The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) Annual Report 2006, launched by the Culture Minister at the British Museum today, highlights important finds reported by responsible metal-detectorists and other finders. These finds provide a wealth of information about our history and archaeology which is vital for understanding our past.
The key statistics are:
Objects recorded: A further 58,290 archaeological objects have been recorded on the PAS finds database in 2006, some of which are illustrated in the report. Of these, more than 77 % have been discovered whilst out metal-detecting; the rest have been found by chance. This increase takes the number of finds recorded in the first ten years of the scheme to in excess of 300,000.
New sites discovered: Many important new archaeological sites have been discovered as a result of the objects recorded by the Finds Liaison Officers. These include previously unknown Anglo-Saxon cemetery sites in Derbyshire, Suffolk and Warwickshire, which have been highlighted following the examination of the distribution of Anglo-Saxon finds, including brooches and harness furniture, from these sites. Recent research shows that PAS data has revealed 24 new Roman settlements in Wiltshire since 2003, increasing the number of known settlements in the county by 15%.
Website: In 2006, 247,103 unique visitors visited the website – www.finds.org.uk – and there have been almost 82 million user hits on the website in the period of this report; a 62% increase on 2005–6. The online database currently allows public access to more than 305,000 finds and 153,000 images.
Margaret Hodge, Culture Minister said:
This report brings home to us once again the extent and richness of our ‘hidden heritage’. And as public interest in it continues unabated, I am pleased to acknowledge the many thousands of responsible metal detectorists and amateur archaeologists who continue to help make the past a living thing for present and future generations.
Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said:
This report once again shows the extraordinary achievement of the Portable Antiquities Scheme which is now recognised as an example of best practice across Europe and the US. The great success of the scheme has resulted in an enormous growth in co-operation between the British Museum and regional partners and this pooling of expertise is producing a vital nationwide overview of archaeological finds. This collaboration is rewriting our national history.
Roy Clare, MLA said:
The work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme is of great national importance and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council is delighted to see the benefit it has delivered for finders, museums and the public this year. We are committed to seeing the scheme evolve with even greater impact in protecting the country’s heritage and drawing the public and the museum world into a shared understanding of our past.
For further information or images please contact Hannah Boulton on 020 7323 8522 email@example.com. You can also view all images in the report under a creative commons attribution licence on our Flickr feed.
2006 Finds Highlights
A unique Iron Age comb
A beautiful copper-alloy comb, the only one ever found in the UK, was discovered by Russell Peach in Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire and promptly reported to the local Finds Liaison Officer. The comb is intricately decorated with an ‘armadillo’ motif similar to that on late Iron Age mirrors. Experts agree that the comb was probably deposited between 25 and 75 AD. The precise function of the comb is uncertain. The widths of the teeth are quite stout perhaps suggesting that it may be a type of comb, used for horses’ manes and tails. Copper-alloy Iron Age combs are extremely rare and only one other example, excavated at the Late Iron Age Gaulish town at Bibracte, France, is known. This example has finer teeth and a pair of birds along its upper edge, probably indicating that it was likely to have been used for personal grooming. It is hoped that Warwick Museum will acquire the piece.
An interesting multi-period assemblage from near Hambleden
Michael Hyman has been discovering hundreds of objects from the prehistoric, Roman and medieval periods near Hambleden, Buckinghamshire, which he has recorded with the London Finds Liaison Officer. These finds include a Iron Age torc terminal, Iron Age, Roman and medieval coins and various pieces of jewellery. What is most important about Mr Hyman’s work is that he systematically records everything from the site with the Portable Antiquities Scheme and it is assemblages like this which are providing enormous information about the rural occupation of Britain through the ages.
A fine Roman horse and rider figurine
An extremely well-preserved copper-alloy horse and rider figurine was found by Duncan Pangborn in Cambridgeshire and recorded with the Suffolk Finds Liaison Officer. The horse and male rider, dating to the 3rd – 4th century AD, are both almost complete and were made as separate, solid three-dimensional castings. Copper-alloy figurines of mounted and armoured men representing rider gods, probably a native version of Mars, are known from several sites in Britain, most of which are in the East Midlands and northern East Anglia. The Cambridgeshire figurine is distinguished by the attention to detail in its modelling and is the most artistically distinctive and accomplished example discovered to date. This figurine could be used to emphasise the high level of horsemanship in Roman Britain as the gait of the horse and its pricked ears suggest the horse is alert and paying direct attention to the commands being given by the rider.
An early figurine of Christ
A gilded copper-alloy Romanesque figurine was found by Adina Parnell near Newton Abbott, Devon and recorded with her local Finds Liaison Officer. The figurine represents the crucified Christ, and was probably attached to a wooden crucifix. The head, body and loincloth have been intricately detailed. A setting, probably of glass, remains intact in the left eye, but is missing from the right. Figurines showing the crucified Christ are becoming better known thanks to finds recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and it seems possible now that most parish churches might have had a crucifix for use both on the altar and in processions. This example, however, is unusual in its early date and because the head of Jesus is angled to his left, rather than the right. It seems most likely to be twelfth century, and is almost certainly of Continental manufacture.
A beautiful medieval seal matrix
A complete silver seal matrix, re-using an oval Roman jasper intaglio, was found by Peter Jones near Arreton in the Isle of Wight. Dating to the 13th or 14th century, the matrix features an inscription, cut into the oval silver surround and reads (in mirror-image) ‘SIGILL WALTERI DE LONGEDVNE’ (Seal of Walter of Longdown). Enclosed by the inscription is a first-century Roman red jasper intaglio depicting Victory facing right and standing on a globe, and holding a wreath and a palm-branch. In front of her there are a crescent moon and three stars representing eternity. Although a well-educated man in the Middle Ages may have known about the classical personification of Victory, it must have been very tempting to re-interpret the figure as an angel, perhaps Gabriel, and the stars as the Heavens glorying in the birth of Christ. This was not ignorance of the classical past, but a subtle reinterpretation of a piece of first century Roman art. The seal matrix was purchased by the Isle of Wight Heritage Service with assistance from The Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. The seal matrix will be displayed at the Museum of Island History from the 8th December.
Notes to editors
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a voluntary scheme managed by the British Museum on behalf of MLA to record archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales; the scheme also has a valuable role in the mandatory of reporting Treasure finds under the Treasure act 1996. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Such discoveries offer an important source for understanding our past. More information can be found on www.finds.org.uk
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council works with the nine regional agencies in the MLA Partnership to improve people’s lives by building knowledge, supporting learning, inspiring creativity and celebrating identity. The Partnership acts collectively for the benefit of the sector and the public, leading the transformation of museums, libraries and archives for the future. Visit: www.mla.gov.uk
AIMS OF THE PORTABLE ANTIQUITIES SCHEME
1. To advance knowledge of the history and
archaeology of England and Wales by systematically
recording archaeological objects found by the public.
2. To raise awareness among the public of the educational value of archaeological finds in their
context and facilitate research in them.
3. To increase opportunities for active public involvement in archaeology and strengthen links
between metal-detector users and archaeologists.
4. To encourage all those who find archaeological objects to make them available for recording and to promote best practice by finders.