Experts were on hand all day to help identify and date objects, like this German-made, tin plate clockwork toy motor car, dated 1900. Photo: Steven Bradshaw.
24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Journalist Safira Ali sought out the most fabulous of finds at Yorkshire Museum.
The Fabulous Finds Day at Yorkshire Museum on April 30 2005 yielded, amongst other things, a Bronze Age axe head and a mystery artefact, which have both been sent to the British Museum to be identified.
"I have seen two similar objects in the past, but nothing like this at all," said Simon Holmes, Portable Antiquities Scheme finds liaison officer of the mystery item. "We will use excavation reports to discover what it is. I feel it shouldn’t be displaced.”
Made out of bronze and iron, the unidentified object fits in the hand and is shaped like a nozzle or handle. It was found by Ken Barran from Selby in a dam near a land drain which is used for transporting stone from Monk Fryston to Selby.
Metal detectorist Shaughn Tyreman from Whitby brought in a Bronze Age flanged axe head, believed to date from 1200 BC. Photo: Steven Bradshaw.
"I have found stuff by looking there before," said Mr Barran, a plumbing and heating engineer. "They scrape it every so often. I thought I would check the banks with a metal detector. There was a weak signal and the item was fragile. There was a mass of green corrosion, I cleaned it up and it seemed to have something wooden inside it but it came away, and was like a wooden shaft. It fits in the hand easily."
The fragment of an axe head, found on farmland near Whitby by Shaughn Tyreman, is thought to date back to 1200 BC.
Mr Tyreman, a service engineer, said: “It’s the first one I have found. I recognised what it was straight away. It is very similar to the axe head with the man they found in the ice in the Alps.”
He added: “In its day the axe would be an extremely expensive object. Few people would have one. All the rest would be using flint axes and if you had a bronze one it would be like owning a BMW. 20 trees would have been felled to smelt the ore to make it.”
Simon Holmes explained: “There is not a lot left of it. In three and a half years in this job I have only seen half a dozen of these Bronze Age fragments."
11-year-old Saskia Tyreman from Whitby with a piece of 2000-year-old Roman cremation head pot. Photo: Steven Bradshaw.
The artefact has now been sent to London for recording on the PAS database at The British Museum.
As Catherine Knopps, archaeology learning co-ordinator at Yorkshire Museum, explained digging up the past is like piecing together a jigsaw: “When you dig something up the chances are that it won’t be intact,” she said. “Here we have real things from the Roman and Medieval period.”
Fragments of pottery, including Roman grey wear and a medieval storage vessel, were put in trays to allow younger visitors to try and piece them back together and see how archaeologists work.
One was a “face pot” featuring faces of the deceased, possibly emperors whose ashes were placed inside after cremation.
“The pots were a high status piece and not that common,” said Lauren Marshall, a museum guide. “They were found in York near the railway station and the cemetery. They show the fashions of the time. They show the hair styles and details about society and the pots were usable.”
Metal detectorist Paul Robinson, from Beverley, unearthed a 7th century Anglo Saxon brooch clasp near Scarborough. Photo: Steven Bradshaw.
Saskia Tyreman, 11, had a go at putting one of them back together. "It shows how much work goes into sticking them back together again," remarked Lauren. “It is quite decadent, and possibly belonged to a woman to keep cosmetics in. It is painted, but originally it was a different colour. Also it is a smoother pot compared to the first one. It could have been used by the mother or the wife of an emperor. It was possibly commissioned because they are quite rare.”
First time metal detector user Paul Robinson was surprised when he unearthed a catch plate Anglo Saxon brooch with eyes in the design found in Muston, near Scarborough.
Mr Robinson, a prison officer from Beverley, said the detective work was very different from his day job while his wife Veronica approved of his new found hobby: “It is easy to find things of interest, but you must do your homework on the items,” she said.
Simon Holmes, whose job it is to identify and catalogue finds discovered by the public said: “We have a series of surgeries on the first of every month in York and the last in Hull. Every year we have an annual finds road show in the summer and gather en masse to find potential treasure."
He also had the following suggestion for would be treasure hunters: “My advice would be if you have something archaeological you should get it out and identified, not leave it under the bed.”
Safira Ali is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Writer in Yorkshire. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.