Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Digging Blindly Through the Rain, buckets for the coins: More on the Chew Valley Hoard


A large hoard of 2,528 (sic) silver coins of the reign of William I has been found in the Chew Valley in north Somerset by a group of metal detectorists (Anon, 'Detectorists find huge Chew Valley Norman coin hoard' BBC 28th August 2019).
Lisa Grace and Adam Staples, from Derby, found the hoard in January The Chew Valley hoard contains 1,236 coins of Harold II, the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England, and 1,310 coins of William I, as well as several coin fragments. [...] Mr Staples, 43, said he and his girlfriend were training five friends to use their metal detectors on a weekend trip when they made the discovery. The first coin, of William the Conqueror, was found by a friend, with the bulk of the hoard found by Mr Staples and his partner. While the coins have not been officially valued, they could be worth about £5m which would be shared among the whole group and the landowner, Mr Staples added. Mr Staples said of the dig: "We didn't leave the site until we thought we'd got all the coins... "We had a massive thunder and rainstorm. We were all soaking wet by the time we finished."[...] Ms Grace, 42, joked: "It was like the gods didn't want to disturb the hoard... We were wet through but it really didn't seem to matter."
But the recording suffered, didn't it? The report seems to suggest that they hoiked out 2500+ coins in the conditions shown in the video on the BBC page - screenshots to the right, presumably taken before the rainstorm began. What is the prurient fascination with the ages (variously reported) and marital status of this couple? Even the BBC at it? Current Archaeology reports:
Current Archaeology @CurrentArchaeo · 6 godz.
W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues @britishmuseum and @findsorguk
At the press briefing today it was said that the coins were in ploughsoil.
I leave it up to my readers to decide for themselves whether the BBC video shows a ploughed field  or not, just after the harvest. Looks like grass to me. And that loam looks pretty well worm-sorted to me. Also "sixteen/seventeen in there" [that there hole] does not look much like plough scattering to me. Can we see the distribution plot of the Harold Coins and the William coins please? Why would the BM be telling people that the field was ploughed and that the tekkies were not in any way ignoring the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales when it seems from what has been reported and what we see that they were? Why does the BM always do this so frequently? (yes, BM, you know precisely to what I am referring - torc but no search permit on airplane crash site, Cumwhitton ploughsoilHollingbourne grave mound, and all the rest, shame on you). But our dear archaeological press, Current Archaeology is not having that, the Code was 'not ignored' because: 
Current Archaeology @CurrentArchaeo
W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues @britishmuseum and @findsorguk
It certainly wasn't ignored by the detectorists in this case - reported immediately by the finders to the FLO and local coroner - it was at the BM the day after its discovery! Which is why the BM experts are now able to study its contents. And the hoard itself is very exciting...
She'll get you
No, it was in the BM in January, seven months ago, they've had it seven long months. It 'was at the BM the day after discovery', indicating that it really was hoiked out blindly through scattered little holes in the grass in one day. So instead of taking a carrier bag full of coins from Derby to the BM, the next day, the Codes of Practice (both the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales as well as that for the Treasure Act) say that as soon as they realised it was a hoard, they should stop trying to dig it out themselves, especially if this is a pasture site with possible stratigraphical relationships involved, secure the site and let it be properly documented. Too true the earth-gods didn't want this crew disturbing the hoard in such a cavalier manner.
 "It took about four, five hours to dig it up
I think archaeologists plotting the position of the individual pieces of archaeological evidence would have taken 'a little time longer' over such an exacting task.  But then looking at that video, 'exacting' is not the first adjective that comes to mind (BBC: the word is 'pax', it means 'peace'). I think this gives the atmosphere:
 "It was crazy, absolute mayhem," Mr Staples told ITV News. "I was on the phone to archaeologists, the landowner turned up, he brought some buckets for the coins. "There was more coins coming up; we'd have a rest, there was still more coins. We stopped counting them, it was taking too long. They were just everywhere", detectorist Adam Staples said.
OK, Devil's advocate. How can we tell, given how it looks as if it was recovered, that these coins come from one hoard and not several separate smaller deposits made at the same place over the years? Coineys? Are we going to get a die-link report from at least this one metal-detector-found hoard? And the rest?

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