News from the Scheme

1.5 million archaeological objects have been unearthed by the public, British Museum reveals

Published: 4 months ago Author:

The British public have discovered many hundreds of thousands of archaeological objects, and today the British Museum reveals that the number recorded to its Portable Antiquities Scheme has hit a milestone 1.5 million. These finds have radically transformed what we know about life through time on the British Isles.

The British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) was first set up in 1997 so that archaeological objects found by the public can be recorded to help advance our knowledge of past. It reached 1.5 million object records on Wednesday. The item that helped cross this historic milestone was a medieval lead papal bulla (a seal for authorising papal documents, such as edicts and indulgencies) of Pope Innocent IV (r.1243-54), that was found in Shropshire.

All the discoveries on the PAS database since its inception 23 years ago have been made by members of the public. Most of them are found buried in the ground by metal detectorists. Thanks to the public's efforts, including those made through responsible metal-detecting, our understanding of past communities living in Britain over thousands of years has radically improved. Many individual finds have transformed what we know almost overnight and have become some of the most famous historical objects in the UK, such as the gold treasures of the Staffordshire Hoard.

A number of discoveries are so important to the history of the life in Britain that they have been acquired or displayed by museums for the public to enjoy. But all the information recorded on the PAS database is freely available to anyone, and is used by students, scholars, researchers and the public alike.

To celebrate this important milestone, the British Museum with BBC History Magazine today also reveal 10 discoveries by the public and recorded on the PAS which experts have judged to have most transformed our knowledge of the past. These include a silver-gilt badge in the shape of a Boar found near the site of King Richard III's death in battle, and the discovery of thousands of Roman 'grots' - worn-down coins - which has reshaped our understanding of Roman Britain. The full list can be seen in this month's edition of BBC History magazine.

There is a large diversity amongst the 1.5 million discoveries. They range in size from vast coin hoards - the biggest was the Frome Hoard of 52,500 coins - to one-of-a-kind single pieces such as the 3,500-year-old Ringlemere Cup. The oldest items include prehistoric-worked flint from 700,000 years ago; the youngest include 20th-century military badges. Recorded finds include arrowheads, axes, beads, brooches, buckles, coins, combs, finger-rings, gaming pieces, knives, sculpture, spindle whorls, tokens and vervels.

PAS was first created as a pilot scheme in 1997. In 2003, it was expanded across the whole of England and Wales (thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant) to ensure that knowledge and information about finds was recorded for public benefit. The PAS is a partnership project, managed by the British Museum (in England) and Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. It is funded in England through the British Museum's grant-in-aid from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), with local partner contributions, and is one of the main ways the museum reaches across the UK through its national activity.

The front line of the Scheme in England is its network of 40 Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) who are archaeologists trained to identify and record finds. They are all locally based covering the whole country, employed within museums and other heritage organisations, but overseen the British Museum.

From 23 March to 12 May 2020, metal-detecting and other forms of searching for archaeological finds were essentially prohibited under the coronavirus lockdown. Only a handful of objects were still being found, mostly by people digging in their gardens. These include some coin finds, pottery fragments and worked flint.

But while the number of new reported discoveries decreased during lockdown, work to record a backlog of finds continued. Over 6,000 objects that were found before 23 March were uploaded on to the PAS database during the six-week lockdown period, helping to push the overall figure towards the 1.5million milestone.

Since the relaxing of lockdown rules from 13 May 2020, it has been possible for finders to go out searching for objects again as long as they maintain social-distancing rules. There remains a legal obligation for people to report Treasure finds and stop if they find any archaeology in situ (so that a find, such as a coin hoard, remains undisturbed from when it was deposited). For other finds, finders are being asked to make a note of the findspot and hold onto these (in most cases) until they can be brought in to the FLO for recording.

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said "1.5 million finds is an historic milestone for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and the British Museum wishes to thank everyone who has voluntarily come forward to record their discoveries so we can all learn more about our shared past. We are proud of our work with the PAS and it is a unique partnership between the British Museum and our national and local partners across England and Wales. We look forward to many more objects being recorded, and who knows what exciting discoveries are yet to be found."

Michael Lewis, Head of PAS and Treasure at the British Museum, said: "There is no doubt that these finds have transformed our understanding of the history and archaeology of England and Wales, and that of Britain more generally. Some of these items are spectacular and are finds of a lifetime. But even the smallest and most modest items offer clues about our history, so we encourage everyone who makes a find to continue to come forward."

Search the full PAS database at finds.org.uk

Searching for archaeological objects during COVID-19

Published: 5 months ago Author:

For current government advice on searching for archaeological finds (with a metal-detector, field-walking or mudlarking) in England during COVID-19 please see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/guidance-on-searching-for-archaeological-finds-in-england-during-covid-19

PASt Explorers Conference 2019 – Save the Date!

Published: About one year ago Author:

This year will be our final PASt Explorers Conference as the project draws to a close in October. We'd be delighted if you could join us to celebrate the project on Friday 21st June 2019 at the British Museum. So please save the date and we look forward to seeing you there! Details of speakers and timings to follow.

Last few conference tickets remaining!

Published: 2 years ago Author:

PAS Conference 2018 Recording Britain's Past 12 October 2018

The British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has recorded over 1.3 million finds - each one a unique discovery made by a member of the public. This conference celebrates 15 years of the Scheme, with a day or discussion and debate. These explore how thePASis advancing knowledge, sharing information about the past, encouraging best practice and supporting museum acquisitions of Treasure and other finds.

Talks on 'advancing knowledge' (Dr Tom Brindle), 'best practice' (Faye Minter), 'sharing knowledge' (Dr Adam Daubney) and 'supporting museums' (Dr Andrew Woods), with panel discussions led by Prof Carenza Lewis, Dr Mike Heyworth, Dr Helen Geake and Gail Boyle.

Other panellists include Sir Barry Cunliffe, Dr Kevin Leahy, Dr Amanda Chadburn, Dr Neil Wilkin, Dr Sam Moorhead, Dr Tim Pestell and Dr Julia Farley.


Friday 12 October, 11:00-17:00
BP Lecture Theatre, British Museum, London
£12 (£10), advanced booking required


Book tickets now

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/events_calendar/event_detail.aspx?eventId=4695&title=Recording

+44 (0)20 7323 8181

PAS Conference 2018 Recording Britain’s Past

Published: 2 years ago Author:

The British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has recorded over 1.3 million finds - each one a unique discovery made by a member of the public. This conference celebrates 15 years of the Scheme, with a day or discussion and debate. These explore how the PAS is advancing knowledge, sharing information about the past, encouraging best practice and supporting museum acquisitions of Treasure and other finds.

Talks on 'advancing knowledge' (Dr Tom Brindle), 'best practice' (Faye Minter), 'sharing knowledge' (Dr Adam Daubney) and 'supporting museums' (Dr Andrew Woods), with panel discussions led by Prof Carenza Lewis, Dr Mike Heyworth, Dr Helen Geake and Gail Boyle.

Other panellists include Sir Barry Cunliffe, Dr Kevin Leahy, Dr Amanda Chadburn, Dr Neil Wilkin, Dr Sam Moorhead, Dr Tim Pestell and Dr Julia Farley.


Friday 12 October, 11:00-17:00
BP Lecture Theatre, British Museum, London
£12 (£10), advanced booking required


Book tickets now

http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/events_calendar/event_detail.aspx?eventId=4695&title=Recording

+44 (0)20 7323 8181

Essential maintenance notice

Published: 2 years ago Author:

Between the10th and 12thMarch 2018the Portable Antiquities Scheme website and database will be unavailable while undergoing essential maintenance work. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause and hope you can bear with us until we are back online. See you on the 13th March!

David Williams

Published: 2 years ago Author:

David Williams excavates the Watlington Hoard

We heard yesterday that our friend and colleague David Williams, FLO for Surrey and East Berkshire, passed away at the weekend.

David had worked for the PAS since 2003. He was a loyal colleague, always ready to respond to a call for help from his fellow FLOs, whether it be attending a rally miles away from his own home or excavating an in situ find. The most recent example of this is the Watlington hoard of Viking coins, ingots and jewellery, acquired earlier this year by the Ashmolean museum. Day to day, David was an unwavering support to his FLO colleagues, always ready to share his invaluable knowledge with others.

David was passionate about forging good relationships with both finders and landowners. At rallies he was often to be seen walking the fields, chatting to finders and encouraging them to record their finds. He had many loyal finders and David always had time for them, not just to record their finds but as good friends.

David was an involved member and great supporter of the Finds Research Group and contributed a number of datasheets, most notably those on 'Stirrup Terminals' and 'Anglo-Scandinavian Horse Harness Fittings'. Probably his best-known publication amongst finds specialists is the regularly-thumbed CBA Research Report 'Late Saxon Stirrup-Strap Mounts'. David was also a talented illustrator and all his publications are self-illustrated.

David leaves a large hole in PAS and we will miss him very much.

20th Anniversary Marks Record Year for Treasure Found by the Public

Published: 2 years ago Author:

At the launch of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Treasure annual reports at the British Museum, John Glen MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, announced that the number of new Treasure discoveries by members of the public had hit a record level, with 1,120 finds in 2016. This is the highest annual figure since the Treasure Act came into law exactly 20 years ago. In addition, there were a further 81,914 archaeological finds recorded through the Portable Antiquities Scheme across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The vast majority of Treasure finds (96%) and PAS finds (88%) were discovered by metal-detector users.

Also announced was an updated Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales, which provides guidance on best archaeological practice for finders.

The Treasure Act (1996) marks its twentieth anniversary this year, having come into law in 1997. The Act was created in order to make it easier for national or local museums to acquire important finds for public benefit. Of the 14,000 Treasure finds over the past 20 years, 40% are now in museum collections which can be enjoyed by local communities and the wider public. These include some of the most well-known archaeological objects in the country, such as the Staffordshire Hoard, a spectacular hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver war gear which has been displayed across the UK and in the USA, and the Frome Hoard, the largest collection of Roman coins in one vessel ever found in Britain.

Over the past 20 years, Treasure and PAS finds have significantly added to our knowledge of the past. For instance, they have offered us a greater insight into ancient trade networks between England and Continental Europe during the Bronze Age, and have also provided the means for us to fundamentally reassess the nature of early medieval trade. Over 1.3 million (1,312,332) PAS finds have been recorded, from prehistoric stone implements to post-medieval buckles, and all are available online for free at finds.org.uk/database. To date over 600 research projects, including 126 PhDs, have made major use of PAS data.

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said "The PAS is a unique partnership between the British Museum and our national and local partners. Its main aim is to advance knowledge, but the Scheme reaches out to people across the country, and helps bring the past alive. The British Museum is passionate about the PAS and what it achieves, for archaeology and local people."

John Glen MP, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism "Twenty years after the Treasure Act came into force, it is fantastic that Treasure discoveries have reached a record high. Thanks to the PAS, every year thousands of found objects are recorded so we can learn more about our past. I am pleased that a large number of the finds have also been added to museum collections and are on public display."

Michael Lewis, Head of Portable Antiquities & Treasure at the British Museum, said "Metal-detecting can make an immense contribution to archaeological knowledge, if practiced responsibly and the vast majority of people are keen that their hobby has a positive impact. The new Code of Practice for Responsible Metal-Detecting in England and Wales outlines exactly what is expected if people want to help archaeologists better understand our shared past."

Finds on display at the launch

Two Late Bronze Age Hoards from Driffield, East Yorkshire which date to circa 950-850 BC. One hoard contains 158 axes and ingots and is the largest hoard of its kind discovered in Yorkshire. Another consists of 27 axes and ingots. The two hoards were discovered close to one another by Dave Haldenby and were excavated by Kevin Leahy (PAS Finds Adviser). It was first thought such hoards were collated to be re-used by metalworkers but now archaeologists think they might have been buried for ritual purposes. It is hoped that both hoards will be acquired by Hull and East Riding Museum, East Yorkshire.

Roman coin hoard from Piddletrenthide, Dorset, of 2,114 base silver radiates found in a pottery vessel. The coins date to 253-296 AD, of which the latest issues include the earliest products of the newly established Roman mint of London. The hoard was found by detectorist and author Brian Read, and block-lifted by Mike Trevarthen (a local archaeologist). It was unpacked and studied by conservators and archaeologists at the British Museum. This find was a rare opportunity to carry out a full archaeological excavation to try to discover more about why these coins were buried.

Anglo-Saxon grave assemblage from Winfarthing, Norfolk which was found by Thomas Lucking while metal-detecting, and excavated archaeologically. This grave proved to be the burial of a high-status lady buried between about 650-675 AD. It includes a necklace made up of two gold beads, two pendants made from identical Merovingian coins and a gold cross pendant inlaid with delicate filigree wire. Most remarkable was another large pendant worn lower down on the woman's chest. Made of gold, it has hundreds of tiny garnets inlaid into it in cloisonné patterns, including sinuous interlacing beasts and geometrical shapes. Comparable to gold and garnet jewellery from Sutton Hoo and the Staffordshire Hoard, it marks its wearer out as having been of the highest status in life, and through wearing a cross, among the earliest Anglo-Saxon converts to Christianity. Norfolk Museums Services are raising money to acquire this nationally-significant find for its collection at Norwich Castle Museum.

Notes to Editors

The PAS is a partnership project, managed by the British Museum working with at least 119 national and local partners to deliver the Scheme's aims. It is funded through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport grant to the British Museum with local partner contributions. All the Finds Liaison Officers working for the PAS are employed locally, but work as a national team.

Thousands of archaeological objects are discovered every year, many by members of the public, particularly by people while metal-detecting. If recorded, these finds have great potential to transform archaeological knowledge, helping archaeologists understand when, where and how people lived in the past. PAS (www.finds.org.uk) offers the only proactive mechanism for recording such finds, which are made publicly available on its online database.

The PAS has also benefited from Internships funded by the Headley Trust, providing opportunities for people to develop a career in archaeology. Also, the Graham and Joanna Barker Fund, which has enabled extra support for the PAS in areas where resources are low. The PAS welcomes anyone interested in supporting its work locally to contact the British Museum.

As part of the HLF funded project PASt Explorers: finds recording in the local community, the PAS is working with volunteers across the country to record archaeological finds made by the public and to get people involved in archaeology. In 2016, 202 volunteers, including 102 metal-detectorists who record their own finds on the PAS database, have contributed to the work of the Scheme.

Many organizations have also supported the acquisition of Treasure finds, including Art Fund, the Headley Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund. Without these, as well as public donations, many important archaeological finds would not be in public collections.

The Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales has been endorsed by: Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales / PAS Cymru , the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, the British Museum / Portable Antiquities Scheme, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, the Council for British Archaeology, the Country Land & Business Association, the Institute for Archaeology (University College London), Historic England, the National Farmers' Union, the Royal Commission on the Historical & Ancient Monuments of Wales, and the Society of Museum Archaeologists.

PASt Explorers Conference 2017: Telling Tales

Published: 3 years ago Author:


One database; thousands of stories.

Objects have the potential to excite and inspire us. They are a direct link to our past. Over 1.2 million objects have been recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. Within these objects are hundreds, possibly thousands, of stories from our past.

The PASt Explorers Project Conference 2017 will celebrate and share some of these stories, from tales of discovery to the ways in which PAS data is being used to unlock our shared history.

Stories will be told through PAS volunteers.


We are pleased to announce that booking is now open!The conference this year is being hosted at National Museum Cardiff on Saturday 18thNovember and will feature object stories told through PAS volunteers.

Admission is free, but booking is essential. Tea and coffee will be provided.

Please visithttp://bit.ly/2vj0iZUto book.

Portable Antiquities Scheme Conference 2017: 20 Years of Treasure

Published: 3 years ago Author:

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 not acquired by museums have a permanent record on the Portable Antiquities Scheme online database.

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.

Speakers include:

  • Ian Richardson, Treasure Registrar, Portable Antiquities Scheme

  • Anna Booth, Finds Liaison Officer, Portable Antiquities Scheme

  • Penny Bull, Senior Programmes Manager, Art Fund

  • Andrew Woods, Curator of Numismatics, York Museums Trust

  • Natalie Buy, Curator of Archaeology, York Museums Trust

  • Tim Pestell, Curator of Archaeology, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

  • Mike Heyworth, Director, Council for British Archaeology

Full programme to follow.

Tickets are free but booking is essential. To book your place, please go to:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/portable-antiquities-scheme-conference-2017-20-years-of-treasure-tickets-35401941159

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