Paul Coleman holding one of the thousands of Anglo-Saxon silver coins he discovered in Lenborough, Buckinghamshire last year
Image credit Yui Mok/PA
Maev Kennedy, writing in The Guardian yesterday, reports that the internationally admired British Portable Antiquities Scheme for recording treasure is under threat from central and local authority budgetary cuts –
A heap of Anglo-Saxon coins glittering as if newly minted, and a small gold cross still containing a fragment of a relic that was literally kept close to the heart of somebody who clung to the outlawed Roman Catholic faith, are among the treasures found by metal detectors and unveiled this week at the British Museum.
The most recent year covered by the Treasure report, 2012, was another bumper year for precious objects – including 3,000-year-old golden bracelets belonging to a child, a Viking hoard of ingots and chopped up arm rings from Cumbria – and for the more modest but historically priceless archaeological objects voluntarily reported under the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).
The mapping of the two schemes has unlocked a wealth of new information, identifying thousands of previously unknown sites including bronze-age burial grounds, Roman campsites and Viking settlements. In 2014, 113,962 finds were reported, from scraps of horse harness to lost buttons, and well over 1m objects have been recorded since the PAS was established in 1997.
The Treasure and Portable Antiquity schemes are run together from the British Museum, with the finds recorded by a network of archaeologists based in local museums covering England and Wales. However, the PAS has been hit by a 6% budget cut at the British Museum, and has only been kept going for the next year by an emergency grant from the private Headley Trust charity. Almost a third of the 31 local authority museum partners have said they will not be able to afford to keep the scheme going if their funding is cut further.
Neil McGregor, the director of the British Museum, said he could give no guarantees that the scheme would be protected from the full impact of future cuts in his museum grant. He said: “The PAS is an integral part of the British Museum, and we will just have to see what happens.”
Full Guardian article here. See also our earlier features here and here.