1.2 Portable Antiquities Scheme

Many of the objects examined in the various catalogues and VCH have poor provenances, a fact also highlighted in Continental catalogues (e.g. Kaufmann-Heinimann 1977, 3; Zadoks-Josephus Jitta et al. 1969, vii). In addition, British authors note that certain parts of the country might be underrepresented owing to a lack of excavated material (e.g. Green 1976, 78). In the years since these volumes were produced, excavation has been undertaken in many of those areas, and the implementation of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has transformed the reporting of archaeological material found primarily by metal-detection. Since 2004 a round-up of finds reported to the PAS has been published by Sally Worrell in Britannia.

Over the years many figurines have been reported upon or simply listed in the Roman Britain round-up in Britannia, and it was therefore felt that examining the complete run of the journal would give some indication of the frequency with which figurines have been reported since the journal began in 1970, and how this might have changed in recent years. From 1970 to 2003 on average one figurine was reported in each journal (some have none, others two or three). Similarly the PAS round-up for 2003 lists three bronze figurines. In 2004 this increased to six and in 2005 increased again to eight. These numbers do not include other objects decorated with figures such as mounts, handles, containers, and amulets, 13 of which are listed from 2006 alone. In all some 220 figurines were listed on the PAS website in 2010, making it an important resource for anyone studying material culture in Britain. However, one primary flaw of the PAS data is the lack of context information associated with the figurines, and the limitations of the PAS data are addressed in Section 4.2.

Thus it is time to re-evaluate the evidence, and, although some areas may still be over- or under-represented in the archaeological record, this is much less the case than 30 years ago. The available publications on figurines in Britain and on the Continent generally do not do justice to a potentially informative group of objects that could tell us much about the lives and attitudes of people in Roman Europe, as well as craft production and trade. Many publications focus on producing catalogues and descriptions of the pieces, and while this is in itself an important and useful undertaking, it leaves the reader with little understanding of what role these objects had.


© Internet Archaeology/Author(s)
University of York legal statements | Terms and Conditions | File last updated: Tue Mar 20 2012