Shropshire County Pages launched!

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Shropshire County Pages. Shropshire lies in The Marches – a rich and diverse landscape on the border between England and Wales.

Explore thousands of years of history through finds from Shropshire recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database.

The Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire is Peter Reavill who is supported by a team of volunteers and self-recorders. Follow their work and find out more about volunteering and the heritage of Shropshire on their Blog.

Shrewsbury Hoard
Shrewsbury Hoard
Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme
Licence: CC-BY

 

Love is in the air at PAS

Today is Valentine’s Day and our Finds Liaison Officers have been busy highlighting love-themed objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. Be sure to check them out on Twitter! In the meantime, here are a few more objects that demonstrate the range of subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways people in the past have professed their love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

SILVER RING (LIN-349214)

This simple silver finger ring dates to the late medieval period (AD1300-1400). It bears the inscription:

+ AMORVIC:ITOMN+I+A for AMOR VINCIT OMNIA

which translates to “Love conquers all”. This seems to have been a relatively popular inscription and appears on 16 items in the PAS database. The motto even appears on a gold brooch worn by the Prioress in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Gilchrist, R., Medieval Life: Archaeology and the Life Course, 2012: 111).

Medieval silver finger ring with Latin inscription

 

 

SEAL-MATRIX (LIN-EAD042)

An elaborate silver-gilt seal-matrix depicting a man and woman facing each other with a flowering plant between them and a bird overhead. The lettering around the edge reads:  +AMI AMES LEAVMEnT. Although the meaning is uncertain, it relates to love or loyalty – seals with sentimental designs are typical of the 14th century.

 

Medieval silver-gilt love or loyalty seal-matrix of the 14th century.

 

 

BENT COIN ‘LOVE TOKEN’ (IOW-C44001)

This fourpence of Charles II has been pierced and is bent in two places. These ‘crooked’ coins are often thought to be love tokens, bent to prevent them being spent accidentally. The idea was that the enamored man would prove the strength of his love by bending the coin in front of  his chosen lady. Hopefully she would keep and treasure it; else it would be discarded along with the poor chap’s affections. Many of these coins have been found on open farmland in places where fairs were held, indicating a large number of disappointed beaus! Alternatively, they may simply have been good luck charms. What do you think?

Fourpence of Charles II, pierced and bent

 

 

A TRIO OF BROOCHES (DENO-1AF752, NARC-0B6A9E, WAW-D42D94)

A trio of medieval gold brooches. The first is a gold annular brooch with clasped hands at the top, that may once have held a pearl or stone. The crude inscription translates as “Love, I will you only”, with “will” taking its earlier meaning of “want”. The second brooch, with its asymmetric heart design, is almost modern in appearance but actually dates to around the 14th century, with parallels in the British Museum collection. The final brooch is gilded silver and is inscribed on both sides with messages of love. The front reads:  + AMVR VENT TVTEN, a variant of the common “Love conquers all” but in French rather than Latin (amour vainc tout). The reverse reads:  + IO SVI FLUR DE LEL IA, meaning I Am The Flower Of Loyal [Love].

Medieval gold annular brooch with romantic inscription.
DENO-1AF752
Medieval gold heart-shaped brooch.
NARC-0B6A9E
Medieval gilded silver annular brooch with romantic inscription.
WAW-D42D94

New PAS Cymru website goes live!

Medieval silver brooch fashioned from a groat of  King Edward I (NMGW-45F745).
Medieval silver brooch found in Pembrokeshire and acquired by NMGW. Licence: CC-BY

The new website for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru) has launched. As well as providing a wealth of information about the Scheme in Wales and how to report your finds, you can also follow their fantastic blog and find out more about the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories project. Bendigedig!

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

Gunpowder, treason and plot

It’s Bonfire Night tomorrow so we’ve uncovered 5 fabulous finds from the PAS database to help you remember, remember, the 5th November!

 

Silver Sixpence of James I (LEIC-0ED383)

Silver sixpence of James I, dated 1605.

Dated 1605, the year of the Gunpowder Plot, this is a particularly fine example of a James I sixpence. It has the Royal Coat of Arms on one side and the crowned bust of the almost-unfortunate King on the other. As well as the Gunpowder Plot, James I had to contend with two earlier plots against him, despite having a more moderate attitude towards Catholics than his predecessor.

 

Decade Ring (LON-F30014)

Post-medieval gold decade ring.

Although James I was reasonably tolerant towards Catholics in his early reign, recusancy – or the refusal to take part in Anglican worship – was still a punishable crime. In some cases, adherence to Catholicism resulted in the death penalty. Decade rings like this one were a discreet way for Catholics to practice their faith. The ten ‘bumps’ on the ring represent the ten prayers that make up the Rosary and were used to keep count of the number of Hail Marys said.

 

Powder Measure (HAMP2710)

Post-medieval lead-alloy powder measure

Lead-alloy powder chargers like this one were used to measure the appropriate amount of gunpowder for loading into a musket. Guy Fawkes was an experienced soldier who fought for Spain in a number of conflicts. It is thought that he gained his knowledge of gunpowder and explosives from his time as a solider and he may well have used a powder measure like this one during his service.

 

Pilgrim Badge (LON-6FABC6)

Late medieval pilgrim badge in the shape of a Catherine Wheel.

This medieval pilgrim badge is in the shape of a Catherine Wheel. According to Christian tradition, Catherine of Alexandria (later St. Catherine) was condemned to torture upon a spiked ‘breaking wheel’. However, when she touched the wheel it flew into pieces. Subsequently, such devices became known as Catherine Wheels and it is from this that the popular firework gets its name.

 

Hedgehog Belt Mount (LEIC-E45175)

Medieval belt mount in the shape of a hedgehog.

This medieval belt mount is in the shape of a hedgehog. Such mounts were used to decorate leather belts and came in a wide range of shapes and styles. The humble hedgehog might seem an odd decorative choice but they do appear in many medieval manuscripts and even on some coats of arms. And remember, if you’re having a bonfire tomorrow, don’t forget to check inside for hedgehogs before you light it!

Devilish Discoveries and Frightening Finds

In the spirit of Halloween (pun intended), we’ve delved into the database for some of our more ‘spooky’ finds. From superstitious shoes to ghoulish jewellery, we’ve pulled together six of our best supernatural-themed items for your eerie enjoyment. Read on… if you dare!

 

PIPE TAMPER (DENO-OC6CC4)

 

Tampers like this one have a flat end for tamping down tobacco in the bowl of the pipe. It could also be used for crushing the ash to make relighting easier. This little devil has a fearsome pair of horns and is holding his leg across the knee in the style of the Lincoln Imp.

 

WITCH BOTTLE (LIN-49FC12)

 

Post-medieval witch bottle with contents

Witch bottles were prevalent across England from the 17th century, especially in East Anglia where superstition and belief in witches was strong. These bottles were supposed to protect against evil spirits and spells directed at the supposed victim. The bottles contained items like hair, nail clippings, pins, needles and sometimes even the urine of the intended victim. It was then often buried in a fireplace, under the floor or plastered into the wall, its power remaining active for as long as it remained hidden. Early witch bottles were of the Bellarmine jug type whereas later examples like this were glass.

CHILD’S SHOE (LANCUM-76D192)

 

Post-medieval child's clog

This child’s clog was discovered hidden within the fabric of a wall. Much like the witch bottles, the practice of placing a shoe within the structure of a house was once widespread, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is thought they were either to ward off evil spirits or to deflect curses. Given the fact that this one is a child’s shoe, it most likely relates to a Lancashire tradition of hiding the shoes to prevent the child being swapped for a fairy child.

 

MEMENTO MORI (DENO-D3E954 and LIN-5AF0C0)

 

Gold ring with skull image

Seal matrix depicting a skeleton

These objects, with their skeletal imagery, are both examples of memento mori. In Christian tradition, these were used to emphasise the emptiness and fleetingness of earthly pleasures, and as reminder to focus one’s thoughts on the prospect of the afterlife. Small, portable items such as these two examples were often carried by individuals as a reminder of their own mortality. With its skeleton and hourglass symbol, the seal matrix really emphasises the message of death and passing time.

 

FOSSILISED OYSTER SHELL (SWYOR-96E960)

 

Fossilised oyster shell

The common name for these extinct oysters is “Devil’s toenails”. This wonderfully graphic name is due to their gnarled, curved shape and people once believed they were made as the Devil clipped his toenails. There used to be a common belief that carrying one of these fossils could prevent rheumatism so they often crop up in archaeological contexts.

Introducing Lauren Speed

Hello! Just thought I’d take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Lauren and I am the new Outreach Officer for the PASt Explorers project. I’m based at the Central Unit in the British Museum but you’ll see plenty of me out and about at the training sessions and other outreach events! In the meantime, if you’ve got any questions about the project please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m really excited to be involved in PASt Explorers and look forward to hearing from (and hopefully meeting) you over the course of the project.

PASt Explorers Conference 2016: What Do People Do All Day: The Busy World of Volunteers

The PASt Explorers Conference 2016: What Do People Do All Day: The Busy World of Volunteers is now open for bookings.

This year’s conference celebrates the contribution of volunteers to the PAS through the project. Through PASt Explorers, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), more people are now volunteering with the PAS, undertaking finds-related work, and helping to share knowledge about archaeological finds.

This conference aims to illustrate the diverse nature of the volunteer experience within the PAS and provide the opportunity for volunteers to share these with others, providing inspiration and new perspectives on the contribution to archaeological knowledge and to the history of England and Wales.

The conference will take place on Thursday 29th September 2016, 10.00–16.30 at the Event Space and Lecture Theatre, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool, L3 4AQ

Admission is free but advance booking is required.

Programme will be available shortly.

To book go to: https://past-explorers-2016.eventbrite.co.uk or call 0207 323 8618.

 

PASt Explorers Volunteers Conference 2016. Save the Date and Call for Talks!

We are currently in the process of organising the forthcoming PASt Explorers Conference in partnership with National Museums Liverpool and would like to invite all PAS Volunteers (and FLOs) to get involved in the following:

What Do People Do All Day? The busy world of volunteers.

Thursday 29th September 2016, 10.00–16.30

Event Space and Lecture Theatre
Merseyside Maritime Museum
Free admission, advance booking required
Tea/coffee provided

The Portable Antiquities Scheme’s 2016 conference celebrates the contribution of volunteers to the PAS through PASt Explorers. Through the PASt Explorers Programme, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), more people are now volunteering with the PAS, undertaking finds-related work, and helping to share knowledge about archaeological finds.

This conference aims to illustrate the diverse nature of the volunteer experience within the PAS and provide the opportunity for volunteers to share these with others, providing inspiration and new perspectives on the contribution to the archaeological narrative.

We are looking for volunteers to speak at the forthcoming PASt Explorers conference in Liverpool in September.

Talks should be 20 minutes long and should cover the following:
• What you imagined it would be like to be a volunteer
• What you imagined you would be doing
• What you are working on, including any special projects
• What you like/dislike about the experience

We are aiming to cover as many different ways of volunteering as possible: in-house and remote volunteering, self-recording, finds recording, blog writing, photography, exhibition developing etc. To do this we would like to hear from lots of different types of volunteer – young, old, those bringing experience to share and those wanting to start out.

Please could you forward this invitation to all your volunteers and self-recorders. Reasonable travel expenses for volunteers and FLOs will be covered by the PASt Explorers project.

Please could any volunteers wishing to talk contact Claire Costin (ccostin@britishmuseum.org / 020 7323 8618) by 31st July 2016 with potential subjects. You just need an idea at this stage and we can provide help with shaping the talks.

Derbyshire County Pages Launched Today

We’re excited to announce the launch of the Derbyshire County Pages, our sixth County Pages site to go live. Derbyshire is home to Cresswell Crags, the famous Palaeolithic caves, and museums that display several impressive coin hoards. Learn more about visiting Derbyshire’s heritage sites or explore archaeological finds from Derbyshire reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Our Derbyshire Finds Liaison Officer, Alastair Willis, who started out as a volunteer himself, is supported by a great team of volunteers to photograph and record finds. Read more about volunteers Sophie, Simon and Roger in their blog posts. Watch this space for more blog posts about volunteering, finds, events and more from Derbyshire.

Anglo-Saxon Mystery Object
Early Medieval Mystery Object DENO-CC9F5F. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. License: CC-BY