Treasure Trove Unit

Treasure Trove: it can’t be shiny all the time

Occasionally a day in the office reading policy documents can be a bit dull. Let’s be honest, it’s too nice a day to be in the office. My archaeological fingers are itching to be outside. But there is work to be done, and actually, there are some pretty great things to be looking at here in the Treasure Trove Unit.

Occasionally a day in the office reading policy documents can be a bit dull

Occasionally a day in the office reading policy documents can be a bit dull

Apart from the usual emails, dealing with reported finds and answering enquires about Treasure Trove, there are two main jobs for today; going over our Code of Practice review and researching some recently reported finds which have been made by members of the public. The first one, let’s be honest, is dull. As archaeologists sometimes it is important to admit that our profession can have boring bits from time to time, whether it’s data entry, backfilling a trench or reading policy documents. It’s not sexy archaeology for sure, but the launch of the reviewed Code of Practice is an important one and will in some cases make some positive alterations to some of our procedures when dealing with the public, archaeologists and museums. What I have to do today is read through it and highlight areas were a change may affect our normal working practice. Yawn!

Researching a 14th century medieval macehead found in the Scottish Borders

Researching a 14th century medieval macehead found in the Scottish Borders

The second part is much more up my street and that’s researching objects. This research forms part of understanding the significance of the object or assemblage and demonstrates why we think it should be claimed as Treasure Trove. You can read more about this process on our website.

Today I am doing some research on a very exciting object, a medieval macehead, which was reported to us last week by a metal detectorist from the Scottish Borders. You can see an image of it on our Twitter feed @TTUScotland #recentTTU

Although quite worn and with a couple of chips it is actually in good condition. Medieval weaponry is fascinating, but chance finds of this kind are relatively rare, so an opportunity to research it further is great. We have already recorded and photographed it, so the next part is to compare it with other examples in published reports or in the NMS collection. With all this to keep me occupied, I don’t even mind being indoors.

Working on the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) pt 2

Morning’s work done and after a quick lunch I now have a meeting with Stuart Campbell of the Treasure Trove Unit (TTU). The TTU is responsible for the identification and preservation of recently discovered and significant objects. They also co-ordinate the allocation of objects to public museums and set suitable market-value finder’s rewards where appropriate. The Treasure Trove website is the best place for more details and the legal background.

Discussing the document: Stuart about to volunteer his expertise

Finds reported through Treasure Trove comprise a considerable research resource and the potential it has to help us answer our questions regarding the past is something we have previously discussed. Today however, I’m talking to Stuart about his research interests, particularly in relation to the work of our Modern panel. We recently held a workshop through in Glasgow to discuss our draft report and got a lot of feedback on what we should include, and what we might edit down. All of our panels hold a workshop of around 25-40 people and it is a really useful way to get feedback. We’ve also found people are very willing to help address gaps that we might have, and today I’m discussing a couple of topics that Stuart might be able to help us cover.

After a good discussion and with Stuart volunteering to cover a few of the outstanding gaps in the report I head back to the Society offices. Everyone who contributes to ScARF gives their time and their work for free, and I’m constantly amazed at how much effort people put in. We had initially envisaged our series of reports as each being around 25,000 words long – this was then revised upwards to around 35,000. We keep on getting in really good work however, and in a variety of formats (databases, maps, date-lists, spreadsheets etc). As a result, we are developing a ‘wiki’ or online encyclopaedia in order to house the information from the reports, as well as all of the extra information that we had to edit down. Hopefully, we can keep this updated and streamlined so that it becomes a useful and used resource (not much worse than a dead wiki!).

Some of the Society’s publications

Early afternoon I was scheduled to meet with my line manager, Simon Gilmour, the Director of the Society of Antiquaries. He was called away to a funeral today however so I have a bit of time to focus on a couple more of the reports, and hopefully have the chance to have a quick look around the newly opened museum. Before I do, I thought I would highlight the work of the Society as a publisher. As well as publishing the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and the Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports (SAIR) we also produce a number of books. Our Proceedings and SAIR are both available online entirely for free – a real source of pride for the Society. I don’t have the number of times these resources are downloaded to hand, though over the course of a year SAIR is well into 6 figures, and the Proceedings into 7 figures. If my boss reads this, he may be able to update accordingly! Our publications cover a whole range of topics, with recent books on St Kilda, and on excavations of henge monuments by Richard Bradley.

My colleague Erin’s desk – publication is a busy business! (and the desk is always this tidy)

Writing about henge monuments reminds me that my next task is connected to our Bronze Age panel…