Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The PAS and the Invisible, Nameless, Hoard

I was informed by Dr Drost of the PAS (in litt.) that the reason why one cannot see his record of "22000 objects" on the PAS database is that when they are portable antiquities classified as Treasure, for some reason, "we do not publish records before [the] inquest". That seems to be belied by the actual information contained in that database. To take just a few random items: the Wickham Market ('South East Suffolk') Hoard found at or near Dallinghoo SF-65D096 record created Friday 4th April 2008 inquest 3rd July 2009. Bedale area hoard,  YORYM-CEE620 PAS record created Wednesday 23rd May 2012, inquest after March 2013. Shrewsbury hoard, HESH-658701 record created Thursday 27th August 2009, inquest, 25 October 2011. Then we have the Beau Street, Bath hoard, NOT found by "a member of the public" but in an archaeological investigation, it consists of an estimated 17,500 silver Roman coins dating from between 32 BC and 274 AD. But  GLO-40A9B6  is on the PAS database, included in the database of non-Treasure finds voluntarily reported by members of the public (eh?) on 12th February 2009 (though, once again, the inquest occurred much later).

So what's going on? Why are Treasure items - the reporting of which is obligatory under the Treasure Act - and some of which come from excavations, being deliberately mixed in a "database" with non-Treasure items voluntarily reported by members of the public? Why, when justifiable questions are raised are we being fobbed off by evasion and statements which, on checking, appear to be untrue? Can we have some more transparency from the PAS about just what it is they are recording, how and why?

UPDATE 26th September 2014:
It now transpires that the "22000" objects are the Seaton Hoard, and the Treasure inquest was on the 12th September 2014 (Dr Drost wrote to me on 16th, four days after the inquest), so somehow there is a huge gap between "not publishing the items before the inquest" (which they did) and their still being hidden now two weeks AFTER the inquest. It seems Mr Drost, though new, has been in the PAS long enough to adopt some of their apparent standards when it comes to complete openness and intellectual honesty. That's a shame.

UPDATE 26th February 2015
It took an FOI request to get a partial answer to some of the questions about the Beau Street hoard excavated by archaeologists but for some reason (still) included in the PAS database. A BM research assistant Eleanor Ghey explained in an internal email to Michael Lewis (24th November 2014) that "the cataloguing of the hoard is being done with money from the HLF bid and the involvement of C[oins] and M[edals] (ie not PAS) was to prepare the Coroner's report to meet the Treasure Act requirements only". She totally ignores the main issue which is that these coins are included in the total for the PAS database of finds made and reported by the public and no answer is given why that should be. Note that a search indicates that the original database entry was of just 1500 coins (apparently a wild estimate) and despite coming from an excavation they apparently had only a six-figure NGR.

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