Roman gold, sceptre heads and Saxon sites: Archaeologist reveals Lincolnshire's best finds

By Ben Miller | 04 July 2014

Adam Daubney has been Lincolnshire’s Finds Liaison Officer for 11 years. Roman gold earrings, a hand axe and a lead plaque are among his recent favourite finds

A photo of an ancient stone plaque
This Anglo-Saxon lead plaque, found in Lincolnshire, comes from the early medieval period© PAS
“This last year has also brought in some 'wow' finds, and also some 'wow' sites.

Two Roman gold earrings were a surprise start to 2014. Found on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds, they come from a site that looks to be sizeable rural settlement, with perhaps an associated market and shrine.

A photo of three gold Roman earrings
Found in March, the Roman gold earrings are in the form of a rectangular cube and contain green-coloured stone settings© PAS
The earrings were found close to a statue of Mercury, and also a sceptre head in the form of Mars.

But it is not just gold that catches our attention; a particular favourite find of mine is a Lower Palaeolithic hand axe, probably used between 424,000 and 374,000 years ago. These are rare finds, and give us important glimpses into deep prehistory.

I've also had the privilege of recording what is turning out to be one of the most important Middle Saxon sites in the East Midlands.

Found only two years ago, this site has already produced dozens of coins, hundreds of pins and other dress accessories.

The site has also produced lots of evidence for high status activity such as reading and writing; we have about seven styli  - writing implements - and a lead plaque giving the name 'Cudburg'.

The site shares all the classic features of high status sites: it is close to important routeways and has easy access to fertile soils and a range of resources. It also appears to have been born out of an important late Roman and early Anglo-Saxon settlement.

Every year brings with it new finds and new understandings. This last year has continued the trend of increasing numbers of finds being reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and nationally we expect to hit our millionth find later this year.

A photo of a thin jagged silver ancient implement
This is part of a shaft and spatulate end from a stylus, made from partly gilded silver. It dates from the Anglo-Saxon medieval period© PAS
Around 75,000 of these finds come from Lincolnshire – one of the largest arable counties, which has a varied landscape from Chalk Wolds to Fen and Marsh.

The majority of finds reported to me were the types of objects commonly found across the rural landscape: Roman coins, medieval buckles, and post-medieval buttons.

Those are not exceptionally exciting in themselves, but they are really important, nonetheless, to the bigger picture of archaeology in the county.

What makes these everyday finds even more important is their potential to tell us about 'new' sites. I've been doing some research into the PAS’s data recently, and this is showing that the vast majority of finds come from sites that we previously had no information on.

This is perhaps one of the most important contributions that assemblages from the plough-zone can make, but they can only do so if they are offered with accurate grid references.

There is little that is archaeologically useful or responsible about a find with a parish-only location, and we are working hard to promote best practice, which means recording to at least a six-figure grid reference – that is, to 100 metres square.

In reality, eight-figure recordings - ten metres square - is what should be expected in today's world of hand-held Global Positioning Systems.

This is a really exciting time to be working in archaeology, with lots of new finds and sites to explore.”

  • An Archaeology and Finds Identification Day takes place at Gunby Hall and Gardens in Spilsby on Saturday (July 12), 11am-5pm. Full details here. The Festival of Archaeology 2014 takes place July 12-27. Visit archaeologyfestival.org.uk.

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