News from the Scheme

Archaeological Institute of America lectures 2012

Published: Thursday 29th March 2012 Author:

Dr Roger Bland OBE, head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme has been awarded the Archaeological Institute of America's Metcalf lecturership for 2012. 

The Metcalf Lectures are on the subject of numismatics and their role in archaeological research as well as in art and historical research. The donors believe that coins, with their images and legends, are an essential source for any archaeologist dating a site or studying portraiture, architecture, religion or history and desire that numismatics be a part of the lecture program being provided by the AIA. Although much of numismatics is related to the ancient world, the lectures need not be limited to the ancient world as coins are relavant for other areas and times as well. [Source: http://www.archaeological.org/giving/endowments/242]

He will be presenting the following lectures and more details can be found on the AIA website:

  • Wednesday 11/04/2012 -  AIA, Berkeley University
    Coin hoards and hoarding in Britain: buried with the intention of recovery or votive deposits?
  • Friday 13/04/2012 -  AIA, San Diego
    A licence to loot or archaeological rescue? The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales.
  • Saturday 14/04/2012 - AIA, Los Angeles
    A licence to loot or archaeological rescue? The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales.
  • Monday 16/04/2012 - AIA, Kansas City
    A licence to loot or archaeological rescue? The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales.
  • Wednesday 18/04/2012 - AIA, Springfield Ohio
    Coin hoards and hoarding in Britain: buried with the intention of recovery or votive deposits?
  • Friday 20/04/2012 - AIA, Boston, MA
    Coin hoards and hoarding in Britain: buried with the intention of recovery or votive deposits?
  • Sunday 22/04/2012 - AIA, Staten Island, New York City
    Coin hoards and hoarding in Britain: buried with the intention of recovery or votive deposits?
  • Monday 23/04/2012 - American Numismatic Society, New York City
    Coin hoards and hoarding in Britain: buried with the intention of recovery or votive deposits?
  • Wednesday 25/04/2012 - Yale University
    Coin hoards and hoarding in Britain: buried with the intention of recovery or votive deposits?
  • Thursday 26/04/2012 - Harvard Art Museum, Boston, MA
    New light on Roman gold coins found in Britain
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The Portable Antiquities Scheme announces £150K research project to study its database

Published: Monday 26th March 2012 Author:

The Leverhulme Trust logoThe Leverhulme Trust has given the British Museum a 3-year Research Project Grant of £149,805 for the project, 'The Portable Antiquities Scheme database as a tool for archaeological research' which starts today. Katherine Robbins, currently completing a Collaborative PhD at the University of Southampton in which she is analysing the data gathered by PAS in three pilot areas (Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Northamptonshire) will be employed as Research Assistant, with Roger Bland, Keeper, Department of Portable Antiquities & Treasure.

The project will analyse the factors that underlie the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, which currently consists of over 750,000 archaeological objects found by the public across England and Wales. It will analyse the spatial distribution of the data, comparing it with other datasets; it will also survey finders and will produce a report and web resource which will enable the many researchers who use the data to understand the biases in the dataset.

The PAS was founded in 1997 and has operated across England and Wales since 2003: it has a network of 39 locally-based Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs), managed by 4 staff at the British Museum and supported by 5 National Finds Advisers. Over 14,000 metal detectorists and other members of the public have offered finds for recording. The PAS database is providing a rich and detailed source of information with national scope that is available online at http://finds.org.uk/database. It is increasingly used by academic and professional archaeologists to study the past and to inform planning decisions.

However, although 62 PhDs, 12 major research-council funded projects and 109 MA or BA dissertations are known that currently use the PAS database, the data is not being used to its full potential because there has been little detailed research on the nature of the data and some archaeologists do not use it for this reason.

There are wide variations in the frequency of finds recorded on the PAS database from around England and Wales: there are 28.6 objects per km2 from the Isle of Wight, compared with 0.7 per km2 from Devon. The counties of Norfolk and Suffolk account for 20.4% of all finds of Treasure since 1997, but for only 7.0% of the land mass of England and Wales and 4.1% of all Scheduled Monuments. As yet, we do not fully understand how to interpret these variations. Do the concentrations of finds from the Isle of Wight and East Anglia mean that these areas were much richer than other parts of England or do they simply reflect the amount of metal detecting there? There is an urgent need to understand in greater detail the factors that influence the geographical distribution of the data and the relationships between collection practice, artefact type and space. The project will therefore answer the question: what underlying factors govern the spatial distribution of finds recorded by the PAS?

By providing a clear analysis of the factors underlying the dataset, this project will enable the rapidly growing PAS database to be exploited to the full in future research on the archaeology of the UK. The PAS database also provides an unparalleled scale of data that can be used in the study of sample bias in archaeology.

The survey of collection bias among amateur finders will have applications outside archaeology (e.g., in natural history where a great deal of data is gathered by amateurs) and it will also have an impact on studies of similar finds outside England and Wales. The use of spatial statistical analysis on this type of data is also cutting edge and the combination of spatial analysis with a study of finder behaviour has not, to our knowledge, been undertaken in any other field. This study will help to transform the use of the PAS database in research.

Under the supervision of the Principal Investigator (Roger Bland), the Research Assistant (Katherine Robbins) will use techniques already developed in her PhD, which looked at 3 pilot areas only, to extend the study across the whole of England and Wales. Katherine will continue to work with Graeme Earl as a Visiting Fellow in the Archaeological Computing Research Group at the University of Southampton, and continue to be advised by Chris Lloyd from Queen's Belfast.

She will map the PAS database against key archaeological datasets, especially Historic Environment Records, and others that she omitted from her PhD for reasons of time. She will use spatial statistical techniques, within a Geographic Information System, to generate intensity maps of find locations and selected classes of finds. She will explore correlations between the intensity maps and will build a model to incorporate information relating to finder activity and other perceived biases. Robbins will also analyse finder and Finds Liaison Officer practice, using a combination of statistical techniques with qualitative data from questionnaires and surveys.

An academic panel will advise on the project and a conference in spring 2014 will include papers from experts who will analyse and discuss data supplied by the PAS covering a range of periods, artefact types and geographical areas. These will be published online and as a book. There will also be a Report written by Robbins and Bland which will bring together the results of the project to produce a definitive study of the data recorded in the PAS database. This will identify and analyse key features of the data and will define the best ways to present the data, with their inherent biases, in a transparent fashion. This will be a British Museum Research Paper available in print and online. In addition, guidance for researchers on how to interpret the spatial distribution of PAS data will be developed on the PAS website, besides articles in popular magazines and two peer-reviewed journals.

Notes for editors

The Leverhulme Trust was established in 1925 under the Will of the first Viscount Leverhulme. It is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing funds of some £60 million every year. For further information about the schemes that the Leverhulme Trust fund visit their website at http://www.leverhulme.ac.uk or follow them on Twitter via http://www.twitter.com/LeverhulmeTrust

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ITV and the British Museum to reveal the 50 greatest treasures discovered by the British public

Published: Monday 26th March 2012 Author:

In a brand new landmark, 360º series, ITV1 will reveal the extraordinary treasures and historical artefacts discovered by ordinary people that have changed our understanding of British history. The 4x30, 2x60 stripped show, 'Britain's Secret Treasures', [working title] will be produced by ITV Studios, and presented by award-winning journalist Michael Buerk in his broadcasting debut for the channel, alongside historian and author Bettany Hughes, winner of this years distinguished Medlicott Medal for History.

The series will map out the 50 key discoveries recorded by the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme since it was set up fifteen years ago, with the order of the list being determined by Bettany and a panel of experts from the British Museum and The Council for British Archaeology. They'll trawl through the almost one million finds of the last fifteen years whittling them down to the top fifty. Each one will be judged on its national importance, beauty, cultural and historic significance.

Every year, a staggering 90,000 finds are reported to The British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme. These can range from jewellery and religious artefacts, to scraps of colossal Roman statues and ancient coins that revolutionise our understanding of the past. The top fifty list will draw on the best of these including the extraordinary Crosby Garrett Roman helmet found in Cumbria, the Silverdale Hoard of Viking silver that revealed an unknown Viking leader and the Palaeolithic Happisburgh Handaxe perhaps the oldest manmade object found in Britain.

The series will meet the members of the public who discovered these items and provide an insight into new discoveries that happen during the filming period. The programmes are scheduled to transmit in conjunction with The Council for British Archaeology's Festival of British Archaeology: a series of 800 events nationwide that encourage the public to engage with archaeology.

ITV.com will support the series during transmission with an appeal for people to send in photographs of new objects they may have found. These will be assessed by the British Museum and the best new find will be revealed at the end of the final episode of the series.

Roger Bland, Keeper of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum said:

We are delighted to be working with ITVS on this series and are excited about the opportunity it gives us to highlight the work of the British Museums Portable Antiquities Scheme. All the finds featured in the series have been found by members of the public over the last 15 years and show how they really are transforming our understanding of Britains past.

The series is commissioned by Katy Thorogood, Commissioner, Daytime and Factual with Alison Sharman, Director of Factual and Daytime who said:

We are delighted to be working with ITVS and the British Museum on this ambitious project. The public have discovered some extraordinary finds and behind every treasure is a story that illuminates our understanding of Britain's rich and varied history.

The Executive Producers for the series are Ed Taylor and Michael Kelpie, Creative Director, ITV Studios. The Series Producer is Jon Stephens. Michael Kelpie, Creative Director, ITV Studios commented:

Britain's Secret Treasures is a tremendous show about ordinary people who have found extraordinary objects. Through the stories of these amazing objects, we will discover the rich history of Great Britain and bring that history to life using a range of production techniques including CGI, dramatic recreation, rich archive and first person narrative. 

Notes to Editors:

  • The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a voluntary scheme (managed by the British Museum) to record archaeological objects (not necessarily Treasure) found by members of the public in England and Wales. 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 http://www.finds.org.uk/
  • All finders of gold and silver objects, groups of coins from the same find, over 300 years old, have a legal obligation to report such items under the Treasure Act 1996. Prehistoric base-metal assemblages found after 1 January 2003 also qualify as Treasure. Potential Treasure finds must be reported by law to the local coroner, which is normally done through the finders¹ local PAS Finds Liaison Officer. If declared Treasure, they may be acquired by a museum at their full market value (normally split 50/50 between finder and landowner), valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee, which is an independent committee of expert. The Treasure Process is administered by the British Museum. More information is available on http://www.culture.gov.uk/ or http://www.finds.org.uk/
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British Museum Pilgrims’ Badge Display

Published: Wednesday 15th February 2012 Author:

To highlight the contribution of the Society of Thames Mudlarks to our understanding of the past, and to coincide with the second series of Mud Men, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has organised a small display on pilgrims' badges in Room 2 of the British Museum.

On display are six pilgrim souvenirs:

  • Our Lady of Willesden (2 examples)
  • Our Lord
  • Henry VI
  • St Thomas Becket
  • a Canterbury Bell;

Two of these badges (of Willesden and the Canterbury Bell) were found during the filming of Mud Men series 2 the others were loaned by Ian Smith (Society of Thames Mudlarks). Also on display is a replica pilgrim badge mould and badges of St Etheldreda and a Canterbury Bell, made by Colin Torode (Lionheart replicas), and one of Colin's carving tools. To highlight the role of pilgrim badges as souvenirs, and also proof of pilgrimage, are also displayed some modern souvenirs.

In the medieval period it was believed that badges touched upon holy shrines would absorb some of the magical powers of the associated saints, and people would travel afar in the hope of the protection of a saint, or be cured of an ailment, disease or absolved of a past sin. From the time of the martyrdom of St Thomas (1170) until the sixteenth century Reformation, pilgrimage was very popular for people from all walks of life, as demonstrated by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. More pilgrims' badges including a mould of a St Thomas badge can be found in the Medieval Europe gallery (Room 40) of the British Museum.

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Appeal for information on theft of Anglo-Saxon coins

Published: Wednesday 1st February 2012 Author:

An example of one of the stolen coinsSt Albans City & District Council is appealing for information following the theft of a number of rare Saxon silver coins from a locked display cabinet in the Medieval Gallery at the Museum of St Albans.

Around 30 coins, with an insurance value in the region of £12,000, were taken on or around the weekend of 7 January 2012. The display case was tampered with and the locks broken. A sixth or seventh century silver hand pin, discovered in excavations at St Albans Abbey, was also taken from the same case.

The coins were part of a hoard of Saxon silver coins found at the Abbey Orchard in St Albans in 1969 during an excavation by the St Albans & Hertfordshire Architectural & Archaeological Society within the area of the monastic buildings attached to St Albans Abbey, prior to construction of the Abbey Primary School.

The museum understands that the coins, buried during a troubled period towards the end of the 9th century, were likely to be the life savings of one individual, who had hoped to return and recover them when the threat of attack had lessened.

The coin hoard contained a selection of Saxon pence and half pence coins. The pence coins are all of the Lunette type, so-called because the moneyer's name appears on and between the two half moon shaped ornaments on the reverse. The one half-penny is of the London monogram reverse type which is usually associated with Alfred's occupation of London in 887.

Richard Shwe, Head of Community Services at St Albans City & District who has responsibility for the museum service said:

"The loss of these items is a blow for the museum, and indeed for local people. The rare silver Saxon coins are part of the heritage of St Albans. We are appealing to the public to let the police know if they are offered any of the items stolen or if they have any information that will lead to their recovery. The Police non-emergency number to call is 101, and the Crimestoppers number is 0800 555 111."

The police are currently investigating the thefts. In the meantime, the Council has closed the upstairs gallery at St Albans Museum in Hatfield Road until the police have finished their work and the damaged locks are replaced.

The Council has also commissioned a security review of its museums in the aftermath of the incident and is investigating the circumstances of the theft.

PC Dean Carpenter is investigating.

Posted on behalf of Hertfordshire Constabulary

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Mud Men – Series 2

Published: Wednesday 18th January 2012 Author:

Steve at workMud Men, Johnny Vaughan and (self-styled 'Mud God') Steve Brooker (not to be confused with the Canadian Rock Band of the same name!), are back on TV as from 26 January 2012 and off on more historical adventures, mudlarking along the banks of the Thames, and beyond (Folkestone, Portsmouth, ...and Poland) - not for buried treasure but hidden history which could change our understanding of the past...

Both Johnny and Steve have Port of London foreshore permits which allow them to search along the River Thames and recover archaeological material. The permit also requires that all finds are offered for recording with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). In this series Dr Michael Lewis is the 'archaeological expert' that verifies their finds, but sometimes Michael and Steve disagree on what has been found - watch the series and find out who is right...

Mud Men (series 1) was HISTORY's highest rating UK commission and commended as 'Best Popular Factual Programme' at the Broadcast Digital Awards in May 2011.

See http://www.history.co.uk/shows/mud-men for more details...

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Roman spintria from the banks of the Thames

Published: Friday 6th January 2012 Author:

Roman spintria from LondonIn late 2010 Regis Cursan found a small copper alloy disc which he brought in to the London FLO for recording with the Scheme. Its date and purpose was at that point unknown, however it was immediately evocative and intriguing as on one face was a depiction of an explicit act. The token was waiting to be identified when I started as FLO in July and was rather a test of my composure to ask my new colleagues at the Museum of London and the Scheme if they recognised it!

It was Roman in style and after a couple of hours of research I stumbled across references to 'spintria', a modern term applied to a series of Roman bronze tokens with depictions of sexual acts on one face, and a Roman numeral on the other. It is likely they date to just before or just after the conquest of Britain in AD 43, and that they were made in Italy or the central Mediterranean area. I got Dr Philippa Walton, the Scheme's Find Advisor for Roman coins and objects, to verify the identification. Together we examined the British Museum's collection of spintriae in comparison with Regis's token. In amongst the tokens was an almost identical spintria, even down to the pellet above the XIIII. Although the British Museum has a collection of around 25 spintriae, none of them are known to have been found in the UK.

I then contacted various experts in the field to explore what was known about spintriae, and their rarity. The curators at the Museum of London, Philippa and I were surprised and excited when it was confirmed that it was the first to be known to have been found in the UK! The curators were then delighted when Regis kindly offered to donate it to the Museum's collection. It has now been conserved and put on temporary display at the Museum. It will be available to view for the next three months.

But how this token ended up in the Thames will always be a mystery; as is the purpose of the token. It's extremely tempting to see them as brothel tokens, a titillating glimpse into the Roman sex trade; particularly the suggestion that they were used to deliver the money to the brothel owner rather than the prostitutes themselves. Else that they represent a control of a 'queuing' system and that the number represents the holder place in turn. Or even that they relate to a standard Empire-wide symbol led system to bridge the many languages used by the brothel visitors (as is also suggested about the images in the 'brothel' in Pompeii).

But do the tokens support these suggestions? What do we know actually know for certain about the tokens themselves?

The known tokens are two sided, with the sexual act on the reverse and a Roman numeral on the obverse. The numerals are always between 1 and 16, and are written in full rather than the standard abbreviation (e.g. XIIII rather than XIV). The pairings of sexual act and numeral are not consistent; another version of Regis's token has the same act paired with the numeral 'III'. The numerals are often within a wreath or circular border and occasionally have pellets above. Another series of tokens, also referred to as spintria, have busts of the family of the Emperor Tiberius (42 BC - AD 37; reigned AD 14 - AD 37 ) paired with numerals.

If these were used as payment, as a queue control or to bridge a language barrier, why are the numerals standardised but not the pairings? Equally, what purpose would the parallel set of depicting Tiberius's family serve, particular if the purpose of the tokens was to avoid coins with the Emperor's image from entering a brothel?

A more recent suggestion is that the tokens are gaming pieces; this would explain the standardization of the numerals. The sexual scenes would be titillating entertainment for the players, much like a naughty pack of playing cards today. But again, the game itself is unknown and unverified, and these tokens appear to be found as isolated examples.

So even behind the entertainment and amusement of a naughty sex scene, the token has more to reveal about itself. Take a further look for yourself online (LON-E98F21) or in person at the Museum of London until the end of April 2012.

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Important Viking hoard highlights the continuing success of the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme

Published: Wednesday 14th December 2011 Author:

A group of Viking silver artefactsThe launch of the Treasure and Portable Antiquities Scheme reports today shows their continuing success. 157,188 finds were recorded in 2009 and 2010 (67,089 and 90,099 respectively), and 1,638 Treasure cases (778 and 860 respectively) were reported in the same period. The Scheme's website (http://www.finds.org.uk) now features 750,000 finds from across England and Wales contributing enormously to the archaeological record.
Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, said:

"It is widely recognised that both the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act 1996 have been a great success. They are both helping to enrich museum collections, with the most important archaeological discoveries being acquired for the nation. It is a tremendous achievement that the Staffordshire and Frome hoards are now on display in public collections where they can be enjoyed by all."

The launch of the Reports provides the perfect opportunity to reveal the one of the most important finds currently undergoing the Treasure process. The Silverdale Viking Hoard was discovered in mid-September 2011 by Darren Webster, a local metal-detectorist, in the Silverdale area of North Lancashire. The find was reported to Dot Boughton the local Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) that evening. The find is hugely significant containing a total of 201 silver objects and a well preserved lead container. Of particular interest is the fact that the hoard contains a previously unrecorded coin type, probably carrying the name of an otherwise unknown Viking ruler in northern England. One side of the coin has the words DNS (Dominus) REX, arranged in the form of a cross, reflecting the fact that many Vikings had converted to Christianity within a generation of settling in Britain. The other side has the enigmatic inscription. AIRDECONUT, which appears to be an attempt to represent the Scandinavian name Harthacnut. The design of the coin relates to known coins of the kings Siefredus and Cnut, who ruled the Viking kingdom of Northumbria around AD 900, but Harthacnut is otherwise unrecorded.

The hoard comprises 27 coins, 10 complete arm-rings of various Viking-period types, 2 finger-rings and 14 ingots (metal bars), as well as 6 bossed brooch fragments, a fine wire braid and 141 fragments of chopped-up arm-rings and ingots, collectively known as 'hacksilver'. The lead container is made of a folded-up sheet, in which the coins and small metalwork had been placed for safekeeping, while buried underground. The container is responsible for the excellent condition in which the objects have survived for more than ten centuries. The coins are a mixture of Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Viking, Frankish and Islamic types, including coins of Alfred the Great (871-99) and his god-son the Viking leader Guthrum, who became king of East Anglia with the baptismal name of Athelstan.

Also included are coins from the Viking kingdom of Northumbria, issued c. 900. Amongst these is one with the name Alwaldus, a type attributed to Alfred's nephew Æthelwold, who tried unsuccessfully to claim Alfred's kingdom after his death, and subsequently fled to the Vikings in Northumbria, where he was accepted as a king, before being killed a few years later. The mixture of origins for the coins is similar to other Viking hoards from Britain and Ireland from the end of the 9th and beginning of the 10th centuries. The arm-rings and fragmentary brooches are similar to Viking-period jewellery found in the Irish Sea region and Scandinavia around the late 9th and earlier part of the 10th century. This was a time when Norse settlers were attempting to establish trading centres and farmsteads especially in Ireland, large areas of England later known as the Danelaw, and in the north and northwest of Scotland. The hacksilver and weight-adjusted arm-rings served as a form of currency in a bullion economy. Some of the arm-rings are very finely decorated with elaborate punchwork, while others display unique features which will require further research. For example, the punch patterns may show links with other hoards or workshop areas.

The artefacts and coins together bear witness to diverse cultural contacts and a wide Viking mercantile network, extending from Ireland in the West to central or northern Russia and the Islamic world in the East. This perspective further reinforces the picture gained most recently by study of the finds from the Vale of York Hoard, discovered in 2007 and the hoard of Viking coins and objects from the Furness area of Cumbria discovered earlier this year. This hoard was found in April 2011 by a metal detectorist and subsequently assessed by the British Museum and declared Treasure by the coroner. The Furness hoard comprises 13 silver fragments, including a fractured penannular arm-ring. There are also 79 silver coins, or fragments thereof, in the hoard, mostly dating from the AD 940s and 950s - a generation later than many previously known Viking hoards. The Furness Hoard is currently in the process of being valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee.

Probably the most significant connection to emerge from a preliminary examination of the Silverdale finds is the similarity shown by a number of the objects to pieces from the famous Viking silver hoard found in 1840 at Cuerdale, Lancashire. Objects from the Cuerdale Hoard are now on display in several museums around the UK; the largest part of it is held in the British Museum. The Cuerdale hoard can be dated to c. 905-10 on the basis of the combination of the coins. The Silverdale hoard contains many of the same types, and was probably buried at much the same time, or possibly slightly earlier, around c. 900-910.

The Silverdale Hoard was buried at a time when the Anglo-Saxons were attempting to gain control of the north of the country from the Vikings, who had made York the capital of their Kingdom of Northumbria. But the very sparseness of documentary evidence relating to the northwest of England at that time means that discoveries such as the new hoard are of vital importance for the early history of the area. The hoard should be seen in the context of other recent archaeological finds, like the group of Viking graves from Cumwhitton, Cumbria, and further Viking jewellery from near Penrith. All this new evidence sheds increasing light on the region and its material culture during a period of social, military and political upheaval.

The careful burial of the hoard in and under the lead container suggests an intention to keep everything safely together in the earth, until such time as it was possible for the owner to return to recover it. For whatever reason, however, perhaps as the result of death in battle or a voyage overseas, they did not return and the hoard remained lost for centuries.

Other objects on display at launch:

  • A selection of objects from a Bronze Age Hoard from near Lewes, East Sussex. This is an interesting find because the hoard includes items used locally, nationally and internationally. The bronze 'Sussex loop' bracelets have only been found within a radius of 50 miles of Brighton, and so are very particular to this part of the country. The palstave axe heads are typical of examples found throughout Britain, while the gold foil appliqués are previously known only from northern France. The presence of these in the hoard, along with the amber beads, demonstrates clearly the presence of a cross-Channel trade network in the Middle Bronze Age nearly 3500 years ago. The inquest for this hoard is due to take place on 15 December 2011, and Lewes Castle Museum hopes to acquire the items.
  • One of the most important, yet unassuming objects, recorded by the PAS in 2010 was a lead spindle whorl inscribed with Norse runes (LIN-D92A22) which was found by Denise Moncaster at Saltfleetby, Lincolnshire and recorded by Adam Daubney (Lincolnshire FLO). John Hines (Cardiff University), who studied the inscription, notes that it refers to the Norse gods Odin and Heimdallr, and also þjalfa, who was a servant of the god Thor. However, the exact meaning of the inscription, and its function on this object (spindle whorls were used as a weight on a spindle while spinning wool etc), are unclear.

Notes for editors

  • As required by the Treasure Act 1996, the Silverdale hoard was reported as potential Treasure to the coroner within 14 days of its discovery. The hoard has come to the British Museum for inspection and analysis by the specialist curators here. The curators have prepared a report for the coroner describing the contents of the hoard and advising whether the hoard qualifies as Treasure. In order to be Treasure, the hoard needs to meet the criteria laid out in the Treasure Act (see http://finds.org.uk/treasure/advice/summary for more info). The coroner will decide at the inquest on the 16th December whether the hoard is Treasure.
  • If the hoard is declared Treasure, an independent Treasure Valuation Committee will set a market value for the hoard. If that sum is raised it is then equally divided between the finder and the landowner. The Lancaster City Museum has expressed an interest in acquiring the find for its collection
  • The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a voluntary scheme (managed by the British Museum) to record archaeological objects (not necessarily Treasure) found by members of the public in England and Wales. 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
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Huge hoard of Bronze Age finds from Boughton Malherbe area discovered

Published: Thursday 8th December 2011 Author:

More than 350 late Bronze Age objects found in a field in the Boughton Malherbe area, near Maidstone have been officially declared as Treasure.The collection of tools, weapons, ornaments and ingots, found by two metal detector enthusiasts are thought to be from 875-800 BC. The hoard is particularly unusual because they are thought to have originated in north west and northern France but then been brought to England and later buried in Kent.

The finds were reported to KCC's Heritage Conservation Team and taken to the British Museum in London, where they were studied by a team of researchers who prepared a report for the coroner who conducted an inquest today (Thursday 8 December). It is a lesser-known part of their job, but coroners also conduct inquests to investigate finds in their areas and to establish who the finder is, as part of the Treasure Act 1996. The Act means that it is a criminal offence not to report potential Treasure to a coroner for investigation.

Maidstone Museum is intending to acquire the hoard once the market value has been determined by the independent Treasure Valuation Committee. The museum will then have four months to raise this sum to acquire the hoard, and the money will serve as the reward for the finders and landowner.

Local Finds Liaison Officer, Jennifer Jackson said:

This is very exciting for Kent. The fact that Maidstone Museum would like to display them means they will hopefully stay in the area for everyone to see and enjoy. I am very pleased that those who found the items and the landowner reported it so quickly.

Collections Manager from Maidstone Museum Giles Guthrie said:

There are a number of hoards of this period known about from south east England and north western France but this discovery helps highlight the massive resources that were at the disposal of these people 3,000 years ago. It would represent a significant addition to our collection and make an excellent tool to illustrate the activities of Kentish folk in the Bronze Age.

Dr. Ben Roberts, Curator of European Bronze Age, British Museum said:

This is a spectacular find of a vast Bronze Age hoard. 3000 years ago, people on either side of the channel were placing large quantities of bronze into pits, bogs and rivers as votive offerings. We can see an echo of this today when we throw coins into wishing wells. The contents of the hoard are fascinating as they span the tools, weapons, ornaments and ingots of the ancient cross-channel world. What is perhaps most interesting, is that these objects are far more common in northern France rather than southeast England. Several have never even been found in England before. I am extremely grateful to the team who worked on this hoard.

The coroner also confirmed today that a smaller hoard of seven Early Iron Age items found in Stockbury, Kent, have been named Treasure.

Key facts

  • The hoard was found in August 2011.
  • The hoard is comparable in size and content to those found in northwest and northern France rather than in Britain where it is unique.
  • It contains bronze fragments of weapons such as swords and spears, tools such as axes, hammers and knives, bronze casting waste and ingots as well as several fragments from buckets, chariots/harnesses and plaques. A detailed record of the hoard can be seen here: http://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/457499

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Seal from Stone Priory found in Surrey

Published: Wednesday 30th November 2011 Author:

Seal imageA large, well-preserved and impressive medieval seal matrix was found in Cobham in August and was reported to the Surrey Finds Liaison Officer, David Williams. The seal, which measures 74mm x 45mm, shows Mary seated and holding aloft a flower. On her lap is the Christ child who holds a book. The surrounding inscription reads:

+S'ECCE SCE MARIE ET SCI W(V)LFADI MARTIRIS DE STANIS

This can be read as The Seal of the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Wulfad the Martyr of Stanis. Initial enquiries looked at the possibility that this originated from a church in nearby Staines. However, Saint Wulfad is not a local saint and Googling soon showed that he is closely connected with the town of Stone in Staffordshire. This is in fact the seal of Stone's Augustinian Priory. The Augustinian Priory at Stone was founded in the 12th century, possibly around 1138-47, and was set up as a daughter-house of Kenilworth Priory in Warwickshire. It was a small community, with 8 canons and two novices in 1521. The house was dissolved in Spring 1537. However, the Priory Church continued to be used as the Parish Church until it was demolished and replaced by the current church of St. Michael & St. Wulfad in 1758.

As far as can be ascertained at the moment there is no known connection between Cobham and Stone. Although the medieval Earls of Stafford had lands in Surrey Cobham is not amongst them, so the seal's arrival in Surrey is presently a mystery. One possibility is that during the dissolution of Stone Priory a canon from Stone took with him the Priory's possessions at its dissolution and migrated to Newark Priory which was not dissolved until 1539-40. There may be other explanations.

There is much interest in the Stone area and reports have been broadcast on BBC Radios Stoke and Surrey. Negotiations are taking place between the finder and landowner and interested parties in Stone. At the beginning of December 2011 the seal was placed on loan for six months and can be seen displayed in Stone parish church.

An 1850 reference to an accession of a seal impression from Stone Priory can be found in the British Museum's W. G.de Birch catalogue. We followed this up with a trip to the British Library and were shown a plaster cast of a medieval beeswax impression. The cast was made c1850 when the cataloguing was done.From direct comparison between the seal and the cast of the impression, there is now no doubt that the Cobham matrix is the original used.

In the accompanying photograph the matrix is on the right and the British Library's impression is on the left.

The PAS database reference for the seal is SUR-B74173

Lat: 51.3288 Long: -0.410856

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