detector : an instrument that detects an object or substance and produces a signal
detectorist : one who uses a portable metal detector as a hobby (mainly British English)
Thirteen-year-old Amelia “Milly” Hardwick may be new to metal detecting, but she’s found more buried treasure than folks who’ve been digging for decades. Now Hardwick is astounding longtime detectorists.
Hardwick was seeking buried treasure in a field in Hertfordshire, England. Squeak. Squeak. Squeeeeeeak. Suddenly, her metal detector made a noise. On just her third time out with a detector, Milly had struck gold—or at least bronze.
The Bible speaks often of treasure—but not the buried-in-the-dirt kind. In fact, Jesus advises being more concerned with heavenly treasure than earthly, for “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Hardwick’s loot was a cache of 65 Bronze Age axes and artifacts dating to around 1300 BC. Hardwick told reporters she “almost fainted” when she literally hit paydirt.
The teen seems to find treasure almost every week. Hardwick’s mother says, “On a couple of digs people have [said] . . . ‘Oh, she’s here now so we might as well go home.’”
Hardwick is matter-of-fact about her hobby. “Whenever I go out, I find stuff,” she tells reporters. “I’ve found a gold-plated button and [an Elizabethan] coin. It’s just nice being in the field for hours, and you get a signal and it could literally be anything.”
Hardwick made her big discovery in a field near Royston, a town north of London. She’s now a known face for metal detecting, even appearing on the cover of the metal detecting magazine Searcher.
The teen formally signed her hoard over to the local coroner. That’s the law. The coroner’s office must decide whether Hardwick’s trove qualifies as “treasure.” As far as the United Kingdom’s 1996 Treasure Act goes, a treasure is any object of at least 10% gold or silver and at least 300 years old. In the case of treasure, officials set a value for the items. In the United Kingdom, finders are not keepers. It’s also illegal to sell treasure.
Archaeologists must first excavate Hardwick’s site. Such an important find may wind up at the British Museum, which could offer the finder and the landowners a reward.
But Hardwick doesn’t seem worried about making money on her detecting. She hopes to be an archaeologist someday—and treasure hunting is good practice. So she plans to keep searching.
“We’re going to try [to] find gold,” the girl says. “And when we do, we’re going to do a little dance.”
Why? Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions, but studying historical treasure can reveal information that enriches the lives of whole cultures. British law recognizes that when it establishes that “treasure” is public, not private, property.