News from the Scheme

FLO goes a Vikingr!

Published: 8 years ago Author:

In Early June I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in some experimental archaeology involving 70+ people and one large Viking ship.

Myself and 50 others from England had been in training to act as the rowing crew for the recently built Viking ship, Drakon Harald Harfagre (Dragon Harold Hairfair). Originally we were due to row it around the Wirral coast, but delays in sea trials meant that this was postponed. So as a 'consolation prize', we were all invited to Norway to take part in trials during the Karmoy Viking Festival. Naturally we all said yes straight away and finally on friday 7th June we got to see and row the ship for the first time!

The experimental archaeology involved playing around with bench height and position (Vikings rowed sitting on wooden chests); rowing in pairs, solo, backwards and standing up. The latter was almost impossible and we found that actually rowing solo was easiest, once you got used to the balance and weight of the 7m long oar.

The Dragon has 25 pairs of oars and is based on records of large sea going ships which are recorded in various Scandinavian sources. We rowed up and down the coast of Karmoy island, drawing quite a crowd of festival goers. We even had the company of a little boat (8 pairs of oars), on which Vikings were taking children out to have a go too! Our hosts were very generous, providing much food and transport. They were very impressed with our co-ordination and speed, we got up to four knots at one point, which we were told was fast.

The festival was amazing too, its held near the site where king Harold Fairhair lived (he united Norway) and the locals have constructed a Viking village, including a full size Viking longhouse. There were re-enactors demonstrating metalworking, cooking, rope making and of course, fighting!

It was an amazing experience to row the Dragon, watch out for it when it comes to England next year!

view news coverage of the boat here

Leicestershire Treasure exhibition open

Published: 8 years ago Author:

Until 3rd November Snibston Discovery Museum in Coalville will be hosting a major new Treasure exhibition.

For the first time all the Treasure items ever purchased by Leicestershire museums will be displayed in one place. The exhibition explains how the treasure process works and will highlight recent acquisitions as they arrive. Highlights in the exhibition include previously unseen Iron Age coin hoards from the Hallaton treasure and the Roman Hallaton helmet; The Bosworth Boar, which helped archaeologists pinpoint the place Richard III fell in battle in 1485; Neolithic gold 'basket ornaments' - the oldest Treasure items from Leicestershire and the Thurcaston Viking coin hoard, on loan from the Fitzwilliam museum.

There will be a series of family friendly activities, public evening lectures and events running throughout the course of the exhibition. For further details please check Leicestershire County Councils Museum pages.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme receives Heritage Lottery Fund first-round pass for project to expand its volunteer base

Published: 8 years ago Author:

Ellie holding the coin tray

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) a first-round pass*, including development funding of £17,600, for a project to greatly enhance its volunteer programme nationwide.

The aim of the project is to create Community Finds Recording Teams by recruiting and training new volunteers from local communities around England and Wales. These teams will work with their regional Find Liaison Officers (FLO) to record local finds onto the PAS database. They will also promote the activities of the PAS to new audiences in their areas, and recruit others to volunteer with the PAS and engage deeply with the history and archaeology of their local areas.

The project will lead to new data being generated for the PAS website, and dedicated project staff will monitor the information recorded to ensure it is of a high standard to all who need it. As part of the project a new section of the PAS website will be developed, which will be devoted to the work of the Community Finds Recording Teams and to the history and archaeology of their local areas.

Development of the project will start in April 2013, working towards a round two submission to HLF in order to receive a final decision on funding. If successful, the project will run for five years.

This new PAS project is one of a number of initiatives at the British Museum supported by HLF, including the Future Curators training scheme and the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre. The Museum is extremely grateful for this continued support, and looks forward to working with HLF in developing its PAS second-round application.

Sue Bowers, Head of HLF London, said:

"The Heritage Lottery Fund is pleased to be giving initial support towards this project, which if successful will greatly enhance the important work that the Portable Antiquities Scheme provides across the UK. We are looking forward to working closely with the British Museum as they develop their proposals further."

For more information on PAS or this new project please contact Claire Costin: or 0207 323 8618.

Notes to editors

*A first-round pass means the project meets HLF criteria for funding and HLF believes the project has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money. The application was in competition with other supportable projects, so a first-round pass is an endorsement of outline proposals. Having been awarded a first-round pass, the project now has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to compete for a firm award. On occasion, an applicant with a first-round pass will also be awarded development funding towards the development of their scheme.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported almost 35,000 projects with more than £5.3bn across the UK.

For more information please contact Katie Owen, HLF Press Office, on 020 7591 6036/07973 613820.

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The Forgotten Past: post-medieval small finds and their contribution to our understanding of the past

Published: 8 years ago Author:

A heraldic pendantA Portable Antiquities Scheme and Finds Research Group Conference
Stevenson Lecture Theatre, British Museum Monday 21 October 2013 10am-5pm

Once given little consideration by most archaeologists, post-medieval material was the 'stuff machined through' to get to the 'interesting layers' below. However, thanks to changing attitudes amongst archaeologists and also a growing dataset of finds recovered by metal-detectorists and others now being recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, there is increasing awareness of the importance of post-medieval finds for understanding the past. It is this interest, and research into such finds, that will be highlighted at this conference.

People giving papers at this conference have been asked to consider the following questions while highlighting their research. Why record post- medieval material, and are there aspects that can be disregarded or selectively studied? What types were once thought of rare, but are now considered quite common, and does that change how we feel about what we record? What have we discovered that is new, and does this help with future research agendas? Post-medieval finds have greater potential to link objects to specific people or occasions, so does that make certain objects more interesting or important? How does the recording of post-medieval finds advance research?

Speakers include:

  • Gary Bankhead
  • Laura Burnett
  • Stuart Campbell
  • Helen Geake
  • Kevin Leahy
  • Brian Read
  • Ian Richardson
  • Eleanor Standley.

The cost of the conference is £10 for members of the FRG and £15 for non-members. To book a place please send a cheque made payable to 'The British Museum' to Janina Parol, Department of Portable Antiquities & Treasure, British Museum, London, WC1B 3DG. Tel: 020 7323 8546. Email:

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Mud-Men returns for series 3 on the History Channel

Published: 8 years ago Author:

'Mud God' Steve Brooker and 'apprentice' Johnny Vaughan are back on TV for more muddy adventures, as a third series of Mud Men is transmitted on History from 20 March 2013. The intrepid duo search the Thames foreshore (and elsewhere) to discover objects that help enlighten our understanding of the past - some of the finds look like nothing much, but are vital clues to how people once lived and worked in the past. All the discoveries are examined by Dr Michael Lewis of the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme, who then sends Johnny and Steve on a historical journey - from finding out about the origins of our police and fire services to the incredible stories behind the Great Fire of London.

As well as scouring the Thames, Johnny and Steve venture further afield in this series, travelling to the Channel Islands to discover about life under the Nazis during the Second World War, learn about the secrets of Henry VIII's famous warship the Mary Rose in Portsmouth, and brave the dangerous River Severn mud at a ship's graveyard in the West Country.

For more see:

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The British Museum and the University of Leicester announce £645K to study Roman hoards found in Britain

Published: 8 years ago Author:

Alan Graham excavating

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has awarded the British Museum, working in collaboration with the University of Leicester, a £645K grant for a 3-year project on "Crisis or continuity? The deposition of metalwork in the Roman world: what do coin hoards tell us about Roman Britain in the 3rd century AD?"

Hoards of valued materials, particularly coins, are a common, and rapidly growing, class of discovery across the Roman Empire. While these are most commonly seen as having been deposited for safe keeping, other explanations for this activity are also possible. There has been little explicit discussion or research on why Roman coin hoards were buried, why hoards were not recovered in antiquity, or what they tell us when studied as a group. Over 660 hoards are known from Britain containing coins of the period AD 253-96, an unprecedented concentration, and they provide a key and under-used dataset that can shed light on a poorly known period of British archaeology and history.

The British pattern of later 3rd-century hoards differs markedly from the rest of the western Roman empire, despite the political problems that affected Britain at this time being felt equally or more severely in many other European provinces. This anomaly merits detailed investigation - not least because it is a question that the public always ask when a new hoard is found - and the results will have implications not only for interpretation of this specific hoarding phenomenon, but will contribute significantly to more general debates about hoarding behaviour in antiquity.

Traditionally these hoards have been interpreted as having been buried with the intention of recovery but recent discoveries such as the Frome hoard have suggested the possibility that these hoards may have been ritual (or 'votive') deposits. Ritual deposition is a common explanation for prehistoric metalwork, and many, if not all, Iron Age coin hoards. Can we show whether any of the 3rd century hoards were likely to have been ritual deposits and, if so, how many? If so, what are the implications for the use of their contents in studying monetary history or political history?

We have the following research questions:

  1. Why were coin hoards deposited in Roman Britain - and was this for similar reasons as other Iron Age and Roman coin hoards?
  2. Why were so many coin hoards deposited (and not recovered) in 3rd-century Britain and is their date of burial the same as the date of their latest coins?
  3. What do coin hoards tell us about the economic and political history of 3rd-century Britain?
  4. How different or similar are 3rd-century British coin hoards to those from other periods of Roman Britain or other parts of north-western provinces of the Roman Empire?
  5. What wider lessons can be learnt about using coin hoards to understand the economic, political and religious history of the Roman Empire?

The project brings together the expertise of the British Museum in the study of Roman coins and hoards and the academic strengths of the University of Leicester in Roman archaeology and their experience of investigating coin hoards in a landscape setting. The Principal Investigator is Dr Roger Bland, Keeper of Prehistory & Europe and Portable Antiquities & Treasure at the British Museum,who has very extensive experience studying hoards, with the collaboration of Sam Moorhead, National Finds Adviser, who is studying the Frome hoard; and the Co-Investigators are Professors Colin Haselgrove and David Mattingly, leading experts respectively on Iron Age archaeology and coinage and on the archaeology and economy of the Roman Empire. Under their collective guidance and with input from expert colleagues, 3 Post-doctoral Research Assistants will study (1) the hoards from Britain and the wider Empire, (2) a landscape study of the hoard find spots and archaeological evidence for Roman Britain in the 3rd century AD; and (3) reasons for the deposition of metalwork in the Iron Age and Roman periods.

The key outputs will include a database of all Roman coin hoards from Britain, made available via the Portable Antiquities Scheme's website (, a monograph, at least 5 peer-reviewed articles, 2 conferences (the papers of which will be published), two exhibitions, articles for popular magazines and a web-based hoards database.

The project will build on discoveries made by members of the public and reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme to provide a comprehensive study of coin hoarding in Britain in the 3rd century AD, set in a wider context, and will also address key wider questions relevant for understanding coin hoards in other periods.

Notes for Editors

The University of Leicester is a leading UK University committed to international excellence through the creation of world changing research and high quality, inspirational teaching. Leicester is the most socially inclusive of Britain's top-20 leading universities. The University of Leicester was the THE University of the Year 2008-9 and is the only University to win six consecutive awards from the Times Higher. In awarding the title the judges cited Leicester's ability to "evidence commitment to high quality, a belief in the synergy of teaching and research and a conviction that higher education is a power for good". Leicester was, said the judges, "elite without being elitist"

The British Museum holds records of hoards of Roman coins going back to the 19th century and under the Treasure Act 1996 there is a legal obligation for all hoards of Roman coins to be reported; some 40 finds a year are now being reported. The British Museum also has responsibility for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a network of 55 staff who record archaeological objects found by the public and make the data publicly available on an online database (

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Exciting new finds highlight the ongoing success of the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme

Published: 8 years ago Author:

The launch today of the Portable Antiquities and Treasure annual reports show that 97,509 finds were recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) in 2011 (an 8% rise on the previous year) and 970 Treasure cases were reported in the same period (up by 12%). The PAS website ( now features 820,000 finds with nearly 400,000 images from across England and Wales contributing enormously to the archaeological record. Last year 463,160 people used the website and database, and it also won best research/online collection at the Best of the Web awards 2011 at the Museums and the Web conference. Increasingly more and more people are becoming aware of the PAS. In July this year Britain's Secret Treasures, which highlighted 50 finds recorded through the PAS, was screened primetime on ITV1 from 16-22 July. The series was watched by an average of 3.5 million viewers, the highest being 4.2 million.

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said:

"It is clear from the discoveries reported this year that the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme goes from strength to strength. The ITV series this year shows just how much these finds have captured the public's imagination and changed our understanding of the past. It is a scheme which is envied the world over. I am very grateful to the Department for Culture Media and Sport for continuing to support the Scheme and to Treasure Hunting magazine who have continued to publish PAS reports . And to other generous funders such as The Headley Trust, Institute for Archaeologists and the Heritage Lottery Fund who support staff to ensure that the Scheme can continue its vital work. As well as the funding bodies who have helped acquire Treasure finds."

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, said:

"It never ceases to amaze me that such incredibly important objects have survived in the ground for many hundreds of years, waiting to be found by everyday people. Not only are these objects extremely exiting discoveries, but once reported Treasure or recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme they have great potential to rewrite the history of this country, and enrich local and national museums".

Four exciting new discoveries are to be highlighted at the launch this year:

An extremely rare late Iron Age helmet from near Canterbury, Kent.

The Iron Age helmet

This copper-alloy helmet was found by a metal-detectorist in October 2012, and the findspot subsequently excavated by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust. The helmet had been upturned and used as vessel to hold a human cremation. A brooch found with the helmet probably once fastened a bag containing the bones. Both the helmet and brooch date from the early to mid-first century BC. Julia Farley, Iron Age Curator at the British Museum notes:

"This is a very rare find. No other cremation has ever been found in Kent accompanied by a helmet and only a handful of Iron Age helmets are known from Britain. Therefore we think this example was probably made on the continent and it is fascinating to speculate how it came to be in a grave in Kent."

In the middle of the first century BC, Caesar was at war in Gaul (modern France). But as well as being a time of war, it was also a time of travel, communication, connections and change. Mercenaries from Britain had travelled to join the fighting, and it is tempting to believe that the person who owned this helmet might have fought in Gaul, against the Romans or perhaps even alongside them, eventually bringing the helmet with them to Britain. Before Gaul fell, Caesar would make his first expedition to Britain, landing on the shores of Kent not far from where this helmet was found. The owner of this helmet, or the people who placed it in the grave, may have lived through the very beginning of the story of Roman Britain.

The second largest hoard of Roman solidi (gold coins) ever found in Britain.

The hoard of solidii

The discovery was made by a metal-detectorist near to St Albans, Hertfordshire, and reported to his local Finds Liaison Officer. In October 2012 the findspot was excavated by a team of archaeologists from St Albans City and District Museums Service and altogether 159 coins were recovered. The coins date to the late 4th to early 5th century AD (after AD 408 regular supplies of Roman coinage to Britain ceased) and were mostly struck in the Italian cities of Milan and Ravenna and issued under the Emperors Gratian, Valentinian II, Theodosius I, Arcadius and Honorius. The largest hoard of Roman solidi was found at Hoxne in Suffolk in 1992 and comprised 565 solidi. Richard Abdy, Curator of Roman Coins as the British Museum said:

"This is a hugely exciting find. During the period of the Roman occupation of Britain, coins were usually buried for two reasons; as a religious sacrifice to the Gods, or as a secure store of wealth, with the aim of later recovery. The late date of the coins suggests their burial could have been associated with the turbulent separation of Britain from the Roman Empire c. AD 410".

Threat of war or raids may have led to the burial of the coins, as may the prospect of a long journey, or any other risky activity, which could then result in the non-recovery of a hoard and its consequent survival in the archaeological record. Gold solidi were extremely valuable coins and Roman law did not allow them to be spent in everyday marketplace situations. They would have been used for large transactions such as buying land, or goods by the shipload, and were an especially handy source of portable wealth for travellers (in much the same way as gold sovereigns were to Britons abroad prior to traveller's cheques or internationally accessible bank accounts). Therefore it is likely that the ancient owners of these coins were very rich, typically Roman elite, merchants or soldiers receiving bulk pay.

The hoard will be available to view in the Citi Money Gallery at the British Museum from 4 December.

An important hoard of Viking Age gold and silver metalwork.

the Bedale hoard

In May 2012 Stuart Campbell and Steve Caswell were detecting on farmland near Bedale, North Yorkshire when they found a Viking Age hoard. Much of the material was left by the finders in situ and thereafter recovered by archaeologists from Yorkshire Museums. The hoard consists of an iron sword pommel inlaid with gold foil plaques, four gold hoops (from the hilt of the sword), six small gold rivets (probably from the pommel or hilt), four silver collars and neck-rings, a silver arm-ring, a silver ring fragment, a silver penannular brooch, and 29 silver ingots. Some of the objects, which date to the late 9th to early 10th, are decorated in late Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Scandinavian and Viking art styles. Barry Ager, Medieval Curator at the British Museum said:

"At the time the hoard was deposited the north of England was largely under Viking rule, with their capital at York. So the material in this significant hoard probably represents Viking bullion, either obtained by trade, or plundered or extracted from enemies, which could later be melted down and reused for jewellery, or further exchange." It is likely that those who buried this material intended to come back for it, but for reasons unknown to us they were not able.

The Bedale hoard will be available to view in Room 2 of the British Museum from 4 December.

Intriguing boar mount associated with Richard III.

Board badge from London

Found on the Thames foreshore was this copper-alloy mount in the form of a boar, which was reported to the local Finds Liaison Officer. The mount shows the boar chained, collared and wearing a crown, and it has a crescent (presumably heraldic) above one of its legs.

Michael Lewis, Deputy Head of PAS and Treasure said:

'given the renewed interest in Richard III, after the apparent discovery of his remains in Leicestershire, it is wonderful to have a London find associated with the king. The mount is very similar to a number of boar badges which have been reported Treasure over the past few years, which were made for followers of Richard III (of York), as Duke of Gloucester, during the Wars of the Roses. Richard took the white boar has his sign; 'bore' may have also been an anagram of Ebor, the Latin for York".

Badges in the form of a boar were ordered for use at Richard III's coronation (in July 1485) and also for the investiture of his son, Edward, as Prince of Wales (in September). However, it is not certain what the mount from London came from, maybe a piece of furniture or was used to decorate an item of leather once owned by a supporter of Richard III, or possibly even the king himself.

Notes to Editors:

  • 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 us understand when, where and how people lived in the past.
  • The Portable Antiquities Scheme ( offers the only proactive mechanism for systematically 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 ring-fenced 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.
  • Under the Treasure Act 1996 (see finders have a legal obligation to report all finds of potential Treasure to the local coroner. The Portable Antiquities Scheme and its network of Finds Liaison Officers play an essential role in the operation of the Act, advising finders of their legal obligations, providing advice on the process and writing reports for Coroners on Treasure finds.
  • The Act allows a national or local museum to acquire Treasure finds for public benefit. If this happens a reward is paid, which is (normally) shared equally between the finder and landowner; interested parties may wish to waive their right to a reward, enabling museums to acquire finds at reduced or no cost. Rewards are fixed at the full market value of the find, determined by the Secretary of State upon the advice of an independent panel of experts, known as the Treasure Valuation Committee.

For further information please contact Hannah Boulton on 020 7323 8522 or or Claire Coveney on 020 7323 8394 or

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Statistical release for treasure (2010 and 2011) and portable antiquities (2011)

Published: 9 years ago Author:

Annual statistics of the number of objects of treasure found in 2010 (and the headline number for 2011) (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and objects recorded through the portable antiquities scheme in 2011 (England and Wales) produced by the British Museum on behalf of DCMS were released on 12 October 2011 according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

  • Last release date: 12 October 2011 Treasure (2009) and Portable Antiquities statistical release (2009 and 2010
  • Period covered: January 2010 to December 2011 for treasure and January 2011 to December 2011 for portable antiquities
  • Geographic coverage: England, Wales and Northern Ireland for treasure and England and Wales for portable antiquities
  • Next release date: Treasure statistics from 2011 and statistics on portable antiquities from 2012 will be published in the third quarter of 2013

Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) record finds of treasure and portable antiquities on the Portable Antiquities database.

Report structure/format

The report sets out the latest figures for reported treasure finds for the 12 months to December 2010. It sets out the latest figures for objects reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme for the last 12 months to December 2011. It also presents objects recorded by geographical area and by period and category of find. The report is available in rtf and pdf format.

Key messages

  • In 2011 970 finds of Treasure were reported. The equivalent number for 2010 was 860.
  • In 2011 97,509 finds were recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The equivalent number for 2010 was 90,099.
  • In 2010 86 parties waived their right to a reward in 70 cases of Treasure, allowing them to be acquired by museums at no (or reduced) public cost.

Pre-release access The document below contains a list of officials who have received privileged early access to this release of Treasure and Portable Antiquities data. In line with best practice, the list has been kept to a minimum.

Contact for enquiries:

Department for Culture, Media and Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street
London SW1Y 5DH
Email: The responsible analyst for this release is Penny Allen
For enquiries on this release contact: 020 7211 6106
For general enquiries telephone: 020 7211 6000

These documents are available online in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.

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PAS & MSRG Conference Fully Booked

Published: 9 years ago Author: Claire Costin

This year's joint PAS & MSRG conference Objects and Landscape: understanding the medieval period through finds recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme has been hugely popular and we regret to announce that the conference is now fully booked. We will endeavour to provide details of the day on the PAS website for those that missed out.

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PASt Explorers Re-booted

Published: 9 years ago Author: Claire Costin

The PAS website for mini-finders has undergone a mini-makeover!

The website was originally launched in October 2006, specifically designed for children and educators, with lots of activities, games and information on archaeology.

PASt Explorers has been updated to coincide with the recent re-vamp of the Portable Antiquities Scheme website (

There are still loads of things for children to read, colour in, play with and generally have a good old time as Dan Pett, our ICT Adviser and creator of the site puts it!

In addition to updated information on what the PAS and Treasure Act are all about, guide to archaeology and period guides, PASt Explorers features a new database user guide for children and regularly updated news and events.

And of course, there are plenty of games for children (and adults - we won't tell!) to play.

Check it out at

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