News from the Scheme

Rare flowers discovered in Roman hoard

Published: 2 weeks, 4 days ago Author: Richard Henry

This remarkable find was made by metal detectorists in the Vale of Pewsey in 2014 who reported the find to Richard Henry, the Wiltshire Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The bronze vessels had been removed from the ground by the detectorists, but crucially, they had not attempted to clean the bowls and the delicate remains of the packing material were preserved in place.

Finds Liaison Officer Richard Henry has led the exciting quest to discover more about the find. He brought in a team to excavate the site of the discovery, led by David Roberts of Historic England and with the Assistant County Archaeologist, members of the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group and the finders. Richard then brought in more experts, including Dr Ruth Pelling of Historic England and Dr Michael Grant who identified the plant remains and pollen. Peter Marshall, also of Historic England, coordinated the radiocarbon dating of the flowers and undertook analysis of the results. The project has been led by the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme and supported by Historic England, Southampton University, the Association for Roman Archaeology and Wiltshire Museum.

Museum Director, David Dawson, said "Richard Henry has led this remarkable partnership project, drawing specialists from across the country to piece together the fascinating story of the burial of Roman bronze cauldrons that took place on a summer's day 1,500 years ago. We are thrilled to be able to display this important material".

Richard Henry said "Such discoveries should be left in situ to allow full archaeological study of the find and its context. The finders did not clean or disturb the vessels which has allowed us to undertake detailed further research. If the vessels had been cleaned none of this research would have been possible"

Ruth Pelling commented that "It has been an absolute pleasure to examine this unique assemblage. By combining the plant macro and pollen evidence we have been able to identify the time of year the vessels were buried, the packing material used, the nature of the surrounding vegetation and the likely date of burial."

The finders generously donated the plant remains to the Wiltshire Museum to allow the detailed research to take place. The bronze vessels do not meet the criteria of the Treasure Act 1996 and have been retained by the finders. A selection of flowers are on display at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes from 8 February.

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/720549

A resized image of Pewsey vessel hoard illustration by Nick Griffiths annotated by Mike Pitts

The Pewsey Vessel hoard (WILT-0F898C) illustration by Nick Griffiths and annotated by Mike Pitts

The black kanpweed flowers

A resized image of Roman vessel hoard - the organic material

https://finds.org.uk/database/images/image/id/600469

Ruth Pelling willbe talking about research on the flowers along with other recent Wiltshire discoveries at the Salisbury Museum on the 8thof March. The talk is titled "Unexpected treasures: Archaeology and botany".

Ruth Pelling and Stacey Adams will be talking about their research on the flowers along with other recent Wiltshire discoveries at the Archaeology in Wiltshire Conference on 1 April in Devizes. Their talk is titled "Bake Off and Brewing in Roman and Early Saxon Wiltshire: recent archaeobotanical finds'.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme
• 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.
• The Portable Antiquities Schemewww.finds.org.ukoffers the only proactive mechanism for recording such finds, which are made publicly available on its online database. This data is an important educational and research resource that can be used by anyone interested in learning more.
• The Portable Antiquities Scheme is managed by the British Museum, and funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport through a grant, the British Museum and local partners. Its work is guided by the Portable Antiquities Advisory Group, whose membership includes leading archaeological, landowner and metal-detecting organisations.

The Wiltshire Museum
• Wiltshire Museum is home to the best Bronze Age archaeology collection in Britain, The collections are Designated by Government as being of National Significance
• Wiltshire Museum is an independent charity, with some revenue funding from Wiltshire Council and Devizes Town Council.
• The Museum is run by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society (WANHS), a registered charity founded in 1853.
• Our mission statement is 'Inspiring people to explore the archaeology, history and environment of Wiltshire'.
• For more details of the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group, seehttp://wiltshireafg.weebly.com.

Lat: 51.3489 Long: -1.99483

The 'Piano Hoard'

Published: Thursday 12th January 2017 Author:

An inquest was opened today by H.M. Senior Coroner, Mr. John Ellery at Shrewsbury Coroner's Court, in relation to a substantial find of potential Treasure recently discovered within a piano in South West Shropshire. The find was swiftly reported by the new owners of the piano and was deposited at Ludlow Museum Resource Centre / Shropshire Museums before Christmas. The coroner commends all parties who have to date provided him with valuable information and co-operation in this case.

The finds are highly unusual in nature being substantially made of gold and appear to have been deliberately hidden within the last 110 years. An inquest has been opened to determine whether the hoard qualifies as Treasure under the terms defined by the Treasure Act (1996).

For a hoard less than 300 years old to be Treasure, it must be:

1.Substantially made of gold or silver

2.Deliberately concealed by the owner with a view to later recovery

3.The owner, or his or her present heirs or successors, must be unknown

The inquest will be resumed and concluded at the Shrewsbury Coroner's Court on the

16th day of March 2017.

Anyone with any information about the original owners of the piano and/or of the potential treasure, their heirs or successors, should provide this in writing to Mr. Ellery at the Coroner's Office for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin at the Shirehall, Abbey Foregate Shrewsbury SY2 6ND.

The Coroner will require evidence about:

-the nature of the find (i.e. what it comprises);
-how, when, where and why the find was concealed
-evidence upon which they can be sure of the ownership by any potential claimant.

All other enquiries regarding the case should be made in the first instance to Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire, British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme. c/o Ludlow Museum Resource Centre, 7-9 Parkway, Ludlow Shropshire SY8 2PG Tel: 01743 25 4748 Email: peter.reavill@shrophire.gov.uk

Thereis no penalty for mistaken claims made in good faith but any false claims may be reported to the police for consideration of any offences disclosed

Peter Reavill
Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire,
British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme.
12th January 2017

Notes for editors

The cache of items were deliberately hidden within an upright piano made by Broadwood & Sons of London and sold to a music establishment in Essex in 1906. The enterprise which purchased the piano has been traced to a shop or wholesaler of music / musical instruments which was owned by Messrs. Beavan & Mothersole of 27, West Road, Saffron Walden.

The recent history of the piano has been traced to around 1983 where it was purchased by a local family in Saffron Walden area.

The cache of gold items were reported to Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme based with Shropshire Museums. The objects will qualify as 'Treasure' under the terms of the Treasure Act (1996) and thus be the property of the Crown, if the coroner finds that they have been hidden with the intent of future recovery. However, if the original owner, or his or her heirs, are able to establish their title to the find, this will override the Crown's claim. The coroner has therefore suspended the inquest until early March 2016 in order to allow possible claimants to come forward.

Full information about the size, nature and value of the cache will be revealed at the subsequent inquest in March and has been deliberately withheld to allow the coroner to make all necessary enquiries.

Contacts:

Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire, British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme / Birmingham Museums Trust. c/o Ludlow Museum Resource Centre, 7-9 Parkway, Ludlow Shropshire SY8 2PG 01743 25 4748 peter.reavill@shropshire.gov.uk

Ian Richardson, Treasure Registrar, British Museum, London WC1B 3DG, tel.: 020 7323 8611, e-mail: irichardson@britishmuseum.org

Michael Lewis, Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure, British Museum, tel: 020 7323 8611; e-mail: mlewis@britishmuseum.org

Lat: 52.705 Long: -2.73178

Launch of PAS and Treasure Annual Reports

Published: Monday 28th November 2016 Author:

This morning, at the launch of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Treasure annual reports at the British Museum, Matthew Hancock, Ministerof State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, announced the recording of a further 82,272 archaeological finds made by the public in 2015). Finds discovered include a Bronze Age gold torc (CAM-E5D871; the largest ever found), a beautifully enamelled Anglo-Saxon mount (SUSS-F9E7AA)and an intriguing hoard of silver coin clippings deposited in the late 17th century (GLO-0794E0). These finds, and others, are rewriting the archaeology and history of Britain and enabling people across the county to learn more about the past of their local area.

A further 1,008 Treasure finds have been reported this year in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, of which the most significant have been acquired by museums across the country; next year the British Museum with its local partners will be celebrating 20 years since the the Treasure Act came into force, and the establishment of the PAS.

The PAS has recorded over 1.2 million archaeological finds to date (since 1997). This data has been widely used by academics, students and many others by searching the PAS database (www.finds.org.uk/database). PAS data has been used in over 528 research projects, including 25 pieces of large-scale reaserch and 110 PhDs.

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 an important part of the British Museums' National Programmes activity which extends across the UK.

As part of the HLF funded project PASt Explorers, the PAS is working with volunteers across the country to record archaeological finds made by the public and get involved in archaeology. In 2015, 259 volunteers, including 100 self-recorders (metal-detectorists who record their own finds on the PAS database), have contributed to the work of the Scheme.

The PAS is now working closely with other Europe areas, including Denmark, Flanders and the Netherlands, where initatives are underway to record archaeological finds made by the public. Also there are plans for these recording schemes to work even closer together, to share information about archaeological discoveries and recording them. A North Sea Area finds recording group has been recently established to take this forward.

Tracey Crouch, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage said "It is fascinating to think that, thanks to the PAS and Treasure Act, the public are rewriting the history and archaeology of this country. That so many amazing finds are made each year is testimony ot the diverse and long history of England and Wales and it is marvelous that these finds then end up in museums across the country for all to enjoy".

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said "The British Museum is a world museum but it is also a museum for Britain. The PAS contributes enormously to our National Programme activity and our work across the country. It is an amazing partnership, drawing together over 100 local museums and other organisations to deliver the Scheme's aims of recording the past to advance knowledge and sharing that knowledge with all".

Both reports are available for download from the Publications tab on this website

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North Sea Area Finds Recording Group

Published: Tuesday 22nd November 2016 Author:

Denmark, England, Flanders and the Netherlands are amongthe most progressive areas of Europe in terms of mechanisms to record archaeological finds found by members of the general public, and make these finds accessible for research and public interest in the past.

It is our objective to work closely together, and with other North Sea areas, to:

  • Advance archaeological knowledge through the recording and research of public finds;
  • Encourage best archaeological practice in the field when searching for and recording public finds;
  • Support museum acquisitions of important archaeological material found by the public;
  • Advance international cooperation in the field of archaeological finds recording.

We will achieve these goals by:

  • Making the information on archaeological finds discovered by the public accessible to all, including international researchers as well as the wider public;
  • Distributing knowledge on regulation and responsible behaviour for the public when searching for (and recovering) archaeological objects;
  • Acting as an intermediary between finders of scientifically important finds and museum and heritage professionals in a responsible way;
  • Exchanging information on regulations, experience and expertise with international colleagues;
  • Support research through our finds recording databases and other means, by acting as intermediary for finds experts in different regions around the North Sea, and by identifying gaps in archaeological small finds knowledge.

Vision:

  • Stimulate and enhance public engagement and access to the archaeological heritage at local, region, and national level;
  • Improve standards of archaeological work done by members of the public to engender a sense of shared ownership in the past;
  • Enable members of the public to contribute to the recording and handling of archaeological heritage in order to advance knowledge;
  • Advance the democratisation of heritage management in Europe through the incorporation of principles of citizen science and crowd-sourcing.
  • Promote the study of recorded finds as an internationally important body of archaeological evidence for human behaviour and interaction around the North Sea.
Lat: 51.5074 Long: -0.127758

Late Medieval Silver Badge of the Earls of Shrewsbury from Ludlow, Shropshire

Published: Thursday 17th November 2016 Author:

Mr. Ellery, HM Coroner for Shropshire, held a Treasure inquest today into a recently discovered silver late medieval badge. The badge was reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme having been found while searching with a metal-detector on cultivated land near Ludlow last year (July 2015).

The silver badge is in the form of a male Talbot, a breed of large hunting dog. It is shown with its tongue protruding from an open mouth whilst the front foot is raised (mid step) and the tail is looped back upon itself forming a circular hoop at the rear end. The reverse of the badge is flat at the centre of the reverse is a separate but attached circular hoop or ring set horizontally.

This form of dog is the familiar device used by the Talbot family who are the Earls of Shropshire. It was adopted by Sir John Talbot (1384-1453) as his family's crest. A familiar crest is similar to a heraldic design - but less formal. This silver badge can be directly compared to another example discovered in Tong, Shropshire (which was donated by the finder to Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery). The exact date of this form of badge is uncertain - familiar badges are most popular in the 15thand early 16thcenturies although this example could date from the late 16thor the early 17thcentury being similar in form to engraved Talbots on silverwork linked to the Earls of Shrewsbury; for example a silver hawking vervel from Worfield, Shropshire and a seal matrix from Acaster Malbis, Yorkshire.

This is a high status badge which was worn either by the Earl's retinue / men or as a symbol showing support for the family. Its findspot near Ludlow emphasises the important place the town held, being both a royal centre and the location of the Court of the Marches. It was probably lost through chance, in the same way we loose coat buttons or badges today.

Shropshire Museums and the Friends of Ludlow Museum have expressed an interest in acquiring the find for the people of Shropshire - with the hope that it will be displayed in the newly refurbished Ludlow Museum. Now the find has been declared treasure - it will be valued by the Governments Treasure Valuation Committee and the museum will be given a period of grace to raise the relevant funds. These monies will be paid to both the finder and landowner as a reward under the Treasure Act (1996).

Ludlow Museum has a number of important treasures on permanent display including:

The South Shropshire Ring :https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/516447

The Dinham Pommel :http://www.ludlow.gov.uk/Contents/Text/Index.asp?SiteId=817&SiteExtra=1562671&TopNavId=824&NavSideId=17839

Bitterley Hoard:https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/430201

Other Talbot related finds can be seen here:

https://finds.org.uk/database/search/results/description/Talbot/objectType/BADGE

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/269641

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/557192

More information and images of the Talbot Badge (used with permission of British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme) can be found here:

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/735420

More information aboutPASand Treasure can be found here:

https://finds.org.uk/documents/advice.pdf

More Information on Ludlow Museum can be seen here:

https://www.shropshire.gov.uk/museums/ludlow-museum/

For more information, please contact:

Peter Reavill - Finds Liaison Officer (Shropshire and Herefordshire)

Portable Antiquities Scheme

Email: peter.reavill@shropshire.gov.uk

Web:http://finds.org.uk

Twitter:PASin the Marches@PeterReavill

Lat: 52.3697 Long: -2.71811

Roman Brooch Research: Investigating the Polden Hill Type

Published: Thursday 1st September 2016 Author:

In the Roman period, apart from coinage, brooches are the most common metallic artefact type recorded from this region by the PAS (www.finds.org.uk/database). Of these, Polden Hill types are the most common brooch type recorded; the 2200 examples out number examples recorded from fieldwork, and are, therefore a major regional brooch type which has not been studied in detail. It has previously been noted that its distribution is focused on the West Midlands but no recent characterisation of its spatial distribution exists. Costume, as an expression of regional variability, is a current academic research priority and the objects recorded by the PAS offer a major new source for brooches of this type.

The CBA West Midlands Annual Grant Award will enable the team, along with Sally Worrell (PAS National Roman Finds Advisor) to carry out this research, starting with data cleaning and gathering additional data where necessary, mapping the distribution of Polden Hill brooches within and outside the region, and try and identify subtypes. This initial work will then provide the springboard for interpreting the distribution patterns in relation to the social, economic and cultural geography in the West Midlands and beyond.

Once the research has been carried out we will produce a report to be published in West Midlands Archaeology and will give a paper based on the report at the CBA West Midlands News From the Past day school. Other outlets for disseminating the report will be the PASt Explorers County Pages, and to the HERs

Another aspect of the dissemination of this research will be to metal detector users. The PAS data mainly comes from metal detector use on rural sites. Finders often express scepticism concerning the value of recording further examples of brooches. When speaking to a PAS Finds Liaison Officer (FLO), a finder has said, 'You don't want to record another fragment of a Polden Hill brooch.' Drawing on this research, the regional FLOs will therefore give 15 presentations to metal detecting clubs in Herefordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, West Midlands and Staffordshire. This will demonstrate the importance of recording all artefacts discovered, no matter their condition or frequency.

With all the West Midlands data the PAS has recorded over the past 18 years, it is now an exciting time to be able to carry out research and the CBA West Midlands Annual Grant Award has enabled the PAS team to do just that.

Lat: 42.2626 Long: -71.8023

Marine Antiquities Scheme launches at The British Museum

Published: Friday 22nd July 2016 Author:

New scheme to record underwater finds and protect the UK's marine heritage

A scheme to help protect the nation's marine heritage by encouraging the recording of archaeological and historical objects found by marine users in English and Welsh waters waslaunched at the British Museum in London today.

21July 2016

Called the Marine Antiquities Scheme (MAS), it is a joint initiative funded by The Crown Estate, modelled on The British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme for onshore finds and managed by Wessex Archaeology.

The scheme evolved from the realisation that each year divers, fishermen, recreational boat users and other coastal visitors discover many interesting objects and sites while at sea but until now had no way to centrally record them for the wider public benefit.

As part of the scheme, a support team comprised of archaeological experts will research each of the finds submitted to find out more about its origins and history. The information will be published on a public database that is available for all to access.

The database provides opportunities for wider research and awareness as it is openly accessible to anyone interested in learning more about the history hidden under the waves.

Central to the Marine Antiquities Scheme is a simple-to-use app that makes recording finds an easy process and gives finders immediate feedback as well as instructions on their statutory obligations, including the need to report any wreck to Receiver of Wreck.

The app is now available to download from relevant app stores for iOS and Android phones and tablets.

The Crown Estate's Matt Clear said: "The Marine Antiquities Scheme provides a way to record all types of underwater finds and at the same time it will help to both protect and improve the knowledge of our shared underwater cultural heritage.

The Marine Antiquities Scheme provides a way to record all types of underwater finds and at the same time it will help to both protect and improve the knowledge of our shared underwater cultural heritage"

Matthew Clear, The Crown Estate

"The scheme mirrors the highly successful onshore recording initiative, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which has proved hugely successful with more than one million objects recorded since its inception in 1997.

"Given its location, people often don't realise how much activity happens on the seabed, from renewable energy through to cables, pipelines and aggregate extraction. As active managers of this natural resource, we have funded MAS through our stewardship programme to secure the future of our marine heritage whilst also supporting its responsible and sustainable development over the long-term."

The MAS app allows users to locate, record and submit information about archaeological material discovered anywhere within English or Welsh waters from the Mean Low Water Level.

They can also do it on-line via an electronic recording form located on the scheme's websitewww.marinefinds.org.uk.

Chris Bayne, Chief Executive Officer of Wessex Archaeology said: "The Marine Antiquities Scheme provides a means for people to take a truly active part in front line research into our past and allows them to make real contributions towards the understanding and the preservation of our marine heritage.

"Users will benefit from the very best expert knowledge available and will have free, open access to the most up to date information. It will be fascinating to see what people do with this capability in the future."

Michael Lewis, Head of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum said: "The Portable Antiquities Scheme has been a tremendous success, ensuring that many thousands of archaeological finds discovered by the public are recorded and add to our knowledge of Britain's past.

"We hope that the Marine Antiquities Scheme can emulate this success, preserving the record of marine heritage for the future. "

To download the app please visithttp://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/news-and-media/news/2016/new-scheme-to-record-underwater-finds-and-protect-the-uks-marine-heritage/

Anglo-Saxon Rendlesham Conference

Published: Friday 8th January 2016 Author:

Anglo-Saxon Rendlesham
A Royal Centre of the East Anglian Kingdom
One-day conference to present the results of archaeological investigation 2008-2014

At the Apex, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Saturday 24th September 2016, 10am-5pm
Find out more at: heritage.suffolk.gov.uk/rendlesham-conference-2016

Rare Viking hoard from the time of the 'last kingdom' found in Oxfordshire

Published: Thursday 10th December 2015 Author:

Watlington Hoard, a selection

At the launch of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Treasure annual reports in the British Museum's Citi Money Gallery, Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture, announced the discovery of a significant Viking Hoard. Uncovered near Watlington, Oxfordshire, the hoard dates from the time of the 'last kingdom', when the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex were fighting for their survival from the threat of a 'Great Heathen Army', a fight which was to lead to the unification of England.

The find includes rare coins of King Alfred 'the Great' of Wessex (r.871-99) and King Ceolwulf II of Mercia (874-79), as well as Viking arm-rings and silver ingots, and is said by archaeologists to be nationally significant. The hoard was found at Watlington by James Mather, a metal-detectorist, and excavated by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The find was block-lifted and brought to the British Museum where the soil-block was excavated in the lab, and the finds studied by experts from the Ashmolean and British Museums. The hoard consists of 186 coins (some fragmentary), 7 items of jewellery and 15 ingots.

A selection of photos can be viewed on the Portable Antiquities Scheme Flickr site, here:https://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/albums/72157662136312876

The hoard was buried around the end of the 870s, in the period following Alfred's decisive defeat of the Vikings at Edington in 878. Following their defeat, the Vikings moved north of the Thames and travelled to East Anglia through the kingdom of Mercia. It seems likely that the hoard was buried in the course of these events, although the precise circumstances will never be known.

James Mather, the finder of the hoard, said

"Discovering this exceptional hoard has been a really great experience and helping excavate it with archaeologists from the PAS on my 60thbirthday was the icing on the cake!It highlights how responsible metal detecting, supportive landowners and the PAS contribute to national archaeological heritage. I hope these amazing artefactscan be displayed by a local museum to be enjoyed by generations to come."

Gareth Williams, Curator of Early Medieval Coinage,
"
The hoard comes from a key moment in English history. At around the same time, Alfred of Wessex decisively defeated the Vikings, and Ceolwulf II, the last king of Mercia quietly disappeared from the historical record in uncertain circumstances. Alfred and his successors then forged a new kingdom of England by taking control of Mercia, before conquering the regions controlled by the Vikings. This hoard has the potential to provide important new information on relations between Mercia and Wessex at the beginning of that process."

Under the Treasure Act 1996 there is a legal obligation for finders to report such finds. Since 1997, when the Act became law the number of finds reported has increased fivefold from 201 cases in 1998 (the first full year of the Act) to 990 in 2013, and 1008 in 2014. If declared Treasure such finds may be acquired by museums, with preference going to the local museum. Of the finds reported Treasure in 2013 (the last year for which figures are available), 363 were acquired by 91 local museums, so they can be displayed close to where the items were discovered.

If declared Treasure, the Ashmolean Museum and Oxfordshire Museums Service will be working in partnership with others, and potential funders, to try to ensure that this important find can be displayed for local people to learn about and enjoy.

Lat: 51.6445 Long: -1.00763

Regionally important Anglo-Saxon silver hooks with entwined beasts go on display at Whitchurch Museum.

Published: Tuesday 1st December 2015 Author:

Hooked Tags Prees

Whitchurch Museum haveacquired a pair of silver engraved hooks dating from the late 9th or 10th centuryAD. This acquisition has been supported by the Art Fund and many local contributors including Whitchurch Town Council, Prees Parish Council, Shropshire Archaeological Society, Whitchurch Historical and Archaeological Group. The hooks were discovered in the Prees area, North Shropshire, by two individual metal detectorists some two years apart. The two finds were reported to the Coroner as potential treasure under the 1996 Treasure Act. Today is the first time they have been on display since their loss some 1100 years ago

The hooks are very similar to one another and form a matching pair. Each hook is of a similar shape with two sewing holes positioned on one edge. They are both decorated with similar entwined beasts which oppose one another. The exact beast is unknown - some think they could be hound / hunting dogs, whilst others prefer that they are deer. The bodies of each animal is enclosed within interlace in the 'Trewhiddle' form - this style of decoration helps date the design. The craftsmen who made the tags would have hand carved / chased the intricate design from the flat panel and then filled the grooves with niello. Niello is made of silver, lead and copper and when applied would have been a blue black colour. A thousand years in the Shropshire soil has removed most of this surface, but originally the design would have been one of contrasts between bright silver hound and a dull black coloured background.

The function of the hooks is also unclear; similar examples have been found with burials often being positioned around the knees / legs. This has led some specialists to believe that they were used on clothing - possibly as garter hooks to stop socks / trousers slipping. However, other evidence from coin hoards suggests that these hooks were used on satchel, purses, or leather bags to close them; this would explain why they are found in graves near the legs. The coin hoards also help to date their use - with the best example being found in a hoard of English coins discovered in the Forum in Rome which was dated to AD 945. Very few pairs of tags are known and of those recovered to date these are the most decoratively elaborate and well preserved.

Although we can marvel at the opulence and decorative skill of the people who made these very fine objects - we are at a loss to say something about their original owner. We do know that they were of high status and that to find the two hooks within the same area suggests that they were lost together. Material from the early medieval period is very rare in Western Britain and Shropshire has very few finds of this date. We do know that Whitchurch was an important Roman town (Mediolanum), being positioned between the important cities of Uriconium (Wroxeter) and Castrum (Chester). Although we have very few finds of Saxon date there is nothing to suggest that its regional importance at the heart of the Roman road network, doesn't continue into the Saxon and Medieval periods.

Our current lack of understanding of the period makes the discovery and reporting of these finds especially precious; the two detectorists who found the hooks have shed light on a very poorly understood part of our history. Hopefully as time goes by more material from this period will come to light and tell us about our ancestors.

Peter Reavill

Portable Antiquities Scheme - Shropshire and Herefordshire

Twitter:PASin the Marches@PeterReavill

Whitchurch Museum is especially grateful to the following people and groups for their generous support in acquiring these amazing finds:

The Art Fund, The late Miss Marjorie Jones, Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, Whitchurch Town Council, Prees Parish Council, Whitchurch History and Archaeology Group, Mr and Mrs Adams, Mr and Mrs Willis, The Frioends of Whitchurch Heritage and St Alkmans Lodge (no 2311).

Quotes:

Mrs Peggy Mullock - County Councillor for Whitchurch North

This is a "great coup for Whitchurch and the local area - it's only right that the tags should be kept in the museum nearest to where they were found"

Dr Judith Hoyle - Volunteer Curator at Whitchurch Museum & Archives

"As an accredited museum Whitchurch Heritage Centre was offered the chance to acquire these important items of Treasure by The British Museum. Thanks to a substantial grant from the Art Fund and the generosity of groups and individuals we were able to raise the amount of money required.

There are currently no Early Medieval items in the collection and so the pair of silver tags nicely bridge the gap between our Roman and late Medieval finds. These important artefacts not only enhance the collection but showcase the talents and abilities of previous inhabitants of the area."

Information on the Treasure Act can be found here:

https://finds.org.uk/documents/advice.pdf

Images of the tags and more detailed reports can be seen here:

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/560071

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/473156

All images can be downloaded and used freely - please acknowledge their source and that: They are used with the permission of the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Information about Whitchurch Heritage Centre can be found here:

http://www.whitchurch-heritage.co.uk/

Details of The Art Fund purchase scheme

http://www.artfund.org/

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