|25 November 2004
Portable Antiquities: field walking in Wales
When it comes to archaeological finds reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), Wales has proved to be something of a goldmine. A series of high profile finds in the north of the country include gold hoards that are allowing archaeologists to pinpoint some interesting new patterns about the late Bronze Age period.
“What’s interesting with regard to the PAS in Wales is the large number of dedicated field walkers,” says Finds Co-ordinator Mark Lodwick. "They are reporting large collections from all over the country. I think we are similar to most places in that we probably have more metal detectorists but the amount of dedication of the field walkers is amazing."
However you approach it, looking for archaeological finds takes determination and patience but field walking involves a peculiar, almost forensic, dedication. After arranging permission from the farmer, usually after ploughing, field walkers slowly move back and forth scouring the earth for foreign objects. "It’s literally walking up and down a field looking closely at the ground," explains Mark, "sometimes on your hands and knees. But the rewards are immense - after a period of rain, if you know what you’re looking for you can find megalithic tools and flints." One field walker is particularly skilled in this art. “He has brought in some amazing finds,” explains Mark. "One piece was burnt suggesting a burial ground or a ploughed up barrow that we didn’t previously know about so I’ve lent him a GPS so he can plot his area."
Thanks to the efforts of field walkers Mark and his colleagues have logged and recorded a considerable amount of archaeological information about earlier prehistoric periods. And only recently a forestry worker reported some amazing flints from the Megalithic and Neolithic periods. "In the Pembrokeshire and Glamorgan area there is now huge evidence of Stone Age occupation,” adds Mark. “We have also had huge collections of Bronze Age metal works coming through and we hope to publish a book about these in conjunction with the National Museum of Wales.”
Finds reported through the PAS are beginning to change the way archaeologists think about the historical landscape and one of the most significant hoards of last year came through the PAS in Wales. The Burton Hoard was uncovered by a group of metal detectorists near Wrexham and is spectacular in its range of middle Bronze Age artefacts – all of which are made of gold. "The Burton Hoard contains a couple of pieces that are unparalleled anywhere else in the UK," says Mark. "There is a bracelet with strands of twisted gold and a pendant consisting of a gold bi-conical bead. The quality and type of the jewellery is amazing and suggests a connection with the continent."
Mark and his colleagues are currently involved in a project with the National Museum of Wales investigating Bronze Age sites in the Vale of Glamorgan - and metal detectorists are an integral part of the team.
Source: Article by Richard Moss for 24 Hour Museum (22 November 2004)
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