Thursday 13 November 2008

Milton Keynes: Metal Detected Treasure Lost its Context

John Couchman, of Hemel Hempstead, and Lorraine Ayton, of Bedford, carelessly lost the contact address of two metal detecting "acquaintances" of theirs, and only knew their names were Stuart and Tracey and that they had left the country. Now "Stew" and "Trace" (I wonder if they were Central Searchers?) moved away from the area but not before asking John and Loraraine to sell a few items for them which they had found in summer 2004. The sad thing is that although the sale raised 205 quid, Couchman and Ayton did not know where to send the money. Now if you are out there Stew and Trace, John and Lorraine have some money for you. But they are not the only people who'd like to talk to you about those finds. The hoard of 15 Bronze Age items which was bought on eBay by Jeroen Zuiderwijk, a Dutch collector was repatriated and declared Treasure by Milton Keynes Coroner Rodney Corner (the same one as at Cold Brayfield) at an inquest in 2005. The only trouble is, nobody knows where "Stew and Trace" found the loot, and so the landowner for example cannot receive their share of the reward. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, what Stew and Trace did was very naughty. By law, they are supposed to report such a find within 14 days of discovery, not get somebody else to flog it off on the Internet. Milton Keynes does not seem to be having much luck with "metal detectorists".

How many more national treasures are being dug up and sold off abroad on the sly by anonymous metal detectors like "Stew" and "Trace"?

Perhaps the story had a happy end, maybe a Central Searcher "metal detectorist" found Stew and Trace's forwarding address in the end and the matter has been cleared up. I really do not see how it is possible that the finders could not be traced. It's a bit lame to get the stuff back from Holland and all you can say about its context and archaeological significance is "It does, though, throw up evidence of the Bronze Age and that there was bronze-smithing in the area." Duh!

Photo: The "Stew and Trace" Bronze Age hoard. Found in 2004 "somewhere in England".

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