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Finds

During your survey, you may encounter artefacts (or Finds) relating the site or area you are investigating. Under Scottish Treasure Trove law, all finds of portable antiquities should be reported to a local museum or a local authority archaeologist within one month of finding them. This applies to finds on scheduled and non-scheduled sites and refers to items of any material (not just precious metals) normally made or modified more than one hundred years ago. For further details see The Code of Practice for Treasure Trove in Scotland.


Metal detecting is increasingly being used alongside traditional methods of archaeological survey, especially as a means of assisting development-led surveys being undertaken on tight timescales. It is a popular hobby and several metal detecting groups in Scotland have considerable experience of working on archaeological and historical sites. However, like excavation, metal detecting is an invasive survey method and should only be considered after careful planning with due regard to relevant legislation, the specific nature of site you are working on and the metal detectorists you may choose to work with.

Historic Scotland has published a very useful guide to Metal Detecting in Scotland which you should read if you are thinking about using metal detectors in your survey. In particular, you should note that:

  • It is a criminal offence to use a metal detector on a scheduled monument or a monument in the ownership or guardianship of Scottish Ministers or a local authority, without prior written permission from Scottish Ministers. It is also an offence to remove any objects of historical or archaeological interest from such a site, found using a metal detector.
  • Some land management agreements entered into by land owners and farmers may prohibit the use of metal detecting on ancient monuments, whether scheduled or not.
  • Members of the National Council for Metal Detecting and the Federation of Independent Detectorists follow a Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting. Although the Code of Practice was developed by groups working in England and Wales (which has different legislation and heritage organisations from Scotland), its principles apply equally to Scotland, and you should always seek reassurance that any detectorists you may work with on archaeological sites follow this Code.
© Historic Environment Scotland - Scottish Charity No. SC045925.