Silverdale Viking Hoard stars in Treasure and Portable Antiquities Scheme reports

20/12/11 .-

The British Museum is delighted with the continuing success of the Treasure Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and they have every right to be.

The reports, launched last week, detail 90,099 finds and 860 Treasure cases in 2010 alone; since the Scheme started there have been 750,000 "finds" across England and Wales, all listed on the website

The highlight of the press launch was a selection of finds from the Silverdale Viking Hoard, discovered in North Lancashire in September 2011 by local metal-detectorist Darren Webster.

The hoard, which dates from 900-910AD, contains 201 silver objects including a previously unrecorded coin type inscribed with the name Harthacnut, thought to be an otherwise unknown Viking ruler.

The coin, along with items including arm rings and silver ingots, has gone on display in the Museum's Grenville Room.

It is possible to determine a lot from a hoard like this. We know that the items come from various Viking periods, and the combination of Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, Anglo-Viking and Islamic influences on the coins and jewellery indicate diverse cultural contacts and a wide trade network.

The arm rings – most likely male jewellery – were a symbol of both social and warrior status.

This kind of archaeological find enriches archaeological records and our knowledge of the UK.

Most of the finds reported by amateurs have been discovered on private farmland, away from official excavations; the 1996 Treasure Act requires "treasure" (defined as gold or silver objects or groups of coins more than 300 years old) to be handed over to a coroner within 14 days so that it is not lost to the public.

Other archaeological finds are subject to the PAS, which is a voluntary scheme.

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor believes we are lucky to have a scheme that works as well as the PAS.

Metal-detecting is outlawed, or at least frowned upon, in many countries, meaning thousands of important archaeological objects are left buried and add nothing to the archaeological record.

Speaking at the launch, Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, emphasised that the Government has worked hard to ensure the continuation of the scheme, despite the economic downturn and being unable able to fund an overall Coroner for Treasurer.

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