Tuesday, 24 February 2015

What the PAS Does Not Want You to Know About the Creslow Burial

It seems clear to me that we need discussions on the financial responsibilities of landowners and commercial rally organizers for the mitigation of threats to (theft of) archaeological remains revealed by commercial artefact hunting rallies. If an evaluation of a known site and - as at Lenborough a site recorded on the HER - before constructing a cow-shed had discovered a hoard or Roman grave full of finds and information, the landowner would have to pay for its proper treatment. Why not here? In the case of a commercial rally, a landowner is profiting from the sale of tickets to artefact hunters entering his land to find artefacts, but escaping from any financial consequences when they do. In the case of Treasure finds like Lenborough, both finder and landowner are expecting a substantial ransom for a bagful of decontextualised artefacts. Why is the public purse expected by both finders and landowners to pick up the cost of dealing with situations created by the commercial artefact hunting rally?

According to material placed in the public domain recently, the Buckinghamshire PAS felt she "could not tell the world" that there was no money for dealing with the Lenborough Hoard properly "because the Bucks Emergency Excavation Fund was spent on the Creslow Burial in Oct[ober]". What an odd attitude. It seems to me this is exactly the sort of thing the PAS should be highlighting as one of the failures of the UK's current policies on artefact hunting and commercial rallies. Obviously no change can even be contemplated if the PAS is going to maintain an embarrassed silence. This is a ridiculous approach.

 According to Oxford Archaeology:
The burial was uncovered in October last year during a metal detecting rally undertaken by a group called the Weekend Wanderers. Investigation of a signal revealed parts of several iron and copper alloy objects. The hole dug by the detectorists also exposed samian ware vessels that indicated that the finds formed part of an in-situ Roman burial. OA was called in by Buckingham County Council to investigate. As work progressed the increasing complexity of the remains (exacerbated in particular by the very difficult soil conditions) meant that excavation and recording took place over several days.
So it is possible in Buckinghamshire, and note that it was the same Weekend Wanders involved here as at Lenborough. They were targeting a known site here too. This is the rally (just three other finds reported from it so far). The Buckinghamshire emergency fund was used more than a decade ago to deal with another ("unexpected"?) metal detecting find here. The Creslow Rally produced a Treasure find in 2004 ('Treasure hunters give find to experts' Portsmouth News March 4th 2004):
A horde (sic) of 13th-century coins has been handed to the British Museum after their discovery by treasure hunters in Creslow. An archaeological site in the village was plundered (sic) by about 700 metal detectors at an organised event last summer  [...] The treasure hunt, which was organised by the Weekend Wanderers, drew enthusiasts from as far afield as Sweden and America, all hoping to find long lost artefacts on the historical site. The find came when Bill French from Nottingham received a reading on his detector. Fellow treasure hunters Arthur Reynolds, from South Wales, and John Hughes, from Croydon, were quick to offer their assistance in digging up what would later be confirmed as 58 coins dating back to as early as 1272. [...] the trio [...] have since agreed to split any money they make from the coins three ways, whether it be through one of the museums buying them or selling them themselves. [...] Event organiser Peter Welch was not surprised that such an exciting find was made. He said: "Creslow Manor dates back to Saxon times. There was a huge field of 360 acres of pasture, the largest in the county, specifically for raising cattle for the royal table. "We kept the finds liaison officer for Bucks busy during our rally.
That was in 2004 and last year they were back again "plundering" (as the reporter saw it) the same area. That's after material from it had been scattered among private collectors from all over the country, Sweden and America. How much do commercial artefact hunting organizations contribute annually to emergency excavation funds in the counties where they operate? The 2014 find proved to include a wooden box burial containing:
a number of grave goods, including two samian ware cups, two samian ware dishes, a pottery flagon, two glass vessels, a bronze jug with decorated handle, a bronze patera or dish, an iron open lamp or lamp holder, two unidentified lead objects and an urned cremation burial. [...] The cremation urn was in particularly poor condition and was block lifted for excavation in spits back at the office.
So the Weekend Wanderers hovering around the hoik hole at Lenborough in December last year are not unaware how such things are done. The FLO too. The hoard had lain undisturbed and unthreatened for some 980 years but was hoiked because hoikers with metal detectors were 'plundering" a known site and there was no money to deal with the "unexpected" find properly. What kind of "responsible detecting" is that? You'll not see the PAS discussing that with any of its public - they'll not discuss it on their hidden forum either it seems from present evidence. Furthermore they apparently regard it as "trolling" should an archaeologist (or is it just the foreign-based ones?) raise an issue like this. Shame on you, shame on your attitudes to open discussion of what you are doing, shame on the lot of you. How can you expect any "support" with attitudes like that?

Oxford Archaeology, 'Objects from high-status Roman burial go on display', 12th February 2015.

Vignette: The Creslow intaglio, believed to be an award for 'Excavatorius of the Year', showing Minerva presenting a ceremonial carrier bag and paint stripper to the legendary Professionalis Hoikius Diggus the winner in 136 AD. Apparently techniques have not changed much since in some insular schools.

UPDATE 26th Feb 2015
The Creslow burial is going to be featured in the April 2015 number of "The Searcher".

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