The Portable Antiquities Scheme

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The Portable Antiquities Scheme - Introduction

The Portable Antiquities Scheme or PAS is a voluntary programme run by the United Kingdom government to record the increasing numbers of small finds of archaeological interest found by members of the public. The scheme was begun in 1997 and now covers most of England and Wales.

It is primarily focused on private metal detectorists who through their hobby regularly discover artefacts that would otherwise go unrecorded. Members of the public can also report objects they have found and finds of non-metallic objects are also covered by the scheme. Finds that legally constitute treasure are dealt with through the Treasure Act, 1996. This however concentrates on precious metals, prehistoric base-metal, and finds in association with them. Non-prehistoric base metal and non-metal finds would not be recognised as treasure and therefore be unrecorded. The PAS exists to fill this gap.

The scheme funds the posts of Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) at county councils or local museums to whom finders can report their objects. The FLO is qualified to examine the find and provide the finder with more information on it. He or she also records the find, its function, date, material and location and places this information into a database which can be analysed. The information on the find spot can be used to organise more research on the area. Many previously unknown archaeological sites have been identified through the scheme and it has contributed greatly to the level of knowledge of the past. FLOs maintain close links with local metal detecting societies and have contributed to a thaw in relationships between the detectorists and archaeologists who often previously disdained one another.

The find remains the property of the finder or the landowner who are free to dispose of non-treasure finds. The scheme currently has funding until 2008.

The scheme has its detractors amongst both the archaeological and metal detecting communities. The possibility that a newly-discovered site might be protected through Scheduling and therefore be out of bounds to future detecting visits is a concern of some hobbyists.

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