Derbyshire Unearthed is an exhibition at Derby Museum and Art Gallery celebrating the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Treasure Act 1996 on 24th September 1997 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the founding of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The exhibition is in two parts. Part 1: Artefacts runs from 23rd September 2017 to 4th February 2018. Part 2: Coins and coin hoards will run from 10th February 2018 to 22nd April 2018.
The exhibition forms part of the national ‘20 Years of Treasure‘ celebrations organised in partnership with the British Museum. It features fascinating Treasure objects from Derby Museums’ collection as well as non-Treasure that have been lent or donated by their finders. Here are a few of the highlights:
Erewash is a local government district and borough of eastern Derbyshire. It lies to the east of Derby and to the west Nottingham. The borough is home to 112,081 people and the towns of Ikeston and Long Eaton are located here.
Occupation in this area seems to date back to at least the Neolithic. Evidence of this can be seen in finds like this (DENO-37C042). This is an implement of unknown form, it is possibly a chisel, axe or a form of scraper tool. It is made from a fine, dark flint. The flake scars caused by the knapping process is obvious on this example as is the areas of retouch on the outer edge. This example dates from c. 3,500 BC – 2,100 BC.
Objects of the Bronze Age seem to be a rare occurrence in Erewash, given that only two finds have been recorded from the region on the PAS database. One of these is a very unusual object (LEIC-732185). It seems to be a bridle fitting probably dating to the late Bronze Age, but possibly dating to the Early Medieval period. There is a central strap bar formed of two parts, one upper and one lower. A leather strap would have passed between them. This object also serves to highlight how difficult some objects are to identify and date accurately, due to style and rarity.
Erewash continued to be occupied throughout the Iron Age, as this next object shows (DENO-B0A936). It is an incomplete but beautiful beaded torc that dates from the late Iron Age to early Roman period. The object consists of one terminal and ten beads. The other terminal has broken, and is missing. Each of the ten beads has a raised central plain with a beaded line to each side. It dates from the 1st to 3rd centuries and was found near Ockbrook.
The next two objects are interesting pieces and show that even the Romans were partial to to fun and games in Derbyshire! The first is instantly recognisable and is commonly used today (DENO-81AC76). It is a die made of copper alloy and the numbers are in dot form on the surface of each face. The second is a beautiful coloured object (DENO-4AE6C1). It is probably a gaming piece or bead made of a bright blue glass. The front face of this object is domed and the reverse is flat. There appears to be a hole through the centre which seems to be wider at the bottom than the top. Both objects date to the Roman period AD c. 43 – AD 410 .
During the Early Medieval period, Erewash was a busy place. The town of Ilkeston was founded in the 6th century and seems to have derived it’s name from its supposed founder Elch or Elcha, who was an Anglian chieftain (Elka’s Tun = Elka’s Town). This zoomorphic strap end dates from a few centuries later (DENO-839B93). The strap end has a zoomorphic (or animal) terminal at one end with a wolf, snake or dog head usually depicted. There is a decorated panel with a design of interlocking knotwork in the centre of the object. This is a lovely example and is almost complete. It dates from the 9th Century AD.
Finds from the Medieval period are more common in this region than previous periods. This gold annular brooch is one of the more special items from the area (DENO-1AF752). It has been decorated with a pair of clasped hands on one edge and the pin has a collar at the junction of the loop and shaft. The inscription reads “IOV I: IVIL VOI ONLI”. It appears garbled, but it can be reconstructed as “Love, I will you only”. Which suggests it was given as a gift between lovers. It is a beautiful object with a wonderful and loyal sentiment behind it.
More finds are discovered in the region of Erewash from the Post Medieval period than are found from any other period. One of these finds is a silver soldino of Doge Leonardo Lorendano of Venice (DENO-2B1DD6). The coin depicts the standing figure of Christ on the obverse (front), with the standing figure of St Mark with the kneeling Doge at his feet on the reverse. This object highlights how interconnected places like Derbyshire, and the rest of the country, were at this time with the rest of Europe. During the 15th and 16th century there was a shortage of English struck halfpennies within the economy of the country, so people began filling the gap with foreign coinage. This is an example of one of the coins they used instead, this coin has a similar weight in silver as an English halfpenny. This coin dates from AD 1501 – AD 1521.
I have been volunteering with the PAS in Derby since November 2015. My background is in adult education; my specialist area is Astronomy.
What does your role involve?
I assist the FLO identifying and recording items brought in by members of the public.
What area of history/archaeology are you most interested in?
I have long been interested in the Roman period, but since volunteering with the PAS I have become interested in a wider range of periods, especially Anglo-Saxon.
Why did you start volunteering for the PAS?
I am recovering from a stroke, and was looking for a positive use of my time. As I have always had an interest in history, working with the PAS sounded very attractive. I support the aims and goals of the PAS, I feel the recording of found objects is an important part of preserving our heritage, and I can appreciate the value of the database as a resource for future research.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the PAS?
I enjoy the chance to see and handle ancient objects, and the challenge of identifying artefacts. The variety of objects that come in is amazing. I find the training provided excellent; I have learned so much.
What is the most exciting find from Derbyshire you have recorded so far?
Before working on the PAS I had an image of Iron Age Britons as rather primitive, huddled in their woad waiting for the Romans to civilize them! But objects like this, beautifully crafted, demonstrate a sophisticated culture.