So why is it that in England a coroner decides what is declared treasure for the purpose of dividing the proceeds of found coin hoards? Max Hensley forwarded this Atlas
Obscura article which traces the historical background. Thanks. -Editor
"The modern role is almost entirely focused on the investigation of deaths, but at the time revenue control was part of that," says Matthew Lockwood, a historian at the
University of Alabama and an expert in early British history, who wrote his dissertation on the coroner's role in British life. "The responsibility for investigating treasure and
wreck of the sea goes sort of hand-in-hand with the investigation of death.
"Some of the early broader roles are sort of swept away," Lockwood adds, "so we're left with treasure trove and investigating untimely deaths." It is still up to coroners—who
weren't particularly associated with having medical knowledge until the 1800s—to distinguish between deaths accidental, natural, and foul, and to distinguish between trinket and
"It's very obscure," Lockwood says, "but at the same time it's a bizarre holdover from a previous age that doesn't seem like it should exist in the modern age, but it
What is treasure and what is not was a significant distinction as far back as the Roman Empire, when treasure was defined, rather specifically, as a horde of money that has
been buried so long an owner cannot be identified. It has been a subject of English law as far back as Edward the Confessor, who reigned in the early 11th century. And today,
naming something as treasure still carries profound implications.
"Prior to , it was very loose and in order for something to be classed as ‘treasure trove,' a find had to be predominantly gold and silver. Its original owners had to be
unknown, but it also had to be buried with the intention of future recovery," says Richardson, who sorts though hundreds of treasure inquiries each year passed to him by local
municipalities. "It means that in practice the majority of things classed as ‘treasure trove' were coin hoards, obviously put in the ground by people with the hopes of recovering
later and they never did."
To read the complete article, see:
In England, Coroners Decide What Is Treasure and What Is Not
Wayne Homren, Editor
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