Wednesday, 27 July 2011

When Should we STOP? Another Tekkie Finds More Old Coins in a Pot - Whoopee.


More than 3,000 copper alloy Roman coins dating from the 3rd Century have been discovered in a pot buried in a field in Montgomery, Powys a few miles away from the Roman fort of Fforden. Nine hundred coins were pulled out of the ground by Adrian Simmons, a member of Welshpool's "Oldford Force Team metal detecting club" in June before he thought of reporting it. The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) "helped unearth the coins" according to the news report. That was nice of them.

The archaeologists read from their usual prepared text used on such occasions: Chris Martin, regional archaeologist at the trust, said: "We are very excited about this discovery and are very grateful to Mr Simmons for acting so responsibly". The Trust stuck for the usual patronising news titbit added that the discovery "had the potential to reveal more about Roman life in mid Wales in the late 3rd Century". More likely it will tell us more about the potential for CPAT to publish a coin hoard with all the details required by coiney researchers, like die link information and so on. This is apparently another of those complexes of finds ripped out of a barely-seen context from below plough level on an otherwise unthreatened site (tell me I am wrong CPAT). So what was the archaeological context of the burial of this hoard then? How can it begin to tell anyone anything about "life in the third century" without knowing that? Do we really need yet another Roman hoard of this type dug out from below ploughsoil? What are we going to do with them all? How many more groups of third century coins stuffed in pots in western Britain do we need and what for? When does the "information" obtained begin to repeat itself with every hoard we reward someone to take out of the archaeological record now? When are we going to see full publication of the thousands (literally) of such hoards we already have, courtesy of PAS' "partners" digging them all out of their burial contexts left right and centre without being asked? When will we be able to take stock of all the information the treasure Act has produced on Roman coins in the province in the third century, so we know when to stop? When will we decide it is time to leave some in the ground for future generations of scholars who may have entirely different questions from us that need to be addressed at the time of their extraction? When are we going to make the transition between "let them dig it all up now as fast as we can" and sustainable management of this resource, and what part will PAS play in that?

As for the detectorist, pictured by the BBC for some reason with his dad Reg, that is presumably the proprietor of Adrian Simmons Coins & Antiques, Verlon Close, Montgomery, Powys ("Antiques, bricks, coins, construction products, furniture, tiles and more"). If the hoard is disclaimed, collectors might consider getting in touch with him, buying their batch and "documenting" bits of the hoard for the archies, or whatever they do with the coins they buy.

Source: '3,000 Roman 3rd Century coins found in Montgomery field', BBC News, 27 July 2011

hat tip to David Gill.

UPDATE 28 Jul 2011: More information here: Kathryn Williams, 'Hoard of Roman coins found in Powys field', Western Mail, Jul 28 2011.

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