She said that if a coroner declares that the Royston find meets the government definition of “treasure” — objects made of at least 10 percent gold or silver that are at least 300 years old — then a committee will set the value of the items. (When treasure is found, the finder does not own it, and it is illegal to try to sell it, according to government guidelines.)
Ms. Dupré said that if a museum wanted to acquire the objects, then the finder and the landowners could claim a reward. “This is of course a very exciting discovery, but we are unable to say anything further until investigations have concluded,” she said in a statement. Milly said that she would wait to see whether she would win any reward before making plans about how to spend it.
Over the last two decades, museums around Britain have acquired more than 5,000 artifacts that were found by members of the public, including Bronze Age axes, Iron Age cauldrons and Roman coin hoards.
Last year, the British government expanded its definition of treasure. The growing popularity of metal detecting as a hobby meant that more historical objects were being found, including some of archaeological significance that did not meet the previous “treasure” definition, which had been in place since the 1990s. In 2019, 1,311 pieces went through the process in which a committee determines whether an item should be considered treasure, the highest number on record. In 1997, 79 pieces were found.
A handful of hobbyists have found extraordinary artifacts. In 2014, a man with a metal detector found a hoard of gold and silver in Scotland that was more than 1,100 years old, a trove that experts called one of the most significant archaeological finds in Britain of this century. A spokesman for National Museums Scotland said the organization paid almost 2 million British pounds, or $2.6 million, for the items, which are on temporary display at the Kirkcudbright Galleries, a museum close to where they were found.
Since her discovery, Milly has gone out on most Sundays with her grandfather and father in search of more items. She says that when she grows up, she wants to be an archaeologist.
“The Romans have been there, everyone has been there — and we’re the ones to find it,” she said, laughing at the absurdity of finding a centuries-old ax in that particular field in Royston. “It’s crazy.”