Museum Security Network

eBay deal protects country’s ancient treasures


The guardians of Scotland’s buried treasures have entered a deal with internet auction site eBay to halt the sale of the country’s ancient artefacts.

The move over items covered by the Treasure Trove system comes after unscrupulous attempts to sell a number of the items online were uncovered.

The Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel said eBay has agreed to alert museums experts to attempts to sell artefacts from Scotland online.

The National Museums of Scotland and eBay last year stopped the sale of a Viking enamelled horse harness believed to have been found on Lewis by a treasure hunter using a metal detector following a tip-off.

It is only when treasure trove assessors at museums reject artefacts that finders can become keepers who may then do as they wish with the items they have recovered.

The link with eBay was revealed yesterday in the fourth annual Report on Treasure Trove, which has been presented to the Scottish Parliament. Report author Professor Ian Ralston, of Edinburgh University’s Archaeology Department said: “The development of the internet brings both advantages, and potentially disadvantages, to the operation of TreasureTrove in Scotland. A disadvantage previously noted is the internet’s potential to be a conduit for selling Scottish artefacts which have not been duly processed through the Treasure Trove system.”

He said it was “very satisfactory” to be able to confirm the agreement with eBay.

The report also raises concerns over what to do with artefacts that are not judged significant enough to be stored in the limited space available to museums. It is recommended that the archaeological community seeks ways to prevent them from being lost to academia forever.

It also reveals a number of finds in Scotland, including a Neolithic stone axehead from Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway. This artefact was made not from local stone, but from Langdale tuff, a Cumbrian stone which was quarried extensively in the Neolithic period.

The discovery of these axeheads so far from Cumbria is described as an indication of the network of long-distance contacts underpinning prehistoric societies.

An Early Bronze Age flanged axehead from Cardross, West Dunbartonshire, dating from around 1700-1800BC, was also discovered. Like Neolithic stone axeheads, Bronze Age axeheads also had both ritual and practical purposes and the detailed decoration on this example suggests it was a ceremonial or ritual object.

Amateur and professional archeologists also found two Late Bronze Age spearheads from Cademuir Hill in the Borders, dating from 1000-800BC, which are typical examples of Late Bronze Age weaponry; a hoard of 155 medieval silver coins from Dumfries, comprising a mixture of English and Scottish coins issued in the 13th and 14th centuries; and a double-sided medieval pilgrim badge from Crail, Fife, which depicts the crucifixion on one side while the other shows the Virgin and Child.

Under Scots law Treasure Trove belongs to the Crown.

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