This weekend, for the third year out of the last four, the British Museum plays host to the annual Current Archaeology Conference. The conference is well-known for the breadth of topics covered and the diverse array of talented speakers taking part simultaneously across two lecture theatres. It also bestows its own unique set of reader-chosen awards, and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) featured heavily in those given out this year.
Saturday’s papers featured several appearances by members of the PAS, the co-hosting organisation. Rob Collins, Finds Liaison Officer for the North East region, served as co-chair for the popular morning session on Hadrian’s Wall. Roger Bland, Head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, chaired the specialist afternoon session on recent finds of Treasure, which saw talks given by the PAS’s Sam Moorhead (on the Frome Hoard), Ian Richardson (on the Hackney Double Eagle coins) and Laura McLean and Stephanie White (on the Burnham on Crouch Bronze Age Hoard). The British Museum’s Nick Ashton (Dept. of P&E) also delivered a fantastic account of the current work on the evidence for Britain’s oldest humans at Happisburgh, Norfolk, and Ian Leins (Dept. of C&M) anchored a prominent session on Britain’s Iron Age Celts.
Throughout the day, the tireless work of conference facilitator Philippa Walton kept things running smoothly and on time. In the large foyer of the British Museum’s Clore centre, amongst the collection of book and package-tour retailers, and the various other heritage advocacy groups, Wendy Scott, Adam Daubney, Stephanie Smith, Ros Tyrell, Danielle Wootton and Erica Darch manned the PAS desk and handed out numerous flyers and copies of annual reports to interested visitors.
The highlight of this first day’s events was the handing out of the Current Archaeology awards for the most outstanding work of the last year. The PAS made out fantastically well against stiff competition, with Sam Moorhead taking home the gilded trowel for Archaeologist of the Year for his work as a National Finds Advisor on Roman Coinage and in particular for his involvement in work on the Frome Hoard and for his publication of the popular ‘AD410: The Year that Shook Rome’. Sam’s acceptance speech attempted to deflect attention away from himself and he claimed his role with the PAS automatically exposed him to the type of popular interest stories that most archaeologists would not have the privilege of working on, but those voting had already taken that into account when making their decision. Sam also graciously led everyone in a toast to our recently departed colleague, the irreplaceable medieavalist Geoff Egan. The Excavation of the Frome Hoard received an award itself, for ‘Rescue Excavation of the Year’ and Sam Moorhead accepted that trophy on behalf of colleagues Anna Booth, Katie Hinds. Steve Minnit and the finder of the hoard, Dave Crisp.
Taking advantage of a unique opportunity to capture several hundred archaeologists together in one space on a Saturday evening, the organisers of the Current Archaeology conference treated all those present to a once-in-a-decade appearance by the (in)famous rock band ‘Timothy Darvill and the Standing Stones’. Displaying a surprising range of musical knowledge, the group (led by early morning presenter and lead guitarist Professor Timonthy Darvill of Bournemouth University) crooned away to songs from some of the industry’s best-known talents, from Elvis Prestly to CCR, the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, Blondie to the Kaiser Chiefs. What better way to end the evening than to pogo along with fan Julian Richards to ‘I Predict a Riot’? (Yes, we are geeks…)