Portable Antiquities Scheme logs millionth archaeological find - Museums Association

Portable Antiquities Scheme logs millionth archaeological find

Number of recorded items fell by 40% in 2020 due to Covid
A medieval harness pendant was the one millionth find recorded by the PAS
A medieval harness pendant was the one millionth find recorded by the PAS North Lincolnshire Museum

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has logged its millionth archaeological find made by the public - a medieval harness pendant from Lincolnshire.

In its latest annual report, the scheme revealed that 49,045 archaeological items, including more than 1,000 treasure finds, were discovered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2020.

The number of items recorded fell by almost 40% compared to the previous year as opportunities for metal-detectorists to record their finds were limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The scheme logged a record number of items in 2019, when 81,602 finds were registered.

Finds in 2020 included a hoard of Roman coins, a gold cross with runic inscription, and a silver medieval seal matrix thought to have been owned by a high-status woman.

Other notable finds included a hoard of Roman coins discovered at Wickwar, Gloucestershire

The counties with the most PAS finds were East Yorkshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, while treasure finds were most common in Hampshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

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More than 91% of the items recorded in 2020 were discovered by metal detectorists. Finds made by 2,846 individuals were logged, and 93% of the finds were found on cultivated land.

The PAS is a partnership project managed by the British Museum in England and hosted through Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in Wales.

Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, said: “The PAS is an essential part of the British Museum’s national activity, reaching out to people across the country to record their archaeological finds so that these can add to our knowledge of the past.

“If these finds are treasure, they may benefit museum collections across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Essential in this work is our partnerships with museums and heritage organisations across the UK, as well as those abroad where the PAS is admired and emulated.”

A gold cross with runic inscriptions was found in Durham Durham County Council

The UK Government's arts minister Stephen Parkinson said: "Human beings have been fascinated by treasure from previous generations for centuries and these new statistics show the search for, and engagement with it, still captivates us today.

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“I'm delighted that one million records of archaeological finds made by the public have now been logged. It shows the important role we all can play in protecting and cherishing our heritage.”

He continued: "It's wonderful that so many treasure finds are now on display at museums across England, Wales and Northern Ireland for everyone to learn from and enjoy." 

Michael Lewis, head of PAS and Treasure at the British Museum, said: “It is important to acknowledge the positive contribution made by metal-detectorists and other public finders across the country.

“If recorded, following the Code of Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales, these finds are transforming the archaeological map of Britain. No matter how small or fragmentary these finds are all part of the great jigsaw puzzle of our past.”

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