Meet the Finds Liaison Assistant – Emily Tilley

Hi, I’m Emily Tilley and on 12th July I started working as the new Headley Trust Finds Liaison Assistant alongside Rebecca Griffiths, Finds Liaison Officer for North and East Yorkshire.  On Thursdays and Fridays over the next nine months I will be working to help borrow, record, research, and interpret finds reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme in North and East Yorkshire.

My role is based at the Yorkshire Museum in York, and I’m no stranger to the site (or to Becky).  Since November 2016 I have been working as the Collections Facilitator for Roman Archaeology at York Museums Trust and on Mondays to Wednesdays I’ll be continuing to work for the Trust as a Curatorial Assistant.  Prior to working for York Museums Trust and the Portable Antiquities Scheme I completed a BA in Classics and an MA in Museum Studies.  I feel very lucky to be able to put my qualifications to good use!

Emily working on some not-so-portable antiquities in her role as Collections Facilitator
(alongside Adam Parker, Assistant Curator of Archaeology)

I started off as Finds Liaison Assistant by recording a whopping 123 Roman coins, building on my past experience working with Roman numismatics.  Thankfully Dr. Sam Moorhead and Becky had already done most of the hard work by identifying them, so all I had to do was type up the records.  It was a great crash-course in PAS numismatics documentation, the Roman coin issues that are commonly found in the region, and the condition of PAS finds.  It also produced some very flattering statistics for my first two weeks of recording!

Emily accidentally dressing to match a Roman coin. Numismatic bonus points.

I have since moved on to documenting an array of different object types brought in by finders and am slowly getting to grips with the many, many reference books that we have available in the office.  My favourite object so far has been a Medieval lead pendant (YORYM-C1D7B5) depicting the Virgin and Child on the obverse and the Crucifixion on the reverse.  It’s one of four almost identical examples on the database, all of which were found within a 37 mile distribution to the east of York, suggesting local production.

YORYM-C1D7B5, Medieval lead pendant.

I have also attended Finds Days in Hull and York and really enjoyed meeting finders and seeing objects as they come in for recording.  And I’m currently working on my first Treasure case!  In the next few weeks I’ll be learning the PAS approaches to photography which will allow me to finish my records, so look out for #FindsFriday pics on Twitter (@YMT_Emily)!  I’ll also be attending several PASt Explorers object training sessions over the next few months, which will be a very exciting opportunity to develop my knowledge of the huge range of object types that the Portable Antiquities Scheme records.

Every single day working for the PAS is a fantastic learning opportunity and I already feel more confident working with small finds after just a short time on the job!  It’s lovely to be able to continue working with colleagues at the Yorkshire Museum and to build new relationships with PAS colleagues across England and Wales.  I can’t wait to meet you all in person!

End of an internship – Lydia Prosser

Hello, my name is Lydia Prosser and I have been the Finds Liaison Assistant for North and East Yorkshire for the last eight months. Alas, today marks my final day: how the time has flown! Looking back to the blog post I wrote at the very beginning of my internship, I have learnt a lot; it amazes me now that when I first started I couldn’t tell the difference between copper-alloy and iron! I now have a wide knowledge of material culture spanning 10,000 years and I can be much more discerning. I have enjoyed every minute of this internship. I have been privileged to work in a fantastic museum with some truly wonderful people. The very best thing about this job, however, has to be the objects. I have been introduced to a whole range of object types that I had no idea existed before (chafing dish anyone? Plough pebble? Tenterhook?) as well as many that I now feel I’ve handled a lifetime’s worth of (spindle whorls and pennies of Edward I, for sure). Every day was different in this job and every new tray of finds brought something to be excited about. I couldn’t do a blog post about my internship without highlighting a few of my favourites from the four hundred odd that I have recorded, so here goes.

My absolute favourite has to be this little Anglo-Saxon dog-headed stud (YORYM-92CC79). It was found with another very similar to it and I love it for the detail and the particular sense of character it possesses that you only really get in early medieval art: look closely and you can see little zig-zag teeth! Once an early medievalist, always an early medievalist….

I don’t usually get so excited about post-medieval finds but this sixteenth-century buckle was in perfect condition and the incised decoration is exquisite (YORYM-C3C5FE). Complex objects such as these are difficult to describe and test both the imagination and vocabulary. On the subject of vocabulary, it became clear to me very early on that the PAS database would be much slimmer if the mixture of brown and green that is the invariable colour of copper-alloy after it has been deposited in the ground for hundreds of years was simply described as ‘breen’ or a similarly pithy adjective.  This would surely be revolutionary in object-based disciplines, saving much finger cramp from typing. Incidentally, ‘breen’ is also my hair colour, proving undoubtedly that my career choice was a right one.

We get a lot of Roman finds in York and so I have to include at least one: this is a Roman stylus, a fairly unusual find. It’s surprisingly large and has faint traces of raised decoration on its surface. The wide flat end would have been used for flattening the wax and the opposite end for writing.

I got to process a number of treasure cases during my time as a Finds Liaison Assistant, including this beautiful silver early medieval strap end (YORYM-7821B5).

My internship didn’t just involve recording finds, however. I got to meet the finders at Finds Days and metal detecting club meetings and darted all over the country for training and meetings. We spent one day in a ‘coin blitz’ with Roman coins expert Sam Moorhead. I am in awe of Sam’s ability to identify coins that seemed to me to be almost entirely worn away on both sides. Aspirations! In February, I gave a Curator’s Talk at the Yorkshire Museum. I picked seal matrices as the subject of my talk as these are a relatively understudied object type that can provide a huge amount of information about the lives of people in the Middle Ages. They are a very personal object and it is very satisfying to tease out the information from a Latin inscription or small fragment.

Museums can be dangerous places to work!

Although my contract as a Finds Liaison Assistant is now up, I’ve become hooked and the Portable Antiquities Scheme cannot get rid of me that easily! I am moving on to become Finds Liaison Officer for Lancashire and Cumbria. This role will bring new challenges, new responsibilities and many varied and wonderful finds and people. I can’t wait!

20 Years of Treasure

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the commencement of the Treasure Act 1996 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In this time over 11,000 Treasure finds have been reported under the Act, presenting local museums with an opportunity to acquire important objects from all periods of British history. Treasure objects, including those not acquired by museums, have a permanent record on the Portable Antiquities Scheme online database.

The Haxby Hoard (York Museums Trust (Yorkshire Museum) [CC By-SA 4.0] accession number: YORYM:2008.170)
To celebrate this anniversary we have developed a 20 Years of Treasure display which is currently on display in the Yorkshire Museum. This display highlights some of the interesting and often important objects from all periods of British history which have been acquired by the museum under the Treasure Act. The discovery of these amazing objects allows museum collections to be continually enhanced with gold, silver, and coins which help to tell the unique local stories of the places they were found.

The display features coin hoards and modified coins which illustrate the complex nature of these familiar objects, as well as dress accessories which highlight changing fashions and trends. A group of objects which show political affiliation through personal adornment are on display and a variety of decorative techniques are also explored.

This display is open to the public until 3rd December 2017.

SWYOR-73AF38 / 2012 T890 – East Heslerton Mount (York Museums Trust (Yorkshire Museum) [CC By-SA 4.0] accession number: YORYM:2014.442)
Alongside the display we have designed a Treasure Trail which brings together those Treasure objects on view in the various galleries of the Yorkshire Museum. The spectacular Towton Torcs, gold Iron Age armrings, can be seen in the first floor gallery and the Wold Newton Hoard, the largest of its period found in northern Britain, containing 1,857 copper coins is on display in the Roman Gallery.

SWYOR-CFE7F7 / 2010 T350 – One of the Towton Torcs (York Museums Trust (Yorkshire Museum) [CC By-SA 4.0] accession number: YORYM:2013_
.1017)
The trail also includes some of the stunning objects on display as part of the museums Viking: Rediscover the Legend exhibition such as the Vale of York Hoard, one of the most important Viking discoveries ever made in Britain, and the Whitley Brooch displaying a distinctly Scandinavian design. Maps for the trail can be collected from the 20 Years of Treasure display in the museum foyer.

SWYOR-AECB53 / 2007 T2 – The Vale of York Hoard (York Museums Trust (Yorkshire Museum) [CC By-SA 4.0] accession number
YORYM:2009.55)
Finally, we have organised a conference to be held on Wednesday 11th October 2017 at the Yorkshire Museum. This conference will consider Treasure now, and look at what has been learnt in the past 20 years. There will be particular focus on discovery, acquisition and interpretation with relevant case-studies. The conference will also look forward, considering the potential of Treasure in the years to come. The conference is free and you can register to attend here: 20 Years of Treasure Conference.

Meet The Volunteer – Denise Wilding

Tell us about yourself

I studied archaeology at the University of York, before completing a masters in medieval archaeology. I’m currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Warwick focusing on Roman tokens as part of the Token Communities in the Ancient Mediterranean Project. My thesis explores the way that as an everyday object, tokens are able to mediate social relations and play a role in community formation.

What does your role involve?

My current role involves researching and recording objects on the PAS database, as well as some photography and Photoshop.

What area of history/archaeology are you most interested in?

I find it difficult to pick a period of history that I am most interested in, but I have always enjoyed studying objects, and in particular the way that objects can have biographies and life histories of their own. My undergraduate dissertation focused on early medieval dress accessories, and my masters dissertation focused on Late Medieval livery badges so I quite like these periods and their material culture. However, now I’m enjoying studying the Roman period in more depth for my PhD.

Why did you start volunteering for the PAS?

I started volunteering with the PAS three years ago to gain practical experience to sit alongside my academic focus on archaeological material culture. Through this I was able to find work as an Archaeological Collections Assistant, and then undertake internships with the PAS in Somerset, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the PAS?

I love learning about different types of objects through recording them. It’s nice to broaden my knowledge base and study different kinds of objects from all different periods. Disney singalongs in the office are also a highlight!

What is your favourite find from North Yorkshire that you have recorded on the PAS database and why?

It’s impossible to pick one thing, but I enjoy recording Early-Medieval and Roman coins, as it’s so satisfying to get an identification for them when they’re very worn. I also enjoy recording objects that we can speculate had particular significance for a person’s identity, such as this cosmetics mortar (YORYM-C05A08).

What is your favourite find from North Yorkshire that has been recorded on the PAS database and why?

My favourite object is a copper alloy and enamel patera that was recorded in 2016 (YORYM-20B68C). It has a pattern of different coloured enamel squares around the body, and VTERE FELIX” (meaning “Use in happiness”) inscribed on the handle. I like how this object is so highly decorated, and is so different to most artefacts that I come across. It’s also interesting to think about how an object such as this might have had a specialised function in a religious or ritualised setting.

Meet The Intern

Lydia measuring an Anglo-Saxon strap end prior to recording.

 

Hello, my name is Lydia Prosser and I’m currently the Headley Trust Intern to Becky Griffiths, the Finds Liaison Officer for North and East Yorkshire. I’ve only been doing this job for three weeks but I have already learnt so much, not least how to spell ‘liaison’ (with two ‘i’s!). My main job is to identify the many varied and wonderful objects found by the public and record them on the database. This was a little daunting at first, but I’m finding that the more objects I identify, the easier it becomes and with Becky’s direction I was soon off to a good start. On the second day, I was thrown in at the deep end and set to work on a whole lot of Roman brooches. After a couple of days I was seeing Roman brooches in my sleep!

 

YORYM-406309: One of the Roman brooches recorded by Lydia

The best thing about working as a Finds Liaison Assistant is the variety (as well as the frequent cups of tea). A medievalist by trade, I did my first degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. Come September I will be starting a Master’s in Medieval Archaeology at the University of York, alongside working here at PAS.  This love of the medieval extends to my hobbies; when not working or studying I can usually be found wandering around one of Britain’s many cathedrals or dressed up in medieval garb. Yet, it’s nice to be able to develop my knowledge for periods other than the medieval and to cultivate my slightly neglected interest in the Roman era.

It’s great to be working at Yorkshire Museum due to the wealth of the museum’s collection and the wonderful people who work here. As part of my induction to PAS I had a tour of the museum and its collections so that, in the words of the curator, I would ‘get to see the shiny things’ before getting used to looking at scraps of corroded metal. This was fantastic: the Escrick Ring is even more impressive in the cold metal, although, admittedly, I am still ridiculously excited about the scraps of corroded metal that end up on my tray and don’t think that will change.

YORYM-715F42 (2009 T223): The Escrick Ring (York Museums Trust (Yorkshire Museum) [CCBy-SA 4.0] accession number YORYM:2011.262)
During the next couple of weeks I will be learning how to photograph the finds I have recorded and how to use photoshop to edit the images. I will also experience my first Finds Day – it will be nice to meet some of the people who actually find the artefacts; public engagement is after all at the heart of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. I’m also looking forward to processing my first treasure case sometime soon: Becky has promised me a good one!

 

 

The Wold Newton Hoard

In September 2014 Lauren Proctor, who works for the Scheme in the North East, was contacted by an excited metal detector user who informed her he had discovered a hoard of Roman coins. The finder, David Blakey, described a ceramic pot brimming with copper coins from a field near the village of Wold Newton, East Yorkshire. David and a group of fellow detectorists lifted the pot whole, leaving the coins within.

Above: David Blakey with the in-situ hoard prior to removal.

Once the hoard was deposited with Lauren it was passed to the British Museum where, thanks to David leaving the coins in-situ, leading experts “excavated” the contents of the pot. This allowed them to determine how the coins were added to the vessel. Nine different levels were removed which showed that different bags of money were mixed together, hinting at how and why the coins were concealed. Some of the coins were also found to have insect remains adhering to them which may, when properly studied, show at what time of year the hoard was buried.

The coins were also individually identified and were found to represent a mix of emperors, mints and reverse types. Many of the coins were issued by emperors with strong links to the north and York in particular. Constantius I who died in York on 25 July AD 306 is well represented in the hoard, and it was he who was responsible for defeating the breakaway Britannic empire of Allectus and reuniting Britain with the rest of the Roman Empire.

The latest coins are early issues of Constantine the Great which date to AD 307, allowing us to determine the year in which the hoard was probably buried. Many of the coins were struck at the large mint in London. Containing 1,857 copper-alloy coins in total, it was also determined that this is the largest hoard of this date from northern Britannia.

Above: The Wold Newton Hoard on display at the Yorkshire Museum during the fundraising campaign.

The size and contents of the Wold Newton Hoard show it to be of huge significance. Following its declaration as Treasure, the PAS worked with the Yorkshire Museum to ensure the hoard could be acquired and kept within a public collection, thus allowing the possibility of further study with the potential to reshape our understanding of a crucial period in the history of York, Yorkshire and Europe.

The Wold Newton Hoard was successfully acquired by the Yorkshire Museum where it is currently on display.

50 Finds From Yorkshire

Amy Downes and Rebecca Griffiths’ new book ’50 Finds from Yorkshire: Objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme’ has recently been published.

50 Finds from Yorkshire considers the spectacular and the everyday finds which help to reveal Yorkshire’s hidden past. The region has been at the heart of English History for over 2,000 years and has been shaped by Roman and Viking invaders and the conflicts of the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil Wars.

Objects found by the public and recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme have produced some of the most important discoveries from the region in recent times. These finds have helped to refine our understanding of Yorkshire’s history and the lives of the people who lived there. Ranging from spectacular hoards of silver buried by the Vikings, to unique Celtic fittings which show that people in Yorkshire had their own style, these finds can be woven into the narrative of the past. They also get us closer than ever to the ordinary people, with seals naming individuals and trader’s tokens identifying occupations. There are also tantalising glimpses of the Roman cult of Mithras being active in rural Yorkshire. Every object found is another thread in the rich tapestry that is the history of Yorkshire.

50 finds from Yorkshire highlights these amazing discoveries and explores how they help to define our understanding of one of the most significant areas of Britain.