A man about to get married became the country's most famous person when he discovered a £1 million treasure trove dating back to 300 BC just seven steps from where he parked his car

A man about to get married became the country’s most famous person when he discovered a £1 million treasure trove dating back to 300 BC just seven steps from where he parked his car

When David Booth bought himself a metal detector, he was looking for a new hobby – and perhaps the occasional old coin.

But on his very first outing with the device, he uncovered a £1million hoard of Iron Age jewellery that is Scotland’s most important find in a century.

Mr Booth, 35, found four gold necklaces – known as ‘torcs’ – buried just six inches beneath the surface in a field near Stirling.

 

A worker poses with four gold Iron Age torcs during a photocall at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh

 

David Booth, metal detector enthusiast poses with his hoard of Iron Age Gold

Up until his amazing find, he had only switched the £240 gadget on to ‘detect’ knives and forks in his own kitchen as practice.

But just one hour into his first outdoor foray – and only seven paces from where he had parked the car – he became the country’s most famous finder.

The hoard – dating back as far as 300BC – has excited archaeologists so much, they say it changes the way we look at Scotland’s ancient inhabitants.

And under treasure trove rules in this country, the safari park keeper is set to get a reward equal to the market value of the find.

But a shell-shocked Mr Booth is finding it hard to come to terms with his imminent wealth – the father-to-be can think no further than ‘perhaps’ paying off his Ford Focus car loan with his riches.

He said: ‘I’d always fancied buying a metal detector, just as a hobby, and I decided to do it. It turned out to be a pretty good investment.

 

Four gold Iron Age neck ornaments or torcs, dating from the between the 1st and 3rd Century BC unveiled by the Treasure Trove Unit

People look out over a view of Stirling where a amateur metal detector enthusiast David Booth unearthed a hoard of buried treasure

‘I was really only there because I had permission from the landowner, although I knew the area had some Iron Age history.

‘I just parked the car in the field, took my metal detector out and started looking – I just had a feeling about it.

‘It flashed to indicate that I had found gold about seven paces away from the car, and I started digging.

‘I knew I had to be careful, so I dug quite a large circle around the spot with a garden spade.

Gold: Archaeologists say the hoard changes the way we look at Scotland’s ancient inhabitants

‘I used a trowel when I got nearer. Six or eight inches down, I saw a glimpse of one of them, then uncovered the rest of the hoard. They were in a wee group.

‘My first feeling was one of almost disbelief. I knew it was gold, and it did look old, but I couldn’t believe I could be so lucky.’

Mr Booth took the collection of muddy artifacts home on September 28 and rinsed them carefully to uncover a cache of glittering jewellery.

The find was in five pieces – three intact necklets and two fragments of another torc, all gold and silver alloy with a touch of copper.

Two of the pieces are ribbon torcs, twisted carefully from sheet gold with flattened ends. These are Scottish or Irish in origin.

The fragments are from a South-west French style annular torc, which would have been an enclosed circle with a hinge and catch.

But the piece that is really getting experts excited is a looped terminal torc with decorative ends, made from eight golden wires looped together and decorated with thin threads and chains. All the pieces date to between 300 and 100 BC.

The Stirling find appears to reveal links between local tribes — traditionally seen as isolated — and other Iron Age people in Europe.

The treasure spent the night in Mr Booth’s gun safe in the house he shares with girlfriend Carolyn Morrison, 28.

The next day, he took them to work and notified the National Museum of Scotland (NMS), who were at the door within hours of receiving an email and pictures of the find.

The museum’s principal Iron Age and Roman curator Dr Fraser Hunter was one of the first on the scene, and soon a dig was set up at the top secret location where the cache was found.

He said: ‘When I saw the pictures, I nearly fell off my chair.’

As the jewellery was analysed, the site of the find also yielded more information.

 

Treasure Hunter David Booth pictured with his find of Iron Age Treasure.

The day job: Mr Booth at the safari park

Experts found the remnants of a wooden roundhouse, suggesting that the jewellery was either buried for safekeeping under a home, or was perhaps a votive offering to higher powers, within some sort of shrine.

Dr Hunter added: ‘This will revolutionise the way Scotland’s ancient inhabitants are viewed – it shows they were much less isolated than previously believed.’

He added that the craftsmanship of the looped terminal torc showed it was made by smith who had learned his craft in the Mediterranean, but had combined it with the local style.

He said: ‘It’s a missing link. It’s the first time we’ve seen one that combines these two styles.’

Ian Ralston, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘These two finds suggest tribes in what we think of as ‘Scotland’ had rather wider links than archaeologists a generation ago would have expected.

‘They knew what was going on elsewhere, valued similar things and emulated practice in burials or votives.’

 

A Press Officer at the British Museum views a piece of the Staffordshire Hoard, which went on show at the British Museum in central London earlier this week

 

A small exhibit from the Saxon Staffordshire Hoard. The Hoard which is believed to date from the 7th Century, was discovered by Mr Terry Herbert while using a metal detector in a field in Staffordshire in July 2009

He added that the find was the most significant in Scotland since 1857, when two gold torcs were found on farmland in Morayshire.

 

Some archaeologists believe that precious of objects would be hidden in time of war, to be reclaimed later. However, Professor Ralston leans towards the theory that the hoards were votives.

The jewellery probably belonged to members of a Celtic-speaking tribe, Professor Ralston said. The same tribes would bind together to face Roman invaders and would be called Caledonii by Tacitus, the historian, in the 1st century AD.

Dr David Caldwell of the Scottish Treasure Trove Unit, said that the torcs would ‘definitely’ stay in Scotland.

He added: ‘There hasn’t been a find like this in Scotland for over 100 years.

‘It is fair to say that this is very much bigger and better in terms of value and appeal than anything we have seen for a very long time.’

The find is said to be the most significant in Scotland since 1857, when two gold torcs were found on farmland in Moray.

Stirling heritage dates back 800 years to the 12th century, when the town first received the burgh title.

It was granted a Royal Charter, becoming one of the most important towns of medieval Scotland.

Between 300BC and AD300, there is evidence of Iron Age settlers building fortifications and defensive works and so Stirling developed into a town of both strategic importance and wealth.

The exact location of the find is being kept secret by the national Treasure Trove Unit, which is based at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh.

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