Behind the Finds
Hello! I’m Sophie Flynn, the Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for Essex. I’m based in Colchester and work on behalf of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, whose role it is to record archaeological items found by members of the public, and put them on an online, free-to-access finds database – finds.org.uk. There are 40 Finds Liaison Officers and Assistants currently operating around the UK.
As the job title suggests, I liaise with many different individuals and groups who may come across artefacts in their day-to-day lives. Whether that’s metal detectorists or gardeners, dog-walkers or local history groups – there are lots of people who have discovered artefacts and want to find out more about them and their local area.
A typical day in the FLO office would be spent recording finds that have been collected from detecting club meetings, or have been brought into the office by independent finders. There are a number of steps to follow when recording finds. The first being the initial research phase, when I’ll often spend some time looking up references in books or searching for clues about the use or age of an item in published artefact catalogues. I’m also very lucky that I can consult my knowledgeable colleagues when an item baffles me!
Next I would create a record on the finds.org database, and add the relevant information – item description, weight, measurements, material, etc. I would then put in the finder’s details (if they wish to be known) as well as the findspot – the location where the artefact was found. This last point is very important in creating quality records. Without a good findspot, the knowledge we can gain from artefacts is extremely limited. The archaeological significance in this case, is all about context.
Finally, photographs would be taken in the photography studio here at the office, and edited in photoshop, before being added to the record.
Silver Medieval seal matrix that was recently brought in as Treasure.
Ref: 2017 T106, ESS-1EE209
As well as recording finds to add to the database, the FLO is also responsible for helping to administer the Treasure Act 1996. Any item of Treasure found in Essex should be declared and brought into the FLO or Coroner. It is my job to process these finds and write preliminary reports on them. This is a very exciting part of the role, and it means I get to see a lot of shiny things!
The work of a FLO is not entirely tied up in finds however! We are active in outreach and hold talks and events often. This year I participated in the Festival of Archaeology by running the ‘Essex Treasure Tour’, where I visited various museums in Essex and did a lot of talking about Treasure, and also a lot of drawing with kids! I also attended a metal detecting rally in Great Dunmow, and saw some lovely artefacts come out of the ground!
The work of a FLO is wonderfully varied, and no day is ever the same as the last. It’s a job that keeps you guessing and constantly developing your knowledge base, which is why I love it!