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24 December 2005
Bronze Age axes rescued after eBay sale

A series of 15 axe headswere sold on eBay for 205, a British coroner heard. The 3,000-year-old haul was eventually handed to the British Museum after it was bought by a Dutch archeologist. The rare bronze-age treasure was believed to have been dug up using metal detectors by a couple known as Stuart and Tracey, from the Milton Keynes area of Buckinghamshire (England). When the couple moved to France in 2004 they gave the find to friends John Couchman and Lorraine Ayton who promptly put them up for sale on eBay.
     A treasure trove inquest heard five bids were made on eBay and the axe heads - which would have been used for defence and chopping wood - were shipped over to Dutch collector Jeroen Zuiderwijk, who paid just a fraction of their real value.
     Luckily however, the archaeologist, an experimental metallurgist at a theme park, reconsidered their value and got in touch with UK museum authorities. The find was described by expert Ros Tyrrell as only the second ever bronze-age collection to be found in the Buckinghamshire area. The region is rich in archeological finds which have been uncovered with the construction of the new city of Milton Keynes. However, the coroner heard that a lot of treasure was never handed in by unscrupulous metal detectors who only operated under cover of darkness. "It would have been such a waste if it had been sold individually," Ms Tyrrell told the inquest in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.
"Now it will stay together and will be available to see if people want to study it. You can only study what is available and this will be a valuable addition to our collection."
     The axe heads, held by the British Museum, are set to be handed to the Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury. "We are very grateful to Mr Zuiderwijk. He could have kept quiet and we would never have known. We would have lost our ability to study them," Ms Tyrrell added. "These axe heads were high-tech in their day. They looked really swanky with their gold colouring." At the treasure trove inquest, Milton Keynes coroner Rodney Corner formally declared that the treasure belonged to the Crown. Since the 1996 Treasure Act, finders in the United Kingdom are no longer keepers and must report any objects more than 300 years old.

Source: The Scotsman (23 December 2005)

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