Wednesday 28 August 2019

More on Chew Valley Hoard Diggers' Idea of Best Practice, "It was Mayhem"

Lisa Grace and Adam Staples. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA
Sejal Karia ('It was crazy. They were everywhere': Metal detector couple tell of finding Norman Conquest coin cache worth millions  ITV News  28 August 2019) sums it up perfectly:
A couple of metal detectorists who have spent 15 years on the hunt for a hoard to make their fortune have spoken of the moment they uncovered a huge trove thought to be worth millions. Lisa Grace and Adam Staples said they were stunned to dig up the coins which date back to the Battle of Hastings. 
Now usually artefact hunters say they don't do their collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record for money. But this couple of 'specialists' are embedded deep in the antiquities trade, they work for Hanson's the auctioneer who sees a market in flogging off the archaeological heritage. Not only that, but the ITV article contains some candid comments about the recovery methods, no individual polybags and proper plotting going on here:
"It was crazy, absolute mayhem," Mr Staples told ITV News. "I was on the phone to archaeologists, the landowner turned up, he brought some buckets for the coins. "There was more coins coming up; we'd have a rest, there was still more coins. We stopped counting them, it was taking too long. They were just everywhere." [...] "It went from one coin, three coins, 30 coins and gradually progressed. It took about four, five hours to dig it up." By the time they had finished, 2,528 coins, each worth about £5,000, had been recovered. [...] They handed the silver hoard over the British Museum for evaluation. 
Now, if they'd secured the site and not engaged in "mayhem" at the expense of the knowledge the pattern of coins in the soil might have revealed, but allowed archaeologists to do a proper recovery of the information, we'd all be a bit better off, and not just the soon-to-be-rewarded hoikers. I wonder what these clowns think they'd achieve 'being on the phone to archaeologists' - on a Saturday afternoon?

In the Independent account, we hear how the finders feel aggrieved that archaeologists were unsurprisingly not really enthusiastic either about spending their Sunday looking at a bucketload of dirty coins divorced from their context (Sherna Noah, Craig Simpson, 'Detectorists ‘hit jackpot’, unearthing Norman coin hoard worth possible £5m', Independent 28th Aug 19):
[Mr Staples] said of the find made earlier this year: “We found them on the Saturday. They stayed in the bucket, uncounted, with the soil remains to try to get an archaeologist out to try and examine them. “When that didn’t happen by Monday we thought we better do something about this. We counted them out … and drove them to the British Museum. “They opened the gates for us and cleared the crowds!”

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