Expert Archaeologist Chosen for Sussex
By David E P Dennis
Meet Jane Clark – she is the person who decides if the amazing heritage artefact you have discovered will be entered into the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) database operated by the British Museum. Jane works for the Museum and is hosted by the Sussex Archaeological Society. She has BA and Masters degrees in Artefact Studies from The Institute of Archaeology at University College London. Until her Sussex appointment, she was a part-time lecturer in Roman and Medieval Artefacts at the University of Kent in Canterbury. After much experience as the Finds Liaison Assistant for Kent, she is now the new Finds Liaison Officer, or FLO for short, for Sussex.
Jane explains: “My main role is to encourage the recording of archaeological objects on our publicly accessible database (www.finds.org.uk), found by members of the public. The majority of finders are metal detectorists but also people out walking, gardening, or going about their daily work. Finders lend me their discoveries so I can create a detailed record of it on the database so that important information is gathered for future research before the object is returned to the finder. We now have 1.5 million amazing objects on the database, an incredible resource for anybody to explore on a national or local level.”
Amazing Finds in Sussex
There are some really exciting Sussex objects on the database; an early Bronze Age barbed and tanged arrowhead dating 2400 – 1500 BC, found near Birling Gap and a Silver Sceat coin c. AD 675-750. This beautiful example illustrates the head of the god Woden on one side and a back-biting beast with wide open jaws biting his own three forked tail on the other side.
• Silver Sceat coinc. AD 675-750
A medieval figurine probably of St John the Evangelist, dating c. AD 1400-1530 has also been discovered in a field near Lewes. This figure would have originally adorned a processional cross. Here’s another star find – a beautiful Iron Age to early Roman strap union from a horse harness decorated with red coral probably from the Mediterranean.
Found near Lewes
PUBLIC-9304C1 (Portable Antiquities Scheme)
A complete Early-Medieval (Anglo-Saxon) Silver sceat coin issued at Ribe, Denmark (675-750). Obverse: The god Wodan’s head with chevron beard, Reverse: Monster in flight with gaping jaws biting its raised triple-forked tail.
• Roman horse harness strap
This is reminiscent of the scenes invoked in Caesar’s recollections of the invasion of Britain where his armies were faced with the chaos invoked by the British charioteers, “they can run along the chariot pole, stand on the yoke and get back into the chariot as quick as lightning.” (Gallic War, IV. 33).
Perhaps the most unusual find was a Post Medieval prosthetic nose – probably owned by somebody who had lost their nose because of a disease like syphilis – or perhaps in a duel.
Early Roman horse harness fitting (iron age)
Found in West Sussex
Record ID: SUSS-F35BF5 (Portable Antiquities Scheme)
An incomplete cast copper-alloy openwork strap union probably dating to either the Late Iron Age or early Roman periods, c. 100 BC- 100 AD. The main body of the strap junction consists of two large opposing crescents, which meet at their tips to form a broadly circular outer frame. These have been ornamented ornately.
Jane advises finders on the importance of following the codes of practice for responsible metal detecting – remember to always have the landowner’s permission, work on land that has already been disturbed and only within the depth of ploughing and to report your finds to Jane the FLO for recording. It is also important to be protected by insurance, which can be provided by the National Council for Metal-Detecting or the Federation of Independent Detectorists. There is a growing problem of illegal metal detecting, especially during the pandemic, and Jane also works with the Sussex Police Rural Crime Team to protect our county heritage.
Police Sergeant Giancarlo Leone of the Sussex Police Rural Crime Team explains: “Jane’s role as a Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) is of real value to the heritage community but also forms an important bridge between the legitimate amateur detectorists and archaeologists and the Rural Crime Team. Being able to identify who has been submitting their finds to the FLO and who hasn’t, builds a great picture of the issues for us, and helps our decision-making process as to whom and where to target our efforts in order to protect our County’s heritage assets. We look forward to working closely with her.”
• If you find an object which is likely to be 300 years old or more, or discover an item you think may qualify as treasure, then always act legally and pass it for evaluation to the FLO – Jane is waiting for your email: [email protected]
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