Sunday 19 April 2020

SUR-4A4231: Watlington Hoard

Underneath my recent Friday Retrospect post is a comment by an Unknown who has not the courtesy to sign his own name:
Maybe you should learn how to search the database. Here’s the Watlington Hoard How could a hoard this famous not be in the database? Come on Paul try a bit harder. 
Well, it would be nice if one could search the PAS database for all early Medieval coins from Watlington and actually get all of them, if indeed this record was available at the time the original post was written (not the date of 'revision'). So let's take a good look at it. This is an Alfredan hoard that allegedly "changed British history" (again) when found by detectorist James Mather. Let's see what the PAS and BM Treasure Registrars made of it:

Watlington Hoard
SUR-4A4231: Watlington Hoard
HOARD Unique ID: SUR-4A4231
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Hoard of 186 silver coins (most of Alfred and Ceolwulf II), 7 items of jewellery (all but one of silver, the other gold) and 15 silver ingots. [...] A full record will be provided in due course on the basis of the report for the coroner. Treasure case tracking number: 2015T759 Chronology Broad period: EARLY MEDIEVAL Subperiod from: Middle Period from: EARLY MEDIEVAL Subperiod to: Middle Period to: EARLY MEDIEVAL Ascribed Culture: Viking Date from: Circa AD 875 Date to: Circa AD 880 Dimensions and weight Quantity: 1 Discovery dates Date(s) of discovery: Thursday 8th October 2015 [...] To be known as: Watlington [...] Method of discovery: Metal detector Current location: Ashmolean Museum General landuse: Cultivated land Specific landuse: Operations to a depth less than 0.25 m References cited No references cited so far . [...] Recording Institution: SUR Created: 4 years ago Updated: 6 months ago
Trite narrativisation: "The Hoard was probably deposited in the late 870s by a Viking for safe-keeping, at the time Wessex and Mercia were fighting for survival against a 'Great Heathen Army'...". I think the public paying for this are entitled - as part of archaeological outreach to an explanation, if such can be given, how the (anonymous) writer of this "knows" the ethnicity of (a) the person or persons who put this accumulation of items together and (b) deposited it in the ground - let alone actually why.

The 2015 Treasure Report (p. 28) gives the bald information Oxfordshire Watlington area/ Silver coin and object hoard/ found 2015/ Treasure case T759 /Additional PAS number SUR-4A4231/ Acquired (no mention of any donation)/ where it is now Ashmolean Museum/ How much it cost us: £1,350,000". So where is the report required by the Treasure Act?

Five years on, where is the report and why is the PAS data record not yet updated and that record validated? What use is a single photo, a description a bit fuller (but only a bit) than the average eBay description ? What is going on here? We all paid 1.3 million to have this, and what archaeological information have we obtained from that, and where can the members of the public who paid for this see the results of those deep, detailed analyses? Here? 

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