Reporting Finds

PASIf you’ve found something that you think might be an archaeological object, or indeed Treasure, please read the advice from the Portable Antiquities Scheme below:

Who You can report to

If you find something – whether a single item, group or a scatter – do consider whether it is better to take scaled photographs, notes and a sketch, and then seek advice, leaving the artefacts where they are while recording as exact a location as possible. Remember that memory can fade quickly too. In any respect, notes (and photos) should be taken about the context of a find. Collecting or selectively removing artefacts then removes them from their context – key to their research value – which means important information may be lost. Any finds also, by law, belong to the landowners.

Chance finds can be reported to a local Historic Environment Record (HER) officer and/or the regional Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) finds liaison officer (FLO) who often hold regional open-sessions too. You might need to be patient since these folks are often extremely busy and many thousands of finds do get reported.

Why Historic Environment Records are Important

HER records are more extensive and site-contextual, and are also far more detailed about locations and related GIS mapping (Geographical Information Systems). Reporting finds applies both to new projects and existing collections, and includes archaeology (usually stone tools), deposits and palaeoenvironmental sites.

HERIn addition to supporting research – whether community-based or academic – HERs are used to inform decision makers as part of the local and national planning process for development proposals and infrastructure projects that may affect the historic environment, such as residential, commercial, utilities, transport, windfarms, and so on.

  • Read more about the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) | UK Government Department for Communities and Local Government 2012 | Historic England overview webpage »

Field projects can also be recorded through the OASIS portal which is then relayed to the relevant HER—it’s free and open to anybody. Historic England can usually provide training for groups.

HER image example © Staffordshire County Council

Identifying Finds: It’s Tricky from Pics

There are a fair few artefacts (or indeed natural items or fossils) that get shared on Facebook sites for identification. Trying to identify anything from pictures is problematic, no matter how good they are. The best advice is to have an object reviewed by a FLO (or other experienced person) – and then share the news. It’s very easy for all sorts of feedback to be generated, often controversial or contradictory, however good the intentions of all concerned. What better than to share something once it has been verified and recorded?

Useful Resources

Standards in Archaeological Practice

  • The Historic England Management of Research Projects in the Historic Environment (MoRPHE) is a set of free guidelines covering the management of all historic environment research and ‘research and development’ (R&D) projects. The guidelines can be downloaded and provide a useful framework for volunteers and non-professional archaeologists too.
  • The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) has a comprehensive series of best practice guidelines and checklists.
  • Introduction to Standards and Guidance in Archaeological Practice | ISGAP is focused to support community-based projects, in association with Historic England, CIfA and the Council for British Archaeology | The ISGAP web resources will be back online shortly (2016)

Guidance about Lithics and Early Prehistoric Assets


Planned fieldwork should always set out to answer research questions – see the research framework links, below. There are a number of excellent fieldwork guides available to download online. Many include equipment checklists and contain pro forma templates for field recording. Here are some of the best:

In addition, there is an extensive range of archaeology guides on the British Archaeological Jobs and Resources (BAJR) website. Questions, but preferably not about finds identification, can be posted to the BAJR Facebook page (please observe the rules at the top of the page).


National and Regional Archaeological Research Frameworks