An Oxford Historian
The PAS - Archaeology for everyone
Updated: Apr 26, 2021
In my continued attempts to introduce amateur historians to useful resources, I'd like to talk briefly about an amazing online resource available to all - the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), which can be found here https://finds.org.uk/.
It acts as a massive (free) database of archaeological finds found throughout England. The scale here is huge - there are currently around one and a half million items in the database.
Access is free, global and easy. If you need a little more information, anybody can register to be a user which allows slightly more background evidence on each artefact. However, some information of a sensitive nature is still withheld from casual users (like, for example, exact locations of find - especially gold and silver finds - for fear of theft). Even so, the database is remarkably open to everyone. Image a massive combined museum inventory, open to the public, with each item carefully categorised, described and (usually) photographed.
Using it is amazingly easy - click on the 'Database' tab and you're presented with a search-box (the other tabs have other interesting info that shouldn't be ignored!) Artefacts can be restricted by type and period, if your interests are more specific, or by location, allowing a potted history of a location.
If you are a keen detectorists you will no doubt be well acquainted with the site - its major goal is to ensure the responsible recording of items found by the public. The site has lots of useful information on how best to report anything you might find and how to get in contact with the right people, along with the law around finding Treasure. Because the data is primarily drawn from these findings rather than the result of large-scale excavation, the items here have a genuine feeling of being largely unexamined. Indeed, this is not just an illusion - my Master's thesis was written entirely from previously unexamined artefacts within the PAS. You have every possibility of noticing new observations and trends from the evidence - perhaps there's a paper in it for you!
Ultimately, the PAS provides access to a huge amount of archaeological data for those outside the circle of official academia, for casual interest or personal research projects. It's well worth a look!
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Check out my previous articles on Anglo-Saxon (here) and Viking (here) nicknames for some background context on what I study, and feel free to send any questions my way!