On 4 December 2020 the government announced it had redefined ‘treasure’ to increase protection for archaeological finds. The official treasure definition will no longer be based solely on the material qualities of an artefact. This they suggest is one of the biggest changes to the Treasure Act since it came into effect.
Under the previous definition, objects were designated as treasure if they were found to be over 300 years old, made of gold or silver or found with artefacts made of precious metals. However this view of treasure did not capture the full extent of important finds reported in the twenty-first century.
Recent finds include a bronze-enamelled horse brooch from between the second and fourth century AD which resembles earlier designs of the Iron Age period. This was not recognised under the Treasure Act.
The new definition will be developed to ensure that major finds can be designated as treasure if they are historically or culturally significant. This will bring the treasure process into line with other important legislation to protect cultural heritage and collections, including the listing process for historically significant buildings and the export bar system.
The government will also introduce new measures to improve the experience of the treasure process which include a new time limit to streamline some stages of the process, limiting the number of times the Treasure Valuation Committee can review a case and developing a mechanism to return unclaimed rewards to museums.
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