Monday 22 December 2014

Christmas Dig Targets Known Site, Hoard Found but Quickly "Dealt Wiv".

[UPDATE 7th Jan 2015: Although this blog is about collectors, not for them, metal detectorists who have come here following a link from the three detecting forums where this is being discussed - you might like to know that you'll find other posts on the topic linked here. Warning: there are long sentences and no emoticons used on my blog. There are no emoticons which can express what I feel about what happened here. You might like now to read this too and think about what it means for you and yours]
A Saxon hoard (reputedly 5252 coins of Cnut and Ethelred) was found on Sunday's Weekend Wanderers Christmas commercial rally at Manor Farm, Lenborough near Buckingham in Buckinghamshire - billed as the site of a deserted medieval village, Norman manor house and medieval windmill - so three known archaeological sites were targeted here (Weekend Wanderers Christmas dig- Saxon hoard found).

Hoard under 'excavation' image posted by "Metal Detectives" on
BAJR Facebook page. Note hole is at least elbow-deep
before the hoard is reached

MDF Forum member "somopoppy" (Sun Dec 21, 2014 6:26 pm) reports:
A lead bag/bucket was found deeply buried on top on a mounded area. The FLO got involved straight away. The area was cordoned off by the organisers. The dig went on very slowly for most of the day. Lots of documentation made at each stage. News soon reached other members of the dig and a small crowd was watching all day. By late afternoon the lead covering had been removed and around 25/30 bags were filled with coins. These medium sized bags filled a Sainsbury shopping bag. Everyone was taking it in turns having their pictures taken alongside the hoard.
If the lead container still had its lid on, it was below plough level in a part of the field described as a "mounded area" - was this a ploughed out earthwork? If the excavation was going slowly with lots of documentation down to the point where the coins were, why were they being hurriedly removed at the end of the same day? Better archaeological results would have been obtained exploring the actual coin deposit and its surroundings in less haste the next day. It turns out that the hoiking was done by an archaeologist, who should know better:
The FLO who dug it all out identified two coins as being Cnut and Althelred (the unready). They were all in excellent condition by the looks of things- all shiny and new looking and they jingled as they were tipped into the 25 or so bags needed to contain them all. Then the whole lot filled a Sainsbury carrier bag. The FLO took them all away in a large box. I think it's the largest hoard of saxon coins ever found in this country.

So, what's this about the PAS teaching metal detectorists about the value of finds in their context when the context of the deposit was not explored even when the FLO took over the excavation? This is the hole that was dug.  Look at the depth, note also it is dug through grass. Is this what FLO Ros Tyrell thinks an archaeological investigation looks like? 

Hoik hole, image posted by "Metal Detectives" on BAJR Facebook page

Bin bag full of unlabelled polygrip bags, photographed by
detectorist; this suggests no attempt was made by the PAS
archaeologist to bag up coins in a way that would
reveal any internal structuring of the deposit.
Meanwhile this is how the site was billed.
Lenborough (Anglo-Saxon Edingeberge ~ Ledingberge) and Padbury.
Online archaeological records show that the fields closest to us at the village of Lenborough feature the site of a Norman manor house dating 1000 AD to 1199 AD that was held by the Bishop of Bayeux (of tapestry fame) in the reign of Henry 11.(sic)
Adjacent land to this manor house site shows eroded field earthworks delineating a medieval deserted village and aerial photos appear to show a north-south street running up the hillside to the east of Manor farm flanked by rectangular house platforms and tofts, and surrounded to the north and south by furlongs of ridge and furrow. Further west to the DMV is the site of Lenborough windmill but notably an earlier feature on one of this farm's fields is a rectilinear earthwork probably of a much older origin.
Interestingly there is an Iron Age enclosure at Padbury called Norbury Camp described as 'the mutilated remains of a univallate earthwork, formerly sub-circular in shape' This is presumed to be a defended enclosure/settlement of dating to the Iron Age.
Sources of research Copy and paste the following:
Also featured:
Finds Recording in the barn: FLO Ros Tyrrell will also be along so come over and get your stuff identifield, recorded and entered onto the PAS database!
Hurrah !!
Dei Gratia Coins and Artefacts: Dave will be in the barn with his stalls all set with a great spread for you to choose your Xmas presents from!
Or flog yer stuff to at once - Hurrah !!

There is the usual rash of comments indicating that just below the surface veneer of "history enthusiasts not in it fer the munny" concerned about protection of the archaeological record, there is a whole bunch of money-hungry Treasure Hunters on the forums.  One comment is particularly revealing:
Postby redwulf500 » Sun Dec 21, 2014 11:49 pm
Nice find.was there a thread about not digging below the plough depth.just shows dig till you find it .. 
Hurrah!! All deliberately done on a known archaeological site.

TAKE A GOOD LOOK at this behaviour, for these are precisely the sort of people the PAS wants to grab more and more millions of public quid to make into the "partners" of the British Museum, archaeological heritage professionals and to whom they want us all to entrust the exploitation of the archaeological record. Take a good look and decide what you think about that as a "policy". 


angelo di ragusa said...

Yes, quite...... but would have this hoard ever come to light in any other way ? Not a perfect excavation agreed, but far more numismatic importance than archaeological.

Paul Barford said...

When the hoard is fully published by the investigating archaeologist Ms Tyrrell with die links, wear pattern and other studies as is the modern approach, we will see just what that "numismatic importance" actually is. We will see whether the way it was hoiked helped or hindered understanding its structure, nature and context of deposition.

Of course there is no lack of coin hoards with precisely these coins in them, we have a lot around the Baltic Sea for example. It remains to be seen just what this umpteenth hoiked one adds to the picture they present.

In the meanwhile, I'd note that this comment is again an object-centred one, focusing on the "what" rather than the how and the wider context. I am interested in discussing current policies, in getting more widespread 'best practice', in whether we should be targeting known sites at all. Mr de Ragusa is apparently only interested in someone getting their hands on the coins.

What is the nature of that site - what was happening there in the tenth and eleventh centuries that this large hoard was deposited there?

Unknown said...

The photo you have of the hole, is not the finished dig, they dug out a big trench around it ,before they unearthed slowly and carefully, there are pictures on there web site. The hoard was found and recovered, that is all that matters

Paul Barford said...

Oh yes? Go on Adam, give us a link to the specific photos on their (sic) website, You mean somewhere here ?

"Slowly and carefully" does not involve the use of orange carrier bags. When the local newspaper reporter got there - by which time the carrier bag was almost full, the shots of the scramble to fill it shown no big hole, no peopl;e standing around with suitable tools t dig said alleged big hole, and no big spoil heap of soil removed from the big hole which therefore in the lack of hard evidence slips into the realm of tekkie myth-making. Anyway when Ros Tyrrell publishes the report of her "excavation" we will see from the plans and photos what she and her digging "partners" did there.

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