Meet The Team: Dr. Lucy Shipley, FLO for Devon

Lucy joined the Portable Antiquities Scheme in 2018 and is based at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. She also runs finds days in Torquay, Kingsbridge and Plymouth. Here she tells us about her background and why she loves archaeology.

How and why did I get started in archaeology?

I’ve wanted to be an archaeologist from the age of about three or four – I remember being fascinated by a children’s book on the Ice Age and was thrilled to see the excavation of the West Runton mastodon as a child. I was a very geeky teenager and read the Renfrew and Bahn archaeology textbook cover to cover every year during my summer holidays – I couldn’t wait to get to university and finally study the subject. I did a BA, an MA and then a PhD at the University of Southampton and focused on the Etruscans, a group of Iron Age communities from central Italy. This meant regular trips to Rome and working just outside Sienna every summer – a hard life!

What is my greatest achievement in archaeology?

I am incredibly proud of my second book, Lost Civilisations: The Etruscans. It’s a book on the Etruscans for a popular audience and I worked hard to weave in their relevance to our modern society. When I started working on the Etruscans there was very little about them in the popular domain, just nonsense about how mysterious they supposedly were. I’m very proud to have changed that and I wrote this book while on maternity leave with my daughter too – many late nights went into it. I’m also very proud of my involvement with British Women Archaeologists and my work trying to combat sexism and harassment in archaeology.

What period of the past most interests me?

I find the Iron Age fascinating – it’s a period of huge change and whether in Devon or in Tuscany, the same questions apply as people struggle with transformations in the landscape, in the objects they make and use and in how they see themselves. It’s also a period with an image problem, largely thanks to late classical authors. I really enjoy exploring where the Greeks and Romans got it wrong and unpicking why an author might want their readers to see people in a certain way.

Which objects most interest me?

I did my PhD on ceramics, which surprised even me – when I started in archaeology I thought they were incredibly dull and would have been horrified if you’d told me they’d end up being my favourite! I love how clever pots are – how they make you hold and use them in certain ways. And why the decoration works on both your hand and your eye.

Which of the finds I have recorded is my favourite?

I was very happy to record a gorgeous Iron Age dagger pommel in the shape of a human head, which although found in Somerset, came in to me at RAMM in Exeter. I love the face and hair style, the detail and the way the find was executed. But of course, I love the green lumps of copper alloy that used to be Roman coins too. When it comes to coins, if it’s not green I’m not keen!

What is my favourite archaeological object?

The famous Sarcophagus of the Married Couple, from the Etruscan necropolis of Cerveteri, is just absolutely stunning. These two people capture your attention from thousands of years ago effortlessly. If you have the chance to see it in the Villa Giulia Museum in Rome, do go.

What is my favourite historical site or monument?

I’m lucky enough to live where I can see a small Iron Age hillfort, so that’s my favourite. I visit it all through the year, run past the perimeter and love to gaze at it while I do washing up. I love all hillforts though, they all have a really distinct feel to them. I think one of my favourites is Dun Dúchathair on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. It’s right on the edge of some huge cliffs and is much quieter than the more famous Dun Aengus.

What are my other interests outside archaeology?

Well, I have two small children, so they take up a huge amount of my time – I love hoicking them around to sites but I’m not sure I want them to be archaeologists. In my own time, I love running, especially trail running. There’s a great East Devon based series of 10km and longer races I took part in last year. I’d like to do the Neolithic Marathon (which runs from Avebury in Wiltshire to Stonehenge) if it ever runs again but for now I have the Charmouth Challenge in my sights.

How do I see the future?

I think the future is bright! PAS in Devon has already transformed the way we think about the county. From certain Roman coins not previously found this far west, to evidence of people’s movements and lives in the Early Medieval period, detectorists’ data is making a huge difference locally. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone discovers.

Five finds from the PAS database and why I like them

DEV-476294 – a Roman brooch found in Bicton, East Devon

A stunning T-shape brooch with glorious enamel work. I’m really interested in these brooches and the regionally specific patterns in their design – South West innovation at work. It dates to AD60-150.

Roman T-shape brooch, DEV-476294 (Copyright: South West Heritage Trust, Licence: CC-BY).

DEV-01DDC5 – a Bronze Age palstave found in East Devon

This gorgeous copper-alloy Middle Bronze Age palstave was found by a lovely lady who had only just started detecting. It’s very special anyway but her enthusiasm and love for it makes it one of my favourites.

Bronze Age palstave, DEV-01DDC5 (Copyright: South West Heritage Trust, License: CC-BY).

DEV-0428C7 – a Roman denarius of Septimus Severus found in Okeford Fitzpaine, North Dorset

This silver denarius of Septimus Severus dating from circa AD196-197 was the first Roman coin I correctly identified. Our National Finds Advisers, Dr. Sam Moorhead and Dr. Andrew Brown, are not only completely delightful but have the patience of saints, teaching me and other PAS staff and volunteers  how to identify Roman coins.

Denarius of Septimus Severus, DEV-0428C7 (Copyright: South West Heritage Trust, License: CC-BY).

DEV-565734 – an Iron Age unit found in Deviock, Cornwall

This silver Iron Age unit from circa AD20-43 was the first Iron Age coin I recorded. The finder put it in my hand and I just thought “Is that what I think it is?”. It was! A truly great find!

Iron Age unit, DEV-565734 (Copyright: South West Heritage Trust, License: CC-BY).

DEV-2BAC96 – post-medieval pottery sherds found in Poltimore, East Devon

I thought I’d include something post-medieval for a bit of variety! I really like these Bellarmine jug fragments (AD1550-1700) – they’re a great example of the social history “wrapped up” in a seemingly straightforward object like a jug.

Post-medieval pottery sherds, DEV-2BAC96 (Copyright: South West Heritage Trust, License: CC-BY).



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

Launch of the Essex County Pages

Following the launch of the Cheshire County Pages last month we have another new County Pages site, this time from the East of England. The Essex County Pages have gone live today with a series of webpages about upcoming events, ways to get involved in archaeology and Portable Antiquities Schemes finds from the county.

Our Essex Finds Liaison Officer (FLO), Ben Paites, is currently advertising for a new Volunteer Finds Recorder to assist him at the at the Museum Resource Centre in Colchester with Colchester & Ipswich Museum Service. For more information, please see the role description on the Colchester & Ipswich Museums volunteering webpage here. The deadline for expressions of interest in 9am on Monday 11th April 2016. The new volunteer will learn to identify and record archaeological material found and reported by members of the public, and will have the chance to contribute posts on their research and experience of volunteering to the Essex County Pages. Ben and one of his former volunteers, Katie Bishop, contributed a series of blog posts themed ‘Festive Finds’ to the main County Pages news feed in December 2015.

Enjoy exploring the objects and coins discovered in Essex and recorded by Ben and his volunteer team and keep an eye out for new blog posts on the new Essex County Pages in the coming weeks!

Early Medieval gold ring
2012 T89 – Early Medieval gold ring. Copyright: Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service. License: CC-BY

Launch of the Cheshire County Pages

The second set of County Pages launches today with a new site dedicated to the archaeological finds and historical environment of Cheshire. Here you can find out more about forthcoming finds surgeries in the county and other events as they come up, search for artefacts and coins found in Cheshire and recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s database and explore the county’s museums and archaeological societies. There are also blog posts featuring notable finds and general research as well as background information about the work of the county’s Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) and volunteers.

Huxley Hoard lead and bracelets
The Huxley Hoard was found in Cheshire in 2004 (LVPL-c63F8A)
Copyright: National Museums Liverpool License: CC-BY

Vanessa Oakden is the FLO for Cheshire, as well as Greater Manchester and Merseyside, and is based at the Museum of Liverpool. In one of her blog posts, she describes a typical finds surgery meeting members of the public reporting archaeological finds to record and, in another post, she selects some of her favourite finds from her home country of Ireland found in North West England. Vanessa recently wrote a book published by Amberley Publishing called ’50 Finds from Cheshire’ looking at finds from Cheshire recorded by the Scheme. In one of the blog posts on the new County Pages, this book is reviewed by Samantha Rowe, a PhD candidate at the University of Huddersfield. One of Vanessa’s volunteers, Carl Savage, has also contributed a post on medieval coin finds from Cheshire and his voluntary role identifying medieval and post medieval coins.

The County Pages have been developed as part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Heritage Lottery Fund PASt Explorers project and was first launched in June 2015 with the pilot site of Leicestershire. PASt Explorers is recruiting and training local volunteer teams to work with the Scheme’s Finds Liaison Officers to record archaeological finds made by members of the public and share information about their county’s heritage with local communities.

Other County Pages sites are in development and will be rolled out gradually over the coming year. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy finding out more about the rich history that Cheshire has to offer and more about the fantastic work of Vanessa and her volunteers in recording and sharing new discoveries from the county.

Launch of the County Pages

A warm welcome to the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s (PAS) new website, the County Pages, developed as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded PASt Explorers initiative. PASt Explorers is a five-year project to recruit and train volunteers from local communities to record finds found by members of the public. The County Pages is intended to be one of the primary means of disseminating information about, and generated by, those involved in PASt Explorers, and will provide a central source of information on the historical environment and finds work in local areas, informing new audiences and encouraging them to get actively involved in their local heritage.

The front page of the County Pages has a news feed updated by the PASt Explorers project staff, and links to finds and recording guides and other learning resources that will help people better understand their local heritage. The front page also acts as a portal to individual sets of County Pages for each county in England, and one set for the country of Wales.

The content for each set of County Pages will be generated by members of the Community Finds Recording Teams (CFRT) of PAS volunteers alongside their local Finds Liaison Officer. The Pages will contain background information and case studies in the form of blogs, features about finds and general research. This information will be created and updated by the CFRT and their local FLO, with guidance and input from the PASt Explorers Outreach and Project Officers. In time, there will also be links to finds guides, recording guides and other learning resources; archaeological and historical information and contact for local areas; and web-links to other related sites.

The first county sub-site to be launched is Leicestershire, where the pilot recruitment and training programmes for PASt Explorers took place in 2013. The other counties will be gradually rolled out. The County Pages will continue to develop throughout the PASt Explorers project, and we welcome feedback on user experience and suggestions for new contents and features.

We hope you enjoy exploring the County Pages and discovering more about the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, its Finds Liaison Officers and volunteers, and the finds they record.