Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay launched the Portable Antiquities Scheme annual report for 2020 at the British Museum on Tuesday.
The Arts Minister has praised “treasure” seekers who waived their right to reward, allowing museums to acquire the valuable historical finds for free.
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay launched the Treasure Annual Report for 2019 and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) Annual Report for 2020 at the British Museum on Tuesday.
Speaking at the launch, he said: “Often people focus on the reward but the generous gesture of those who waive their right to reward, I would particularly like to thank those finders and landowners.
“An exhibit being displayed in the upcoming exhibition of Stonehenge at the British Museum was made by a metal detectorist.”
More than a thousand discoveries of “treasure” were made in 2020, including almost 1000 gold Iron Age coins in Essex and a copper-alloy and silver early medieval disc brooch from Cheddar, Somerset, the report revealed.
As of May this year, 54 parties “waived” their right to reward meaning a museum could acquire the treasure at no expense.
These included a landowner who found a Bronze Age gold bracelet, from Brigg, north Lincolnshire and a Roman gold jewellery fitting, from near Sandwich Kent, where both the finder and the landowner waived their right to reward.
During the launch, Lord Parkinson announced it was the 25th anniversary of the Treasure Act, calling it “an exciting time for treasure.”
The report revealed that a medieval pendant became the one millionth archaeological discovery found by members of the public, to the “delight” of the director of the British Museum.
Speaking at the launch of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), Hartwig Fischer said: “I am delighted we have reached the milestone of one million records – each of these has been discovered by the public and logged on the PAS database.
“2020 was an incredibly challenging year for all of us, but the PAS, thanks to its online database, national partnership and the hard work of its staff, was able to adapt well in the circumstances – recording almost 50,000 finds including processing over 1,000 treasure cases.”
Lockdown sparked a spate of archaeological finds, with nearly 50,000 recorded in the first year of the pandemic, according to the PAS annual report.
The copper-alloy medieval harness pendant discovered in Lincolnshire was the one millionth record logged, and of the items recorded last year, more than 1,000 were treasure finds.
The number is lower than previous years as opportunities for metal detectorists, who made 91% of the discoveries, to record their finds were limited due to lockdowns and the impact of the pandemic, the report revealed.
The finds also include a gold cross pendant with a runic inscription discovered in Berwick-upon-Tweed and Roman coins found in three pots in Wickwar, Gloucestershire.
Metal detectorists Mark Lovell and Mark Wilcox discovered the coins buried in the ground, with conservation work uncovering more than 6,500 coins dating back to the 4th century AD at this previously unknown Roman site, the report revealed.
Wilcox, 56, told the PA news agency: “It is the biggest find we ever had. We had seen some loose coins and then I lifted up a seven kilo pot but we did not know what was in the pot until we saw the X-ray.”
Lovell, 56, added: “We were elated and shocked at the same time.”
A silver, seal matrix dating to the early 13th century was discovered inscribed with the name Matilda de Cornhill. It is thought to have belonged to the wife of Reginald de Cornhill, High Sheriff of Kent and Constable of Rochester Castle.
The PAS scheme is funded through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s grant-in-aid, managed by the British Museum and hosted through Amgueddfa Cymru, the National Museum Wales.
Michael Lewis, head of PAS and treasure at the British Museum, said: “It is important to acknowledge the positive contribution made by metal detectorists and other public finders across the country.
“No matter how small, or fragmentary, the finds are all part of the great jigsaw puzzle of our past.”