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Amateur Treasure Hunters Dig For Artifacts In Their Own Backyard

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK. So here's one unexpected result of a pandemic lockdown. Many more people seem to be digging up treasure troves of artifacts. The Telegraph has reported dozens of backyard finds in the United Kingdom over the past several months as people spend a lot more time in their backyards. And this summer, Scottish archaeologists have been working to identify an astounding new finding.

EMILY FREEMAN: I wish I could say we were excited straightaway. But actually, they were objects that I had never seen before, so I wasn't sure what we were looking at.

NOEL KING, HOST:

That's Emily Freeman. She's head of Scotland's Treasure Trove Unit, which is a government department. She works with amateur treasure hunters. So back in June, a Scottish man dug up a bronze object buried in a field near the town of Peebles. He called it in. There was more digging. And they found a haul of stuff that's about 3,000 years old.

FREEMAN: So they are late Bronze Age in date. So for Scotland, that's about 3,000 years ago. And the Bronze Age is characterized by the use of bronze - the first metal age.

GREENE: So among the finds here, a sword still in its scabbard and also a horse harness and somehow - somehow - the leather and the wood preserved in the soil.

FREEMAN: Organic material doesn't usually survive because it's susceptible to disintegrating to bacteria, things like that.

GREENE: Freeman says nothing like this harness has ever been seen before in Britain. Her team has removed the hoard in its large block of soil and taken it back to Edinburgh, where they have a lot of work ahead of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALASDAIR FRASER AND NATALIE HAAS' "CALLIOPE MEETS FRANK: CALLIOPE HOUSE/MACARTHUR ROAD/FRANK'S REEL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.