More than 100 underwater finds recorded in the first year of the Marine Antiquities Scheme

More than 100 archaeological and historical marine finds have been submitted during the first year of the Marine Antiquities Scheme; an initiative launched to protect and improve our knowledge of the nation’s underwater heritage by encouraging the voluntary recording of items found in English and Welsh waters


31 July 2017

A host of unique finds have been recorded by divers, beach walkers, recreational anglers and other marine users. Archaeological and historical discoveries ranging from Neolithic flints and Roman serving wares to post-medieval candlesticks and remnants of modern ordnances have been submitted, with location information and photographs of the items.

Launched in July 2016, the Marine Antiquities Scheme (MAS) is a joint initiative, funded by The Crown Estate, modelled on The British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and managed by Wessex Archaeology.

The scheme was established to enhance awareness of the nation’s marine heritage by helping characterise the archaeological nature of the marine environment. It also allows finders to learn more about their discoveries and gives the public access to data for research. The Crown Estate funds the MAS as part of its responsible management of the seabed and for the benefit it delivers in helping to derisk future opportunities using the seabed, such as offshore wind and other developments.

Central to MAS is a simple-to-use app that makes recording finds easy and gives finders immediate feedback, as well as instructions on their statutory obligations including the need to report wrecks to the Receiver of Wreck, an official of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Following the submission of a new find, a support team of archaeological experts undertake research on each item to learn more about its origins and history. The information is then published on the MAS database, which is accessible to anyone interested in the history hidden under the waves and provides opportunities for wider research.

To date, the majority of the finds have come from Kent and Essex, reflecting the especially active diving communities in those areas.

The Crown Estate’s senior development manager, Matthew Clear, said: “I am delighted that the MAS reached 100 finds in its first year, it is a clear sign that there is a strong appetite for the voluntary reporting of underwater discoveries. The positive uptake of the scheme by divers, fishermen, and other coastal visitors has delivered a wealth of information which supports our responsible management of the seabed, and aids us in derisking future opportunities and encouraging investment.”

Wessex Archaeology’s Toby Gane adds: “We have had some very interesting post-medieval ‘onion bottles’ dating to around 1700 and what looks like a German salt glazed stone wear jug from a similar period, along with later dated square gin bottles, and pottery finds from the 19th and 20th centuries.”

While many finds are newly discovered, the scheme also enables those with legacy finds, recovered and reported in previous years, to submit them to the MAS database.

One such find was a salt-glazed stoneware barrel costrel, almost certainly German and probably dating to the 17th century. It was originally recovered in 1966 during a dive at a depth of approximately 60 feet. It was found along with two lots of cannon, cannonballs and lead sheeting at a site near the Channel Islands.

More unusual items reported include the remnants of a ships funnel or ventilator that was to be used in an art exhibition and a symmetrical 19th century surgeon’s pestle.

About MAS

The MAS app allows users to locate, record and submit information about archaeological material discovered anywhere within English or Welsh waters from the Mean Low Water Level.

Since the launch, a Heritage Lottery Funding grant and support from the Fishing Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries has enabled improvement to the app to allow users to input their activity at time of the find. The Crown Estate and Wessex Archaeology are working with industry bodies and partners to secure long-term future funding for MAS.

It is available to download from relevant app stores for iOS and Android phones and tablets.

Finders can also submit information on-line via an electronic recording form located on the scheme’s website www.marinefinds.org.uk.