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Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Database
Portable Antiquities Scheme / British Museum
921,100 objects within 588,349 records (December 2013)
Everything appears to be CC Attribution-Sharealike licensed, including most images.
E-mail: []( Twitter: [@findsorguk](

The Portable Antiquities Scheme Finds Database is maintained by the British Museum, and contains records of archaeological finds reported by the public - mostly metal detector enthusiasts.

The database contains around 383k images which are mainly licensed as CC-BY-SA, and is also cross-referenced with two coin databases - the Oxford University Celtic Coin Index (CCI) and Cardiff University's Iron Age and Roman coins of Wales project (IARCW).

An entry pulled at random for a lead pilgrim's badge is incredibly rich, with images, descriptions, dimensions and geolocation information.


It's cross-referenced against similar objects in the British Museum, and the Open Domesday Book site too!

There's a clear controlled vocabulary that's described on the site and reflected in the URL structure.

Different levels of detail in the data are available to registered users.

There's a lot of supporting information on the site too, including a useful guide to lifting and conserving artefacts, and annual statistics compiled for the DCMS about the number of finds.

Used In Anger

The site itself is a really good example of what can be done with the dataset (which is surprisingly rare for culture data releases like this, sadly). Good work BM! No, wait: it's all the work of one man:

"was designed and built by the Scheme's ICT Adviser, Daniel Pett, over a period of 12 months."

Good work Daniel Pett!

The site lists research undertaken with the database, and they cross publish images to flickr. There's also a nice map visualisation as part of the site (all data is geolocated, but degraded slightly to parish level presumably to protect areas from hordes of treasure hunters...), and a use of TheyWorkForYou data to log finds by constituency.


You could cross reference the Publications list with something like OpenLibrary, as there are very few ISBNs listed.

It might be interesting to make a map visualisation of finds by Period, Ascribed cultures and location: is it possible to map the history of the UK through small finds?

Technical Details

Individual records are available as XML, JSON, GEOJSON and RDF representations; searches can be returned as RSS/ATOM. Alternate formats can be returned by appending the URL, e.g. /format/rss or /format/json/.

The site itself provides:

OAI is a fairly complex-looking specialist API designed for exchanging archive data: the site has a help page with more information.

Also, awesome 404.