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:
I have been a volunteer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Derbyshire since November 2016. I am also volunteering with the PAS in Lincolnshire and Shropshire as of November 2016. I completed my PhD in Archaeology at UCL in 2015 as well as having a baby! Since returning from maternity leave and leaving my previous job at the Museum of London I am attempting to gain as much experience with the PAS as I can to hopefully enable me to work for the Scheme one day.
What does your role involve?
Volunteering for the PAS involves me helping to identify objects found by members of the public, photograph and record them on the database under the supervision of Alastair, the Finds Liaison Officer for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Other duties as a volunteer include posting information about the PAS in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire on social media, attending training as and when required at different venues around the country and assisting at outreach events run through the various Derby Museum sites.
What area of history/archeology are you most interested in?
I have a love for all things archaeological and historical and thoroughly enjoy researching and learning about new subjects, objects and time periods. However, I am most interested in the Iron Age and Roman periods with my PhD research re-examining archaeological evidence of structured deposition from a number of different sites across the UK, specifically looking at possible interpretations of ritual deposition in both watery and dry contexts.
Why did you start working for the PAS?
The PAS combines everything I love about archaeology and heritage: working with finds, research, and meeting with and talking to a wide variety of people about archaeology. As a volunteer I would like to make whatever contribution I can to furthering the understanding and research of archaeology and our own cultural heritage, be it through helping to identify finds, or talking to people at events who would not otherwise have known about the PAS. It is such a fantastic Scheme that anyone can get involved with and because so many people do get involved, what they find contributes to our wider understanding of our past and constantly changes what we think we know and understand about our own history, which I find incredibly exciting.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the PAS?
Identifying the finds and researching new finds I have never come across before.
What is the most exciting find from Derbyshire you have recorded so far?
None yet but let me get back to you!
What is your favourite find from Derbyshire that has been recorded on the PAS database and why?
I love the beautiful zoomorphic interlace decoration on this Early Medieval sword pommel mount shown below (record no: WMID-2FF927). The workmanship on this one piece makes you wonder what the rest of the sword looked like.
Alastair Willis’ new book ’50 Finds from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire: Objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme’ has just been published. The book demonstrates the region’s importance within the country and its links with the outside world. It includes some of the most spectacular finds from the two counties, including the famous Newark Torc and the Ashbourne Hoard, but also some less well-known objects that are just as important for our understanding of the past. Many of these objects are on display in local and national museums. The book is available in local museum shops, from Amberley Publishing or from Alastair at events.
The counties of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire are an area of transition between the north-west and the south-east, highland and lowland, pasture and arable, rural and urban. These geographical divides shaped ancient tribal boundaries and continued to act as a border after the Roman conquest of southern Britain. The Trent and its tributaries were important trade routes linking the area with other parts of Britain and the wider world. Many settlements, including the important towns of Nottingham, Newark and Derby, sprang up on their banks during the Roman and medieval periods. Consequently, the finds from the area are diverse and reflect influences from different parts of the country and beyond.
The objects in this book were found by members of the public and have been recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. They provide us with an insight into the lives of our ancestors, the people who lived and worked in these two counties, the people who did not make it into the history books. The objects span a period of at least 180,000 years and represent the whole spectrum of society, from the hand axe of a hunter-gatherer to the neck torc of an Iron Age chieftain to a token halfpenny of a seventeenth-century coal miner.