The Portable Antiquities Scheme: a tool for studying the Ancient landscape of England and Wales

Daniel Pett (British Museum)

Institute of Classical Studies Digital Seminar 2011

Friday August 5th at 16:30, in Room 37, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

The Portable Antiquities Scheme has now been running for 14 years, funded through HLF, MLA and DCMS grants. It is a programme for systematically recording public discovery of archaeological objects within the boundaries of England and Welsh, through which 18500 individuals have voluntarily offered their finds for recording. This dataset is multi-period and now contains 675,000 objects with a very high proportion of Roman and Celtic objects made available for study. These include iconic discoveries such as the Moorlands Staffordshire trulla which documents four Roman forts on Hadrian’s Wall, the infamous Crosby Garrett Helmet, the world famous Staffordshire Hoard, the huge Frome Hoard to more mundane, everyday items that can demonstrate more about rural habitation of Britain. The ability to query for multiple periods and object types and produce instant maps allows one to study material culture with a more holistic approach.

Over 200 research projects are now in progress using this dataset, and this paper will demonstrate how it can be used to benefit Classical scholar’s studies and how the database ( has integrated other resources (including the Celtic Coin Index and the Iron Age and Roman coins of Wales project) and makes use of 3rd party information from the Pleiades project and Ordnance Survey 1:50k gazetteer data for antiquities and Roman sites. It will also demonstrate:

  • how this database’s information can be leveraged into mash ups and small or enterprise applications via the use of simple web services and apis
  • the application of text mining tools to enhance collections data
  • integration with geographical databases to provide an enriched analytical environment
  • some examples of research in progress with specific reference to Classical numismatic research, including the formulation of standards for sharing numismatic data in various academic spheres.


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.

Audio recording of seminar (MP3)

Presentation (PDF)