INDIANA Jones is alive and well in Scotland – and he's brandishing a metal detector, it is claimed.
Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which looks after the country's heritage sites, claims more and more people are searching for the country's hidden treasures in fields, estates and woodlands.
The increase is attributed to a clutch of high-profile finds in recent years, including a Viking cache unearthed in Dumfries and Galloway in 2014 and Iron Age gold neckbands discovered near Stirling in 2009.
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And, according to HES, most of them fit the profile of the movie archaeologist, played by Harrison Ford, with most of Scotland's "hobbyist" metal detectorists men aged 45-55.
Most are active in just three areas – Perth and Kinross, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.
The information was compiled for a report released yesterday about the extent of the practice across the country. It was written as part of a project aimed at fostering closer collaboration between weekend treasure hunters and the heritage sector.
Kevin Munro of HES said: "We seem to be seeing an increase in the numbers of people participating in metal detecting in Scotland – perhaps due to a number of high profile finds by detectorists in Britain in the past decade. We know that detectorists have a great interest in history, and we hope that the project will help us to ensure that they are aware of the appropriate processes for reporting finds when they are discovered. "
Ayrshire dad Derek McLennan is amongst those who fit the hobbyist profile established by the report. He was 47 when he found the Viking artefacts three years ago - the same age as Ford when he made The Last Crusade – having uncovered a hidden stash of 300 medieval coins near Kirkcudbright earlier that year.
But at 35, safari park worker David Booth, was ten years under the age bracket when he came across the Iron Age gold at the age of 35. He was on his first outing and had taken just a few steps from his car when his £240 device began to beep.
Elsewhere, hobbyist James Mather discovered 200 Anglo-Saxon coins in an Oxfordshire field in 2015 and just days ago experts said the discovery would lead to the re-writing of an entire chapter of history.
And hospital chef David Crisp dug up a pot of 52,000 Roman coins in Somerset in 2010.
Scots law states that all such finds belong to the Crown and the Treasure Trove Unit (TTU) aims to ensure all metal detectorists know how to avoid damaging delicate sites and items and to correctly document find spots.
According to the report, only 55 per cent of the hobbyists use GPS devices to accurate record the locations and Dr Natasha Ferguson of the TTU said: "Humans have inhabited Scotland for thousands of years, with each generation leaving behind little pieces of evidence of its existence, just waiting to be discovered.
"It’s no surprise then that exciting artefacts are continually being discovered, sometimes by chance and sometimes deliberate exploration. Every significant object found contributes to our understanding of the nation’s history in its own way.
"The metal detecting community in Scotland finds and reports hundreds of objects every year to the Treasure Trove Unit – some of which are of national or even international importance. "However, even with the best intentions some artefacts can be damaged, or sensitive archaeology disturbed. We want to ensure artefacts discovered through recreational activities like metal detecting are recovered carefully and a detailed find spot recorded so important archaeological information is not lost."
She went on: "The enthusiasm and expertise of the metal detecting community makes a significant contribution to Scotland’s heritage sector, and we want to help to maximise its potential. By working together we can create a system that ensures the best result for everyone."