Part of a Bronze Age gold torc discovered in Cambridgeshire, thought to be one of the largest ever found in Engand

Treasure finds double in a decade

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 30.11.2016
PAS and Treasure annual reports show an increasing number of finds are being reported
Gold and silver finds reported under the Treasure Act 1996 have doubled in a decade, from 506 in 2004 to 1011 in 2014, according to the act's annual report for 2014.

The report, which was published this week and covers finds reported as treasure in England and Wales, showed that 373 of the discoveries recorded in 2014 have been or are going to be acquired by museums. Of those, 88 were acquired at reduced or no cost after the parties involved in their discovery waived their right to reward.

One of the most notable finds was a Bronze Age gold torc thought to be the largest ever recorded in England, which was discovered at an anonymous site and reported to a finds meeting at Peterborough Museum.
Believed to date from between 1300 and 1100 BC, the torc is in the process of being valued and is likely to be acquired by Ely Museum in Cambridgeshire.

Other significant discoveries included a criminal’s hoard of fragments clipped from silver coins dating to the late 17th century, and an Anglo-Saxon hanging mount inlaid with enamel and glass.

The recording of treasure finds is overseen by the British Museum as part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), which also published its latest annual report – for 2015 – this week.

The PAS, which operates as a partnership project with around 119 local museums or related organisations across England and Wales, recorded 82,272 archaeological finds last year, with almost 90% of those discovered by metal detectorists.

A number of new archaeological sites were also discovered, including a Roman villa complex in Wiltshire and a site associated with the English Civil War on the Shropshire-Worcestershire border.

Most items reported to the PAS are returned to their finders after being recorded on the scheme’s database, which now features more than 1.2m archaeological finds dating from the Palaeolithic era onwards and has been used in 538 research projects.

The culture minister Matt Hancock said the increase in finds demonstrated the impact of the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme in raising public awareness about the importance of recording archaeology.

Speaking at the launch of the reports this week, Hancock said: “We as a nation are stronger for having a clear set of rules for what happens when some of our treasure is dug out of the ground.”

Hancock praised the schemes for working with metal detectorists and other finders to ensure they were aware of best practice in recording and reporting their finds. He said the fact that treasure discoveries had doubled in the past decade showed that the “enthusiasm for searching for it and the processes to ensure it is properly identified are getting stronger”.

The PAS developed five strategic goals in 2015, including to advance and share archaeological knowledge, to promote archaeological best practice among finders, to support museum acquisitions of finds, and to provide the PAS with long-term sustainability.

The £1m annual budget for the scheme, which comes from the Department for Culture Media and Sport, has fallen by 15% since 2010, but it received a boost recently from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which awarded PAS a £792,000 grant in 2014 to establish a network of volunteers.
The volunteer network, known as PASt Explorers, now numbers 259 volunteers, who work alongside 38 locally-based finds liaison officers and 14 interns from the Headley Trust to support the scheme.