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11 August 2014
Citizen archaeologists help rediscover British Bronze Age

The British Museum's Bronze Age Index - an illustrated card catalogue containing over 30,000 records of Bronze Age tools and weapons - complements the current Portable Antiquities Scheme Database of metal object finds. Begun in the early 20th century, it was the first catalogue of its kind, and probably the first British archaeology initiative to call on public help with documenting British prehistory.
     Following in the footsteps of creators of the Index, the museum is once again calling on the public to help research this extremely important resource. Since late 2013, the digitisation of the entire Index has been undertaken by the MicroPasts project, employing help from 'citizen archaeologists' to assist in transcribing the information contained on these cards. By undertaking these transcriptions, it will be possible to incorporate the Index's 30,000 records rapidly into the PAS database, which on its own includes nearly one million objects collected by the public, usually by metal-detectorists. Additionally, people are helping create 3D models of objects, many of which are recorded by the Index.
     The result will be the largest national database of prehistoric metal finds anywhere in the world, and a near-comprehensive view of what we currently know about such finds in the UK. Metal finds are not only crucial forms of evidence for dating Britain's prehistoric past, but also tell us a great deal about prehistoric society and economy. The creation of this database will allow for the rethinking of almost everything we currently know about the use of metal in Bronze Age Britain, giving us a more comprehensive view of our prehistoric past.
     To find out out more about MicroPasts, or help with the research, visit the project's web site at micropasts.org

Edited from The British Museum (4 August 2014)

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