Sunday, 28 January 2018

UK's PAS Employs Artefact-Sniffing Dogs

Bronze Age hoard found in Furness is treasure,
rules coroner Dig site at Urswick. Picture
The Portable Antiques Scheme
In the States experiments are being carried out to train dogs to sniff out freshly-excavated artefacts being smuggled into the country. It seems that the PAS in Britain also employs canine help, this time in excavation of hoard sites. This is a PAS photo of their investigation of a hoard discovery site (Jack Brooke-Battersby, ' Bronze Age hoard found in Furness is treasure, rules coroner', 26th January 2018).

The photo shows that the artefacts were  found at the base of a stone-free zone under permanent pasture right under the lee of an ancient structure of stones protruding from (see top right corner) that layer. In other words just the sort of search site the Revised Code of Practice which the PAS supposedly promotes says artefact hunters should be keeping away from. Since we know that the area around has a lot of arable land (see my Google Earth screenshot here) there is absolutely no excuse for this.
Dog excavating

Neither is there any excuse for a reporter writing of an inquest not to know the law to which it relates:
The finder and the landowner, whose identity is protected under the Treasure Act, will receive an equal split of any payout made after the Valuation Committee reach a conclusion.
Nonsense, the TA says nothing of the kind.Those boulders, are they part of a site shown on my Google Earth screenshot by any chance?

A reader has pointed me to the PAS database record for this Treasure find which for some reason did not come up last week when you used the advanced search to look for 'Urswick' . This record says that the objects were found in 'Cultivated land' which is not at all what the photo shows. Note also what the record (which is all about the objects and skimpy on the burial context) says:
'They are usually buried in isolated high places and often in or near hillforts and other prehistoric features such as stone circles such as these were'.
Not only 'in or near a hillfort' (?) but also [targeting known sites?] but also:
 Investigation of the find spot has revealed that they appear to have been laid in a small hollow in silty clay sub-soil or directly on the prehistoric land surface in two small channels in the limestone bed rock and covered over with stones. The bracelet appears to be a part of the deposition as does the copper alloy cauldron fragment although this could have been residual in the soil. However it's direct proximity to the other objects means that is has to be and should be included in the hoard assemblage.
In legal terms, but hardly archaeological. Such a small hole looking as if dug by a burrowing animal can tell us nothing. If the layer around contained other fragments of the cauldron, and it could be shown that the feature containing the other items were dug through it, we'd know more about this group of objects. As it is, we only have a bunch of "ifs". Totally unsatisfactory.

Hat tip to anonymous reader for the information about the site

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