This may be one of the last auctions of an archaeological treasure in France. May 4, 65 pieces of metal, buried, 2600 years ago by the Gauls, will be sold to the highest bidder at Meung-sur-Loire. Necklaces, rings, pins, bracelets, weapons… These testimonies of the past, found under 30 cm of earth, are mostly made up of a copper alloy, with the exception of three iron objects and a last bimetallic. Grouped together in an enclosed space, protected from the air, these objects are “in an excellent state of conservation and do not present traces of active corrosion,” according to an article by Pierre-Yves Milcent, Christian Cribellier and Arthur Tramon.

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The story begins in 1981. The archaeological site is listed through aerial surveys. It includes the ruins of a gallo-roman villa, located on the territory of the small town of Tavers, halfway between Blois and Orleans. In 2012, two treasure hunters, aware of the archaeological potential of the place, come begin explorations in amateur. They carry their metal detectors on the fields a couple of farmers pensioners, with their permission.

The find is rare. It dates to the protohistoric period, several centuries before the roman conquest and thus does not have a direct link with the other archaeological remains on the site. Objects, very well preserved, are immediately excavated and taken away by their discoverers. Problem, the exploration was not authorized by the prefecture.

Degradation of archaeological remains

Regarded by the law as holders of the treasury, the two retired owners of the land are threatened with prison by the State services according to The Republic of the Center . The degradation of archaeological remains can in fact be sentenced to seven years in prison and 100,000 euros fine.

In 2014, excavations were initiated “to confirm the place of discovery, and in relation with other relics of the same period”, explains Christian Cribellier, curator of the heritage. The dating of the objects has allowed to better delineate chronologically, the construction of large tumuli of the region of Orleans, in which the remains are similar have been found.

According to Christian Cribellier, present during excavations in 2014, the lack of care of the two researchers of treasures is harmful from a scientific point of view. “We have many landfills gauls of Life and Fifth centuries before Christ, many of which are unexplained, he says. So when the objects emerged outside of any context, it loses a lot of information to understand the terms and conditions of the deposit, in particular in connection with other remains.” The meaning of objects in context has therefore been largely lost.

At the boundary of the Loiret and the Loir-et-Cher, the town of Tavers is the place of the discovery of the treasure gauls, dated the first iron age. Google Maps

Prohibition to leave the territory.

In 2018, the State opposed an exit of the treasury of the French territory, and declares the set of objects a “national treasure”. Which prevents it from leaving France in the future. It is also one of the last archaeological treasures to be able to be put on sale. In effect, the act of July 7, 2016 on the freedom of the creation, architecture and heritage changes the game in terms of archaeology. Now, a treasure found at an individual belongs to the State. This legislation aims in particular to halt the movement of researchers of treasures, which degrade the remains they do not help the archaeological services. The treasure of Tavers, discovered in 2012, beyond the control of the State.

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On may 4, the lot will be offered for sale at a starting price of 50,000 euros. According to Christian Cribellier, “an offer has been made by the museum of Saint-Germain-en-Laye”. “The purchase price has been established by experts and has been found to be too low by the owners”, he adds. The curator regrets that the collection is not returned to the State. “The objects taken individually are not exceptional, but their gathering as a lot brand their importance,” he says. And the place of this batch would be much more in a museum, so the public can see, that in a private collection.”