Antiquity Scheme unearths the rogue traders of medieval life

THE Portable Antiquities Scheme was set up to allow members of the public to record their historical finds. It is managed by the British Museum in England and works with at least 119 national and local partners, and delivers through its network of 40 locally based Finds Liaison Officers, the PAS Central Unit (based at the British Museum), National Finds Advisers, interns and volunteers.

It plays an important role in advancing knowledge, telling stories of past communities and furthering public interest in the past. More than 1.5 millions that were found by chance by ordinary people (many through metal detecting) have been recorded and saved in some way for posterity. Finds that would otherwise be lost.
One such find was made to the north east of Salisbury. A cast copper-alloy seal matrix of medieval date, c. 1300-1400. The matrix takes the form of a pointed oval with a flat reverse. The front carries a representation of the Virgin Mary carrying a child (presumably the baby Jesus) standing in front of a decorated alter. Mary is wearing a crown and the child has a halo.

Around the figures, an inscription reads SIgILLUM SUB DECAnAT ECCL’IE SARI which can be read as ‘seal of the sub-dean of the church of Salisbury’. The seal is approximately 51mm long, 32mm wide, 2.8mm thick and weighs just over 21 grams.
John Cherry, former keeper of Medieval and Later Antiquities, British Museum, has suggested that this intriguing find may actually be a forgery that would have been a contemporary of the original. This very fact adds an extra layer of mystery to the find. It was noted as ‘an interesting find’ by the records and donated to the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

In the year to date, just over 1,500 finds from Wiltshire have been recorded with the scheme. If you find something in the local area, contact 01722 332151 or

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