The Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales
Every year in Britain many thousands of archaeological objects are discovered, many by people using metal detectors but also by people out walking or digging their garden or while going about their work. Only a small proportion of these finds are ever seen by museums or archaeologists, which means that a great deal of potentially important information about our past is being lost.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a voluntary scheme for the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. It was established to promote the recording of chance finds and broaden public awareness of the importance of such objects for understanding our past. The aims of the PAS are to:
- advance knowledge of the history and archaeology of England and Wales by systematically recording archaeological objects found by the public
- raise awareness among the public of the educational value of archaeological finds in their context and facilitate research in them
- increase opportunities for active public involvement in archaeology and strengthen links between metal-detector users and archaeologists
- encourage all those who find archaeological objects to make them available for recording and to promote best practice by finders
- define the nature and scope of a scheme for recording portable antiquities in the longer term, to access the likely costs and to identify resources to enable it to be put into practice
In Wales, the Portable Antiquities Scheme is managed nationally by a Finds Co-ordinator based in Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, supported regionally by the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts, with a network of museums and record offices acting as local reporting centres. Between them, these bodies collect, analyse and distribute information about all finds reported to them.
What do I do if I find something?
Simply take your find to a designated reporting centre or a Finds Liaison Officer. The Finds Liaison Officer in the Clwyd-Powys region is:
Susie White, Wrexham County Borough Museum and Archives, County Buildings, Regent Street, Wrexham, LL11 1RB. Telephone +44 (0)1978 297 466.
Finds can also be reported to the following designated reporting centres:
Powysland Museum, The Canal Wharf, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7AQ. Telephone +44 (0)1938 554 656 Will Adams, Radnorshire Museum, Temple Street, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, LD1 5DL. Telephone +44 (0)1597 824 513 Nigel Blackamore, Brecknock Museum, Captain’s Walk, Brecon, Powys, LD3 7DW. Telephone +44 (0)1874 624 121
There are also several Finds Liaison Officers in England immediately adjacent to the CPAT region. They include:
Ben Jones, National Museums Liverpool, Department of Archaeology, Pier Head, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool, Merseyside, L3 1DG. Telephone: + 44 (0) 151 478 4259
Peter Reavill, Museum Resource Centre, Ludlow, 7-9 Parkway, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 2PG. Tel: +44 (0)1743 254 748
You can also report a find directly to the national co-ordinator for Wales:
Mark Lodwick, Finds Co-ordinator: Wales, National Museum Cardiff, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NP. Telephone +44 (0)29 2057 3226.
CPAT also act as a regional reporting and recording centre for the scheme and if you are in any doubt about what you should do, or are unable to get to one of these centres, our Heritage Management archaeologist Abi McCullough will be happy to advise you or examine your finds.
Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, 41 Broad Street, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7RR. Telephone tel +44 (0)1938 553670, or email Abi McCullough.
What types of find should I report ?
We would like to know about everything that you have found – not just metal objects or things that ‘look like they might be interesting’. We would urge you to let the staff at the reporting centre decide if an object is important, especially if you are unsure what it is. For instance, your nondescript lump of metal may turn out to be a fragment of a Bronze Age ingot and of great archaeological significance. Other finds, like worked flints,pottery and glass are also important archaeologically so should be shown to the staff at the reporting centre.
You should also remember that since the introduction of the Treasure Act in 1997 (see below) you are breaking the law if you do not report the finding of most objects made of precious metal (including many types of coin), so if you are in any doubt … report it !
How will my find be recorded?
It is important that the reporting centre records a brief description of the objects that you have found. They would also hope to record where they were found in as much detail as possible so that this information can add to our knowledge of their archaeological context.
It may be possible for the reporting centre to identify and record your find on the spot after which you can take them away with you. However, the reporting centre may wish, with your permission, to photograph or draw them or to seek further opinion, in which case they will ask that you leave the finds with them while they do this. They will give you a receipt for anything that you leave with them.
All the information gathered by the reporting centre will be passed to the Finds Co-ordinator for Wales, who will put it into the Portable Antiquities Scheme finds database. CPAT will also copy some of this information into the Historic Environment Record. Precise details of findspots will normally be available only to the scheme’s co-ordinator, the Historic Environment Record of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust and other statutory bodies such as Cadw and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, and while each of these may wish to use the data within their own organisations they will not make public any information about you our your find if you do not wish them to. In due course museum or Trust staff may wish to publish information about more important or unusual finds reported under the scheme, but this will be fully discussed with finders/owners first.
The aim is to make as much of the information as widely available as possible, while protecting archaeological sites from damage. Your personal information will be protected by the Data Protection Act (1998).
Alternatively, you are welcome to download and complete CPAT’s Finds Recording Form. Send completed forms, along with photos of the artefacts, via email to Abi McCullough, or by post to her at CPAT.
The Treasure Act 1996
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is an entirely voluntary scheme which encourages people to report their finds. However, under the 1996 Treasure Act everyone is legally required to report Treasure, or that which they believe may be Treasure. The Act came into force on 24 September 1997 and replaced the common law of Treasure Trove.
All of the following might be ‘Treasure’
- A fragment of prehistoric gold or silver
- One or more Roman brooches that appear to be gold or silver
- One or more medieval finger rings that appear to be gold or silver
- Two or more Bronze Age axe-heads or spears
- Two or more gold or silver coins over 300 years old
- Ten or more bronze coins over 300 years old
- Anything else found (or that had previously been left) with any of the above
- Any deliberately hidden gold and/or silver of any age whose owners (or their heirs) are unknown.
- Single coins found on their own are not treasure, but bear in mind that finds originally deposited together may have become scattered by later activity.
Please note that the above is an interpretation by CPAT of the terms of the Treasure Act for information only, and has no legal standing.
Full definitions and further information about Treasure and the Treasure Act can be obtained from Mark Lodwick, Finds Co-ordinator: Wales, National Museum Cardiff, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NP. Telephone +44 (0)29 2057 3226.