News from the Scheme

Ringlemere Gold cup acquired by the British Museum.

Published: 18 years ago Author:

The Ringlemere gold cup was a spectacular discovery: as a beautiful and evidently personal item made in a rare material, it  seems to reach back to an individual of high status in an epoch of which history has to be constructed entirely from  Archaeological evidence.

The recognition soon after the discovery by Cliff Bradshaw in November 2001 that the cup had actually lain on the site of an ancient burial mound - or barrow - in Kent gives grounds for believing it may have furnished a grave, further strengthening the potential link to an elevated person. But how far can we take such assumptions in the light of excavations on the site to date and by taking stock of a dozen or so comparable cups from north-west Europe'. What stimulated the practice of making cups out of the various exotic materials in the early Bronze Age, and how would they have been used'.

The  opportunity to investigate the site of one of barely more than a dozen cups in rare materials (gold, silver, amber, shale) could not be passed over. Canterbury  Achaeological Trust has already mounted three short seasons of excavation under the direction of Keith Parfitt and supported by, inter alia, the Townley Group. Already the findings are significant in a part of the country for which there is relatively little information on Early Bronze Age burial monuments.

Intriguingly, the site seems first to have been used intensively a few centuries earlier during the Late Neolithic, for quantities of Grooved Ware pottery and flint work have been recovered from the last vestige of the soil mound to have survived. Tantalising discoveries which, like the cup, came from disturbed contexts are two fragmentary objects of amber; one being a pommel from the hilt of a dagger or knife, the other perhaps a pendant.

Excavations at Ringelemere

Both fit in with an Early Bronze Age context, but these sites can have long, complex histories and it may be a mistake to assume that all these objects were necessarily associated. Actual burials, though remain elusive to date and only full excavation of the remnant mound and its large encircling ditch will allow any confident assessment of the role and history of the monument.

Given its association with an established type of funerary monument, it is natural to jump to the conclusion that the Ringlemere cup had been dragged out of a grave by modern agricultural machinery (this undoubtedly accounts for the buckling of the vessel). It is true that some of its best parallels are recorded from burial chambers, but some caution needs to be exercised. Valuables of this periods were used, and indeed buried, in a range of contexts, sometimes within burial sites, yet not with burials per se. An amber cup from Clandon, Dorset, appears to belong to this category of ritual deposit.

The apparently disturbed context of our new cup may preclude any definitive conclusion as to its original context, but we still stand to learn much about the development of the site, the cultural background against which such a cup  might be used and the kind of  practices which might account for it being buried. How the cups functioned, and what they contained promises to be another area of debate, but their generally rounded bases at a time when pottery was consistently flat based, are highly significant and could suggest that once in use in a ceremony, the cup was held until drained. We know that feasting played an important role in the social and political round during later prehistory. Such occasions allowed the display of personal wealth and, more subtly, the creation and maintenance of obligations between people.
As yet the Ringlemere example can only be dated by comparison with four others from useful contexts. Overall they suggest  a currency for the type within a four-century  span, from as early as the 19th century BC through to the 16th century . The most similar cup to Ringlemere, the famous example from Rillaton, Cornwall - on loan to us from the Crown (room 37) - was  associated in a stone slab grave with a bronze dagger and other objects dating to the latter half of this period.

Cup photographed by Michael LewisTwo plainer examples in silver from Breton tombs, however, are likely to be from earlier burials, while the above mentioned amber cup found in the Clandon barrow may also be an earlier deposit. One of the great puzzles, though, is the origin of this precious cup style.  
Old ideas about derivation from Mycenaean prototypes are no longer tenable. It seems more likely that they were modelled on Pottery cups which abound in the central European Early Bronze Age.
 The cup, which was secured for the British Museum and the nation with generous grants form The Heritage Lottery Fund, The National Art Collection Fund and the British Museum Friends, will be on display in the British Museum this Summer, before playing a part in "Treasure: Finding Our Past".
Meanwhile, the research into the cup's context will continue.
Stuart Needham and Gill Varndell
Department of Prehistory & Europe.
First printed in the British Museum Friends Magazine Number 46 Summer 2003
Pictures reproduced from originals copyright the British Museum, reconstruction is an original piece of work by Stephen Crummy

New Portable Antiquities Scheme Posts

Published: 18 years ago Author:

As a result of a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid to extend the Portable Antiquities Scheme to the whole of England and Wales the first batch of new posts have been appointed: 

Ros Tyrrell, Buckinghamshire Finds Liaison Officer
(Tel: 01296 624519; Email:
Ros started her working life as a primary school teacher, but was later lured into the world of archaeology, working for the Milton Keynes Archaeology Unit on excavations and as finds supervisor. Following this she worked on several sites as part of the Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit. Her specialist interests are textile related objects and needlework tools.

Adam Daubney, Lincolnshire Finds Liaison Officer
(Tel: 01522 553072; Email
Adam studied Archaeology and Prehistory at Sheffield University. He then worked as a field archaeologist for several contractual units in Lincolnshire before becoming Keeper of Collections at Lincoln City and County Museum. Adam has an all-round interest in archaeology.

Jane Stewart, Staffordshire & West Midlands Finds Liaison Officer
(Tel: 0121 303 4636; Email
Since graduating in Prehistory and Environmental archaeology at Cardiff University, Jane has been employed by several archaeological trusts, and has worked as a freelance illustrator and researcher. Her most recent post was Documentation Officer for the Numismatic collection at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Jane is particularly interested in Celtic coinage.

David Williams, Surrey Finds Liaison Officer (Tel: 01737 247296)
David has been involved with Surrey Archaeological Society since the mid 1970s and has been worked on many excavations and reports. His background is in graphic design, and then later in archaeological illustration. David is the author of several publications, including Late Saxon Stirrup-Strap Mounts.
New starters at PAS
New starters at the PAS: Adam Daubney, David Williams, Sally Worrall, Daniel Pett
Jane Stewart & Ros Tyrrell

Central Unit
In the course of 2003 several new posts will be appointed to support the work of the Scheme, in particular the Finds Liaison Officers. The first three posts are:

Sally Worrell, Finds Adviser (Prehistoric & Roman Objects)
Sally, was previously the Hampshire Finds Liaison Officer, and will be known to many finders there. The role of the Finds Advisers is to support the work of the Finds Liaison Officers, check their data and contribute to specialist publications and conferences to highlight the importance of portable antiquities for understanding our past. This post is based at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

Claire Costin, Portable Antiquities Scheme Administrator 
Since graduating in Medieval Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology Claire worked in several administrative posts, and has good experience of working with grants - such as the Heritage Lottery Fund grant which supports the project. The role of the Scheme's administrator, based at the British Museum, is to support the work and efficiency of the central unit.

Daniel Pett, Portable Antiquities Scheme ICT Adviser
Prior to joining the Scheme Dan worked in IT for an investment bank. Previously he studied Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology , UCL before undertaking a Masters degree at Cambridge University. The role of this post, based at the British Museum, is to ensure the database and website - - remain up-to-date, and also ensure that the IT of the scheme works.

Next Batch of Posts - August 2003

Another ten posts will be appointed in August. This will include Finds Liaison Officers, for Cornwall, Essex, Leicestershire & Rutland, London, North East, Sussex, Wiltshire and North & East Yorkshire, an Education Officer and a Finds Adviser (Medieval & Post-Medieval Objects). By the end of the year there will be Finds Liaison Officers in every part of England and Wales offering a comprehensive finds identification and recording for all finders of archaeological objects.

For details of your local Finds Liaison Officer logon on to, phone 020 7323 8611, or Email or write to Portable Antiquities Scheme, c/o Dept. Coins & Medals, British Museum, London, WC1 3DG

Forthcoming Events - July - August 2003

Published: 18 years ago Author:

Finds Surgeries will be held at the following venues in July and August. Please bring along your finds for identification and recording. Contact Ciorstaidh or Elaine for further information.

Friday 18th July - 10.00 am to 4.00 pm
Priest's House Museum and Garden, 23-27 High Street, Wimborne Minster, Dorset

Saturday 19th July -10.00 am to 1.00 pm 
- as part of Peter Northover's Swyre archaeological survey -
The Finds Processing Centre, Modbury Farm, Dorset

Friday 15th August - 10.30 am to 4.00 pm
Entrance Foyer, County Hall, Colliton Park, Dorchester, Dorset

National Archaeology Day -Norfolk

Published: 19 years ago Author:

Sunday 20th July brings yet another National Archaeology Day, and in Norfolk we shall be opening our offices once more. Finds will be identified and recorded in the courtyard, so please bring along anything you have found in the garden, out walking or whilst using a metal detector! We may ask you if we can hang onto particularly interesting or groups of objects for a few weeks so we can make a full record of them.

You will also have the chance to look up your house on the Historic Environment Record, visit the Norfolk Biological Records centre and look at photos on request in the Norfolk Air Photo Library.

There will be children's activities and more -as yet undecided, so watch this space!

This will all be held in the grounds of the Rural Life Museum, which will be open as usual, and in our offices in the right-hand wing of the museum building.

We look forward to seeing you (and good weather!)

Our address is:

Archaeology and Environment, Union House, Gressenhall, Dereham, Norfolk

For more information please call Katie Hinds (01362 869289) or Adrian Marsden (01603 493647)

The East of Ipswich Bronze Age hoard explored

Published: 19 years ago Author:

The Late Bronze Age hoard discovered east of Ipswich includes 10 socketed axes, three of which are complete, 3 pegged spearheads, 2 double-edged knives, a ring-socketed sickle, a bugle-shaped object, a cast handle, probably from a bucket or cauldron and several pieces of ingot and casting residue. Some of these objects will be examined in more detail below.

Miniature bugle

This fragment of the cast bugle-shaped object, which is probably a strap or harness fitting, is believed to be Late Bronze Age in date. It is a wide flanged, open ended hollow tube with a loop. The loop has a hollow section at the break but this may be a large casting void in an otherwise solid loop. The item is crushed almost flat at the (ancient) break.

Length 43(+) mm, height 31mm, weight 22.2g.

Perhaps the most unusual item within the hoard was a Middle Bronze Age ring-socketed sickle with a short cylindrical socket. The blade appears to have been cast at about a 45° angle from the socket instead of the normal 90° angle. The casting seams on the socket and the butt of the blade are quite crude and show little or no cleaning. The break of the lenticular blade is ancient. The irregular lower (') blade edge is also broken along its length (ancient breaks). The upper (') blade edge is sharp and appears finished. The blade angle, crude finish and lack of peg holes suggest that it is possibly an unfinished miscast.


(Left);Middle Bronze Aged sing-socketed sickle

Length 74(+) mm, width (of blade) 32(+) mm, diameter (of socket) 32mm, weight 83.8g.

Left is a smaller spearhead, which is again complete.

Length 63mm, width (blade & socket) 19mm, weight 23.6g.

Left, This drawing, by Donna Wreathall of Suffolk Archaeology shows an almost complete bronze pegged and decorated spearhead.

Only the end of the tip is missing. The socket is decorated with four pairs of cast ribs around the shaft. The junction of the socket is also decorated with a band of diagonal nicks. A deep cone-shaped circular socket extends almost to the tip. The spearhead has small, plain wings with some slight recent damage to blade edges.

115mm, width 29(+) mm, socket diameter 24mm, weight 59.9g.

A new member of the Scheme is welcomed in Suffolk

Published: 19 years ago Author:

The Scheme in Suffolk has appointed Faye Minter to work as Finds Liaison Officer. Faye has just finish a Masters degree in Museum Studies at the University of Leciester. Previous to this she was a field archaeologist working across the country on archaeological sites, and also digging in Spain. Her finds expertise comes mainly from post excavation work and university studies: her first degree was in Archaeology and Anthropology at the Univeristy of Durham.

Faye says that she is 'really enjoying the work as Finds Liaison Officer... it's fascinating to see the wide variety of archaeological objects discovered by the public which are recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme'.

Lat: 36.7282 Long: -76.5836

Amazing discovery of a Roman military diploma

Published: 19 years ago Author:

A Fragment of Roman military diploma -;only the second to be found in the county -was discovered on a central Norfolk Romano-British rural settlement in early October by a metal-detector user. It would have been issued sometime before the third century when citizenship was granted to all, and the auxiliary who lost it would have had to serve 25 years in the Roman army to be awarded this certificate of grant of citizenship.
No original edges survive, and all breaks are old. Inscription consists of fragments of three lines & the upper part of a fourth on one face & fragments of four lines & upper part of a fifth on the other. The inscriptions on the two faces are aligned at 90° to each other (- = illegible or;incomplete letter).

]-LIO F[

]O----------[ upper part of letters only
This section usefully contains part of the name of the emperor under whose authority this diploma was issued: DIVI NER. This refers to the deified Nerva, adpoted father of the emperor Trajan and adoptive grandfather of the emperor Hadrian, dating;this fragment to the reign of either Trajan (AD 98-117) or his successor Hadrian (AD 117-138).
]R ET I A[ horizontal mark above I indicating numeral

upper part of letters only
This section is from the part of the diploma naming the various military units involved in the grant of citizenship. Tantalizingly, we have here part of the name of one of these: C[ohors] I A... This expands to the first cohort of A..., and refers either to the cohors I Alpinorum (first cohort of Alpines) or the cohors I Aquitanorum (first cohort of Aquitanians) both of whom served in Britain in the early years of the second century. Based on the first cohort of Aquitanians being more fully represented in the epigraphic record of Britain this unit is our most likely contender.

Lat: 36.8613 Long: -76.2799

Finds Surgery and Lecture at Kendal Museum

Published: 19 years ago Author:

Kendal Museum is to host a Finds;Day on Friday 22nd November 2002 at Kendal Museum between 11.00am and 1.00pm.

Nick Herepath, the Finds Liaison Officer for the North West of England will be in attendance to identify and record finds. Nick will then give a public lecture on the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act at 2.00pm. 
Booking is advisable for the lecture as space is limited. Please phone 01539 721374 to book or receive further details.

Lat: 54.3268 Long: -2.74758

Extremely rare 'Viking Age' lead weight found in Norfolk field

Published: 19 years ago Author:

A Late Saxon lead weight with a copper alloy Northumbrian penny (‘styca’) inset into its top was discovered in September this year in a central Norfolk field. At least three lead weights with stycas mounted in similar fashion are known, one from Sancton, North Humberside (20.42g) and two from a grave at Vig, Fjære, Aust-Agder in Norway (for reference see Kruse in Medieval Archaeology (1992), pages;82 and 87).
It is unlikely that the inset coins are purely decorative. Instead;it is thought they are significant in identifying the weight as a coin, or more probably bullion, weight (see Williams in BMJ Vol.69). This example weighs 50.23g, (1.77oz) which is close to 53.2g (allowing some weight loss due to deteriation of metal). This is twice the ‘significant’ weight of 26.6g (the Viking ounce or eyrir) identified from 200 examples of weights from Dublin (see Mainman and Rogers 2000, Finds from Anglo-Scandinavian York, page 2563).
The coin itself is that of Redwulf and dates to c.858.

Our Treasured Past - Exhibition - Croydon

Published: 19 years ago Author:

An exhibition of archaeological discoveries made by;metal detectorists in the South East.

There will be various displays including, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, archaeological societies,;metal detector finds displays, antique bottle displays, and much more...

If you have any archaeological finds you would like identified or recorded Finds Liaison Officers from Hampshire, Kent and Surrey will be on hand to help.

All are welcome Trinity School, Shirley Park, Croydon (parking available)
Saturday 12th April 2003 10am until 5pm
Admission: Adults £1, Children 50p
All profits go to Phab, a Croydon based national charity

Lat: 51.3763 Long: -0.06101

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