2020 in review

2020 has unsurprisingly been a somewhat challenging year for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Devon. It’s been nonetheless full of fascinating finds and new ideas about them, and about the county’s past. The year began on a high, after a near record year for finds recording in Devon in 2019, with 1540 objects being recorded in 962 records. This was thanks to wonderful volunteer recorders working together with the FLO to record objects from across the South West and further afield,  but the total for Devon alone as a county was 663 records representing 1178 objects.

The challenges of COVID-19 will be reflected in the statistics for 2020, but nonetheless a large number of finds have been recorded, often using innovative methods. Finders have been extremely supportive of new systems of remote recording, providing not only object measurements but also photographs that can be edited and adapted by the FLO to be near the quality expected for the PAS database. A really good example of this is DEV-B86EBD, an interesting miniature Early Bronze Age flat axehead from near Colyton which was recorded this way just after the strict lockdown ended.

Of course, during January-March the FLO was able to run the usual series of Finds Days and visits to Metal Detecting Club meetings across the county, and was able to take in a large selection of Finds that were recorded in the following months. The patience and understanding of finders while waiting for these objects to be returned is hugely appreciated, particularly when some of the objects are extremely beautiful and rare examples. One such is this medieval coin from near Abbotskerswell, a gold salute d’or of the first reign of Henry VI (AD 1420-1461), recorded as DEV-F9F085, minted at Auxerre with a distinctive “fer de moulin” initial mark.

The lockdown period brought with it some unexpected discoveries, as many families turned to home education, and many people began working on their homes and gardens and making unexpected archaeological discoveries! A number of discoveries of post medieval ceramics in roof spaces have been reported, but one particularly pleasing object is this 19th or early 20th century magnifying glass, found by two children in their garden to the north of Exeter, and recorded as DEV-922FCA. While it is a little later than the PAS would usually record, it is such a delightful example, in such good condition and with two enthusiastic young finders, that it certainly merits recording as a piece of modern archaeology.

In September Finds Day events began again in some new venues and largely out of doors, prioritising the return of finds, but also taking in discoveries made by finders through the year. One of the stand out artefacts to be brought in for recording during this period was this medieval harness mount in copper alloy and red enamel, which featured a porcupine as a heraldic device, and was found near Clyst Honiton. The device itself is charmingly rendered, and is associated with two possible Devon families who incorporated a porcupine or urchin (hedgehog) into their family crests. It was recorded as DEV-0DD67C.

Plans are in place for Finds Days to resume once more in 2021, and a Finds Day at the newly opened Box in Plymouth is a particularly exciting prospect to look forward to. Devon finds are also getting an airing to a nationwide audience via the new podcast of the PAS, PAStCast, which is presented by the Durham and Devon FLOs and can be found on most podcast hosts.

Whether in person or via email, please do contact your FLO if you make any finds in your home or garden, or while out fieldwalking. Lockdown or no lockdown, we are very happy to hear from you and will always do our best to help identify and record your objects.