Thursday, 8 July 2010

If Mr Crisp can do it... The Frome Hoard Announced

Well, you read about it here first folks, the PAS has finally got around to releasing the news that:
A treasure hunter has found about 52,500 Roman coins, one of the largest such discoveries ever in Britain, officials said Thursday. The hoard, which was valued at 3.3 million pounds ($5 million), includes hundreds of coins bearing the image of Marcus Aurelius Carausius, [...] Dave Crisp, a treasure hunter using a metal detector, located the coins in April in a field in southwestern England, [...] the coins were buried in a large jar about [...] 30 centimeters deep and weighed about 160 kilograms [...] in all. Crisp said a "funny signal" from his metal detector prompted him to start digging. "I put my hand in, pulled out a bit of clay and there was a little radial, a little bronze Roman coin [...] he recovered about 20 coins before discovering that they were in a pot, and realized he needed expert help."Because Mr. Crisp resisted the temptation to dig up the coins it has allowed archaeologists from Somerset County Council to carefully excavate the pot and its contents, ensuring important evidence about the circumstances of its burial was preserved," said Anna Booth, of Somerset Council.

Brilliant. If Mr Crisp can do it at Witham Friary, about three miles south west of Frome, why can't the rest of the Treasure Hunters? Refreshing to see that term being used again in the British press instead of the namby-pamby "detectorists". The coin is called a radiate of course.This section drawing, from the PAS website, shows the hoard standing in undisturbed archaeological deposits (in a pit) well UNDER plough level, it also shows the narrow metal detectorist's hole dug down to it blind from the modern ground surface. Note no stratigraphical observation whatever can be done in such a hole.

The British Museum's Roger Bland is quoted as wittering: "This find presents us with an opportunity to put Carausius on the map. School children across the country have been studying Roman Britain for decades, but are never taught about Carausius our lost British emperor". The Daily Mail also plugs the "Lost Roman Emperor" angle for its less educated readers to revel in. What about Constatine III? Do we need treasure hunters to loot sites of the late fourth century to find more of his coins to "put him on the map" or can we do that without that stage? What a ridiculous thing to say, there are archaeological monographs about the bloke and, yes his horrible coins. Actually, I learnt about Cauasius and Allectus at school, and a few other emperors as well, and not a coin handed round the class by an ACE "mentor" involved in the process. Shucks, deprived childhood. We had to use books. But in those days, one did.

There is a video on the BBC site where Mr Crisp, imitating the voice of a coin pixie explains to simpering blonde journalist to a background of whimsical music how he speaks to himself in the middle of an empty field. And he does call the coin a "radial".

More propaganda for Treasure Hunting will result from this find too, and on the BBC:
The story of the excavation will be told in a new BBC Two archaeology series, Digging for Britain, presented by Dr Alice Roberts and made by 360production, to be broadcast in August.
I wonder if the PAS-worshipping "Internationalist" ACCG coineys will be slamming that one for its "nationalism" now it turns out that all those coins will be going to a museum rather than on the market.


Anonymous said...

Dr Bland's endless over-the-top efforts to praise detectorists to the sky are losing their potency through repetition but not their irritating qualities.

Why would this person NOT stop digging when it became obvious 1.)the coins were in a secure container 2.) digging the whole thing would involve enormous effort 3.)he was going to get hugely rewarded by the taxpayer d.) PAS has spent millions of pounds and thirteen years trying to get detectorists to stop digging in such circumstances and e.) Very few normal members of the public wouldn't realise that stopping digging was the right thing to do.

Please remember also Dr Bland that despite your efforts and praise an awful lot of these people DON'T stop digging - e.g. the Staffordshire Hoard. Maybe you owe it to the public to tell them the whole truth about this "hobby" not the edited highlights, lest you are guilty of aiding and abetting and misleading?

You could start by saying whether, if it's such a good thing for our heritage, you think metal detecting ought to be massively expanded. Or you could attend some rallies and be photographed indulging in unstructured random erosion and collecting for your own private or monetary benefit - why have we not seen you doing that? Partnership and mutual respect and all that...

Paul Barford said...

Why have they not done it Mr Heritage?

You might remember the occasion when on this blog I showed a photo of a PAS officer at a commercial artefact hunting rally and was asked to take it down. Obviously some of them have a conscience about being documented taking part in such events.

But yes, after thirteen years that we are getting single individuals who stiop digging is worth emphasising, but I think you are expecting too much of them and their ambitions to be seen as "pardners" by artefact hunters that they'd actually come out with even a mild criticism of those that do not, the so-called Staffordshire hoard being one of them, the equally lucrative/expensive Yorkshire dales (or whatever its called now) hoard, the three-foot deep down hoard and all the others. That is despite the Treasure Act Code of Practice.

Anonymous said...

The photo you were asked to take down was of a PAS officer AT a rally, not of a PAS officer merrily swinging a detector with the rest. There is no such picture on the PAS website nor on a detectorists' one so far as I'm aware. Yet what could be more natural than that someone has said ( a thousand times) to a FLO "here, have a go" and someone else would have snapped it. But no, never. I think we can assume that PAS officers are absolutely forbidden to put themselves in such a position since they and indeed PAS are professionally, ethically and intellectually wedded to conservation wherever possible, not recreational erosion, recorded or not.

In truth PAS was set up by an establishment that was opposed to the damage metal detecting does and which therefore had the same negative view of the hobby that prevails elsewhere. It is only in recent years that Dr Bland et al have taken to (almost) claiming that with recording it's overall a Good Thing despite the obvious long term reality that it can't be that and can only be a Terminal Thing that robs our fields of their artefacts, context and knowledge forever. History will judge this "mission creep" very harshly I suspect although metal detectorists and US collectors will be left deifying PAS to the very last spadeful. It's a monumental scandal and public disgrace in my untutored opinion.

Paul Barford said...

Well, if I am not already on record saying explicitly that I have long thought that Roger Bland and his team are taking the Portable Antiquities Scheme in totally the wrong way, then I should be. I agree with you there. The Scheme in its present form is no longer any kind of "archaeological outreach" to artefact hunters and collectors (never has been in fact) but is instead one of the prime advocacy groups in the public domain [not only in the UK] FOR artefact hunting and collecting, which is why organizations like the ACCG support it (even awarded its head whose visit in the USA they "sponsored" a nice ACCG award). Scandal is an understatement.

Paul Barford said...

What has "tutoring" got to do with it? British archaeologists have for thirteen years been brainwashed into the pat-the-nice-guys-on-the-head approach to artefact hunting and collecting. That's probably what they teach in Archaeology 101 at most British universities thanks to the PAS. If that's what they teach as real archaeology these days, together with metal detecting at Frome is the best way to find "lost emperors" like CARAUSIUS, best out of it Mr Heritage.

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.