Portable Antiquities Annual Report 2012

I am very pleased to introduce the 2012 report on the work ofthe Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Treasure Act 1996. Over the last 15 years more than 900,000 archaeological findshave been recorded on the PAS database, for the advancement of archaeological knowledge. In the same period, over 8,500 finds have been reported as Treasure, enabling many of themost important archaeological discoveries to be acquired by museums.

There is wide acknowledgement that both the PAS and Treasure Act have been an overwhelming success, reflected in the popularity of ITV's Britain's Secret Treasures. The first series, in July 2012, averaged 3.5million viewers and a second series was shown this Autumn, with an accompanying book. Before the Treasure Act only about 25 finds per annum weredeclared to be Treasure Trove. Under the 1996 Act the number of Treasure finds has increased dramatically. This year 990 cases were reported, greatly benefiting public collections across thecountry. This is in no small part thanks to the many finders (mostof whom are metal-detectorists) who have diligently reportedtheir finds. Also involved with the administration of the Act are the Treasure team at the British Museum, the network of national coroners, local museum curators, as well as the Treasure Valuation Committee. Most important, however, are the variousfunding bodies that enabled museums to acquire Treasure, so I would especially like to thank the Art Fund, the HeadleyTrust, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

It is also right to pay tribute to the enormous generosity of all thosefinders and landowners who have waived their right to a share ofa reward, therefore allowing museums to acquire finds at no, or reduced, cost. The Treasure Act 1996 would be unworkable without thesupport offered by the PAS and its network of Finds LiaisonOfficers (FLOs). The FLOs are the primary point for reportingTreasure finds, but also offer guidance on the Act, write reportson Treasure finds and also help courier them to and from thenational museum, for valuation etc. This is in addition to theirprimary role of recording non-Treasure items found by thepublic, raising awareness of the PAS and the importance of recording archaeological finds.

This report highlights a few of the73,903 new finds recorded this year, and the ways in which thesediscoveries are helping to rewrite our understanding of the past. Since 2011 the PAS has been managed by the British Museum,with funding from the DCMS and contributions from localpartners, working together to help deliver the Scheme's aims.This work is guided by the Portable Antiquities Advisory Group, as well as the dedication and support of the FLOs, localmanagers and other partners. For many, including finders, localarchaeologists and museum curators, the involvement of the British Museum overseeing the PAS is crucial to its success, and also that of the Treasure Act. The impact on local archaeology has been great. The FLOs are locally based, and play an increasingly important role in the delivery of local heritage, andin deepening archaeological knowledge.

The PAS is a key part of the British Museum's nationwide activity, tying in well with other British Museum projects, such as Partnership UK and the variousresearch projects that are making use of PAS data. This includes several collaborative doctoral awards, as well as a LeverhulmeTrust grant of £149,000 to study the factors underlying PAS dataand an AHRC grant of £645,000 for a project to investigate why so many hoards were buried in Britain during the Roman period. Given the financial pressures facing all public sector bodies, thePAS has needed to adapt and make efficiencies. The British Museum is nonetheless committed to ensuring the long-termsuccess of the PAS, through its network of locally based FLOs,and the Government recognises this in its Grant in Aid to the Museum. In recent years the PAS has depended upon external support toenhance capacity, which has been very much welcome. To this end we are extremely grateful to the Headley Trust who havefunded interns over the last five years, and the HLF who havefunded the development of a project to make the most of how the PAS works with volunteers. I would also like to express my sincere thanks to Treasure Hunting, who again have published this report within the pages of their magazine and provided off prints for wider distribution, allowing more PAS funding to be used onits core functions. Neil MacGregor Director, British Museum

This document is available as a pdf (3.485 MB)

The main achievements of the Portable Antiquities Schemein 2012 are as follows:

  • 73,903 finds were recorded; a total of 903, 774 finds recorded on the PAS database (finds.org.uk/database) to date.
  • 990 Treasure cases were reported, up from 970 in 2011.
  • 90% of finds were found by metal-detectorists.
  • In 29% of Treasure cases one or more parties waived their right to a reward; a two-fold increase on 2008.
  • 92% of PAS finds were found on cultivated land, where they are susceptible to plough damage, and both artificial and natural corrosion processes.
  • 91% of PAS finds were recorded to the nearest 100m2, the minimum requirement for findspot information for Historic Environment Records. New sites discovered through finds recorded by the PAS include Mesolithic sites in Northamptonshire, Roman villas in Gloucestershire and Shropshire, and an Anglo-Saxon settlement, and possible cemetery, in Hampshire.
  • Currently 322 people have full access to PAS data for research purposes, and there are a further 5,497 registered users. To date, PAS data has been used in 368 research projects, including 13 pieces of large-scale research and 71 PhDs.
  • 543,534 unique visitors visited the PAS websites, making over 800,080 visits and 4,836,783 page requests.
  • Publications associated with the work of the PAS include reports in Britannia, Medieval Archaeology, Post-Medieval Archaeology, and the British Numismatic Journal.
  • 25 outreach events took place, including talks, finds days and exhibitions. These were attended by at least 33,090 people, including 2,681 children.
  • The Scheme's Finds Liaison Officers had regular contact with 197 metal-detecting clubs, attending 843 club meetings.