A Pope’s seal dating back 700 years is believed to be the 1.5 millionth archaeological object to have been officially unearthed by the public in Britain.
The seal was found by Andy Bassett in a ploughed field in Shropshire just before lockdown was implemented.
The object is believed to be the 1.5 millionth to be discovered in the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, which was created in 1997.
The scheme helps record archaeological objects found by the public to help advance knowledge of the past.
Experts believe the finds have radically transformed “what is known about life through time on the British Isles.”
The seal of Pope Innocent IV, whose papacy began in 1243, would have been used to confer political and religious favours.
Peter Reavill, the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire and Herefordshire, said the seal may have ended up in Shropshire because the Pope was trying to obtain Henry III’s support in his claim for Sicily.
“We don’t know who he (the Pope) sent the letter to. All we know is the lead seal has dropped off,” Mr Reavill said.
While the seal, which would have been kept as a “talisman”, does not have a huge value, “the archaeology of the region is definitely richer for its find,” he added.
A total of 81,602 finds were recorded with the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) in 2019, with around 90% discovered by metal detectorists.
British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said: “We look forward to many more objects being recorded, and who knows what exciting discoveries are yet to be found.”
Under the Treasure Act in 1996, finders have to report all finds of potential treasure to the local coroner.
The Act allows a national or local museum to acquire Treasure finds for public benefit and if this happens a reward is paid, which is (normally) shared equally between the finder and landowner.
Interested parties may wish to waive their right to a reward, enabling museums to acquire finds at reduced or no cost.
Michael Lewis, head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme at the British Museum, said that “even the smallest and most modest items offer clues about our history, so we encourage everyone who makes a find to continue to come forward.”
The objects recorded by the public are available on an online database which is freely accessible to the public.
You can learn more about the British Museum on their website.
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