Every year, hundreds of archaeological objects are found by metal detectorists that potentially derive from graves. Owing to the general lack of protection given to grave goods in England, some end up in private collections or on the antiquities trade. I recently completed some research into this, which has just been published as an Historic England Research Report.
The ‘Grave Goods’ project was undertaken between July and September 2020. The aim of the project was to improve the care of mortuary contexts in England through a better understanding of the unique threats posed by the private ownership of grave goods. Research was undertaken to establish broad trends in the public discovery of grave goods, and to understand the scale and implications of their subsequent sale on the antiquities market. Naturally, these data touched on a wider range to ethical and practical issues in public archaeology. Information was collated on the frequency and character of in-situ grave goods (i.e. when found in association with human remains), and unstratified grave goods (i.e. when found in plough soil) reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). Further information was gained through a three-month monitoring exercise of internet auction houses.