|14 March 2004
Rare axe head found and reburied in Scotland
A Fife man who discovered a rare Neolithic axe head while out walking near his home is facing prosecution for refusing to hand it over. Under Scots Law such finds are Crown property but until now it is not thought anyone has faced court action. Michael Kelly discovered the 6,500-year-old axe head, one of only 30 in the UK, in a field last year, but reburied after he discovered he couldn't get the £5000 he asked to Fife Council as a compensation for his finding.
Recalling how he came across the axe head, the former film stunt man said, "I often go hill walking to think about my film scripts. On this occasion I was up West Conland and I saw what looked like a fancy stone lying on a ploughed field. I didn't know it was an axe to start with" he said. "I picked it up and as a friend said it was ancient I decided to have it looked at. And took it to the archaeologist and he told me it was 6,500 years old."
Mr Kelly initially thought his discovery would help him fund his film project - but he was wrong. Fife Council's archaeologist Douglas Speirs said that under Scots law such finds were claimed by the Crown. The items were usually then given to a local museum or, in the case of finds of high importance, to the national museums. "This is a system which benefits everybody," said Mr Speirs.
The Crown has told Mr Kelly that he must hand over the axe head or face prosecution. The deadline has now passed, but he said he would not budge unless he is compensated to his satisfaction. "I've just buried it up the Lomond Hills, thatís where I found it in the first place and Iíve no intention of going to get it as things stand," he said, adding that "At the end of the day I didn't ask to find it, I didn't steal it from anybody."
Mr Kelly is willing to fight his corner in court. "I also asked the owner of the land that I found the axe head on if he wanted it and he said he didnít. If a museum is to have it, I think I should be rewarded accordingly."
"I advised Mr Kelly to declare his find as a treasure trove. In that instance, a panel would have decided how much money he should be given and which museum the piece should go to. Obviously Mr Kelly did not follow our advice," said Fife Council archaeologist Alastair Rees. He added "We knew the axe head was of Neolithic date and a specialist recognised it as a type of stone coming from the Killin area of Perthshire. It's a very specific stone that you only find from there but which was transported all over the country."
Sources: BBC News (12 march 2004), The Courier (13 March 2004)
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