Rutland County Pages launched!

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our Rutland County Pages. Rutland is our smallest county but it is packed with archaeology, from the Upper Palaeolithic hyena den to coin hoards from the civil war. Learn more about visiting Rutland’s heritage sites or explore archaeological finds from Rutland reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Wendy Scott is the Finds Liaison Officer for Rutland. She is supported by a fantastic team of volunteers and student placements who photograph and record finds, carry out research and much more. Read more about the team here.

Watch this space for more blog posts about volunteering, finds, events and more from Rutland.

Early medieval silver strap-end with animal decoration
Early medieval silver strap-end with animal decoration

20,000 Self-recorded Database Records

A landmark has been reached this week with the addition of the 20,000th record on the PAS database recorded under a PUBLIC- prefix.  The facility to record your own finds directly onto the PAS database has been around since March 2010, and to have reached this total in just over six years is remarkable. I would like to use this post to thank the hundreds of volunteers who collectively have contributed to achieving this total. I hope that you are enjoying some of the training and support offered by the PASt Explorers project since we began in late 2014!

Medieval to post-medieval pilgrim badge depicting St George and the dragon
Medieval to post-medieval pilgrim badge depicting St George and the dragon (PUBLIC-48C99B). Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme. License: CC-BY

Although many volunteers support their Finds Liaison Officers in the reporting of their own finds, many others have helped out on specific projects. Among these projects, the Clodgy Moor Environs Lithic Recording Project in West Cornwall accounts for much of the stunning total of Mesolithic and Neolithic flints recorded by PUBLIC recorders.  More recently, a trio of self-recorders have been helping London FLO Kate Sumnall to document the findings of this year’s Greenwich Foreshore Survey, organised by Historic England on a Scheduled Ancient Monument in their care. Amongst the 100 or so finds recovered this year is this stunningly delicate foil pilgrim badge depicting St George and the dragon (PUBLIC-48C99B), while many  other discoveries “reflected the everyday life of the area”, Kate reports.

And so to the 20,000th record itself. As things stand it is a sixpence of Elizabeth I, which is just the sort of record which really helps the FLOs with their huge workloads. Why not take a look at some of the records being created by our volunteers; a proportion are still being worked on and will be available for viewing in the future. If you would like to be involved yourself please get in touch with your local FLO to find out more.

 

Introduction to the Festive Finds: PAS Christmas Countdown

Introduction to the Festive Finds

Festive Finds Countdown logo
Festive Finds Countdown logo, Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme

Starting on Sunday 13th December and running for 12 days, a series of blogs entitled ‘Festive Finds’ will be posted onto the County Pages of the PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) database. Each day a new festive object from the database will be discussed, along with the history and wider context of the part of the holiday it represents.

Katie, PAS Volunteer
Katie, PAS Volunteer. Copyright: Katie Bishop

My name is Katie Bishop and I am a volunteer with the PAS, working with the Essex Finds Liaison Officer, Ben Paites. Having been a volunteer with the PAS for four months, I have become more familiar with the work they do, which isn’t just identifying and recording objects. The database is a tool which contains a variety of information, with the ‘festive finds’ series just one small example in which the PAS records can be used to help further research.

This time of year is thought of as a time for joy and goodwill. We thought the PAS should do its part in spreading a little of the festive cheer. Although the original idea was to celebrate Christmas, it is not the only festival being celebrated around this time and we wanted to highlight this diversity; by changing the concept from ‘Christmas’ to ‘Festive’. We began looking through the records on the database for any festive themed finds; not as simple as I thought it would be! At times we really had to use our imagination and think outside the box, resulting in a wide range of finds. We used the finds from the database to conduct further research into the wider context of these objects and the festivals to which they link; an extremely interesting process. We found out new facts about well-established stories, learnt about the origins of world famous myths and discovered the truth about some popular misconceptions.

We hope you enjoy reading these ‘Festive Finds’ blog posts and join us as the PAS counts down to Christmas.

PAS Volunteer Conference – 23rd November 2015

We are delighted to announce that the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s 2015 conference celebrates the launch of PASt Explorers, the Scheme’s five year Heritage Lottery Funded project to recruit and train volunteers from local communities, increasing the capacity of the PAS to record archaeological objects found by members of the public.

Wiltshire PAS volunteer examining a Roman vessel hoard from Pewsey
Wiltshire PAS volunteer examining a Roman vessel hoard from Pewsey. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

This conference aims to illustrate how volunteers have contributed to archaeological knowledge, and asks how we can better demonstrate the impact and celebrate the value of involving volunteers in archaeology on individuals and society as well as understanding our shared past.

The conference takes place in the BP lecture theatre at the British Museum on Monday 23rd November 2015 and is open to all PAS volunteers, staff and researchers. Refreshments (tea/coffee) will be provided free of charge. Lunch can be purchased from one of a selection of restaurants and cafés in and around the British Museum.

A speaker at a podium in the BP lecture theatre at the British Museum talking to a conference crowd
A conference at the British Museum. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

Admission to the conference is free but advance booking is essential. Please see the provisional programme and reserve your place on the Eventbrite webpage here: https://past-explorers-2015.eventbrite.co.uk/ Registration closes at 12:00 noon on Friday 20th November 2015. We look forward to welcoming many of our colleagues, volunteers and supporters to our conference at the British Museum later in the year.

In future years, a PASt Explorers volunteer conference will be organised separately to the PAS annual conference and this will be held in a different region and venue each year.

Jack – Volunteers’ Week 2015

Jack, PAS volunteer
Jack, PAS volunteer. Copyright: Jack Coulthard.

To mark national Volunteers’ Week 2015, PAS volunteers were invited to contribute a blog post to the new County Pages about their experiences of volunteering for the Scheme.

This post was written by Jack Coulthard, a metal detectorist in Leeds who volunteers in the Wakefield office of Amy Downes, the Finds Liaison Officer for South and West Yorkshire.

 

I first encountered the PAS when, as a metal detectorist, I attended one of the finds recording days run by the South and West Yorkshire FLO, Amy Downes, to record a medieval seal matrix. When I went to collect it after it had been recorded Amy asked me if I would consider working as a PAS volunteer. Although I spent my working life in the computer business I have a history degree and have never lost an interest in the subject, so I was intrigued at the thought of seeing all the little pieces of history represented by the small finds brought in to the PAS.

A post medieval musket ball recorded by Jack (SWYOR-D276D9)
SWYOR-D276D9: A post-medieval musket ball recorded by Jack. Copyright: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. Licence: CC-BY.

That was seven years ago and I’m still turning out one, and occasionally two, days a week to work in our Wakefield office. The volume of finds brought in to be recorded has not diminished in that time; as more people become aware of the PAS the number of items that we record has increased. That makes the role of volunteers more and more important as FLOs have a considerable workload in addition to simply recording finds (assisting finders in dealing with treasure finds, for example) much of which is not seen by the public. Anything that volunteers can do to spread that load a little helps the system to keep functioning smoothly.

I usually help with the identification and recording of finds, especially where the work is repetitive and time consuming, so that Amy has more time to work on other aspects of the job. An example is a recent batch of 168 post-medieval musket balls which, although quite mundane items, came from a Civil War battlefield and so are historically important. I know that we are due to receive another batch, so I’ll be dealing with those too – I’m getting to be quite expert at musket balls! I also try to help with as many of the administrative tasks as I can, such as data cleansing which needs to be done from time to time and can be done from home.

 

Tom – Volunteers’ Week 2015

Tom, PAS self-recorder
Tom, PAS self-recorder. Copyright: Tom Redmayne.

To mark national Volunteers’ Week 2015, PAS volunteers were invited to contribute a blog post to the new County Pages about their experiences of volunteering for the Scheme.

This post was written by Tom Redmayne, an independent metal detectorist and self-recorder from Lincolnshire who records his own finds onto the PAS database with the assistance of Adam Daubney, the Finds Liaison Officer for Lincolnshire.

2011_0303_164817AA
PUBLIC-CE3A43: A Roman coin and the first find recorded by Tom on the PAS database. Copyright: All rights reserved. Licence: CC-BY.

I started metal-detecting in 2005 when I moved to Lincolnshire and, after making my first few exciting finds, started to look for somewhere to have them recorded as I knew that these objects must have a story to tell and a value to the historical record. After talking to many other metal-detectorists and reading the hobby magazines I was finally pointed in the direction of Adam Daubney and the PAS. A phone call later and I was on my way to Lincoln with a very mixed box of finds and some very vague coordinates of their find spots. So began an incredibly educational and fascinating journey into small finds identification, recording and research.

Soon Adam introduced me to my first handheld GPS and my finds suddenly took on new meaning with their find spots being recorded to 10 place NGR accuracy. Patterns started to become evident in where many objects were found and the whole ethos of recording to the most accurate find spot and with the most accurate description was something that I became dedicated to following.

PUBLIC-C43EF3: A Medieval buckle and the most recent find recorded by Tom on the PAS database
PUBLIC-C43EF3: A Medieval buckle and the most recent find recorded by Tom on the PAS database. Copyright: All rights reserved. Licence: CC-BY.

Over time the number and variety of my finds led me more and more into research, with small-finds and coin identification becoming a particular interest of mine. By 2010 I was identifying most of my own finds and offering a detailed description with full coordinates to Adam when I handed them to him for recording. The obvious next step was to learn how to record my own finds directly onto the database so, in November 2010 I was set up as a self-recorder by Dan Pett and I wrote my first record!

All along the way, Adam had coached me, instilling into me the discipline and standards required to ensure that the maximum amount of information was extracted from the objects that I was finding, and he continued to do so, checking my records, offering suggestions and advice and, generally, keeping me on the right tracks.

It is over four years since that first entry and I have now written and uploaded over 730 records to the database.

Not only have I enjoyed recording my own finds, but also using the database to expand my own knowledge and to help others do the same by sharing information.

I have, over the last two years, used the database myself to study and classify a type of medieval buckle called a ‘disc-on-pin’ type. My research and classification is soon to be published as a Finds Research Group Datasheet. This would not have been possible without the PAS database and the time and effort given to me by its staff over the past ten years.

The whole database is a continually-growing and invaluable resource and tool for people from many disciplines and walks of life, not just from the heritage sector, and long may it continue.

 

William – Volunteers’ Week 2015

William, PAS self-recorder
William, PAS self-recorder. Copyright: William Aldington.

To mark national Volunteers’ Week 2015, PAS volunteers were invited to contribute a blog post to the new County Pages about their experiences of volunteering for the Scheme.

This post was written by William Aldington, an independent detectorist and self-recorder from Cheshire who records his own finds onto the PAS database with the assistance of Vanessa Oakden, the Finds Liaison Officer for Cheshire, Greater Manchester & Merseyside.

 

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks… There must be some truth in this old and well used adage because it is one of the oldest proverbial sayings in the English language and there are many citations of it; the earliest example in print is in John Fitzherbert’s ‘The Boke of Husbandry, 1534’, when even then it was regarded an old saying.

There’s no doubt either, that now in my seventieth year and a retired granddad, I’m nowhere near as sharp as I once was. Though I do try hard to keep up with the very latest in technology; software ‘apps’, ‘Twitter’, ‘Instagram’, ‘Face-Tube’, and the rest of cutting-edge gadgetry.

So I do sometimes wonder what possessed our FLO, Vanessa Oakden, to take on the unenviable challenge of educating me, ‘an old dog’, in the many new facets of self-recording – with a view to becoming a PAS Volunteer. Well, she bravely did and following our initial training session at her new HQ within the Pilotage Building, in the historical setting of Pier Head and Albert Docks in Liverpool; I have gradually come to terms with the nuances of Photoshop, the specifics of academic terminology and discipline of absolute evidential accuracy.

LVPL-1EC484: A post-Medieval silver composite button found by William
LVPL-1EC484: A post-medieval silver composite button found by William. Copyright: National Museums Liverpool. Licence: CC-BY.

I came late to the addictive hobby of metal detecting and first met with Vanessa at one of her monthly surgeries at the Chester Grosvenor Museum, when I disclosed to her an item under terms of the Treasure Act, 1996. On this occasion is was a simple but exquisite post-medieval silver button, subsequently declared by HM Coroner’s Inquest as ‘treasure’ and now donated to the Chester museum. As a result we are the proud possessors of a certificate signed by Ed Vaizey, the then Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy.

My detecting buddy and I have worked hard to develop a fine portfolio of landowner partners and in a relatively short period of time we have unearthed some interesting stuff. Dubbed “Finders-Sharers” we are, as our business cards proudly state,“a trusted team dedicated to the search, discovery and preservation of buried local history in partnership with caring, sharing landowners”.

Finding and preserving bits of local history always provides the metal-detectorist with a tremendous buzz of excitement and now, armed with PAS self-recording skills and authorization; the sense of achievement in making a positive contribution to documenting the Nation’s Heritage is pretty-much complete. Thanks Vanessa for your confidence and trust in an old dog; but particularly for your limitless patience and continued support!

So, is John Fitzherbert’s ‘Boke’ of 1534 correct?…

“ …and he [a shepherd] must teche his dogge to barke whan he wolde haue hym, and to leue ronning whan he wolde haue hym; or els he is not a cunning shepherd. The dogge must lerne it, whan he is a whelpe, or els it will not be: for it is harde to make an olde dogge to stoupe”.

[stoupe = put his nose to the ground to find a scent]

… Nope. You most definitely can teach the old bloke new tricks but it does take a fair-bit longer and the challenge is not for the faint-hearted.

Paradoxically, in this fast-moving world, it’s us old dogs that have the time to ponder, learn and contribute…

National Volunteers’ Week 2015

In preparation for the launch of the County Pages, we invited our volunteers to contribute a series of blog posts about the fantastic work they do for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) to mark Volunteers’ Week (1st – 7th June 2015), a national celebration of the volunteer sector run by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). We asked our volunteers to tell us what they do in their voluntary capacity for the PAS, why they got involved and why they feel it is important. Their blog posts will be added to the main news feed on the County Pages throughout June and July.

Volunteers' week logo
Volunteers’ Week logo. Copyright: NCVO.

We want to share their inspirational experiences and unique insight on the work of the PAS. It’s also important to us to publicly acknowledge the vital contribution that volunteers play in recording archaeological objects and coins, generating new data for the PAS database and so building up knowledge about the distribution of archaeological finds in local areas.

The first volunteer to be profiled will be Cheshire-based William Aldington, an independent detectorist and self-recorder who records his own finds onto the PAS database. Look out for his blog post on the County Pages tomorrow.