News from the Scheme

Archaeologist of the Year and Rescue Excavation awards at CA Live 2011

Published: 10 years ago Author:

Sam Moorhead with the Scheme's staffLast weekend saw the Current Archaeology Live 2011 conference at the British Museum and Saturday night saw the presentation of a variety of awards to individuals and organisations. These awards were voted for by the readers of Current Archaeology magazine and website, and two Scheme related categories were available for voting.

The Scheme's National Adviser for Roman and Iron Age coins, Sam Moorhead, was awarded the 'Archaeologist of the Year' award, against stiff opposition from Philip Crummy and Tam Ward. Sam's nomination read as:

Sam Moorhead is the National Finds Advisor for Iron Age and Roman coins in the Department of Portable Antiquities at the British Museum. But he is much more than that: his many achievements and the range of his contributions to archaeology are truly phenomenal. He is a specialist and scholar of the highest standards, yet at the same time a very modest, self-effacing colleague, and also a populariser with a missionary zeal about bringing the prehistoric and ancient worlds alive for the general audience. He has been especially prominent over the last year because of his involvement in the AD 410 commemorations, and in the excavation and analysis of the Frome Hoard - the biggest hoard of Roman coins ever found in Britain.

Sam was central to the major two-day conference at the British Museum in March to debate the end of Roman Britain, which saw the emergence of a new academic consensus that is likely to underpin research for a generation. And, despite his extensive commitments, he also found time to co-author a superb narrative history book, AD 410 - The Year That Shook Rome.

Sam, as modest as ever dedicated the award to our late colleague, Geoff Egan. Sam's involvement in archaeology has seen him excavate extensively in Israel (Tel Jezreel and Caesarea), teaching at Ardingly College in Sussex, lecturing all round the country at universities, NADFAS meetings and metal detecting clubs, trustee at the Palestine Exploration Fund and membership of numerous academic societies. He even recently dressed as a slave at the Roman Society's Centenary celebrations at the British Museum and has been awarded Honorary Lecturership status at University College London.

The CA246 coverSecondly, the amazing discovery of the Frome Hoard, was nominated in the 'Rescue excavation of the Year' category, a dig co-ordinated by Alan Graham, which has yielded amazing results and 52,503 coins that will keep the new archaeologist of the year and his colleagues extremely busy for a few years to come. The dig's story was documented in Current Archaeology 246 and Sam Moorhead accepted the award on behalf of all who were involved in the discovery (Dave Crisp - the finder) and excavation (Anna Booth, Alan Graham, Steve Minnitt, Naomi Payne, Katie Hinds). The hoard's excavation and the story behind the discovery are also told in the recent publication - Frome Hoard (Moorhead, Booth and Bland 2010) and it is hoped that following a national fund raising campaign, that it is acquired for Somerset.

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Geoffrey Egan PhD, FSA Archaeologist and finds expert

Published: 10 years ago Author:

19.10.51 - 24.12.10  

Full version of obituary by Chris Catling submitted to the Times

Geoff Egan framed in a hatch

Shakespeare's description of Autolycus, the pickpocket and pedlar in A Winter's Tale, as 'a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles', aptly sums up Geoff Egan, who was a world expert on just the kind of novelties, toys, trinkets, buttons, hooks and bells that would have formed the stock-in-trade of an Elizabethan fairground hawker or packman.

In archaeological parlance, Egan was a 'small finds expert', but where most specialists in this field narrow their studies to one type of object, Egan had an encyclopaedic knowledge of a multiplicity of objects. In the children's toys, dice or pilgrims' badges that he studied, or the lead seals that were the subject of his doctoral thesis, attached to cloth by the maker, sometimes by finishers (eg the dyers) and the taxation authorities as a guarantee of provenance and quality, Egan initially saw stories of daily life and changing fashion and the developing economy of a city that was to become the capital of a worldwide empire, but his interests became much more wide ranging and encompassed the trade, economy and life of all Europe and beyond.

Born in Harrow, Egan was the son of Daphne, who was a lab technician before her marriage and Dr Harold Egan, the distinguished biochemist who had held the position of Government Chemist between 1970 and 1981. Educated at Harrow grammar school, Geoffrey Egan went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge, initially to read Classics. Friends there introduced him to the sociable tea room in the Archaeology and Anthropology Faculty, an institution that has played a catalytic role in the lives of many now-eminent archaeologists, and Egan soon realised how he wanted to spend the rest of his life.

The periods that interested Egan most - the medieval and post-medieval - were still regarded as 'fringe' territory in the 1970s, the realm of the historian rather than the archaeologist. That began to change with the rapid pace of development in London and the discovery that during the Roman and medieval periods large parcels of land had been reclaimed from the Thames, each plot of new land being infilled with whatever refuse lay to hand.

For archaeologists, these waterlogged wharfs, with their well-preserved organic objects of wood, leather and textile, provided a fascinating insight into the domestic and industrial life of the developing city, and it was to this 'detritus' that Egan devoted his life after graduating in 1976. Employed initially as a 'digger' on those waterfront excavations (intermittently also working as a gardener at Kew), he rose to the rank of site supervisor with the Museum of London's Department of Urban Archaeology before becoming the museum's specialist in medieval and later non-ceramic finds.

It was in this capacity that he published more than 100 papers in academic journals, and an impressive series of books on small finds from London that are now classic reference works, These include such major monographs as Dress Accessories (1991, with Frances Pritchard), Lead Cloth Seals (1995), Playthings from the Past (1996), The Medieval Household (1998), Trifles, Toys and Trinkets (2005, with Hazel Forsyth), Material Culture in an Age of Transition (2006), about everyday objects from the Tudor and Stuart periods, and Meols: The Archaeology of the North Wirral Coast, (2007, co-written with David Griffiths and Robert Philpott) about the enormous number of later medieval and post-medieval finds discovered at the site of a beach market at Meols, on the Wirral Peninsula.

Egan relished nothing better than finding a type of object that had been neglected in recent scholarship. He would then scour libraries and antiquarian bookshops for anything that would throw light on the subject - preferably works contemporary with the objects he was studying. He read voraciously until he had mastered all the facts about the manufacture, use and date of the object. As a result, the house in which he was born in Wembley, and that he had inherited from his parents, was filled with a sea of books.

He taught himself German, Russian and several Scandinavian languages in order to read excavation reports and was an adventurous traveller, visiting museums as far afield as Mongolia in order to add to his store of knowledge, and very often being welcomed on arrival with boxes of objects that he would be asked to identify. One such journey of 100 days took him round the world in 49 plane flights and numerous trains in 1987 and stemmed from his desire to visit a life-long friend working in Papua New Guinea.

His natural gifts as a communicator meant that he was much in demand as a speaker, and he was just as much at home talking to an international conference in Lubeck, Nuremberg or Gdansk as he was talking to a local society or metal detecting club in Blackpool or Liverpool.

He was a founder member of the Finds Research Group in 1984 and served on its committee for 19 years, organising several of its conferences and trips. Having been on the council of the Society of Post-Medieval Archaeology since 1982, he served as its President from 2005 to 2008, co-editing the 50th anniversary volume of the Society's journal in 2009 and organising conferences for that Society - choosing faraway places that he wanted to visit, such as the West Indies or Williamsburg, Virginia.

In 2004, Egan was seconded part-time from the Museum of London to the British Museum as National Finds Adviser on Early Medieval to Post Medieval Finds for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and from July 2010 the post, which he described as his dream job, was made permanent. At the BM, his legendary knowledge was put to effective use in identifying tens of thousands of finds brought to the museum by members of the public every year, the most interesting of which he wrote up in successive Portable Antiquities and Treasure Annual Reports and in the Journal of Post-Medieval Archaeology.

In May 2009, Egan was elected Master of the Company of Arts Scholars, Dealers and Collectors - quite possibly the first time that a professional archaeologist had ever served as the head of a City of London guild. Nobody who was there will forget the Company's Fourth Annual Lecture, given by Egan on 25 October 2010 at Carpenters' Hall on the subject of 'Glorious Mud: treasures from the Thames', made memorable by the playing of a replica of a late 14th-century trumpet, 1.6 metres in length, that Geoff had found whilst undertaking a watching brief at Billingsgate Market lorry park.

For Egan, that Thames mud was a huge lucky dip that kept on giving up archaeological treasures (in recent weeks for example, volunteers working for the Thames Discovery Programme have found the 30m-long skeleton of a right whale and London's oldest structure, a 6,000-year old timber structure at Vauxhall). At a time when many in the archaeological community were hostile to the activities of mudlarks and detectorists scouring the foreshore for finds, Egan shared their passion for discovery and helped to bridge the two worlds. Such was his rapport with the detectorists that when the History Channel recently made a programme about them ('Mud Men'; to be broadcast in February 2011), they told the producer that Geoff was 'god'. Egan would have been as proud of the tributes paid to him on detectorists' social media sites since his death as of any academic accolade.

Egan died suddenly, of a coronary thrombosis, in the prime of life and with much left to give. Despite his sociability, love of jazz and good food, and large and international circle of friends, his lifestyle was not one easily shared with a companion, and he never married. He came from a loving and supportive family, and he regarded his best friend and next of kin, the landscape architect Graham Martin, as more like a brother than the cousin he was.

Geoffrey Egan, medieval and post-medieval finds expert, was born on October 19, 1951. He died on December 24, 2010, aged 59.

Obituary from The Searcher, and also submitted to the Guardian by Roger Bland

Geoff Egan, who died on 24 December 2010, was the leading expert in medieval and later small finds and pioneered liaison with the 'mudlarks' who search for finds on the Thames foreshore in London. Digging in thick mud against the tide, mudlarks have retrieved a fascinating trove of metal artefacts that had been lost by generations of Londoners on the banks of the Thames. In the 1970s they were shunned by many professional archaeologists, who deplored what they saw as their unscientific methods of retrieval, but many had great expertise in the finds they made and some, like Tony Pilson, donated their collections to the Museum of London and the British Museum.

Geoff had done some mudlarking himself. Together with his colleague Hazel Forsyth, Geoff published the collection of Toys, Trifles and Trinkets that Tony Pilson donated to the Museum of London. This pioneering work studied a class of artefact (children's metal toys made between about 1200 and 1800) that had not been recognised by archaeologists before the discoveries of the mudlarks brought significant numbers to light. 

As the specialist in medieval and later non-ceramic finds in the Museum of London Archaeology Service Geoff played a key role in the series of catalogues on Medieval Finds from Excavations in London which are an essential reference for all specialists in this period, and he was personally responsible for two volumes: The Medieval Household and Dress Accessories (with Frances Pritchard). He also wrote Material Culture in London in an Age of Transition: Tudor & Stuart Period Finds from Southwark.

Another area of interest centred on the lead seals that were affixed to textiles sent out in trade from the 14th to the 18th centuries: Geoff appreciated that recording the find spots of these unprepossessing objects can give us much information about the cloth trade, for a long time was the main source of the England's prosperity. Geoff's study of these led to a doctorate from the Institute of Archaeology London and also resulted in a publication of a catalogue of seals in the British Museum. Geoff was also a key player in the project to catalogue the unique series of finds from the enigmatic site of Meols on the Wirral coast: the settlement itself has disappeared into the sea (it is thought to have been a beach market) and it is known mainly to us through the finds. The monumental catalogue, written with David Griffiths and Rob Philpott, is another key reference for specialists. In all Geoff contributed more than 100 papers and notes to both national and county journals.

Geoff Egan was born in Wembley in north-west London on 19 October 1951, the only son of Daphne and Dr Harold Egan, who was the Government Chemist between 1970 and 1981 and later wrote the history of the Laboratory of the Government Chemist. Geoff was educated at what he described as the 'academic hothouse' of Harrow County School, and gained a place at Peterhouse College Cambridge to study Classics, although he subsequently switched to Archaeology and Anthropology, which he found more congenial. This change was to dictate the course of his career. 

After graduation in 1975 Geoff worked for a while at Kew Gardens, but a life-long love of travel took him to Norway, where he ended up working on an archaeological excavation in Trondheim and his future career as an archaeologist was set. On his return to England in 1976 he obtained a job as an archaeologist at the Museum of London, and he stayed there for the next 34 years. Starting on the bottom rung, Geoff worked his way up to be a fieldwork director before becoming a finds specialist.

The 1970s were great days in the excavations of London as the boom in the redevelopment of the City led to an enormous upsurge in archaeological excavations and the Department of Urban Archaeology at the Museum of London, as it then was, was created to respond to this need. 

Geoff's encyclopaedic knowledge of finds and his experience in working with the mudlarks meant that his expertise was of great value to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, established in 1997 to record finds made by members of the public. Geoff had had a part-time role with the Scheme since 2004 and in July 2010 he was appointed to a full-time post as Finds Adviser for the Scheme, based at the British Museum. He said this was his dream job and it is a tragic loss that he held it for so short a time, dying of coronary thrombosis at his home just before Christmas. Geoff was always keen to share his encyclopaedic knowledge of finds with experts and amateurs alike. He was in great demand as a speaker and he was as much at home talking at an international conference as to a local society or metal detecting club - in the month before he died he had spoken at an archaeological colloquium in Lübeck, advising Gdansk museum on their collections, while the next week he was back speaking at a metal detecting club in Blackpool. His sheer enthusiasm and knowledge was infectious. When ITN proposed to make a series of programmes called Mud Men on finds from the Thames foreshore, shortly to be screened on the History Channel, the mudlarks urged ITN to engage Geoff's services - they said that as far as they were concerned he was 'god'.

Geoff did not have great respect for authority, whether that was Peterhouse College Cambridge, or his managers in his professional life, but he loved working with fellow-archaeologists and researchers through societies. He was greatly loved by his peers and of the many people I have spoken to about him, no one had a bad word to say about him. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, he was also a linch-pin of the Finds Research Group, organising several of its conferences and visits and speaking at most of them. He had been on the council of the Society of Post-Medieval Archaeology since 1982 and served as its President from 2005 to 2008. He also organised conferences for that Society - preferably in faraway places such as the West Indies or Williamsburg, Virginia. He had a great love of travel and built up many friends in European and American museums: he had accompanied the Finds Research Group on a trip to Nuremberg two weeks before he died. But perhaps the organisation that gave Geoff greatest pleasure was the Company of Arts Scholars, Collectors and Dealers, one of the newest of the city guilds. Geoff served as its master in 2009-10 and one of his proudest moments was last summer when he joined members of the guild who exercised their right as freemen of the City of London and to drive a flock of sheep across London Bridge.

Geoff was a magpie. His home in Wembley, where he lived all his life, was crammed full of the fruits of his collecting, from his childhood collection of pottery sherds and other antiquities, all neatly classified in metal cabinets, to a massive collection of books.

He even kept the many tickets he accumulated from his extensive travels. He never took to modern technology. ITN were surprised to learn that he did not possess a mobile phone and the ways of computers were a bit of a mystery to him: he continually battled with his e-mail inbox. Geoff would have been more at home with a quill pen in the tradition of 18th century gentleman scholars such as William Stukeley.

Donations

Donations in memory of Geoff may sent to The Company of Arts Scholars Charitable Trust, c/o The Clerk, 28 AldebertLondon SW8 1BJ (http://www.artsscholars.org/)

Memorial event

There will be a memorial event for Geoff in the BP lecture theatre at the British Museum from 2 to 5.30 pm on 24 March at which his friends and colleagues will contribute their memories of him and there will also be clips from the TV series Mud Men.

All are welcome and there is no charge; please contact ccostin@britishmuseum.org to reserve a place.

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CBA Community Archaeology bursaries

Published: 10 years ago Author:

CBA logo, text in a green backgroundThe CBA is advertising nine 12-month-long training placements in community archaeology across England, Wales and Scotland.

The Council for British Archaeology, a registered charity (287815) with a secretariat based in York, is advertising nine 12-month-long training placements in community archaeology, supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, with additional support from English Heritage, Cadw, Historic Scotland and the Welsh Archaeological Trusts.

The Community Archaeology Bursaries Project supports work-based training placements across the UK which aim to provide valuable workplace learning opportunities for individuals with a background in archaeology who are seeking to develop their skills in working with community groups and running community archaeology projects.

This is the first round of such placements over the next three years. The host organisations and locations for the Year one Community Archaeology Training Placements (CATPs) are:

  • Cadw (Cardiff)
  • Centre for Applied Archaeology, University of Salford (Manchester)
  • Dyfed Archaeological Trust (Llandeilo)
  • Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust (Swansea)
  • Gwynedd Archaeological Trust (Bangor)
  • National Museums Liverpool (Liverpool)
  • Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (Edinburgh)
  • Surrey County Archaeological Unit (Woking)
  • York Archaeological Trust (York)

Bursary: See individual job descriptions

For complete details of these training placements (including the application forms) please download the relevant application pack via our Community Archaeology Training Placements page (www.britarch.ac.uk/community/bursaries/CATPs), or visit the host organisation websites.

Closing date for all CATP applications: Friday 11th February
Interview dates: See individual application packs.

For specific queries about the Community Archaeology Bursaries Project, email us on bursaries@britarch.ac.uk.
 

Memorial event for Geoff Egan

Published: 10 years ago Author:

Geoff in his Guild regaliaThere will be a memorial event for Geoff Egan from 2 to 5.30 pm on 24 March in the BP lecture theatre in the Clore Education centre at the British Museum when Geoff's friends and colleagues will contribute their memories, followed by a party. Speakers include John Cherry of the Finds Research Group and formerly of the British Museum, Hazel Forsyth of the Museum of London, Gus Milne of the Institute of Archaeology, Paul Courtney of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology, a representative of the mudlarks and Mark Bridge of the Company of Arts Scholars. All are welcome. Admission is free but booking is required; please contact ccostin@britishmuseum.org

The following is the text of the address that Roger Bland gave at Geoff's funeral on the 14th January:

Graham has asked me to say a few words on Geoff as a professional colleague, but I am very conscious that there are many people here - colleagues from the Museum of London, from the other organisations with which he was involved, representatives of the mudlarks - who have known him for much longer than me.

So I will talk mainly about my own knowledge of Geoff since he first came to work for PAS in 2004, at first on a part-time basis on secondment from the Museum of London, and then full-time since last July when we were able to create a full-time post for him at the British Museum. It might be a cliché to say this, but in Geoff's case it is literally true: he leaves a gap that cannot be filled. We created a post for him at the British Museum because of his immense knowledge of medieval and post-medieval finds, and we do not think that we will be able to replace him.

I'm not an expert in Geoff's field but when I came to set up the network of staff in the Portable Antiquities Scheme in the late 1990s more and more people told me about this legendary character at the Museum of London Archaeology Service who had pioneered liaison with the people who search for finds on the Thames foreshore - the mudlarks - in the 1970s and who knew all there was to know about small finds from London. The mudlarks have retrieved a fascinating trove of metal artefacts lost by generations of Londoners on the banks of the Thames and Geoff was one of the first archaeologists to recognise the importance of what they were finding and actively to seek their co-operation. I learned from Graham that he and Geoff had done some mudlarking themselves, many years ago. Geoff's approach has undoubtedly paid off.

Together with his colleague Hazel Forsyth, Geoff published the collection of Toys, Trifles and Trinkets that Tony Pilson donated to the Museum of London. This pioneering work studied a class of artefact (children's metal toys from 1200 to 1800) that had not been recognised by archaeologists before the discoveries of the mudlarks brought significant numbers of them to light. This book is an excellent example of the collaborative way in which Geoff worked: it was written jointly by himself and his colleague Hazel Forsyth, based on the collection that he had encouraged the mudlark Tony Pilson generously to donate to the Museum and the volume was funded by the late Jonathan Horne, an antiques dealer who was to introduce Geoff to the Guild.

Geoff also played a key part in the great series of catalogues of medieval finds from London excavations, written with colleagues from the Museum of London, and he wrote two of them himself: Dress Accessories and The Medieval Household. He opened our eyes to the significance of cloth seals - the lead seals affixed to textiles sent out in trade from the 14th to the 18th centuries. He appreciated that recording the findspots of these unprepossessing objects can give us much information about the cloth trade, for a long time was the main source of the England's prosperity. His study of these led to a doctorate from the Institute of Archaeology London and also resulted in a publication of a catalogue of seals in the British Museum.

Geoff was a key player in the project to catalogue the unique series of finds from the enigmatic site of Meols on the Wirral coast: the settlement itself has disappeared into the sea (it is thought to have been a beach market) and it is known mainly to us through the finds. The monumental catalogue, written with David Griffiths and Rob Philpott, is another key reference for specialists. Geoff also contributed more than 100 papers and notes to both national and county journals. This would be an extremely impressive body of scholarship for anyone, but even more so for someone who for most of his career was a finds expert at the Museum of London Archaeology Service and who was snatched from us prematurely. There is no doubt that his published work will stand as Geoff's most lasting legacy.

But Geoff did so much more than write books and articles. He was in huge demand as a speaker and he was just as much at home talking to an international conference or to a local society or metal detecting club - in the month before he died he had spoken at an archaeological colloquium in Lubeck and he had also been asked to advise the museum in Gdansk on their collections, while the next week he was back speaking at a metal detecting club in Blackpool. His sheer enthusiasm and knowledge was infectious. When ITN came to us because they were making a series of programmes called Mud Men on finds from the Thames Foreshore, presented by Steve Brooker and Johnnie Vaughan, Steve, an experienced detectorist on the Thames, told the TV people that they needed to engage Geoff's services - he said that as far as mudlarks were concerned Geoff was 'god'. ITN soon realised that Steve was right, even though they sometimes had a bit of a job working with someone who didn't own a mobile phone. The series will be shown on the History Channel next month and will serve as a memorial to Geoff.

In fact I don't think Geoff ever really got to grips with modern technology - computers were scary objects whose ways were a bit of a mystery to him. Although he was a great lecturer PowerPoint was not for him: Geoff preferred to stick to slides if he could, even though slide projectors are beginning to become hard to find. Graham told me how he found a very smart laptop at Geoff's home, but it didn't have a single file on it. And as for e-mails - his battles with the message 'your e-mail inbox is full' were legendary. I think Geoff would really have been more at home with a quill pen and in many ways one could imagine him as an antiquarian gentleman scholar of the 18th century in the tradition of William Stukeley.

Geoff didn't always have a great respect for authority - whether that was Peterhouse College Cambridge, where he took his degree, although he made life-long friends there - or his managers in his professional life. But he loved working with fellow-archaeologists and researchers through societies. He was a founder member of the Finds Research Group in 1982 and served on its committee for 19 years, organising several of its conferences and visits and speaking at more of them. He had been on the council of the Society of Post-Medieval Archaeology since 1982 and served as its President from 2005 to 2008. He also organised conferences for that Society - preferably in faraway places such as the West Indies or Williamsburg, Virginia. Geoff loved travel and built up many friends in European and American museums: he had accompanied the Finds Research Group on a trip to Nuremberg just before he died.

Geoff was an active Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a prominent member of the Essay Club and was in demand to speak on new finds at the Society's ballot meetings. But perhaps the organisation which gave Geoff greatest pleasure was the Company of Arts Scholars, Collectors and Dealers, one of the newest of the city guilds. Geoff had just served a term as its master and, although one would not normally associate the term 'sartorial elegance' with Geoff there is a magnificent image on the Guild's website showing Geoff in a suit wearing his chain of office. One of his proudest moments was last summer when members of the guild exercised their right as freemen of the City of London to drive a flock of sheep across London Bridge. I think the verdict of those who witnessed this event was that Geoff had better stick to his day job than look for a new career as a shepherd.

There is so much more that could be said about Geoff as a colleague and a scholar and we are going to hold a memorial event for him in the British Museum on the afternoon of March 24th. We have booked the biggest lecture theatre and I expect that it will be full, because he had so many friends. I hope you will be able to come.

It is hard to think that we here at the funeral of someone who was so recently so full of life.

I think that this passage from that great work of history, Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People is apt here. It was advice given to Edwin, King of Northumbria, by one of his courtiers when the King was considering whether to convert to Christianity:

"This is how the present life of man of earth, King, appears to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us. You are sitting feasting with your ealdormen and thegns in winter time; the fire is burning on the hearth in the middle of the hall and all inside is warm, while outside the wintry storms of rain and snow are raging; and a sparrow flies swiftly through the hall. It enters in at one door and quickly flies out through the other. For a few moments it is inside, the storm and wintry tempest cannot touch it, but after the briefest moment of calm, it flits from your sight, out of the wintry storm and into it again. So this life of man appears for a moment; what follows or indeed what went before, we know not at all."

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Geoff Egan RIP

Published: 10 years ago Author:

London Bridge Anniversary Fayre

The Scheme is very sad to announce the untimely death of our friend and colleague Geoff Egan. Geoff died shortly before Christmas from a coronary thrombosis at home. He will be missed by all who have been touched by his presence. An appreciation of Geoff has been posted by Paul Courtney, Society for Post-medieval Archaeology at http://independent.academia.edu/paulcourtney/Blog

In due course more tributes will be collated on our site.

Requiescat in pace.

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Ashmolean Museum acquires a hoard of Angels this Christmas

Published: 10 years ago Author:

No. 174: Richard III '(boar's head 2 / sun and rose no. ?)' - you can see his insignia, the boar's head, on the prow of the ship on the reverse.Today, the Ashmolean Museum is delighted to announce the acquisition of a spectacular Tudor hoard of 210 English gold angels and half-angel coins, found in the Cotswolds, Oxfordshire. Spanning the period from 1470-1526, covering the Wars of the Roses to ten years before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the hoard is the largest intact assemblage of its kind. It contains some rare pieces, most notably from the reign of Kings Henry VI, 2nd reign (1470-1471) and Richard III (1483-1485).

The Ashmolean successfully secured more than half of the hoard's asking price through private, philanthropic giving with the remaining monies raised through government funding and grants from public sources. Over and above the £64,000 from NHMF, the following helped to raise the money: £28,000 from The MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund; £10,000 from The Headley Trust; and £178,000 from the following: Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Seaman; Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza; The Mougins Museum of Classical Art; The Carl and Eileen Subak Family Foundation; The Friends of the Ashmolean; The Elias Ashmole Group; The Tradescant Patrons Group.

Dr Christopher Brown, Director of the Ashmolean, said

We are extremely grateful to the individuals and funding bodies for their very generous contributions towards this remarkable hoard. Not only will the hoard be a great addition to our renowned collection but it makes a significant contribution to the history of Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds, and to our understanding of the production and circulation of gold coinage in the early Tudor period.

Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the NHMF, said:

This is clearly an inspirational collection. That it has now been saved for future generations to enjoy is testament to how private philanthropy, government funds such as the National Heritage Memorial Fund and public funding bodies can effectively come together to secure our most important heritage treasures.

Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, said:

This is great news. Safeguarding this rare collection shows how philanthropy, with the support of Government money through NHMF and additional corporate subsidy, can come together to help protect our rich and irreplaceable heritage for everyone's benefit and for all time.

The hoard was discovered in the summer of 2007 during building work in the village of Asthall, near Burford. It was declared Treasure in April 2010 and was valued by Treasure Valuation Committee at £280,000 on 12 August. It was unearthed on land which belonged to Eton College at the turn of the sixteenth century. The Tudor gold was buried in the early period of Henry VIII (1509-1547); it is possible this was connected to the hiding of Church wealth, in the context of the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII. Alternatively, it may represent a merchant's wealth - whatever the reason, the Asthall hoard is testimony to the accumulation of wealth in the region, made particularly rich from the wool trade.

Angels and half-angels were first minted in 1465, bearing the Archangel Michael slaying the dragon on the obverse. It has been suggested that this is an allegory of the overthrow of Lancaster by York. European culture in the fifteenth century was a time of chivalry and lay piety. This religious theme continues on the reverse design,where the traditional ship borne by the gold nobles since 1344 is super-imposed by a cross, and by the inscriptions:

  • Per Crucem Tuam Salva Nos Christe Redemptor: - Through thy cross save us, Christ Redeemer (on the angels);
  • O Crux Ave Spes Unica - Hail! O Cross, our only hope (on the half-angels).

In the second half of the fifteenth century, the introduction of the angel with its overtly pious message coincided with the popular practice of the Royal Touch. Since medieval times, kings have been involved in the healing of tuberculosis of the neck (scrofula, the King's Evil), a practice which involved touching (Royal Touch), and the giving of alms in the shape of coins. Touch pieces retained the design of angel coins for centuries.

Following conservation, the hoard will go on display in a special exhibition in the Ashmolean's new Money Gallery for a year from 22 March 2011. It will become a key part of the Museum's permanent collection of coins, one of the leading currency collections in the world.

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The future of the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Published: 10 years ago Author:

The Scheme's logoThe BM has agreed with DCMS to take responsibility for the governance and management of PAS with effect from 1 April 2011. DCMS is providing ring-fenced funding (from the Renaissance budget), which will be cut by 15% in real terms, from £1.412m in 2010-11 to £1.323m in 2014-15. This is the same reduction that the national museums and the Renaissance have received.

The British Museum's priority in taking the Scheme forward is to preserve the front line services provided by the current network of Finds Liaison Officers as far as possible and the following measures will be necessary:

  • To cease printing the Portable Antiquities & Treasure Annual Report. One final combined Portable Antiquities & Treasure Annual Report will be published in spring 2011 and thereafter short Treasure Annual Reports will be printed. The PAS website, www.finds.org.uk will contain new pages giving access to details of all Treasure finds from a particular year;
  • To reduce the current contribution made by the Scheme to PAS in Wales, the total costs of which is £75K pa, from £59K this year to £6K from 2012. This is on the basis that these costs should be borne by the Welsh Assembly Government, through CyMAL or the National Museum Wales;
  • To offer the partners that currently employ the 38 Finds Liaison Officers and 5 National Finds Advisers contracts based on this year's staff and travel costs, frozen for four years, and to make savings of £40K pa in the non-staff and travel elements of these grants
  • The remaining staff will be unaffected: the central unit and the National Finds Advisers. In a separate agreement, the DCMS has renewed the funding for the Treasure team which is also based in the British Museum.

The Museum hopes that the 33 partners which employ staff in the Scheme will be able to renew the contracts on this basis. We will work with the National Museum Wales is order to make the case for the continued funding of PAS in Wales.

There were no easy ways to reduce the funding for the Scheme since 92% of it is used for staff costs, but we hope that these measures will enable us to continue to focus on the main aim of PAS to record archaeological objects found by the public.


Head of Portable Antiquities & Treasure
British Museum

24 November 2011

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British Museum to manage the Portable Antiquities Scheme, as exciting new finds go on display

Published: 10 years ago Author:

Ed Vaizey with the Northern Ireland bracelet, next to the Nether Stowey HoardCulture Minister Ed Vaizey today confirmed that the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) will be managed directly by the British Museum from April 2011.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said:

'Following a tough Spending Review settlement we will wish to maintain the integrity of the Portable Antiquities Scheme as much as we can. Bringing both the PAS and the administration of the Treasure Act together under the management of the British Museum will ensure an effective and efficient mechanism for dealing with archaeological finds made by the public, which also compliments the work of curators, conservators and others at the museum'.

Funding for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is currently managed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, (MLA) has been agreed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with a reduction of 15% in real terms over four years.

Ed Vaizey said:

"The Portable Antiquities Scheme has been crucial in ensuring the most important archaeological finds discovered by members of the public are recorded, to advance knowledge and so the past can be enjoyed by all. Under the stewardship of the British Museum, the PAS will remain a central and successful part of British archaeology".

This announcement coincides with the launch of the Treasure Annual Report 2008, which shows that a further 806 Treasure cases have been reported that year, bringing the total number of cases to 6429 since 1997, when the Act came into force. Fundamental to the success of the Treasure Act is the PAS and its network of Finds Liaison Officers, who work closely with finders, advising them of their legal obligations and helping them report finds. To date 659,000 finds have been recorded by the PAS, including 84,891 in the last 12 months - transforming our knowledge of the past.

Important finds featured in the Treasure Annual Report, and which will be on display at its launch, include a Bronze Age gold bracelet from Castlederg, County Tyrone, and a seventeenth-century silverware hoard from Nether Stowey, Somerset - perhaps hidden during the English Civil War. Also on display in the gallery are part of a hoard of 52,503 Roman coins from Frome, Somerset, a sixteenth-century lead-alloy toy coach from the City, London, and 80 $20 gold coins from Hackney, London.

For further information or images please contact Hannah Boulton or Esme Wilson on 020 7323 8522 / 8394 or communications@britishmuseum.org

Finds on display

A Late Bronze Age gold bracelet from Castlederg area, County Tyrone (Treasure: NI 08.2). Date: c. 950-c. 800 BC. Found in April 2008 by the finder while clearing stones from a newly ploughed field. The position of the findspot, on a rise on fertile land that slopes down to a river, might suggest it was originally deposited there on purpose, rather than an accidental loss. The find is rare as a single find (Irish bracelets of this type are normally found in hoards) and few are decorated. Ulster Museum (National Museums Northern Ireland) hopes to acquire.

A hoard of 52,503 Roman coins (Treasure: 2010T272). Deposited c. AD 394. The hoard was found by Dave Crisp while metal-detecting in April 2010 at Frome, Somerset, and reported to Katie Hinds (Wiltshire FLO). Mr Crisp has been commended for not excavating the hoard himself but allowing it to be recovered archaeologically, which was undertaken by Somerset County Council. The hoard is significant since it is the largest Roman coin hoard ever found in a single container and the fact that in contains a significant number of coins of the Emperor Carausius (766 +314 copies) - Britain's 'lost emperor'. The quantity of coins and the size of the pot make it difficult to see how it could have been recovered easily, and therefore ritual deposition is a possibility. Somerset County Museums Service hopes to acquire.

A lead-alloy toy coach from the City of London (PAS: LON-81D1C7). Date: c. 1575-c. 1600. Found by Andy Johanessen while searching the foreshore, and recorded by Felicity Winkley (PAS Headley Intern, London). This toy was found in a flattened state and the finder carefully straightened and returned it to its former shape. This is a rare survival, given the objects fragility. A seventeenth-century silverware hoard from Nether Stowey, Somerset (Treasure: 2008T645), consisting of four spoons, a goblet and a bell salt, and an incomplete earthenware vessel in which the silver was concealed. Found while metal-detecting and reported to Anna Booth (Somerset FLO).

The hoard is likely to have been hidden for safekeeping during the English Civil War; at this time Stowey Court, which is in close proximity to the findspot, was a Royalist garrison, and there is recorded evidence that during this period local people were hiding objects of value. All the silver objects have the owner's mark 'CGA'. Somerset County Museums Service hopes to acquire. A hoard of 80 $20 gold coins from Hackney, London. Date: 1854-1913. Found by chance while digging in a garden. Although the coins are relatively modern they are potential Treasure under the legal definition. Since there is the possibility that the original owner (or an heir) is still alive, the Inner North London coroner has opened the inquest inviting claimants to come forward.

Notes to Editors:

  1. All finders of gold and silver objects, and groups of coins from the same finds, over 300 years old, have a legal obligation to report such items under the Treasure Act 1996. Prehistoric base-metal assemblages found after 1 January 2003 also qualify as Treasure. Treasure finds must be reported by law to the local coroner, which is normally done through the finders local PAS Finds Liaison Officer. The Treasure Process is administered by the BritishMuseum. More information is available on www.culture.gov.uk or www.finds.org.uk
  2. The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a voluntary scheme (currently managed by the British Museum on behalf of the Museums Libraries and Archives Council) to record archaeological objects (not necessarily 'Treasure') found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of objects are discovered, many of these by metal-detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Such discoveries offer an important source for understanding our past. More information can be found on www.finds.org.uk
  3. Last year the first combined Portable Antiquities and Treasure Annual Report (for 2007) waspublished, and another (for 2008) is due in Spring 2010. This will be the final combined report due to resource restrictions. However, the Treasure Act requires a report to published, hence the publication of the Treasure Annual Report 2008 in its current format.
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House of Lords debate on the Treasure Act (1996)

Published: 10 years ago Author:

House of Lords logo from WikimediaThis morning in the House of Lords, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn tabled the question:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will review the definition of "treasure" in the Treasure Act 1996 in the light of the sale at auction of the Roman parade helmet recently found in Cumbria for £2 million.

This debate has several pertinent points that were raised during the discussion and the following exchange refers to the future of the Scheme:

Lord Allan of Hallam: My Lords, my noble friend will be aware of the valuable work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in recording important archaeological information about finds under the Treasure Act, such as with this helmet. Can she give the House any assurances about the future funding and management of the Portable Antiquities Scheme?

Baroness Rawlings: The Portable Antiquities Scheme is very important and I thank the noble Lord for that question. I appreciate that there is concern over the future of the scheme in the light of the announcement that the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, which currently provides most of the scheme's funding, will be wound up by April 2012. I am pleased to confirm that the scheme will continue. Discussions are taking place about the best way for it to be managed and funded.

The Minister (Baroness Rawlings) made a commitment to introduce the amendments to the Treasure Act in the Coroners and Justice Act in answer to Lord Howarth (apart from the amendment to introduce a coroner for Treasure, which they are still considering). She said: "Measures included in the Coroners and Justice Act to improve the treasure system will be implemented." The Government's previous position was that they were considering these amendments, so this is new.

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, can the Minister offer any comfort to archaeologists, faced as they are with cuts to funding for museums, universities, English Heritage and local authority archaeological departments and, indeed, the collapse of archaeological businesses that are dependent for their funding on developers? Do the Government have any policies to support archaeology?

Baroness Rawlings: The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, is very much involved with this subject and I understand his concern about the cuts, which will be across the board and which we all know about. Measures included in the Coroners and Justice Act to improve the treasure system will be implemented. Ministers are still considering the feasibility of a coroner for treasure. DCMS and the Ministry of Justice are working together to assess the extent to which measures on treasure may be implemented within current financial constraints.

The most significant amendments are (a) widening the obligation to report Treasure to anyone who comes into possession of it and (b) giving the Secretary of State the power to designate officers to whom Treasure is reported.

You can read the full transcript at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldtoday/02.htm

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Vote for your favourite Leicestershire object!

Published: 10 years ago Author:

Leicestershire revealed logoInspired by the British Museum's 'History of the world' Leicestershire's Council and Independent museums have put forward the top 100 Leicestershire objects.

Leicestershire revealed showcases the top 100 objects which tell the story of Leicestershire. They can be viewed at www.leics.gov.uk/revealed. They include many archaeological objects and several treasure cases.

From Monday 8th November until the end of the month we would like people to vote for their favourite object and tell us why they like it. You can also rate the other objects, so please get on-line and vote!

Treasure items include the Bronze age beaker basket ornaments- the oldest metalwork from the county, the Rothley Bronze age axe hoard, the Earl Shilton Anglo-Saxon sword pommel, the Sapcote Anglo-Saxon Pendant and the Medieval Bosworth boar!

Detected objects include the Snibston Viking sword pommel and a lead button dipicting Elizabeth I. Other metal objects include the Twyford Anglo-Saxon bulls head bucket mount, a Roman dog from High Cross and the oldest Roman coin from the county -so far!

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91 - 100 of 273 records.

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