Brits Claim Record Treasure Trove with 50,000+ Finds in a Year

It was a good year to be a treasure hunter in England. Civilian archaeologists reported the largest-ever haul of significant finds and treasures in 2022 (the most recent statistics released).

The Guardian reported civilians turned in 53,490 objects to the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). Curated to analyze and catalog significant historical objects, the PAS found that 1,378 met the legal definitions of treasure — the highest total in its history.

In previous years, metal detectorists have found the majority of certified treasures. Those include objects like a 4,000-year-old Ringlemere cup and the Watlington Hoard.


Mudlarking and metal-detecting

Among 2022’s finds, one particular non-metal object has garnered a lot of attention.

A mudlarker (a person licensed to scavenge river beds for treasure) was scouring the banks of the River Thames when she discovered a tiny face staring up at her.

Caroline Nunneley recovered a two-sided medieval rosary bead from the mud. One side was a woman’s face, possibly a depiction of the Virgin Mary, and the other side was a skull.

Carved from bone, the bead dates back as far as 1450.

“She’s just a woman reminding us that one day we were young and beautiful and full of life and that we have to be aware that time is passing,” Nunneley, a Brighton local who has held a mudlarking license for five years, told The Guardian.

Other significant finds include a 3,000-year-old gold dress fastener that suggests luxury importation from Ireland. Jonathan Needham, a metal detectorist, found the dress fastener on a parcel of Staffordshire farmland, according to The Art Newspaper. It’s one of just seven of its type ever located in England and Wales and could now go to a local museum following rewards to Needham and the landowner.

A record year, again

The treasure total is provisional for now, per the British government. But if it holds, it will be the ninth year in a row the museum has certified over 1,000 bonafide treasures. The PAS database contains records on over 1.7 million objects.

It’s no wonder so many finds are reported. The Treasure Act of 1996 makes it a requirement to report any find “of gold and silver over 300 years old and groups (hoards) of coins and prehistoric metalwork” in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.