Do you remember what you were doing on the day that the Iraq war started?
I was at a meeting of the Welsh Antiquaries in the National Museums and Galleries of Wales in Cardiff. As part of the day we were shown the archaeological material recovered in Wales as part of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. And I was deeply impressed with the range of material which had been found, recorded and preserved.
What is the Portable Antiquities Scheme?
"The Portable Antiquities Scheme is the largest community archaeology project this country has ever seen. It was established in 1997 to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by the public in England and Wales."
Full details are available from the PAS website.
The scale is massive: "Since the 1st January 2007, we have recorded 56969 objects within 37398 records." And no doubt by the time I publish these comments the number will have grown.
The aims of PAS are excellent. They include:
"To encourage all those who find archaeological objects to make them available for recording and to promote best practice by finders."
But notice that the scheme is about chance finds.
Surface finds often can and do indicate unknown, unrecorded and unexcavated archaeological sites. So lobby groups in America should be cautious about citing PAS as the cure for looting (see comments by Peter Tompa and Dave Welsh): PAS is encouraging dialogue and I feel optimistic.
What finds continue to go unrecorded? How many archaeological sites continue to be destroyed though deliberate looting?