YORK and North Yorkshire have kept their titles as UK hotspots for hidden treasure - with new discoveries being unearthed by metal detectorists during the pandemic.

Figures from the British Museum show that 94 discoveries were made in 2020 across the region, which was the UK’s sixth biggest haul.

The British Museum said that more people were inspired to take up metal detector work as a form of exercise during the Covid-19 lockdowns, which added to the unexpected increase of back garden discoveries made in 2020.

Over the first lockdown, more than 6,000 objects were found across the UK, which included anything from a single object or a hoard, and were recorded by the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme.

So far a total of 474 treasures have been found in York and North Yorkshire since records began in 2012.

One of the more notable discoveries in 2020 was a Roman-era bronze collection, declared to be of ‘national significance’, which was bought by the Yorkshire Museum in York.

York Press: Bronze bust of the ‘divine emperor’ Marcus Aurelius, part of the Ryedale Bronzes Picture: David Aaron/Yorkshire Museum/PA Wire

The Roman collection, known as the Ryedale Roman Bronzes, was complete with a Roman-era bust of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, played by Richard Harris in the 2000 film Gladiator.

Found by metal detectorists in Ampleforth in May 2020, the collection shared an insight into the religious practices in Rydedale 1,800 years ago

They are believed to have been buried as part of a religious ceremony, and included a statuette of Roman god of war, Mars, a handle of a knife shaped as part of a horse, and an engineering tool.

York Press: UNIQUE: Nearly 20 buried treasure troves were discovered in Cumbria last year

The collection is to be part of the Yorkshire Museum’s existing Roman exhibits when it reopens in Spring 2022, to help to enrich the public knowledge and understanding of the Roman period in North Yorkshire and Northern England.

The collection was purchased by an American donor Richard Beleson, from San Francisco, who had been interested in Roman Britain since his childhood, with additional funding through the charity Art Fund, plus a number of individual donors.

Figures show that metal detecting is the best way to unearth lost treasures, with detectors discovering 96 per cent of all finds in 2019.

York Press: The Yorkshire Museum, which has acquired the Ryedale Roman Bronzes. Picture: Matt Clark

The Treasure Act defines ‘treasure’ as discoveries older than 300 years, and made of gold or silver, or artefacts made of precious metals, or declared to be of ‘historical or cultural significance’.

Anyone who thinks they may have discovered a treasure must tell a coroner within two weeks so that an inquest can be held to confirm whether it is a treasure. If someone fails to report a find, they could potentially face an unlimited fine or up to three months behind bars.

Museums are then given the chance to purchase the item, and the finder will be paid a sum depending on its value.