Sunday 21 August 2011

Baschurch Hoard Screw-up

Looking for something else I found an older post on the PAS blog (don't go there much, very depressing). There I found Peter Reavill writing in enthusiastic terms about Three Coin Hoards from North Shropshire (February 28th, 2011)
A further discovery at Baschurch, Shropshire. The initial Baschurch Hoard was reported in 2007, being declared as Treasure in 2009. The Baschurch totalled more than 190 coins from the reign of Henry III. They were deposited in a leather bag sometime after 1265 AD. The hoard was placed on the headland of a field and modern ploughing has spread some of the coins into the adjacent field. The original findspot was excavated in 2007 and all the coins from the main group were recovered and declared treasure. Shropshire County Museum Service acquired the hoard late in 2010 after receiving grants from The V&A Purchase Fund, The Headily (sic) Trust and a generous donation from both the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum and The Shropshire Archaeological and History Society.
For some reason I remember this one, though cannot think what my interest in it at the time was. So Treasure hunted, hoiked out, but a dig was done. Lots of archaeological information about the find and its context, whooppee. That's not the end of the story, despite all this it turns out the job had been botched. At an inquest:
Mr Ellery heard today of recent discoveries of further groups of medieval pennies from the Baschurch Hoard (2008-T774). This group under inquest represent three significant finds of medieval pennies from the site during 2008 and 2009 totalling a further 35 coins.
So all those people forking out to help buy this hoard were misled when they thought that was all of it? What were the archaeologists doing when they were supposed to be investigating this hoard? Why were metal detectorists able to go back there and find a load more coins? How many other metal detectorists found it profitable to go to the "excavated" site at night and find more coins which they did not hand in? What kind of manner of recovery does that represent?

At the inquest, Dr Barrie Cook (Curator of Medieval and Early Modern Coinage at the British Museum) came out with a nice story about the finds (got to be a 'story' hasn't there?) about where the person burying them had got them from and that he'd added some stuff later to the original batch. It is not clear if this is a story that can now be told because the new finds were added, in other words the incomplete hoard from the first find was giving incomplete information? How many other of the 800-hoiked-out-now Treasures mostly from undisturbed layers under the ploughsoil are giving incomplete information, even if the site has been excavated briefly by archaeologists? What is the point of this manner of recovery of archaeological information if one cannot even be sure that all of the material has been recovered?

Vignette: How many more times will there be an inquest about the Baschurch hoard?

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