A Recently Discovered Trove of Ancient Roman Coins Has Disappeared From a U.K. Museum Facility
The possible theft of a hoard of silver destined to end up in the British Museum is being investigated in the police inquiry, according to a report Daily Mail.
A pair of metal detectors found 28 Roman silver coins and a silver bar in Rutland and turned them over to local authorities, as required by British law. The find was held in a secure facility by the local Lancashire County Museum Service and was soon to be taken to the British Museum for expert analysis.
However, that plan had to be put on hold after the British Museum requested the transfer of one of the treasures – but it was nowhere to be found. A total of 12 object sets and their casework files have disappeared.
As Andy Brockman, an author specializing in heritage crime, told the British tabloid, it remains a mystery how the valuable items “were removed from a secure storage facility, in a locked office, in a building to which the public does not have routine access, could have disappeared. ”
He added that there “didn’t appear to have been an inventory system” in place for staff to keep track of artifacts that had already been declared.
Police have been investigating the incident since October, but have not yet identified a suspect.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a national program created in 2003 to prevent amateur metal detectorists from interfering with archaeological research by encouraging them to report their finds. Under the Treasure Act 1996 there is a legal obligation to return any gold or silver item or group of coins found at the same location and older than 3,000 years.
If these are classified by experts as of national importance, public institutions are given the opportunity to purchase them. In either case, the finders and the landowners would have shared a reward for declaring it.
The news appears to have angered and outraged the couple who found the Roman coins, although they are being compensated for the missing items. Archaeologists have reportedly expressed hope that the incident won’t stop other metal detectors from reporting their finds in the future.
The British Museum did not respond to a request for comment.
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