Amateur metal detectorists in Scotland have discovered a hoard of 8,400 medieval coins, one of the biggest finds in Scottish history

Some have used pandemic downtime to learn how to crochet or brew a batch of kombucha. Many in Scotland have escaped the annoyance of lockdown restrictions by embracing metal detecting, so much so that the country’s Treasure Trove unit is struggling to keep up.

More recently, the government agency responsible for investigating, processing and archiving the discoveries of amateur detectives announced the Dunscore Hoard, one of the greatest discoveries in Scottish history. Last summer, 8,400 medieval silver coins were found in a field near Dumfries, a southwestern town 25 miles from the Anglo-Scottish border.

Named after the nearby village of Dumfriesshire, the Dunscore Hoard is the largest discovered in Scotland since the 19th century and is mainly made up of Edward I and II pennies dating from the 13th to 14th centuries, a period of frequent warfare between England and Scotland which featured figures such as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

“The hoard is still being catalogued,” Ken McNab, senior communications officer at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, told Artnet News. “It’s an ongoing process and we don’t have a timetable at this stage.”

This process involves identifying, photographing, measuring and weighing each piece before museum allocations are decided.

The hoard contains a mixture of English, Irish, Scottish and Continental European coins. Although a value is yet to be determined, the size, scope and rarity of the treasure means it is likely worth several hundred thousand dollars.

In May 2020, the Treasure Trove Unit concluded a multi-year survey of the Scottish amateur metal detecting scene and estimated the number of active hobbyists at 520. Their numbers appear to have exploded since the start of the pandemic, with the Treasure Trove unit reporting 12,263 artefacts found so far in 2022, compared to around 1,500 in 2019.

“The team had to hire more staff to help deal with items found post-Covid,” McNab said.

Fortunately, the survey showed that hobbyists are familiar with national heritage legislation and want to work closer with the heritage sector in the years to come. Expect more finds like the Dunscore Hoard.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay one step ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to receive breaking news, revealing interviews and incisive reviews that move the conversation forward.