Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins Found on Archaeological Site and Among Human Remains Sells for £90k [UPDATED]

PAS 'in action'
Yet another deposit of Aethelred II coins was found two years ago during collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record and has surfaced (apparently only now) in the news and we are selectively informed about it:
A hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins discovered in a field by an amateur detectorist has fetched £90,000 at auction - three times its original estimate The collection, made up of 99 "silver pennies" thought to be 1,000 years old, was found buried on farmland in Suffolk in March 2017. Among them is a rare "small cross mule" coin, which was sold to a European collector for £13,640 alone. Detectorist Don Crawley said he was "totally amazed" at the outcome. The hoard was found under the remains of a Saxon church believed to have been demolished soon after the Norman conquest in the 11th Century [...].(BBC, 'Suffolk hoard of Anglo-Saxon coins sells for £90k' 04 December 2019)
Then we get the trite de rigeur narrativisation "the coins may have been buried by a pilgrim who was making penitence and feared "the impending apocalypse of the Millennium," the auction house suggested" - which is of course completely at odds with the fundamental tenets of Christianity at the time, so rather than being an 'explanation', such an act would been to be explained. Anyway this Mr Crawley, who reportedly dug through the church remains to get to the coins is a builder from Bucklesham, near Ipswich, who [de rigeur, added human interest element of the trope] "said he made the find on his first visit to the field". Now, we know that a number of older parishes were amalgamated with each other on the Norman Conquest, was Mr Crawley deliberately targeting the central place of one such parish, and is the site of the church (and manor) of this one scheduled? Is that why its name is not revealed? And if it is not scheduled, why isn't it? The article goes on to say 'Excavations carried out in the area later revealed human bones on the site' [while other versions have Mr Crawley finding them while he was digging up coins - if that is so, why according to these texts were the coins reported and not the human remains?]. So why is this ancient site with human remains not protected from hobbyist grave robbing? More human interest blabber quotes the searcher:
"After walking up an incline in the field, my detector gave off a strong signal and within a short space of time I had recovered 93 coins," he said. "The finds officer was called in [afterwards] and they [sic] investigated the site which turned out to be a long-forgotten Saxon church."
But [as de rigeur element number three of the UK media's coverage of this type of heritage destruction ] the state media company goes on about the monetary value of the haul
The entire hoard was originally expected to fetch between £30,000 and £50,000 when it went under the hammer in 84 lots at Dix Noonan Webb auctioneers in London earlier. Antiquities specialist, Nigel Mills, said the sale showed "how the prices realised at auction for a newly-found hoard can exceed everyone's expectations."
There was a mule that sold for 13.6k and a rare coin from the Melton Mowbray mint that fetched £8,400. So why was the treasure disclaimed if the contents contain such rare and informative (?) items? Why are the objects not in public collection where we can all have access to them? Why, if an EXCAVATION was carried out to study the context of deposition of these items, do the coins themselves - from the archaeological context reportedly identified as a result - not form part of the excavation archive - of which they so obviously should be an integral part? Where is the report of this excavation made (by whom?) two years before part of the excavation archive was split up and sold off? Where and when will it appear? What precedent does it set that professional archaeologists carry out a piece of field research and then two years later some of the objects from it turn up on the market in private hands, and sold to scattered collectors? Is that in any way a betrayal by professional archaeologists of the public trust placed in them? I would say so - what does the CIfA say about archaeologists that agree to carry out projects where the end result is a selling off of the finds?

More to the point, what kind of place has the UK reached when the BBC is not asking these questions on behalf of the public interests?

Or, indeed, where a public-funded body set up two decades ago to safeguard those public interests in portable antiquities is not loudly raising these questions in the public forum every time this happens? The PAS is not paid to remain silent, but to agitate for best practice, which they cannot do by sitting on their collective butts on their public-funded office chairs keeping out of sight with their fluffy heads hidden behind the parapet.

UPDATE 6.12.19 More on this story
Sam Blanchard, 'Metal detectorist unearths a stash of 99 immaculately preserved Anglo-Saxon coins worth up to £50,000 dating back to the reign of Ethelred the Unready 1,000 years ago', Mail, 23 September 2019

Jack Elsom, 'Treasure-hunter, 50, who unearthed 99 silver Anglo-Saxon coins in farmer's field in Suffolk is 'amazed' when 1,000-year-old hoard sells for £90,000', Mail, 5 December 2019

 Anon, 'Hoard of silver coins to be sold at auction' express and star Nov 28, 2019 ('Builder and metal detectorist Don Crawley holds a collection of Anglo Saxon silver pennies which form part of a hoard of 99 Anglo-Saxon silver pennies which he unearthed in Suffolk Mr Crawley, who had not visited the site before, also found the remains of human bones')

Ellena Cruse, 'Metal detectorist makes pretty penny after ancient coins he found in Suffolk field sell for £90,000 at auction' 5th December 2019
('The explorer also found the remains of human bones at the farmer’s field').
A display case holds a collection of Anglo Saxon
silver pennies found in Suffolk (PA Wire/PA Images) 
This is how the British Museum handled the coins when recording them? Torn scraps of paper as labels? Wow. 

 Press Association, 'Hoard of silver coins fetches £90,000 at auction' This is Money, 4 December 2019

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