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
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
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
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