Photo: Estelle Morris, Minister of State for the Arts holding the 'leopard' cup. Picture by Corinne Field © 24 Hour Museum
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) published its report for 2001 to 2003 yesterday at the headquarters in London of Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries. Resource are one of the major funders of the PAS.
The voluntary scheme records archaeological objects found by members of the public. A staggering 1,704 finders have volunteered a massive 49,590 objects for recording since 2001.
Speaking in praise of the scheme at the launch of the report, Estelle Morris, Minister of State for the Arts, said, "It’s not heavy handed, it’s not about putting a firm structure in place, it’s about making available experts at the point where the finder looks for advice."
She added, “It’s really a benefit that there are people who want to go out there and look for hidden treasure and that’s always been the case and that will always be the case."
"What we didn’t have in the past was something that would happen once the treasure had been found."
Photo: The 'leopard' cup found by metal detectorists, Gary Mapps, in Wales. Picture by Corinne Field © 24 Hour Museum.
One of the most impressive finds, a 'leopard' cup, was made near Abergavenny in Wales by Gary Mapps.
The bronze cup has a decorative leopard handle, it's head leaning over the rim of the vessel, with silver inlay representing the leopard’s spots and would have had eyes made from amber. It is thought to be a Roman wine cup, imported from Italy dating from around the first century BC.
Mapps reported the find to Newport Museum and Art Gallery and it was recorded under the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
Richard Brewer, Keeper of Archaeology and Numismatics at the National Musuems and Galleries of Wales said, "the bronze cup is one of the highest quality Roman vessels to have been found in Wales."
He added, "prompt reporting of the discovery enabled the findspot to be investigated and this has added considerably to our knowledge of Roman Abergavenny."
Photo: Estelle Morris with one of the finders and a finds liason officer at today's launch of the report. Picture by Corinne Field © 24 Hour Museum.
Almost 60 per cent of the finds recorded since 2001 were made by metal detectorists. Finds Liaison Officers maintain regular contact with 61 metal detecting clubs and amateur archaeological groups.
Michael Lewis, Deputy Head of Portable Antiquities, said " metal detectorists have an important role to play in archaeological investigation."
The rest of the finds were made be the general public and reported at finds days set up by the PAS or to one of the regional finds liaison officers across the UK.
The number of finds liaison officers has increased from 15 to 37 over the past two years and now covers the whole of the country.
Photo: Estelle Morris with Chief Executive of Resource, Chris Batt. Picture by Corinne Field, © 24 Hour Museum.
As well as relating the story of the discovery of the cup, the report outlines many other archaeological treasures uncovered by enthusiastic amateurs. These include an Iron Age hoard in Kent, evidence of unofficial Roman mints found in Norfolk, and the remains of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Northamptonshire.
All the finds recorded by the scheme are published on the PAS online database at www.finds.org.uk.
"The whole nation benefits from these discoveries, not just the museums who house these precious objects,” said Estelle Morris.
"They will be here for generations to come to help us learn about our past, our country’s past and about our past as a nation race. It is a huge success all round and long may it continue."
After a successful Heritage Lottery bid and funding from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, as well as the British Museum, Resource and the National Museums & Galleries of Wales, the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s future is secure until April 2006.
Don't miss the Portable Antiquities Scheme website.