Earlier this year I celebrated over 3 years of volunteering with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, during that time I have worked with some fantastic people and recorded some beautiful objects, over 1500 of them to be exact! I have decided to share with you a few of my favourite finds, this was a tough job but here they are….
The first is a beautiful Iron Age coin, WMID-6F51F7. When this coin came in it took my breath away, it is a gold stater of Tasciovanus, the leader of the Catuvellauni tribe of the Northern region, it dates from c. 50 BC – c. 10 AD. This coin was so clear and so pristine, every bit of detail was so sharp, it appeared as though it was minted yesterday. For a coin minted 2,000 years ago this was quite a brilliant surprise. It is believed that the RICON part of the inscription on the coin means King, experts believe it is a derivative, at least similar to the Latin Rex. The TASCIO part represents Tasciovanus. The reverse of the coin depicts a horse facing left with a helmeted rider, his right arm raised holding a sword and a shield in his left hand. The coin was found in Lichfield, Staffordshire, and is to date one of my absolute favourite finds.
The second object is a small sword scabbard chape, (WMID-F8516E). Although this object doesn’t look like much, it is in fact quite a special object. It dates from the second century BC, so is firmly within the Iron Age period, it is similar in style to La Tene swords of the period and fits in La Tene Group 1b. It comes from a narrow bladed sword as you can tell from the sharp angle of the chape. It is a lovely, rare find and an important one for the West Midlands region. It was found in Shropshire.
During my time with the PAS I developed a keen interest in Medieval coinage. I found them fascinating and really enjoyed recording them. This one was no exception, when this coin (WMID-AAE499) came in I had been volunteering for only a couple of months. I identified it as an Edward IV Groat, I had a probable type based on lettering and markings on the coin. However I was struggling with the mint, I was unable to make sense of the lettering. The coin expert from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, he had a look and he worked out that the coin was minted in Waterford, Ireland, during the First reign of Edward IV. It is an exciting and rare discovery. In fact there are only two coins from this reign minted in Waterford recorded on the database, this is one of them! It was found in Cheshire East. This was a lovely record for me to write. It was also one of the first of my records to be included in the British Numismatics Journal ‘Coin register’.
This object, (WMID-4C8A00), is a very exciting discovery, one which is in incredible condition. I wrote the record for this object at a training session I attended, I was studying it and jotting down information when one of my colleagues from the PAS walked past and saw it, it stunned him. He said he had never seen anything like it. This little object is a stirrup strap mount, of the Early Medieval period, it dates to the 11th century. It has been decorated with a dragon on each side with a human figure in the centre. The detail is remarkably clear considering the age of the object. It has been classified as a Class B of Type 2 Group 4. At the time of recording this one of of only 3 of this type recorded on the database. This object is so rare it is of National Importance, it was found in West Sussex. It is a beautiful object from an enigmatic period of our country’s history.
The next find I’d like to discuss is the only Palaeolithic object in this list, not to mention the only Palaeolithic find I have recorded, (WMID-AA293D). It is a worked Quartzite chopper core edge, dating from c. 800,000 BC – 40,000 BC. This was an exciting one for me because I had never seen one before, it was also entertaining to record as I had to learn how to identify whether it had been worked (which even the experts struggle with). I studied it for removal scars and evidence of working, which is evident on this object. I learned so much recording this object, I learned to identify a quartzite, to discern whether it has been worked or not, I also learned how to do a quick drawing of one using Photoshop. It was a lovely object to record and despite the fact it took most of the day to record and get everything right and do the drawings it was fun to learn new skills and take some time over this quite special object. As a volunteer or even working within the PAS we don’t get to see much in the way of Palaeolithic objects, so this one was quite special. It was found in Staffordshire.
Finally this was a truly spectacular find, WMID-244D11. It is an almost complete Basal Looped Spear head of the Middle Bronze Age, dating from c. 1500 BC – 1150 BC. This was a truly beautiful object with it’s flame shaped blade, with a central mid rib running the length of the blade. At the base of the blade are two broadly rectangular loops. Despite the break at the top of the socket, the spearhead is almost complete. Not only was it exciting to record because it was an almost complete spear head, it was also one of the first times I got to use the XRF machine, to find out the metal composition of the object. It was a really interesting process. Also it was one of the first time I used the X-ray machine and we were able to discover there was still wood from the shaft within the socket. The research was interesting too, to learn about these objects was a really good experience, one that I very much enjoyed. This find was discovered in Staffordshire. It is always exciting to find an object of great age that is as complete as this one. Truly stunning.
All the finds I have recorded I have loved recording, I have enjoyed the journey of discovery they have taken me on and how much they have taught me. Other finds that deserve a quick mention are, WMID-672148, a brooch or mount decorated with interlocking beasts, dated to the 8th century. WMID-029DED, a sleeve/wrist clasp of the Early Anglo Saxon period (AD 470 – AD 570), the find spot for this one was unusual (Telford) and as a result is an object of County/local importance. There are also objects that you look at and think ‘not much has changed’, this (WMID-5BF6C3) is one of those, this is a Roman key, an interesting find. I have loved every minute of my experience volunteering with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, I have learnt so much and grown in confidence. Volunteering and working within the PAS has been the best experience of my life.