Monday 12 January 2015

The Lenborough Lead 'Parcel'

The description of those who watched the finder excavate it said that the Lenborough hoard was buried in a lead 'vessel'. The FLO has since clarified in a somewhat garbled interview that:
They were wrapped in a lead parcel, which I thought was very strange – turns out there have been lead pieces come up with other coins hoards in that period. It was an oblong of finished lead sheet which had been folded over in a sort of cylinder. The ends folded over each other to seal it and then the two short ends were pinched closed. It looked like a giant pasty, really: like how you would cook a piece of chicken in tin foil in the oven. It's a very simple, cheap way of wrapping your coins up so that you don't sacrifice a vessel. You could do it on the table in your house, I suppose. It may well be that they had cheap lead lying around.
Who is "they"? Who had pieces of (oblong?) finished lead sheet pieces that size (which is?) "lying around"? What was the lead being used for? Roof flashings? Lining cisterns? What kind of buildings in eleventh century Buckinghamshire had lead sheet components in them? (There are just TWO pieces of Early Medieval lead in the PAS database from the whole of Buckinghamshire). What does the excavator think is the aim of packing 5251.5 coins up in a parcel of soft pliable lead and just crimping the ends of a roughly-wrapped 'cylinder'? That number of coins is going to weigh somewhere in the region of 5.2kg and therefore just curling a bit of sheet around them 'on the kitchen table at home' is not going to make a very secure 'vessel' for transport. It would need to go in a sack, but then what's the lead for? In any case what is this nonsense about 'sacrificing a vessel' - unless this is a votive hoard, the person depositing it was presumably intending to come back and retrieve both money and vessel.

Here we see a Weekend Wanderers photo of the hoard under excavation, surrounded by loads of loose bits of crud:
the top of the container exposed, 'rim/seam' and bend highlighted by me

from BBC
the same closer up showing the removed piece of lead. (BBC)
The seam is on the top, and there are lumps of loose earth around hiding both ends. Why was no photo published by the finders of the whole upper surface of the lead container fully exposed? It is unclear then whether the crimped ends are vertical or horizontal in the ground. The exposed length of seam is about 43cm long and the visible width is about 18 cm. So how deep does it go? Is the bottom of the package flat (as though lying in a box or on a support) or is it convex?  

Why was the removal of coins started (as shown in the Feroxchaser video) before the lead container had been fully exposed and recorded? 

Paul Coleman is quoted by the BBC as saying that the hoard was found "buried inside a lead bucket two feet under a field near Aylesbury". He said (Lorcan Lovett, 'Metal detector fan unearths 5,000 Anglo-Saxon coins in Buckinghamshire field', Getbucks 2 January 2014) that he "found a piece of lead and thought it was junk. But then I looked back in the hole and saw one shiny coin. Then I lifted a larger piece of lead and saw row upon row of coins stacked neatly. Where is this piece of lead in the above photo? Where are the stacks (rows) of coins documented? 

 Looking at the photos, I do wonder about what Ms Tyrrell is describing. First of all, though part of the object is already missing by the time it was cleaned up for photos, the photos seem to suggest that far from being a cut edge of a sheet of lead that happened to be 'lying around', there is a thicker seam or rim to the straight edge. Furthermore on the left hand side of the photo, there are not two edges butted together as Tyrrell describes, but the photo seems to show the straight edge turns back on itself. We really need to see some better photos and the drawn documentation to see what this is.

 I really find it difficult to comprehend why the excavator still insists that these coins came from the Buckingham mint, when discussions nearly two weeks ago were pointing out why they are not at all likely to have been.

UPDATE 3rd Feb 2015

The PAS database record has some more information under BUC-7FE6F2. This is weird, the hoard is in the database as "5,190 objects" in ONE record, but there were also two cut half pennies not included in that total, AND the lead vessel which has no number and does not figure in the total number of objects... This is very sloppy recording. The deposit is described folksily as follows:
A coin hoard of 5190 silver pennies and two cut halfpennies of Ethelred & Cnut in a lead parcel. A report for the Coroneron the identification of the coins and their significance, by Gareth Williams is awaited
The coins were contained in something lead that was brittle and fragmented by the weight of the soil. Some of the surface of this had been damaged and close packed coins could be seen within. We cleaned away the soil around what appeared to be a parcel made from an oblong of sheet lead [2.03-1.37mm thick] wrapping round the pile of coins. The long cut edges [5.18-6.03mm thick] had been folded over and either end pinched closed making the parcel elliptical [360mm long, 220mm wide and approx 40mm thick] and oriented north-south. After the removal of the coins it was clear from the rounded 'base'that the parcel had not been made from an existing vessel.
This record is incomplete awaiting research on the coins and the Coroner's descision as to the hoard's treasure status.

The term "something lead" is not exactly a technical term. How had the surface been "damaged"?  This eliptical parcel had a maximum volume (according to the dimensions quoted) of 3.17. Can you get 5190 pennies in such a small space? Why is there no drawing of the oblong sheet36 x 52 cm with thickened edges? Was it orientated nortth-south hidden in a ditch, the angle at the base of a timber wall or dug into the ground? Since the PAS FLO herself excavated the deposit ("we") why is there not a more detailed description of the lead object and its context in the ground ("To raise awareness among the public of the educational value of archaeological finds in their context and facilitate research in them")?

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