Part of a pendant necklace found in an Anglo-Saxon grave in Winfarthing, Norfolk; one of the many finds that made this a record year for the Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme. (Image: Trustees of the British Museum)

The Treasure Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme have released their annual reports, and the number of new finds made by members of the public has reached its highest level since the Act was first made law 20 years ago (see CA 331). Overall, there were 1,120 Treasure finds and a further 81,914 archaeological finds recorded across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

At the annual report launch in the British Museum (which helps manage the scheme in partnership with local offices) several of the more significant finds made by members of the public who followed established best practice were highlighted. These included two late Bronze Age hoards discovered by metal-detectorist Dave Haldenby in Driffield, East Yorkshire: one contained 158 axes and ingots – the largest ever found in Yorkshire – and the other held 27 axes and ingots. While hoards like this were once thought to be caches made by metalworkers wanting to reuse the metal, new research suggests that they may have been buried for ritual purposes instead.

One of the Driffield Hoard axes. (Image: Trustees of the British Museum)

An Anglo-Saxon grave assemblage, found by metal-detectorist Thomas Lucking in Winfarthing, Norfolk (see CA 302), included an intricate necklace made of two gold beads, two pendants made from identical Merovingian coins, and a gold cross pendant inlaid with delicate filigree wire.

Released with the annual reports was an updated Code of Practice for Responsible Metal-Detecting in England and Wales. Providing guidelines on best practice for finders, it can be read here: https://finds.org.uk/getinvolved/guides/codeofpractice.

As Michael Lewis, Head of Portable Antiquities & Treasure at the British Museum, said, ‘Metal-detecting can make an immense contribution to archaeological knowledge, if practised responsibly, and the vast majority of people are keen that their hobby has a positive impact. The new code outlines exactly what is expected if people want to help archaeologists better understand our shared past.’

While the vast majority of discoveries featured in the report were made by metal-detectorists, there were non-metal finds as well, including a pristine early Bronze Age flint dagger from Swansea Bay and a middle Palaeolithic bout-coupé (a type of handaxe) from Quorn, Leicestershire.

This article appeared in CA 336.