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Britain's Secret Treasures

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The Top 50 finds made by members of the British public in the last 20 years

On Monday, 16 July 2012, at 20.00, hosts Michael Buerk and Bettany Hughes will launch the television programme Britain's Secret Treasures on ITV1. The theme of the show is a review of the top 50 archaeological finds discovered in Britain by members of the public over the last 20 years. The British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), a project to record archaeological finds made by members of the public in England and Wales on its database, has partnered with ITV to make this programme possible.

Helen Geake with the North West Essex ringSince its beginnings as a pilot scheme in 1997, the PAS has recorded almost 800,000 objects and coins, found by the public, on its database. From those finds, the top 50 were chosen by a team of experts based on the items' archaeological and historical significance, aesthetic and narrative appeal. They are special because they shed light on previously little understood periods and events in our past. These finds illustrate the value of cooperation between finders, archaeologists and museums, and it is only through the responsible reporting of these finds that we have their stories to share.

Britain's Secret Treasures will be broadcast on ITV1 throughout the week, with each programme counting down until the top find is revealed on Sunday, 22 July 2012. The programmes are scheduled to air as follows and will also be available on ITV Player:

  1. Monday 16th July on ITV1 at 20.00
  2. Tuesday 17th July on ITV1 at 19.30
  3. Wednesday 18th July on ITV1 at 20.00 (one hour)
  4. Thursday 19th July on ITV1 at 19.30
  5. Friday 20th July on ITV1 at 20.00
  6. Sunday 22nd July on ITV1 at 19.00 (one hour)

As each of these programmes is transmitted, a webpage will become available on this site with links to all the objects featured.

The timing of the show coincides with the first week of the Festival of British Archaeology the series of heritage events run throughout the country by the Council for British Archaeology. We hope that the show will help nurture the public's interest in the past and encourage people to partake in Festival activities.

The PAS is excited about this project and with the exposure that it will give to archaeology in this country. By highlighting examples of best practice in searching for artefacts, it is hoped that more people will be aware of their potential to contribute to our knowledge of the past by reporting their archaeological discoveries to their local Finds Liaison Officer (FLO). Viewers will also appreciate the benefits of leaving important discoveries found beneath the plough-soil undisturbed (such as a coins hoard) and working with archaeologists to have them professionally excavated. It will be clear that by following their obligations under the Treasure Act 1996 to report finds of Treasure, finders will be in a position to receive a reward equal to the market value of the item, should it be acquired by a museum. Above all, it is the hope of the PAS and the British Museum that Britain's Secret Treasures will demonstrate that all archaeological finds, from large hoards to inauspicious single items, can connect us to our past, and deserve to be shown to professionals.

To join the conversation on Twitter, you can use the hashtag #secrettreasure and the PAS can be found @findsorguk or via our Facebook page.