Iron Age gold find saved for the nation

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AN OUTSTANDING hoard of Iron Age gold unearthed by an amateur treasure hunter has been saved for the nation.

• David Booth with the gold ornaments he found in a field near his home. They are to go on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Safari park ranger David Booth uncovered the four neck pieces known as the Stirling Torcs in a field near his home in 2009 and was astonished to discover their significance.

The treasures, which are more than 2,000 years old, earned their finder a payment of 462,000.

The ceremonial neck pieces have been saved for Scotland thanks to a 154,000 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 100,000 from the Art Fund, 123,000 from the National Museums and 85,000 from the Scottish Government. They are to go on display today in Hawthornden Court at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Mr Booth, the chief ranger at Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling, said he was thrilled the treasures were going to be seen by the public. He said: "It is excellent news. It is great they will finally be on display."

The four gold ornaments were found to date back to the first and third centuries BC. They show that the Celtic tribes of the time had links to other Iron Age communities in the south of France and other parts of the Mediterranean.

Dr Fraser Hunter, Iron Age and Roman curator at the National Museum of Scotland said: "This is a discovery of international importance. It shows that our ancestors had links far beyond Scotland."

The craftsmanship of the looped terminal torc showed it had been made by a smith who had learned his craft in the Mediterranean but had combined it with the local style, Dr Hunter said.

He went on: "It's a missing link. It's the first time we've seen one that combines these two styles."

Mr Booth said yesterday he had no idea of the significance of the pieces when he first unearthed them.

He said: "I wasn't as excited as I should have been. I thought it might be costume jewellery - then I thought they might be medieval. It's a bit of a dream, it still feels like it is not real. But thinking back, it is absolutely amazing to be a part of something like that."

The safari park ranger has continued to search using his 240 metal detector, and has been a regular visitor to the archeological dig on the site where he made his find. "I have found a few bits and pieces but nothing like this," he said.

Mr Booth plans to give a portion of his reward to the owner of the land where the treasure was found and he says he has no plans to give up work at the safari park.

He is, however, looking for a first home to share with his partner and their young daughter.

He said: "We are looking at houses at the moment. It's made life a little easier - but I still have to do a day's work.It's come at a great time for the family."

The Stirling Torcs will eventually go on permanent display with other Iron Age artefacts in the museum's Early People Gallery.