time he described how he uncovered the hoard minutes into his first outing with his new metal detector.
He said: "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 back to his home near Stirling and contacted the authorities.
Money will need to be raised before he receives any payment.
Gordon Rintoul, director of National Museums Scotland, said: "These magnificent Iron Age gold torcs are of national and international importance and we are delighted that National Museums Scotland will now have the opportunity to acquire them for preservation and display.
"In the context of the current difficult economic climate, we will be exploring a range of sources of funding to secure what is a substantial sum to ensure these items remain available for future generations within the national collections."
SAFAP chairman Professor Ian Ralston said: "The panel is grateful to the finder for reporting these highly important finds in good time and for the further assistance from the finder during field work by the National Museum at the site of the discovery. This has allowed much greater understanding of the archaeological context of these four exceptional items."
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