Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Numismatists Probably will Never get it...

Rare Scottish coin found in Cumbria
It is quite clear that the majority of coin fondlers are not really all that interested in either findspot or the legal situation concerning the surfacing of another fine specimen to ogle. Here's some typical numismo-jubilation about a coin in the PAS database:
Carl Savage ‏@Carlisle_Carl 22 godz. 22 godziny temu
This very rare Scottish James V 1/3 groat (type IV) has just been discovered in Cumbria.
("To be known as: Cockermouth") A justifiable question, about the so-called Cockermouth coin considering legal situation in the country of origin of such coins:
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues 14 godz.14 godzin temu
@Carlisle_Carl @Archaeology_UoS "very rare" in Scotland, or just in Cumbria? Who saw it come out of the ground in England?
numismatically-evasive answer:
Carl Savage @Carlisle_Carl 4.10
@PortantIssues @Archaeology_UoS Its very rare in both Scotland and England. The Cumbrian find is the first of its kind recorded on the PAS

So, all the more reason to verify the findspot. Justifiable question on data hygiene repeated
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues @Carlisle_Carl @Archaeology_UoS  So I ask again, how was reported findspot verified before information published on said PAS ''database"?

but numismo-evaded again

Carl Savage ‏@Carlisle_Carl 20 min20 minut temu
@PortantIssues @Archaeology_UoS The find was via a metal detector so the detectorist would have dug it out the ground
Justifiable question on data hygiene repeated
Paul Barford ‏@PortantIssues 15 min temu @Carlisle_Carl @Archaeology_UoS So I ask _again_, how was reported findspot verified before information published on said PAS ''database"?

What is the point of a 'database' which includes unverified data reported by third parties, not primarily engaged in gathering data - but things to collect, who come along to the FLO with just a selection they have made? These are not 'data', This is ártefactual 'show and tell.

UPDATE 5th October 2016
Anyone who considers the title of the text unduly pessimistic (or dismissive) might like to look at the numismatist's next tweet which completely illustrates the point I was making....
Carl Savage @Carlisle_Carl 5.10 @PortantIssues @Archaeology_UoS The find was verified by the national finds adviser for the PAS and my own records of coins finds
I think there is some confusion as to what we mean by verification, the blinkered artefact-centred view seems to see the word as concerning the identity of the object (the accuracy of its label) or perhaps authenticity.  To make it clear, under the legislation of Scotland, any artefact-hunter-collector submitting a 'very rare' coin to the Treasure Trove process found in the soil of Scotland runs a very real risk of losing it to the national collections (even if it is in that condition). They'll get the cash ransom of course, but will not be able to join the rare find to their own private personal stash of antiquities. If however the coin is found south of a line drawn on a map, a different regime applies and the finder-collector can hang onto his trophy. As happened here, 'Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder'.  The temptation is obvious, and obviously any attempt to compile reliable 'data' using unverified third-party reports made in the course of a hobby-collecting activity needs to adopt stringent measures to counteract any attempts to fraudulently report findspots - especially in the case of artefacts of foreign origin allegedly found in England.

To be clear, I am not saying this coin was fraudulently-reported. I am asking about the extent of the due diligence of the compilers of the PAS record.  It is a public-funded enterprise and PAS employees and their helpers owe the paying public the best service, not some fob-off nonsense. The question of 'laundering finds by PAS' is not a new one. This blog is full of examples. The Oxford Nighthawking report includes measures to counter it in  its recommendations.  Made in 2009. When were they put into practice by the PAS? (rhetorical question - Bloomsbury is the stoniest ground). The discovery of a 'very rare' Scottish coin type in England is a case which should have set alarm bells ringing in the PAS office. My question concerns whether it did. Carlisle Carl's replies indicate very strongly that neither he nor Dot Boughton, the responsible FLO who was mixed up in the so-called Crosby Garrett Helmet controversy up there took this public duty all that seriously. "The find was verified by the national finds adviser for the PAS and my own records of coins finds" means that the question of the verification of the veracity of the reported findspot was not addressed properly. Like so many other finds reported to, and given legitimacy by, the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

As Farmer Silas Brown has been pointing out all this time, finders can only prove title by a release document issued by the landowner. When are the PAS going to insist on seeing the documentation of legal title of the objects they handle, and sometimes store in their offices?

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