PAS Cymru - a guide to the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales
- The Portable Antiquities Scheme
- The Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru)
- Archaeology in Wales
- Further Advice
- Appendix 1 - The Treasure Act in Wales
This document is intended to give a general overview of the operation of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales. It summarises the context and history of the scheme, how it is funded and managed, and the role and responsibilities of the key organisations involved. It also addresses how, through new management arrangements under the brand PAS Cymru, the scheme will continue to deliver effectively for the people of Wales and address specifically Welsh needs.
This overview has been authored by the PAS Cymru steering group, comprising CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, Cadw, and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. The steering group was established in 2011-12 to manage and promote the scheme in Wales.
It is intended as guidance for policy-makers, funders, and anyone with an interest in how public archaeology is managed in Wales. While highly relevant to those participating in the scheme directly, such as archaeologists and metal-detecting clubs, it is not intended to give detailed 'how to' guidance on reporting finds. Further information on this can be found through contacting the Finds Co-ordinator for Wales, whose contact details are included at Section 5 below.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a mechanism to record and publish archaeological finds made by members of the public. It has proved a highly effective means of capturing vital archaeological information while engaging with non-traditional museum audiences and communities.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme evolved as a voluntary scheme for recording finds that are not covered by the provisions of the Treasure Act 1996. Following a government consultation, a pilot scheme started in parts of England in 1997; two years later a second phase included Wales and the Scheme subsequently expanded to cover the whole of England and Wales.
To date, a searchable online database (finds.org.uk) contains over half a million records relating to over 850,000 individual objects. Events and activities are organised throughout England and Wales. There are currently over 300 active research projects based on the information gathered by the Scheme.
PAS in England is administered by the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum (BM), and its budget is part of the BM's core funding.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru)
3.1 The History of PAS in Wales
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) was initiated in Wales in March 1999 in the second phase of the national development of the pilot scheme. The organisation of the scheme in Wales had to take account of the large geographic area to be covered and was accordingly structured differently from its English counterparts.
A pilot scheme was devised and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (under a central PAS bid) and administered through Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA); the Welsh aspect of the scheme was administered by the Council of Museums in Wales (CMW). When CMW was dissolved in 2004, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (AC-NMW) took over responsibility for administering PAS in Wales. Similarly, with the dissolution of MLA in 2010, management of the central PAS was passed to the British Museum (BM) with PAS funding ring-fenced within the 'Renaissance in the Regions' programme, which is ascribed an England-only remit.
PAS in Wales was established with a view to inclusivity of many of the existing archaeological bodies and institutions in Wales. It was decided that the PAS post should be based within the Department of Archaeology & Numismatics, National Museum Cardiff (NMC), where the post holder would co-ordinate the scheme throughout Wales and have the benefit of curatorial expertise and archaeological illustration. After consultation with the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts, who have a statutory responsibility for maintaining the Heritage Environment Records for their respective regions1, it was decided that each of the trusts would be offered a service agreement to maintain and promote the scheme within its region of Wales.
3.2 How the PAS operates in Wales
PAS at the British Museum provides central services, most importantly maintaining the database of recorded finds and the web site giving public access to the database and to related information. The only realistic option for PAS Cymru is to continue to use this facility, granted that many finds recorded in Wales are made in England (and occasionally vice versa) because of the research benefits of a single searchable database for England and Wales and the practical and financial considerations involved in setting up an independent database.
Central PAS employs several specialists to provide support to finds liaison officers in England. In Wales, specialist support (notably lithics, Bronze Age to medieval metalwork and numismatics) is provided by AC-NMW staff.
The Finds Co-ordinator Wales is based at National Museum Cardiff; the post holder's main responsibilities are:
- To ensure that information from archaeological finds is recorded, researched and made accessible for use by the public, archaeologists and other researchers.
- Provide learning engagement to demonstrate the importance of archaeological material culture through effective outreach to finders.
- To ensure that the results of research are widely disseminated through publication, display and lecturing.
- To offer support and assistance to the network of reporting centres throughout Wales
- To promote the PAS through the production of reports and attendance at relevant events. Production of quarterly financial and activity reports.
- To support AC-NMW's smooth running of the administration of the Treasure Act by liaising with finders, curators and coroners.
- To undertake research on significant discoveries to obtain essential contextual information and where appropriate, to involve interested communities
- To support volunteer assistance with photography, image processing and database entry and ensuring volunteers find the experience rewarding.
As part of this remit the Finds Co-ordinator provides learning engagement to demonstrate the importance of archaeological material culture and promote the PAS Scheme in Wales through effective outreach to the metal detecting community and supporting partner organisations in their engagement with members of the public, school children, university students and museum professionals . This involves an ongoing programme of events across Wales aimed at ensuring participation in the Portable Antiquities Scheme. These include:
- events with metal detecting clubs
- finds and awareness events
- talks, lectures and publications to demonstrate the effectiveness and ethics of the scheme and to highlight key finds; and
- seminars / workshops aimed at museum professionals (non-archaeologist) to raise awareness of PAS and appropriate recording.
3.3 Funding and Monitoring arrangements in Wales
Hitherto, PAS in Wales has been grant-funded through the British Museum, with contributions from the Welsh Government and AC-NMW. With the phased withdrawal of the British Museum funding, following the dissolution of MLA (Museums Archives and Libraries Council) in England, it has been agreed that AC-NMW, Cadw and CyMAL will fund the Welsh contribution to the Scheme in equal proportions, taking full responsibility from 2015-16 when the British Museum funding ends.
The funding and monitoring of the scheme is overseen by the PAS Cymru steering group comprising the three main funding organisations. The group meets twice annually, once in spring and once in autumn. AC-NMW produces a draft programme of activity for the following financial year at the spring meeting, as well as an annual review of the year ending. A short report on progress during the year is also provided by AC-NMW at the autumn meeting. The Head of Archaeology at AC-NMW also sits on the PAS Advisory Committee at the British Museum.
Payments from Cadw and CyMAL as their contribution towards the operation of the scheme are made in April of the financial year to which they relate, and made directly to AC-NMW.
3.4 Developments from 2012 onwards – towards PAS Cymru
In PAS terms, Wales covers a large area, much of it thinly populated and with difficulties of communication and transport. Many public service functions are now distinct from their counterparts in England, following increasing devolution of government powers and funding.
With the devolution of powers and funding to the Welsh Government, an opportunity exists to create a distinct PAS Cymru which best serves the needs of all interested parties: finders, public and the heritage sector.
PAS Cymru will continue to deliver the core function of recording finds made by members of the public and making this information publicly accessible. We are particularly keen in Wales to add value to the excellent work already going on, and will investigate ways to progress the following aspirations:
- develop opportunities for public participation in finds recording, special events and defined projects run by partner organizations;
- increase formal and informal learning opportunities to raise awareness of material culture and its significance;
- promote awareness of the scheme to as wide an audience as possible, through the above activities and other methods as appropriate;
- develop the research potential in Wales of PAS data; and
- support a sustainable network of local reporting centres.
Archaeology in Wales
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales was established by Royal Charter in 1907 and is both an independent charity and a Welsh Government Sponsored Body (WGSB). The Museum's core objective is 'the advancement of the education of the public'., including Archaeology and History. Learning is at the heart of everything carried out by AC-NMW and in working towards its Vision of becoming "a world-class museum of learning", it is constantly thinking of new ways to bring its collections to life so that more and more people can enjoy and interact with them. It is the primary body in Wales for the investigation and interpretation of archaeological artefacts and material culture.
Amgueddfa Cymru operates seven national museums across Wales as well as a National Collections centre. Its sites are exciting venues for life-long learning, and are well placed to help improve attainment of children.
Cadw is the Welsh Government's historic environment service, and is located within the Ministerial portfolio of Culture and Sport. Cadw acts as a leader and enabler for the historic environment sector. It delivers the statutory responsibilities of the Welsh Ministers, including designation of historic assets and management of the 129 historic monuments in State Care, and supports the sector through guidance and grant support.
Cadw sponsors the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales, and contributes significant funding to the Welsh Archaeological Trusts for advisory services and projects to advance understanding and protection of the historic environment. Cadw also funds major players in the third sector such as the Civic Trust for Wales and amenity societies.
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) is a Welsh Government Sponsored Body. It was established by Royal Warrant in 1908. Its core functions are to investigate, understand, interpret and disseminate authoritative information about the historic environment, and to care for and maintain its own and others' records. It also provides independent advice and expertise. Its permanent archive, the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW), is a 'place of deposit' under the Public Records Act 1958 and is open to the public. Coflein, its online information service, provides access to the collections, catalogues and a national index of sites www.coflein.gov.uk
Welsh Archaeological trusts
The four Welsh Archaeological Trusts are educational charities and limited companies established in the mid-1970s with the principal aim of advancing the education of the public in archaeology. The Trusts employ professional archaeological staff with a wide range of expertise and work closely with other national, regional and local bodies, to help protect, record and interpret all aspects of the historic environment, and make the results available to the public.
The Trusts maintain the regional Historic Environment Records (HERs), and are retained by Unitary Authorities and other organizations to provide strategic advice, and also case management support where development proposals, agri-environmental, forestry and woodland schemes impact on the historic environment.
Local museums play a vital role in interpreting and collecting archaeological material of local and regional importance, and increasingly are able to borrow items of national importance. A number of local museums in Wales participate in the PAS to varying levels. Involvement varies from occasional identification of finds for members of the public to more direct engagement with the Archaeological Trusts and Finds Co-ordinator Wales. Research has indicated that there is scope for some local museums to play a greater role by working more closely with the Trusts through more formal networks. This needs to be accompanied by centrally- managed training and awareness sessions and greater access to means of publicising the scheme.
General information about the PAS in Wales and England can be found at https://finds.org.uk/. The Finds Co-ordinator Wales can be contacted for recording and advice by local reporting centres. If the find is of archaeological significance, the Co-ordinator may need to borrow the artefact to enable a full report to be prepared. This will usual be for a period of a few weeks to a longer period where further study, illustration or analysis is required. The contact details for the Finds Co-ordinator are:
Other useful contacts include the relevant Archaeological Trust and your local museum. The contact details for the Trusts are as follows:
The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust,
Tel: 01938 553670
The Dyfed Archaeological Trust,
Tel: 01558 823121 / 823131
The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd,
The Gwynedd Archaeological Trust,
Appendix 1 - The Treasure Act in Wales
The Treasure Act 1996, which came into effect on 24 September 1997, replaced the common law of treasure trove in affording legal protection to certain classes of antiquities found in England, Wales and Northern Ireland 2. Its operation is governed by a Code of Practice, which is subject to periodic review.
In Wales, all advice to coroners in cases of treasure is provided by AC-NMW, as the only body in Wales that possesses specialist expertise that covers the entire range of finds of archaeological objects and of coins. The Archaeology & Numismatics section of the Department of History & Archaeology is the primary body in Wales for artefact and numismatic studies (including precious metal). Cases may come to official attention through direct reporting by finders to their local coroners or to AC-NMW, but PAS Cymru, through regular liaison with metal-detecting clubs, plays a vital rôle in the recognition and reporting of potential treasure.
Archaeology & Numismatics staff at AC-NMW have access to analytical equipment, both in-house and at Cardiff University, which is proving invaluable for the characterisation of uncertain alloys.
In all cases, a report is prepared by the relevant specialist at AC-NMW for the coroner, who is required to hold an inquest only in those cases where a museum wishes to acquire the find. Since 1943 it has been axiomatic that treasure trove – latterly treasure – found in Wales is offered for acquisition to museums in Wales. The broad principle applies that the national museum acquires finds that are regarded to be of national significance but all cases are discussed ahead of inquest with registered museums likely to have an interest in the finds. Another important underlying principle is the assumption that finds will be kept intact wherever possible.
Post-inquest, AC-NMW arranges the delivery of finds to London for consideration by the independent Treasure Valuation Committee. They are held in safe keeping at the British Museum for the duration of this process. Once the valuation has been agreed by all parties and payment has been made3, the acquiring museum is free to arrange collection from the British Museum. At every stage of the process, finders are kept informed of the progress of their cases.
Funding and other resources
Administration of treasure falls within AC-NMW's regular funding, with no special allocation. Treasure is acquired through the use of the Specimens Acquisition Grant, supplemented when necessary by grants from external bodies such as the Heritage Lottery and Art Funds and other grant bodies. Regional museums also have access to funds such as the V&A grant, Art Fund, etc.
Valuation of treasure is administered and funded by the British Museum. Wales and England are under the same legal jurisdiction and administration of treasure in Wales follows the same practices as in England. Cases in Wales (20-25 per annum) form a very small proportion – approximately three per cent – of the overall total for Wales and England combined (around 800 p.a.). Considerations of scale and efficiency may therefore rule out independent administration of Welsh treasure cases, notably because of the continued need for access to experienced independent valuers and the Treasure Valuation Committee (the costs of which are at present covered centrally); the formal need for the Secretary of State to disclaim cases; and access to legal expertise (the Treasury Solicitor), to name but three aspects. Independent Welsh administration would require revision of the Treasure Act itself.
The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 contains provisions establishing the post of a single coroner for Treasure, but this measure has yet to be implemented. Such a post, if implemented, would speed up and make consistent the handling of treasure. The relatively small number of Welsh cases may rule out a specific post in Wales, though the possibility that a single coroner's office might, by agreement, handle all Welsh cases might be worthy of investigation.
The administration of the Treasure Act 1996 is governed by a Code of Practice and the Act requires that the Secretary of State (for Culture, Media and Sport) keep the Code under review and revise it when necessary (para 11(1) (b)). The present (revised) Code dates from 2002, following a review of the first three years of the Act's operation.
1Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT), Dyfed Archaeological Trust (DAT), Glamorgan Gwent
2The situation differs in Scotland where all finds are subject to the law of bona vacantia
3Normally within three months of invoice, unless grant aid is sought (four months).