As the Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, it is my job to record the thousands of archaeological objects that are found in these counties by members of the public. Most finds are discovered and reported by metal-detectorists but people also often find things while walking or digging in their gardens and allotments. I, as well as all of my fellow FLOs across the country, are generally interested in anything you come across that was made before about AD 1550 as they all can potentially tell us about where and how people lived in the past, from the Prehistoric right through to the Post-Medieval period.
As an FLO most of my day is therefore spent identifying and recording objects on the PAS database, a task that usually involves writing descriptions, taking and editing photographs and weighing and measuring all finds, as well as recording where, when and how they were found (e.g. in pasture/ploughed field/garden etc.). The range of objects I record on a daily and weekly basis varies considerably.
Portable Antiquities Scheme
Some finds are potentially recordable by your local Finds Liaison Officer on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database (www.finds.org.uk). The scheme is entirely voluntary with regards to reporting most types of object, though you must legally report any that may be treasure (i.e. gold and silver objects, and groups of coins from the same spot, over 300 years old).
The Portable Antiquities Scheme covers the whole of England and Wales, and your contact is the local FLO for your area. A full list of contact names and addresses is available on the website. If the post of FLO in your area is vacant, please contact the Portable Antiquities Office (by telephone 020 7323 8611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org) for an alternative contact. The address is Portable Antiquities Scheme, c/o British Museum, London WC1B 3DG. You can contact me by email at email@example.com or 01727 751826.
Finds from metal detecting
Due to the large active metal detecting community most of the objects I receive are made of metal. Roman and Medieval coins are particularly common, but I also record all sorts of other things too, from Prehistoric flint tools and spearheads to Roman, Medieval and Post-Medieval brooches, cosmetic instruments, buckles, pins and thimbles, as well as non-metaI objects like pottery.
I (and other FLOs) can also offer advice on several other aspects, including best metal detecting practice, conservation and storage of your finds, and the potential of your objects locally and nationally. I can likewise be found hosting regular finds drop-off and handling sessions at the recently-opened St Albans Museum on the first Wednesday (11am-1pm) and The Higgins Bedford Museum on the last Wednesday (1pm-3pm) of every month, if you are unable to make an appointment at Verulamium Museum.
Reporting treasure to the British Museum
One of the most important parts of an FLO’s job is to help finders report treasure to the British Museum and the local coroner. This will usually involve the filling out of a receipt detailing the circumstances and then writing a short report on the object(s) that is then checked by curators at the British Museum. I an object is declared treasure, I will then ask local museums whether they are interested in acquiring the find before any subsequent inquests and valuations are then handled by the Treasure Team at the British Museum. Further details about the Treasure Act 1996 and what objects should be reported as treasure are available on www.finds.org.uk/treasure/advice/summary.
[an edited version of an article that appeared in Newsletter 211]