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Welp, I’m about to steal your evening

Okay, the Portable Antiquities Scheme is one of the bestest British things ever. They set it up in ’97 when they realized metal detectorists were finding all kinds of historically important stuff in the field, and almost none of it was being recorded. Treasure — which has a very specific legal description — has to be reported to the authorities by law, but the ordinary run of amateur finds don’t classify as treasure and were legally just walking away.

So, instead of stomping in with heavy government boots and strong-arming the finders into compliance with more restrictive rules, the government set up a totally voluntary scheme. You find something, you report it, they identify it, photograph it, feed it to the database and hand it back to you. Very high compliance rate, because — why not? Not only do you get your stuff back, but they can help you validate it and sell it on if you like.

The scheme was introduced right about the time I discovered I’d be moving to England, so I followed it from the beginning. Uncle B bought me a metal detector almost first thing. I didn’t turn up anything interesting in our garden (it’s been dug over so many times in the 20th C) and our closest detector club closed down and…I just back-burnered it, I guess.

Tonight we went to a talk by our local Finds Officer. Boy, have things grown since I last checked in! The Scheme is now overseen by the British Museum and the database has just logged its millionth object. She said the things they’ve learned from these small finds have widened the view of the history of this area considerably. (In passing, have you ever noticed how new finds in archaeology always, always, always show our ancestors were more, not less, sophisticated than we had believed?). Nobody else is building anything like it.

For your geeking pleasure, here is their searchable database. Dates, places, materials. Maps. Photos, free to use. Yay, another timesuck!

November 11, 2014 — 11:01 pm
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