A day to Treasure

As a Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) my job can be quite varied. My day usually starts with emails followed by some research into finds which I am recording before I return them to a local metal detecting club next week. In this week’s batch I have plenty of lead, typical finds for the North West where we have lots of musket balls, lead weights (usually undiagnostic) and plenty of spindle whorls. Although these finds sometimes don’t look interesting by themselves, by recording them on our online database and creating a record which describes the object, with images and an accurate grid reference, we can combine a single record with more than a million recorded objects and this data can then be used in important research helping to advance archaeological knowledge. Also in the batch to return I’ve recorded a medieval copper alloy vessel fragment and a lovely sestertius of Lucilla which was discovered in Flintshire.

LVPL74665E A copper-alloy Roman sestertius of Lucilla (AD 164-169)

As the Day of Archaeology also falls within the Festival of British Archaeology myself and archaeology curators from the Museum of Liverpool will be giving talks at the museum on various topics. So I’m writing this post a day in advance which will free me up to spend my time panicking about public speaking tomorrow! This year marks 20 years of the 1996 Treasure Act coming into force, an Act which resulted in the creation of the PAS and so it seemed an obvious choice for me to choose ’20 years of Treasure and the Portable Antiquities Scheme’ as my topic.

LVPL-26EC55 A gold unite of Charles I, (1625-1649).

I have been lucky in the North West to have excavated four Roman hoards in the last few years from which we can see how far PAS has come in the last 20 years. So I will be highlighting these hoards and the good practice involved from the finders and of course the Knutsford Hoard will have to have a mention. We have also recorded some really interesting single Treasure finds such as an inscribed silver thimble from Chester and a gold unite found in Salford. It is however important to remember that although all this Treasure is exciting and lovely the grotty broken Roman coins and bits of lead can equally tell us just as much about the past when recorded with a good grid reference and combined with all of our other data so I will finish with a few bits of trusty North West lead (as thanks to PAS data we have learned Cheshire is the spindle whorl capital of England!) and a nod to those who have recorded their finds.

After my talk, I’ll be able to relax a bit and I’m looking forward to listening to my colleagues talks. As a FLO we are usually very busy and concentrate on recording finds non-stop always trying to turn around objects for the next find day or club meeting. So it is great to be able to take a step back by writing a talk to see what our data is telling us and how it has been used in new research. Listening to local talks is also a great way to absorb other people’s research easily. I imagine after my talk there will be some more finds recording and some more emails to reply to as there usually are and once home I look forward to an evening of reading Day of Archaeology blogs.

I have really enjoyed taking part in Day of Archaeology over the last few years and also discovering what so many other archaeologists across the world are up to so thanks to all those behind the scenes for having us and I’m looking forward to the next adventure.

#FindsFriday for Day of Archaeology

At the Portable Antiquities Scheme many of us who are on Twitter have taken to tweeting a find on Fridays. This can be the best find recorded that week or just an interesting object. So as it is Friday I thought I would blog about some of the #FindsFriday objects I’ve tweeted about during the last year. One of my favorites is LVPL-08F250, a post-medieval coin hoard. Not because of the shiny coins of Elizabeth I and Mary but because of the small associated wooden object. At first, in its uncleaned state, the finder thought it might be from the roots of the tree beneath which he found the hoard but as it looked interesting he brought it in anyway. This small insignificant looking object turned out to be an incomplete wooden sundial probably made in Nuremberg!

LVPL-08F250 wooden sundial, mid 16th century.

LVPL-08F250 wooden sundial, mid 16th century.

LVPL-08F250 one silver groat of Mary, (1553-1554) and eleven silver coins of Elizabeth I, (1558-1603),

LVPL-08F250 one silver groat of Mary, (1553-1554) and eleven silver coins of Elizabeth I, (1558-1603).

Another of my favorite #FindsFriday tweets is this early Iron Age sickle found in Cheshire East and reported to me at the Museum of Liverpool. A very close parallel is a decorated sickle in Norwich Castle Museum, (1959.38), perhaps created in the same mould.

LVPL-23E5CF early Iron Age sickle

LVPL-23E5CF early Iron Age sickle

Finally my last pick for today is this fantastic Iron Age fob/dangler. There is just something about these fob/danglers that I love, perhaps it is the mystery which surrounds their function or simply the fact that its fun to say fob dangler! This one however is the first triangular example found recorded on the PAS database and I’ve not yet found a parallel elsewhere. It is beautifully decorated with openwork and has the type of patina I love.

LVPL-78F55A Iron Age Fob/Dangler

LVPL-78F55A Iron Age Fob/Dangler

Several of the PAS FLOs now tweet about our work but in particular on #FindsFriday so if you are interested in finds check out the PAS database and follow a FLO!

@VOakden_FLO

Finds recording and more

As an archaeologist and a mum of two young children life is very much about juggling at the moment. This year’s Day of Archaeology is my first as a mum of a school going child and so with the arrival of our first lot of school summer holidays I find that tomorrow I will be busy being mum instead of at work in my role as a Portable Antiquities Scheme’s (PAS) Finds Liaison Officer, (FLO). So instead I find myself writing a day early and looking forward to enjoying what others have written tomorrow.

Photographing an early medieval inscribed stone LVPL-018000

Photographing an early medieval inscribed stone LVPL-018000

As the FLO for Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside I visit local metal detecting clubs where I record their finds for the PAS database, finds.org.uk. Here we have over a million objects recorded which can be used by members of the public and researcher’s to advance our archaeological knowledge. Today I had a day in lieu, time off earned from visiting the detecting clubs at night, and spent the time putting the finishing touches on my book ’50 Finds from Manchester and Merseyside’. My deadline is Monday so it was a day of re-numbering images and checking references, not the most fun part of the process.

LVPLD80A36 Medieval Spindle Whorl

LVPLD80A36 Medieval Spindle Whorl

Writing this book has been really interesting as it has allowed me to stop and think about all the objects which I am constantly recording on the PAS database. Metal detecting is a popular hobby and finds recording an interesting job. I love the variety of objects which I get to record and learn about from Prehistory to 1700s, however often I find myself pushed for time and so I record the finds for the next club meeting or museum finds surgery and move on to the next batch and the next deadline. Now I’ve been able to take a step back and have a look at what has been found in Manchester and Merseyside, to put the finds into context and view them as more than just finds but as connections to people and the past.

LVPL-39BCF5 Roman patera handle from Cheshire

LVPL-39BCF5 Roman patera handle from Cheshire

Although I record lots of finds from Cheshire, I also record a huge amount from Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire. Greater Manchester and Merseyside are large urban areas and although there are small pockets of rural land many detectorists venture further afield. I have not recorded many local finds from Manchester and Merseyside and so I’ve had to look a bit harder to find some fantastic objects for my book. By recording finds and accurate find spots we can spot patterns but also voids, for example I realised yesterday there are only 5 Iron Age objects recorded from Merseyside for example.

LVPL-F7E419 Bronze Age flint dagger

LVPL-F7E419 Bronze Age flint dagger

One of those finds is this fantastic flint dagger found near Bolton LVPL-F7E419, it’s a really fantastic object but one which came to me through a chance conversation. The PAS is well known in the archaeological and detecting communities but outside of those groups many people are unaware of what we do. A chance find like this dagger found while out walking could have easily remained unrecorded. So my next challenge is to try and get more local finds recorded, I know there are more local objects out there waiting to be recorded and as I’ve been hearing a lot lately ‘gotta catch em all’!

Finds from Home

Coming from Ireland but working in England I particularly enjoy when finds have a connection with home. Liverpool and Dublin have always had strong links and it should be of no surprise then when objects are handed in for recording on finds.org.uk/database which have been found in the North West and have strong Irish parallels or links.

Tonight I’ve been working on an object which I recorded recently, a rare socketed heeled sickle of Iron Age date, LVPL-23E5CF. The sickle is in three pieces and has been irregularly broken during antiquity. On one face of the object the heal, in line with the socket, is decorated with a squirly circlet decoration. When researching the sickle I found that it is the only socketed example currently on the PAS database. Immediately I contacted my fellow FLOs Peter and Dot who have an interest in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. They directed me a similar example in Norwich County Museum which may have been created in the same mould. Then during the course of her research Dot spotted another parallel illustrated on p.14 of P.W Joyce, A Reading book in Irish History. Eager to find out more I emailed the National Museum of Ireland who got back to me straight away with a bit more information about their object. The Irish sickle was discovered in Westmeath and catalogued by William Wilde.

Early Iron Age sickle

Early Iron Age sickle

A spectacular find now in the Museum of Liverpool is the Huxley Hoard, LVPL-C63F8A. A hoard of silver bracelets with flat, punch-decorated bands belong to a well-known Hiberno-Scandinavian type found distributed in areas around both sides of the Irish Sea and produced in Ireland during the second half of the 9th and first half of the 10th centuries. The hoard like that from Cuerdale was probably part of a war chest belonging to the Vikings driven from Dublin by the Irish to settle in the Wirral, Lancashire and Cumbria at the beginning of the 10th century.

The Huxley Hoard

The Huxley Hoard

This mount from Doddington, Cheshire East LVPL-D35B84 is another great example of Irish metalworking and the decoration can be compared to mounts from the ‘near Navan’ hoard for which an eighth-ninth century date was suggested. Again probably brought to England due to Viking activity.

Early Medieval Mount

Early Medieval Mount

Another Irish vessel mount is LVPL1646 recorded in 2000. The stylised staring face and the lavish use of enamel are features characteristic of eighth-century Irish decorative metalwork. Similar anthropomorphic mounts have also been found on Irish bowls and buckets in Norway. As well as vessels, Irish mounts and fittings traveled with the Vikings as loot or traded goods, or possibly as gifts and dowry pieces. While often of no value as bullion, they were appreciated for their decoration, bright gilding and enamel.

Hanging bowl mount

Hanging bowl mount

Objects connect us with people and places and figuring out their stories is a great way to connect us to the past and for me, to home.

A day in the life of a Liverpool FLO

As a Finds Liaison officer for the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme I am always kept on my toes as every day is different. Today began with the not so exciting task of answering emails. I then headed over to the Museum of Liverpool stores to get the Knutsford Hoard as I needed to take some more images of the objects. The Knutsford and Malpas hoards are due to go on display in the New Year as part of the Cheshire Hoards project funded by the HLF. We have an exciting array of events lined up but first the hoards will need to be cleaned and cataloged. It was brilliant to be able to excavate the Knutsford Hoard in 2012 thanks to the finder and landowner and is great to have them back in the museum again following their time at the British Museum. You can read our blog about the hoard here http://blog.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/2015/07/treasure-acquired-for-the-region/.

Finder and FLO uncovering the Knutsford Hoard

Finder and FLO uncovering the Knutsford Hoard

Photographing the Knutsford Hoard

Photographing the Knutsford Hoard

Knutsford Hoard

Once the hoard is deposited safely back in the store following a bit of photography I headed back to the office to meet with a local finder who came to collect some of the finds he lent me to record. Among the new finds he has brought this Post Medieval book clasp along with the usual musket balls and mounts.bookclasp

After enjoying reading #DayofArchaeology over a quick lunch and tweeting about my #Fridayfind https://twitter.com/VOakden_FLO/status/624585295321780224 I took out some finds from Congleton Metal Detecting Club to photograph before recording. There is just enough time to record a couple of finds on the database before heading home.

My Day of Archaeology however will not stop there, as after putting the kids to bed I will get to work on the final edits of my book ‘Fifty finds of Cheshire – Objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme’ which I am hoping to submit to Amberly this weekend to be published in the coming months. So all in all quite a busy #DayofArchaeology.

Recording finds in Chester

Early Medieval Strap End

Early Medieval Strap End

I am the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s Finds Liaison Officer for Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, and today I was visiting the Grosvenor Museum in Chester where I hold finds day on the second Friday of each month.

My day started well with a queue of three visitors as soon as the doors were open. The first finder was a local metal detectorist who frequently records his finds on the PAS database. His grandson had found a Post-Medieval signet seal ring combined with a pipe tamper, similar to this example LVPL-A563A1. After writing out a receipt for the object the finder left and was followed by a local field walker who had brought me a bag of stones. Although they ‘fitted in his hand’ the stones had not been worked and upon further investigation I discovered they had been found near a river which explained the amount of wear. It was a relief not to have to carry them all away with me!

A couple more visitors came and went with small objects to add to our knowledge of the local area. Next came a detectorist who I had not see in a while. He showed me an object which his wife had found a number of years ago. This had been recorded by my colleague as a Post-Medieval drawer handle as it has very similar qualities. The record can be found here LANCUM-2D85A8.

The finder then explained he had just gone back to the same field and found a long curving pin which he took out. After having a ‘Eureka’ moment he had realised that his pin was the same greyish green patina as his wife’s object and asked her to dig it out of their box of unidentified finds. It was a perfect match and a Post-Medieval drawer handle suddenly turned into an Iron Age pin! The pin is similar to the swan necked type which date from 300BC to AD50. He also brought a lovely thumb-nail scraper and a 14th century seal matrix for me to record.

Following these exciting finds there was a bit of a break between visitors allowing me to catch up on Photoshop, the less exciting side of my role. My last visitors of the day was a married couple who detect locally and are keen to record their finds. Having showed me a group of interesting finds the previous month, I had asked them if they would allow me to display their finds in the new PAS case which will be in the Museum of Liverpool from next month. They were happy to loan their objects to us for six months and had brought them in along with a couple of new discoveries. They have found a number of Early Medieval finds including this lovely strap end LVPL-D1295B and this Early Medieval buckle LVPL-BFBC1E

 

Both of these objects are unusual finds for the Cheshire area where we don’t see many Early Medieval objects. However these new records are starting to show interesting patterns of activity. You can see their finds from next month at the Museum of Liverpool and after a bit of Photoshop in the office next week the pin will be available to view here.