Understanding the Treasure Trove Process
Recently discovered ancient objects are assigned to museums through the Treasure Trove system. Learn more about Treasure Trove and the relevant bodies.
Treasure Trove: Overview
Under Scots Law, any recently discovered ancient objects come under Bona Vacantia, or ‘ownerless property’ and are automatically claimed by the Crown.
The Treasure Trove Unit states:
“There is no statutory definition of Treasure Trove, but it may be described as a “portable antiquity” – and can cover virtually anything (stone, wood, metal, woven material) which has been taken out of the ground and which is thought, on the basis of its age or rarity, worth preserving for the nation”.
Through the Treasure Trove process, these objects are then offered to the public sphere through being acquired by museums and galleries.
The Treasure Trove process is overseen by the Treasure Trove Unit, who operate on behalf of the King’s & Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (KLTR). Decisions on object allocation are made by the independent Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel (SAFAP).
The Treasure Trove Unit:
The Treasure Trove Unit (TTU) are responsible for processing archaeological finds, before they are processed by the SAFAP.
Archaeological finds should be reported directly to the TTU, and/or deposited at a finder’s local museum before being processed by TTU.
Museums should inform the TTU of any finds deposited at the museum. Museums are informed of cases being considered by the SAFAP once they have been processed by TTU. Accredited museums are invited to apply for finds which have been processed by TTU, including any which have been initially deposited at the museum. Museums receive a caselist of finds from Museums Galleries Scotland.
The Treasure Trove Unit is based at National Museums Scotland, but is an independent organisation.
The Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel (SAFAP):
The SAFAP is made up of experts from the museum and archaeological sectors, including Ex Officio members recruited from Museums Galleries Scotland, National Museums Scotland, and Historic Environment Scotland.
The SAFAP has responsibility for assigning Treasure Trove cases to applicant museums, as well as setting the Ex Gratia award for the finder (which is met by the applicant museum).
Further information on SAFAP may be found here: https://treasuretrovescotland.co.uk/about/safap/.
The King’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (KLTR):
The KLTR is the Crown’s representative in Scotland. Because recently discovered artefacts are automatically assigned as ‘ownerless goods’ and pass to the Crown, the KLTR delegates authority to the Treasure Trove Unit to determine whether or not an object should be classified as treasure.
More information about the Treasure Trove process, associated organisations, caselists, and the Treasure Trove Code of Conduct may be found at the Treasure Trove website here: https://treasuretrovescotland.co.uk/.
If you would like to discuss anything relating to Treasure Trove further, please contact Jacob O’Sullivan, Museum Development Manager – Collections & Interpretation at JacobOS@museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk