|30 October 2004
47,000 treasures found by Britain's amateur archaeologists
Last year an incredible 47,000 historic artefacts were found by amateur archaeologists in Britain and reported, identified and recorded through the Portable Antiquities Scheme. From prehistoric weapons to a Victorian antidote to witchcraft, the unearthed objects span almost 500,000 years and were all discovered by metal detectorists, gardeners, farmers, builders or walkers.
While treasure items account for less than 1 per cent of the total number of objects found, this extraordinary success was revealed by Arts Minister Estelle Morris, announcing the publication of the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Annual Report for 2003/4. "The past year has seen a huge rise in the number of items found and reported by the public, largely thanks to the expanded network of Finds Liaison Officers working for the Portable Antiquities Scheme," she explained. "Finds officers, volunteers, community history groups and amateur archaeologists all work together to make this a tremendously successful scheme and I'm particularly pleased to see its reach extending and so many items being reported."
Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and led by MLA - the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council - the Portables Antiquities Scheme is run by a network of Finds Liaison Officers. The scheme is there to record all archaeological objects found by members of the public, who are helped by officers to identify and record their discoveries, as well as get them into museum collections. Last year, the scheme was extended into Wales and the number of finds staff more than doubled, helping over 2,300 people.
According to Estelle Morris, the rate of finds will continue to rise: "It is good that the number of finds being reported is increasing rapidly and may reach around 500 by the end of this year, representing almost a 100 per cent increase on 2002." Metal-detector users are responsible for the great majority of Treasure finds," she explained. "I am pleased to see how present arrangements are encouraging both them and archaeologists alike to co-operate on identifying and recording finds ensuring that important information about our heritage is not lost."
For more information about the Portable Antiquites Scheme, visit the organisation's website: www.finds.org.uk.
Sources: Article by David Prudames for 24 Hour Museum (26 October 2004), The Independent (27 October 2004)
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