Monday 5 April 2010

Roman "Grots" or Archaeological Evidence?

Another private listing from a seller on eBay is offering "130+ COINS found with a metal detector", and a most sorry looking and battered bunch of junk metal they are. Obviously the finder (incisor-ferri) has picked over this for his own collection and these are the rejects.
"On offer is at least 130 coins found by myself with a metal detector. Top row are silver, some hammered, most not in very good condition but identifiable. Second row are Roman grots. Some love tokens. The rest are copper alloy all ages, a few George III and earlier."
Along the bottom are old pre-decimal pennies. At the top are 14 coins the finder describes as "hammered" so Medieval and early Post-Medieval, some of them therefore falling into the PAS recording remit. In the second row at least 25 Roman coins (described as "grots"). Again, all of them fall within the PAS remit for recording. We note the West Yorkshire seller makes no mention of reporting these finds and their findspots to the PAS, we note he does not say from what area they come from, let alone a site name, here we see the effects of metal detecting in England, on the market have come 39 potentially informative pieces of archaeological evidence, removed from the ground apparently without record, picked over for the more collectable bits and then dumped in a heap on eBay for "bottom feeder collectors" to buy up and then (if they clean up to look half-decent) spread further round the no-questions-asked market. Thus the information is being lost, day after day, week after week, month after month, the years adding up to decades while the British archaeologist looks smiling on and hoping that one day more metal detectorists will show more of their finds...

Let us just pause over the appearance of this bulk lot. UK Metal detectorists tell us that leaving archaeological artefacts in the ground where they have lain for centuries is somehow "bad for them" and suggest that plough damage and damage by agricultural chemicals is destroying them. Here we may assume that the seller is being presented with some typical rejected junk. So it is here that we would expect to observe these alleged effects. None of the coins shown has anything that looks like terminal bronze disease or any other existence-threatening chemical corrosion. In fact they all look in decent state. There are two coins with bits broken off them, and several bent ones, though whether this is post-depositional damage only inspection in the hand would reveal. Really, thousands and thousands of metal objects offered on eBay monthly show that this "damage in the soil" argument is another of those glib fallacies the collectors of decontextualised pieces of the archaeological record trot out in the hope that some gullible people will believe them.

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