Highlights of the latest Treasure Report

The most recent Treasure Annual Report, which covers finds made in 2018, has been released by the British Museum. In total, 1,094 cases were reported as Treasure for that year, comprising over 20,906 individual artefacts. Of those reported, 347 have since been acquired by over 100 different museums across the country, and the vast majority of these (93%) were acquired by museums local to the findspot.

image: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service
Image: West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service

Coinciding with the report’s launch, the British Museum announced some star discoveries among recent Treasure finds. One of the most unusual and quirky finds was a medieval ‘snail man’ mount (above) found near Pontefract in West Yorkshire last year (search for SWYOR-4E467E on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, www.finds.org.uk). Dating between AD 1200 and 1350, it depicts a human figure emerging from a snail shell on the back of a goat – no close parallels have yet been identified.

Commenting on the find, Beverley Nenk, Curator for Later Medieval Collections at the British Museum, said: ‘This unusual silver-gilt mount may once have been attached to a leather belt or strap, or perhaps worn as a badge. The image of the praying knight emerging from the snail shell atop a goat implies an element of parody or satire. Snails are often depicted in the margins of medieval illuminated manuscripts and are thought to symbolise cowardice, and this may be the intended meaning. The mount may be a satirical reference to cowardly or non-chivalric behaviour of opponents in battle, or as a parody of the upper or knightly classes. As such, it demonstrates the humour often found in medieval material culture.’

Other recently reported finds include a Roman medieval seal matrix (NMS-CB2CBE on the database) from near King’s Lynn, engraved with an elephant carrying a castle or howdah on its back – one of only three to be recorded from Britain; a long, bronze rapier blade (SUR-68C46E) that was found as part of a Bronze Age hoard from Stalbridge, Dorset; and a large Iron Age assemblage (BH-72C17B) from Bedfordshire, dating to between 80 BC and AD 100, which may have been grave goods from the cremation burial of an important individual. Its contents include a bronze mirror, a pair of tweezers, and a pin, as well as numerous bronze vessels.