As It Happens

This 13-year-old metal detectorist unearthed a trove of possible Bronze Age axes

A British teen is considering a career in archeology after she discovered an ancient treasure on her third trip out with a metal detector.

It was the teen's 3rd attempt at hunting for treasures, and she says she's 'quite good at it'

Milly Hardwick, a 13-year-old British metal detectorist, has discovered a hoard artifacts believed to date back to the Bronze Age. (Submitted by Claire Hardwick)

Story Transcript

A British teen is considering a career in archeology after she discovered an ancient treasure on her third trip out with a metal detector.

Milly Hardick, 13, unearthed 65 artifacts, including a trove of what are believed to be Bronze Age axe heads dating back to 1300 BC, in Royston, Hertfordshire, in southern England. Archeologists later excavated the area and found more than 200 items. 

She, her father and her grandfather were scouring the area on Nov. 14 with a local group of detectorists, people who use metal detectors to hunt for trinkets and archeological wonders. 

"One person that came up to us was like, 'I've been metal dectectoring for 50 years. I've never even seen [an axe head]," Milly told As It Happens host Carol Off. "I just really love it … and I'm quite good at it."

Shock and laughter 

Milly and her family were having lunch in their van when they noticed a slight dip in the ground, she said. She scanned the area with her detector, and it went off.

When they started digging, they found what looked like an ancient axe head. Milly's dad, a longtime detectorist and archeology buff, knew immediately they'd found something special.

"Me and my granddad were laughing. And my dad would try and tell me a little bit about it, but we were just laughing," Milly said. "That's how shocked we were. We were speechless."

They kept digging and found more pieces, including socketed axe heads and winged axe heads, dozens in all.

Some of the Bronze Age axe heads and other artifacts discovered by Milly near Royston, Hertfordshire, in southern England. (Submitted by Claire Hardwick)

Milly says another member of the detectoring group parked his truck over the dig site, and camped there for three nights with his dog, to make sure nobody tried to steal the loot before archeologists arrived on the scene.

Anyone who finds a historical item in the U.K. is obliged to report it to their local county council archaeologists under the 1996 Treasures Act. 

When the archeologists arrived, they unearthed nearly 200 items in the area — some at the spot where Milly's detector went off, and some about 2.5 metres away, where another detectorist found a similar hoard.

"It's just weird to think that the Romans have been there, Celts have been there. Absolutely everyone has gone over this. Yet we're the one that found it. Crazy," Milly said.

A possible reward in her future

Coun. Lorna Dupré, chair of the environment and green investment committee for Cambridgeshire County Council, confirmed that about 200 items, believed to date back to the Bronze Age of 3300 to 1200 BC, have been found near Royston.

"Included are a variety of incomplete artifacts such as socketed axe heads, winged axe heads, cake ingots and blade fragments, all of which are made of copper-alloy," she said in an email.

"This is of course a very exciting discovery, but we are unable to say anything further until investigations have concluded."

Once archeologists have studied, dated and valued the items, they will be auctioned to a museum, Dupré said. When that happens, Milly and the landowner will be entitled to split the reward. 

In the meantime, Milly has been busy coming up with her own theories about how the objects got there. 

"I reckon someone was … going to attack the area. It could have been a village or something small where a lot of people were. And then you couldn't be walking around ... holding that [stuff]. It would be heavy, too. You'd get robbed and probably murdered. So he probably just hid it in the ground," she said.

"He could have, like, died, so they couldn't come back for it. And then we found it. That's what I'm probably going with."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Milly Hardwick produced by Chris Trowbridge.

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