FORTUNE hunters and hobbyists have found more than 220 buried treasure troves across Oxfordshire since records began seven years ago, new figures have revealed.

The British Museum says the scale of artefacts unearthed across the country exceeds expectations, with reported finds showing 'little sign of dipping anytime soon'.

Last year alone in Oxfordshire, detectorists and mudlarks made 32 discoveries, statistics from the Museum and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport show.

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And, since records started in 2012, hunters have now reported a whopping 227 discoveries.

Among the most famous is the Watlington Hoard of Saxon coins and jewellery, discovered by metal detectorist and former marketing executive James Mather in a farmer's field in October 2015.

Oxford Mail:

Oxfordshire detectorist Warren Cave whose Roman coin find has been declared treasure by Oxfordshire coroner in 2016. Picture: Damian Halliwell

The treasure was valued at £1.35m by the Treasure Valuation Committee then bought by the Ashmolean Museum in 2017 so it could stay in the county where it was buried more than 1,000 years ago.

The Treasure Act defines treasure as finds older than 300 years.

These include coins, prehistoric metallic objects and artefacts that are at least 10 per cent precious metals such as gold or silver.

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Anyone who thinks they have struck a hidden horde has to tell the coroner within two weeks, so the court can hold an inquest to decide who gets the loot.

If they don’t, they face an unlimited fine or up to three months behind bars.

Local and national museums are given the chance to purchase any pieces a coroner rules as treasure.

Oxford Mail:

A dress fastener from the 16th or 17th century found in East Hendred. Picture: Oxfordshire County Council

But the finder doesn’t leave empty-handed. They will be paid a sum depending on the haul’s value.

Last year, 1,096 treasure troves were reported across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – 74 of them from the South East.

Metal detecting was the best way to unearth lost treasure, according to the figures.

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The devices tracked down 96 per cent of finds in 2017, the most recent year with details on how the objects were discovered.

A further three per cent – 33 cases – were archaeological finds and seven from field walking or scouring streams and shores.

Professor Michael Lewis, head of portable antiquities and treasure at the British Museum, said: “Given the variety of the objects being reported, from pre-historic hoards to post-medieval buttons, what they tell us about the past varies significantly.

“But there is no doubt that some of the most famous treasure finds have completely transformed how we understand Britain’s past, all the more remarkable as most of these finds are found by interested amateurs, not professionals.

“The main purpose of the Treasure Act is to ensure that the most important finds end up in museum collections for all to enjoy.”