Review by KK
In the latest addition to the 50 Finds series from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), Laura Burnett, the Finds Liaison Officer for Somerset, takes us on a tour of the county through some of the most important artefacts to have been discovered there since the inception of the PAS in 1997.
Just as Laura had trouble picking out 50 finds from the thousands that have been recorded in Somerset in the last two and a half decades, I had trouble picking out the best of the best to highlight in this review. Every object Laura has chosen provides a deep connection to the people who have lived and died in this region of England over millennia.
Starting in prehistory, one star find is a Bronze Age sword, which has been deliberately bent, or ‘killed’ before being deposited, something that would have required the metal to have been heated and then delicately folded – no easy task. Meanwhile, from the Iron Age, Laura highlights a sword pommel depicting a human head, which gives us unusual insight into the hairstyles that might have been worn at this time. Heading into the Roman period, one of the finds chosen is a Jupiter figurine, which appears to have been locally made, providing elusive evidence that at least some of the local British population in this region adopted Roman culture and religion. From the early medieval period, a gold semissis coin of Justin II, Emperor of Byzantium (AD 565-578), is a rare example of the presence of coinage during this period in England, while a silver coin hoard found in the Chew Valley (see CA 356), containing coins of Harold II and William I, may be evidence of the political upheaval of the 11th century.
The last find Laura has chosen to highlight is a lump of melted coins from the fire that destroyed Weston’s Grand Pier in 2008, which she holds up as an example of what archaeologists in the future might be able to learn about our time from our objects.
Overall, Laura’s passion for the county shines through in her explanation of the objects and how they fit into the natural and historical landscape, from the uplands of the Mendips to the lowlands of the Levels. This is a lovely book for anyone who wants to learn more about Somerset and its history.
50 Finds from Somerset: objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme
Amberley Publishing, £15.99