2017 in Review

2017 may have been a shaky year for some, but it was a great year for the PAS and for archaeology in the UK! We celebrated 20 years of the Treasure Act with events and talks across the country, recorded a whopping 79, 353 archaeological items on the database, and continued to work closely and integrally with metal detectorists and amateur archaeology clubs.

Here in Essex, I’ve found that the clubs I am lucky enough to attend have been accommodating, friendly and willing to work with us to get as many artefacts recorded as possible! The independent finders that have visited us at the offices in Colchester are always enthusiastic and bring along some truly amazing finds! Keep up the good work Essex finders!

I have created the below infographic to highlight some of the facts and figures surrounding the work of the PAS in Essex in 2017. I hope you find it interesting!

 

 

Demystifying Findspots – How We Work to Protect Spatial Data

FLOs will hear these lines, time and time again – “I don’t want to give you the findspot, because the farmer doesn’t want that information out there”

or “because the area is night-hawked all the time and we don’t want to draw attention to it”

First off, let me say that I understand those concerns whole-heartedly! I see why a landowner would not want details of their property online (who would?!) – and I see why responsible detectorists would want to protect their permissions from night-hawkers who don’t care at all about the historical significance of sites.  These are concerns that any responsible individual would have, and it’s fine to have them.

However, like many industries who rely on sensitive data in order to run, heritage services must also balance the scales between getting reliable data that can tell us a great deal about a site or an artefact, and protecting landscapes from damage or unwanted attention. We understand that findspots can be a sensitive issue, but we must ensure that the data we collect is accurate, because at the end of the day, it will be the data that stands the test of time and gives our public the information they need to look further into our past, long after we, and our artefacts, have gone.

So, how do we make sure we get good data (findspots), whilst also protecting the area and individuals in question?

 

Let me show you

I will take you on a step-by-step guide into how the PAS database manages and presents its findspot data for public viewing. I will show you screenshots of what a FLO would see (you lucky things!) alongside what members of the public or people without FLO level or higher access would be able to see.

Our aim is to conserve the findspot data and give enough information to the general public about artefacts that reflect our shared heritage, whilst also making sure that specific areas and sites are protected and location details are general enough not to cause issues for landowners and finders. By default, findspots are displayed as 4 figure national grid references, which covers a huge area (a 1000m square to be exact) and is considered safe when protecting at-risk sites.

 

 

Let’s start with a record as your FLO will see it, as your FLO is the one who adds the findspot information to the records (unless you are a self-recorder).

We want to record the Holy Grail (of course), which has very luckily been found during building works at Colchester Castle (..we wish!). We know where Colchester Castle is because we consulted a map and figured out that the grid reference is TL 998 253. We could also have used digital or online mapping apps to help us find this information, such as Magic by DEFRA (http://magic.defra.gov.uk/MagicMap.aspx) or Where’s the Path (https://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm).

Now let’s look at the screenshots, starting with number 1. You ca n see on the left of the page that the login status (assigned roles) is FLOs. This means that the next few images will show the database as your FLO sees it. Most people who view the database, including finders, will not see this level of information on records unless the find in question is your own, and you have signed up to the database and been listed as the named finder.

1.

 

So, let’s add a findspot to this record. We click the ‘Add Findspot’ green button on the bottom of the page, which brings us to the Findspot information page.

 

2.

We start by filling in the details of which county, district and parish the find is from.

 

Please note: the ‘To Be Known As’ box should only be used in exceptional circumstances when a site is known to be at risk. The default for all visible findspots is a four figure national grid reference, which is a very large area and certainly enough to protect at-risk sites because of the non-specific location data on display. The usual protected four-figure reference that members and guests will see is usually more than enough to protect a site from unwanted attention. Not using the ‘To Be Known As’ box when it is not necessary will also mean that we get much better spatial information for the general researcher.

We can now move on to how we input the qualifying features of the findspot.

 

3.

Here we can go into more depth about the nature of the findspot, though this is not always necessary, given that most finds come from arable, ploughed fields, and just saying as much is usually enough in terms of accuracy.

However, in some cases, giving more detail about a findspot is important (for a hoard for instance), and so we have fields where we can do this.

Once we have filled in the findspot details, we can move onto the next page.

4.

This is what a record will look like with the completed findspot details to a FLO. Remember this – only people with higher level access, like administrators, national advisors and FLOs, will have access to this level of information. All of those people have signed agreements in order to use the database responsibly and professionally as part of their job. For more information on who can see what, please visit: https://finds.org.uk/volunteerrecording/guide/accesslevelsexplained

If the find is yours, and you are signed up to the database, your FLO can add you as the finder, and you will get this level of information for your finds only.

Don’t be alarmed!

In this example, seen in point 4, the grid reference provided was TL 998 253 – a 6 figure reference, which you can see under the ‘Spatial Co-ordinates’ heading. If you look under the ‘Spatial Metadata’ heading you will see a ‘centre of parish’ grid reference, which is TL 99658 25734. This is NOT the full 10 figure grid reference for the find. Every parish has a geographic ‘centre’ as mapped by Ordinance Survey, and this is simply the number generated to show which parish the find is in.

 

 

Now let’s have a look at how the records and their findspots will appear to the general public – members of the database who view others’ finds, and guests without logins.

 

5.

This is the search results page, and shows a list of records matching the search criteria. In this case only one record comes up because we searched using its unique record number.

You can see that the first example shows that there has been a record created with findspot information added. The reason the findspot notes are red and highlighted is to reiterate how essential they are for a complete record. Any record without findspot data will stick out because it will say ‘No Spatial Data Recorded’.

 

 

6.

Let’s now look at the findspot info from an actual record, as it would be viewed by a member of the public. In this example, the ‘To Be Known As’ box has not been used, and we can see a map of the general area that the findspot is in, accurate to 1000m or 1km squared. To put this into perspective, the accuracy of this findspot puts it somewhere within the square below:

The map shown on the screenshot below is zoomed in as much as is possible for this level of database access. It is impossible to get any further detail of where the findspot is. We only know the four figure grid reference, the county, the district and the parish.

 

It is quite clear to see that the general viewer of the database will have no specific information about findspots available to them. The majority of people who view the database do so because they are genuinely interested in learning about the artefacts and their local history. By allowing our shared heritage to be put into a spatial context, we are giving everyone the opportunity to explore archaeology and learn about our history. At the same time, we are protecting that information by heavily restricting access to specific area data, and by ensuring that our database is well managed and secure.

 

I hope that this walkthrough has been helpful and will put some minds at ease and clear up a few myths about findspots. We do not take findspot data lightly, and understand that it is, quite justifiably, sensitive information. It also happens to be essential information for any reliable record, and we will continue to request that items that we record have findspots. I hope that by working together to understand the concerns from both finders and recorders, we can keep producing top quality records from the wonderful artefacts that are brought in to us.

 

Thanks 🙂

 

 

 

Celebrating 20 Years of Treasure in Essex

Essex Treasure Tour 2017!

 
 

 

Hello! I’m Sophie Flynn, the new Essex FLO. To celebrate the 20th birthday of the Treasure Act, this July I’m going to be hopping across the county from museum to museum to hold a series of fun-filled, educational Finds Days (with a particular focus on the shinier objects we like to call TREASURE!)
 
In this post I will tell you where and when I’m going to be stopping on the Treasure Tour, as well as highlighting some of the lovely Treasure items that are taken care of by the museums I’ll be visiting.

 

I’ll be:

  • Holding ID sessions – bring along your detecting artefacts or that old coin you found in the garden and we’ll help you identify and record it!
  • Talking about Treasure – holding a talk about Treasure and Treasure finds in Essex followed by a Q&A session. Got any burning questions about the Treasure Act? Now’s your chance to ask!
  • Setting up family-fun activities – I’ll have colouring-in pages and kids’ activities to keep the little ones busy!
  • Plus, I’ll have a handling collection for the big kids to dive into!


 
 
 

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TOUR DATES

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Saffron Walden | Thursday 27th July

Join me at Saffron Walden Museum in Uttlesford on Thursday 27th July from 11am to 4pm. I will be in the Ages of Man gallery, next to the Treasure Case, in which the museum will be exhibiting some of its most exciting Treasure finds!

Saffron Walden Museum has been acquiring Treasure finds steadily over the last 20 years. Without their commitment to purchasing and caring for these wonderful objects, and without the support of local interest groups who help to acquire items, people from all over Essex and further afield would not be able to enjoy these artefacts and their unique stories. Here are a couple of the items acquired by or donated to Saffron Walden Museum:

 

 

  • Gold Anglo-Scandinavian ring – ESS-1E0E04
  • The ring was found by a metal-detectorist near Thaxted in 2013 and reported under the Treasure Act (1996). It was purchased in 2015 for the museum’s archaeology collections by Saffron Walden Museum Society Ltd, with the assistance of the Arts Council England / Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Headley Trust. You can see the ring on display in the Treasure case, in the Ages of Man gallery.

     

     

     

     

     

     Early Medieval silver, gold and niello strap end – ESS-36B1B4

    This fragment of a silver strap end was found in the region of High Easter in 2011 by a metal detectorist. The strap end, though fragmentary, shows the high degree of Anglo-Saxon workmanship in artefacts of this age. The item was inlaid with gold and the engraving patterns decorated with niello – a mixture of lead, copper and silver sulphides used to finish engraved metal. The item was kindly donated to the museum by the finder and landowner.

     

     

     

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    Chelmsford Museum | Saturday 29th July

    I will be at Chelmsford Museum on Saturday 29th July from 11am to 4p. I’ve been able to attend this Finds Day as part of Chelmsford’s ‘Day of Archaeology, in association with Heritage Writtle, and look forward to taking part in the festivities!
     
    Chelmsford Museum has long been an important regional hub for finds acquired through the Treasure process. In its collections are many wonderful items from around central Essex that are incredibly important to our understanding of the archaeology of the region. Many of these items are also artefacts of Treasure! Below are some Treasure items from the database that Chelmsford Museum have recently acquired:

     

     

    Early Medieval Hooked Tag – ESS-04C5D6

    This Anglo-Saxon (c. 8th century) silver hooked tag would have adorned the clothing or garments of a relatively wealthy individual! The design is engraved and inlaid with niello. Though the artefact is now tarnished, it still shows up some of the shiny gleam that it undoubtedly had once upon a time. Hooked tags like this are quite common finds in Essex. We have many records like this on the database. However, much of the time, these items are broken or fragmentary, and are more often than not, made of copper alloy. When a museum is able to acquire a complete example, it gives many people who are interested in researching such items a great resource to learn about them.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Roman Silver Gilt Zoomorphic Brooch – ESS-593DC4

     A beautiful example of a 1st-2nd century AD Roman zoomporhic brooch. This one takes the form of a leaping dolphin, and was gilded all over. Now much of the gilding is missing, but you can still see that it would have been a spectacular brooch when made.

    Dolphins were a common theme in the work of Roman craftspeople. They represented good luck for sea-faring folk and became a central symbol for much of the decorative jewellery work of Roman Britain.

     

     

     

     

     

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    Colchester Castle Museum | Tuesday 25th July

     

    I will be attending Colchester Castle Museum’s ‘Archaeology Day’ on Tuesday 25th July from 11am to 4pm. There will be many fun activities for archaeology enthusiasts and families alike!

     

    Colchester has collected lots of incredible Treasure finds over the years. I have created a special Castle Treasure Tour to highlight a few stand-out pieces. If you are in Colchester, take a stroll around the atmospheric Norman castle and go looking for real Treasure! On the Finds Day, learn all about these items and many more through the talks on Essex Treasure finds, and get your hands on some archaeological artefacts from our handling collection.

     

    Some of Colchester’s finest Treasures:

    Fenwick Treasure – ESS-058E5B

    Though this hoard of jewellery and coins was never declared ‘Treasure’ by the Coroner, as it was kindly donated to the museum by Fenwick before the point of Inquest, it is regarded as a great example of what a Treasure ‘hoard’ is. Found in 2014 by Colchester Archaeological Group whilst digging in the vicinity of the Fenwicks department store on Colchester High Street, this Treasure hoard would eventually tell a rather poignant story.  It was purposefully buried by a Roman family in the floor of a house that was to be ransacked and burned during the Boudican revolt of AD 60/61. Their haste was obvious given that the ditch the hoard was found in was shallow. The family (or individual) had likely been confronted with the terrible prospect of losing their home and even their life, and quickly raced to hide their valuables wherever they could.

     

     

    Ardleigh Sword Pommel (Early Medieval) – ESS-27D367

    The Ardleigh pommel, ESS-27D367
    This golden sword pommel is a wonderful example of Early Medieval craftsmanship, and dates to the 7th century. The surfaces are decorated with fine gold filigree wire and form intricate patterns reminiscent of contemporary Scandinavian design. The pommel is a high status type known from areas in Eastern Scandinavia, Kent and the East of England. This type of design is known as a ‘cocked-hat’ pommel.

     

     

    Mountnessing Pendant – ESS-0144A4

    2006T582 Post Medieval Pendant

    This decorative pendant was found in Mountnessing, Essex, in 2006. It was found by a detectorist who had come across one of the most complete and beautiful items of historic jewellery ever found in Essex! It is diamond shaped and set with precious stones. The back is engraved and inlaid with beautifully coloured enamel. Pendants like this date to the Post-Medieval period (post 1500) and were probably worn on items of clothing, being attached to ribbons with other precious items like pearls hanging from them. They were not necessarily made to be work around the neck like pendants today. In fact, the famous ‘Armada’ portrait of Queen Elizabeth I shows the monarch’s clothes bedecked with very similar pendants to that of the Mountnessing type. It is clear that this was once the property of a well-to-do individual. Truly fit for a queen!

     

    For more on Colchester’s Treasures, please speak to the FLO about the Castle Treasure Trail!

     

     

    I hope you can join us at one of our Treasure Tour events! If you have any questions, call me on 01206506961. Looking forward to a summer season of Treasure!