Over 920,000 archaeological finds found by the public now recorded

Ed Vaizey (Minister for Culture) and Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum) launched the latest Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Treasure annual reports. These celebrate the public contribution to archaeology, through the recording of objects and coins (from all historical periods) found by ordinary members of the public.

Over the last 15 years more than 920,000 archaeological finds have been recorded by the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme for the advancement of archaeological knowledge. In the same period over 8,500 finds have been reported as Treasure, enabling the most important finds to be acquired by museums across the country. In 2012, 73,903 finds were recorded by the PAS, and 990 Treasure cases reported.

This contribution to archaeology and the public fascination with archaeological finds is highlighted by the success of ITV’s Britain’s Secret Treasures. A second series was screened prime-time on ITV1 from 17 October and was seen by an average of 2.8 million viewers The broadcast was accompanied by the publication of a book on series 1 and 2.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said

“the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure Act have revolutionised archaeology, ensuring that finds found by ordinary members of the public are rewriting history. Many of the most important finds have ended up in museum collections across the country, thanks to the generosity of funding bodies. The PAS is a key part of the British Museum’s nationwide activity to support archaeology and museums through its network of locally based Finds Liaison Officers (FLO). The Museum is committed to the long-term success of the scheme.

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Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, said:

“It is always fascinating to hear about the extraordinary archaeological discoveries found by members of the public, and the Portable Antiquities Scheme has helped revolutionise how this contributes to our archaeological knowledge. Thanks to all those working across the scheme our history is being shared more widely, with many museums now displaying the most important finds.”

Four new discoveries are to be highlighted at the launch this year:

Rare Anglo-Saxon hoard of silver jewellery and coins from Norfolk

(2012 T319 / NMS-972E58) Third quarter of 9th century AD.
This hoard consists of 23 silver pennies, four silver brooches and two silver strapends. All the coins were minted in the name of Edmund, King of the East Angles (r. 855-869/70); later venerated as St Edmund. Edmund’s reign saw the beginning of large-scale Viking attacks on England, with the arrival of a ‘great raiding army’ in East Anglia in 865. The Vikings returned to East Anglia in 869, and the burial of the hoard may well have been connected with one of these events. On the latter occasion, Edmund himself was captured by Danish Vikings, then tortured, bound to a tree and shot with arrows, and decapitated. According to legend his head, which called out to those who searched for it ‘here, here, here’, was found being guarded by a wolf. Bury St Edmunds, still honours his name.

Intriguing Roman hoard of silver jewellery and coins from Knutsford, Cheshire

(2012T406) 2nd century AD. In May 2012 Alan Bates found half a dozen Roman silver coins while metal-detecting. Realising the importance of his discovery he stopped detecting and contacted his local FLO for help. Subsequently the find spot was excavated by a team of archaeologists from the National Museums Liverpool and Cheshire Archaeological Advisory Service, with the FLO, and further coins and objects were recovered. The coins consist of 101 silver denarii and 2 copper-alloy sestertii, the latest dating to c.190-1. The objects, including three magnificent silver-gilt trumpet brooches, two rosettes, two silver finger-rings with red stones, and vessel fragments, also date to the second-century AD. This hoard was likely to have been buried for safety, but it is not known why its owners never returned for it

Imposing post-medieval silver ewer from Kingston Russell, Dorset

(DOR-D03CB6 / 2013 T476) AD 1635-6 Although of simple form , this ewer remains an impressive piece, with its large curving handle and spout. The object is decorated with four hall marks, which help date the object to 1635-6: PB in a shield with two crescents’ (the maker’s mark), leopard head, lion passant, italic letter S in shield (date letter). It was found by three friends while metal-detecting. The ewer is an unusual find, but represents the simple shapes and plain surfaces in the Dutch style favoured in English silver in the 1630s; a more austere taste after Tudor and Jacobean exuberance.

Beautiful Roman copper-alloy balsamarium (vessel) from Petham, Kent

(KENT-7D72A7) 3rd century AD. Probably made to hold oil this handsomely made vase is decorated with relief scenes a satyr and three male human figures, who carry vessels, playing music and dance. It is probably Gallo-Roman in origin, being exported to Kent from France. The object has been damaged, possibly by contact with agricultural machinery and therefore it was fortunate it was saved from the plough. Otherwise in very good condition. The landowners have lent the vase to Canterbury Museums and Galleries so it can be enjoyed by all.

Header Image Credit : Portable Antiquities Scheme

Contributing Source : Portable Antiquities Scheme

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

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