Monday, November 24, 2008

British finding more archaeological treasures

By Vicky Shaw
19 November 2008
Press Association National Newswire

There has been a "dramatic" increase in the number of treasure finds in the last year, a report said today. The Treasure Annual Report said that 747 objects were reported in 2007, up from 665 in 2006.

The 2005/06 report showed 1,257 finds in total were reported to the British Museum, the National Museums and Galleries of Wales and the Environment and Heritage Service, Northern Ireland. Culture minister Barbara Follett, who was at the British Museum in London for the launch of the report, said that programmes like Time Team owed a lot of their popularity to the way in which treasure finds have been formalised.

She also highlighted Rolling Stone Bill Wyman as an "obsessive treasure finder". Ms Follett said: "You wouldn't think he would be an obsessive treasure finder, but he is...It's very interesting to see people from right across society going to look for their past."

Wyman has a section dedicated to archaeology on his website, which talks about how he has created his own signature metal detector. Ms Follett told how as a child she once found a coin in a field in Essex. "I remember nobody knew what we had to do," she said. "Now there is a system in place."

The Treasure Act in 1996 ruled that finders and landowners would be eligible for rewards for finds. Since then, she said, museums had reported a 10-fold increase in the treasure items offered to them. Government agency the Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) has confirmed an allocation of £1.3 million this year to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) which encourages the public to report archaeological finds, rising to more than £1.4 million in 2010/11. She said: "I am very pleased that, thanks to the hard work of all those involved in the scheme, more archaeological material is now available for people to see in museums and galleries."

The year 2006 also saw an increase in donations of treasure finds to museums, following a Government initiative to encourage finders to gift their discoveries to local museums. In 2006, 44 finders donated finds to museums, up from 25 in the previous year. The museum said today that a wide number of significant objects had passed through the treasure process in 2005/06.

They include:

- An Iron Age Torc (200AD to 50BC) made from gold and silver. It was found in 2005 near Newark, Nottinghamshire, by a man searching for a crashed Second World War aircraft. It is the first time such an object has been found in this area, the museum said, forcing archaeologists to re-think the importance of the region 2,000 years ago. Valued at £350,000, the high status object has been acquired by Newark Heritage Service and is the most expensive single treasure find in recent history.

- A medieval silver seal matrix (13th century AD) found in Swanley, Kent, in 2005. It shows the only known surviving gem portrait of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, the successor to Hadrian. It was acquired by the British Museum for £2,750.

- A large Roman coin hoard found in Snodland, Kent, and deposited around 347AD. It consists of more than 3,600 coins and was found by a digger driver during a survey. The hoard is being investigated by the British Museum.