Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Ipswich Treasure Hunters Sleep in Field

Just about everything about this story is wrong (Yohannes Lowe, 'Metal detectorist guards £100k hoard of silver for two sleepless nights amid 'nighthawk' fears' Telegraph 3 August 2020). Metal detectorist Luke Mahoney owns Joan Allen Electrics, a metal detecting shop in Westerham, Kent, but was up in Suffolk last Sunday, metal detecting near Ispwich with two friends, Dan Hunt and Matt Brown:
A metal detectorist spent two nights guarding the hoard of £100,000 worth of silver civil war coins he had discovered for fear that “nighthawks” would steal the trove if he went home. 

But if you thought he was securing the site so the archaeologists could investigate it and document its context, you'd be wrong.:
Photos show that a lot of metal detectorists
seem to have skin and nail problems, so apart
from the cultural damage, metal detectors
possibly cause dermatitis (Telegraph)
 Luke Mahoney, 40, was scouring for precious metals near the Lindsey Rose Pub in Ipswich with two friends last Sunday morning when he found a “beautiful” gold coin and a sixpence on the field. They took a break for lunch and returned to the site to find that a plough had cracked a clay (sic) earthenware pot buried 2ft [60 cm PMB] beneath the ground. By the end of the afternoon, Mr Mahoney, who has been metal detecting for more than a decade, was “delighted” to have helped unearth 1,078 silver, hammered coins, including some possibly dating back to the 15th century. “They were everywhere. It was pandemonium. After ten minutes of searching I hit this massive signal and I thought 'this is it'. We dug and saw the pot. That feeling of scraping the dirt away and seeing the coins is indescribable,” he said.
So this is when he "spent two sleepless nights in his car on the field watching for so-called “nighthawk” detectorists hoping to loot the coins under the cover of darkness".
Mr Mahoney feared the treasures he discovered would be sold onto the black market by unscrupulous dealers who would use the history of the coins to boost their prices online. He told The Daily Telegraph: “I had to stay up because I didn't want other people going into the fields and stealing the coins. I was getting an hour nap here and there for around two nights in a row.” “These nighthawks are professional thieves who make their living by waiting for detectorists to leave the fields and scavenge anything that is left over.” 
That's a novel definition, so not just knowledge thieves, culture thieves, property thieves, but also scavengers. The claim "dealers" would "use the history of the coins to boost their prices online" implies they'd be so stupid as to reveal the context of discovery- which in the case of stolen property would be reckless.
Following the discovery of his “biggest hoard”, Mr Mahoney immediately contacted the local finds liaison officer, who is currently assessing the coins, and declared the treasure to the coroner, as the law dictates. 
No, actually the Treasure Act provision 8  Duty of finder to notify coroner, quite clearly states whose obligation it is to inform the coroner. It could not be clearer.

Luke Mahoney says:
 “I want the coins to go to a local museum and the money from their sale as a little something for me and my two friends"
He wants the coins to "go" to a museum so he does not feel so bad about trashing the context[pot buried in a pit 60cm down , but with no information saved about what else was in that pit] and get a bit of fame for himself, but he wants the Museum to pay the Treasure hunters and to as he says 'use the history of the coins to boost their prices. I can assure Mr Mahoney that the museum would far rather have those coins from a properly excavated context that would provide far more grounds for writing 'the history' of that deposit, what else was in it, whether attempts have been made to retrieve it and so on. They should not have dug it up themselves.

Similar story here: Matthew Earth, 'Civil war-era coins worth £100,000 unearthed in field behind pub' East Anglian Daily Times 03 August 2020
Valuation expert Nigel Mills examined some of the coins found and said the hoard would fetch at least £100,000 at auction. He said the earliest coin was an Elizabeth I era shilling dating back to 1573-78, with the find also containing many Charles I half crowns from 1641-43. After unearthing the haul, Mr Mahoney contacted a finds liaison officer to record the discovery and declared the treasure to the coroner. Museums will have the opportunity to bid for the coins when they are sent to auction.

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