Living Treasures: The Portable Antiquities Scheme


What do you think of when you hear about archaeology? Perhaps your mind jumps to Indiana Jones’ arduous search for the Holy Grail. Maybe you imagine Howard Carter’s incredible reaction to the “wonderful things” he spotted at first sight of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. Or if you’re as big of a dork as I am, you might hear the theme song for “Jurassic Park” resounding in your mind.

What you probably don’t think of are commonplace objects that you may come across every day. Think about it: the everyday objects that surround us now are living treasures. If aliens from outer space were to land on our planet thousands of years from now, what we may categorize as mundane would probably be key clues of our human history.

The spirit of archaeological adventure need not be contained in movie scripts or history books. You can access it here and now with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (UK), a voluntary project that focuses on the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public. The scheme was established to promote the recording of chance “finds” and tune the general public into the importance of understanding our past through objects.

Volunteers record details of their discoveries—descriptions of objects’ weight, measurements, location, etc. The Scheme’s database features more than 508,214 finds recorded by volunteers alone!

Have an old necklace that has been passed down through multiple generations in your family? How about a coin collection that you came across at a garage sale? From beloved heirlooms to found knick-knacks, you can view some of the many interesting and unusual finds that have been recorded so far on the official website. Read more about how this project has progressed in the UK!

SciStarter has tons of other archaeology citizen science projects you can participate in as well! Make sure you check them out too.

Categories: Archeology, Citizen Science

About the Author

Lily Bui

Although she holds dual non-science bachelors’ degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of California Irvine, Lily has long harbored a proclivity for the sciences. A daughter of an engineer and an accountant who also happen to be a photographer and musician, respectively, Lily grew up on the nexus between science and art. Lily has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; served a year in AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland; worked for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter in California; and performed across the U.S. as a touring musician. She currently works with WGBH-TV Boston and Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in Cambridge. In her spare time, she thinks of cheesy science puns (mostly to entertain herself). // Tweets @dangerbui