Friday, 26 February 2021

The "All-Buckinghamshire Horse Brooch" the Plot Deepens

Dr Simon Maslin, the Surrey FLO, has now added something to his earlier explanation of the "full background" (sic) to how the Late Iron Age enamelled "All-Buckinghamshire Horse brooch" came to be PAS-recorded. The problem is that the DENO FLO seems unwilling to answer my (perfectly justified) questions about what has been going on in her own office, and she referred it to Mike Lewis in London 208km away to the south. Mike Lewis told me a different "full background" to Dr Maslin, and none of it resolved the questions I had to the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire FLO about the timing of the publication of this text in time for the sale and mostly duplicating what detectorist Adam Staples (who was not the finder) wrote in the auction catalogue and simultaneously "The Seacher" metal detecting magazine Some of it simply cut-and-pasted. Now I have actually heard yet another version in confidence that fits none of these either - but that I have to keep to myself. There is also the 'what if?' aspect that could be dismissed if not for the fact that there are already some major discrepancies in the story as publicly presented by two parties. But there seems no reason why the PAS should hide anything from us. So Dr Maslin adds:
Dr Simon Maslin @spmaslin 3 min
The record was created by a PAS volunteer who was the only person who could get access to the find to record it. They recorded under the DENO prefix. Record prefixes on PAS are not specific to FLOs (I myself use two) as volunteers in each region can record under them too.
The phrasing is not clear here and raises more questions than it answers. First of all, does the guy know what he's talking about, or is he just guessing? If he does know, does he mean that the "volunteer" (so not an archaeologist from the PAS?) was doing this independently of DENO? That she's not working for and in the DENO setup? So who assigned this to her, and who authorised it? Why would it appear as a DENO entry (when there is also a 'Public' category in the database structure)?

By the time the record was made, the item itself was presumably in the possession of Charles Hanson's auction house (it had been catalogued as lot one and was due to be sold in five days time). So, how was a "PAS volunteer" the "only person who could get access to the find to record it"? Did she have access to Charles Hanson's safe at weekends? The problem is that if the PAS description that this volunteer produced was simply cut and pasted from the auction catalogue, did she actually have access to the object at all? In which case, how reliable is that description if it is not based on a first hand examination by a specialist? 

Also the Buckinghamshire FLO has easier access to the finder. Or did the finder travel to Derby to be interviewed by the PAS volunteer? 

As for "only her" having access, what is the relationship of this particular PAS volunteer and Mr Hanson and his staff? We know that just before the PAS database entry appeared, and thus helpfully legitimised one of Mr Hanson's star lots, Hanson had helped out Derby Museum (the home base of DENO) to raise some money from an auction that he ran for them. Is that why just after that had taken place it was precisely a PAS volunteer attached to DENO that posted up a convenient database entry legitimising the find just before Mr Hanson's own artefacts sale was due to take place? Dr Maslin suggests the volunteer was NOT attached to DENO, so the question is why was the entry made to make it look like she was? 

We know that some time around 4th February several scholars had been raising questions about this (specifically this) find and Mr Hanson possibly felt in need of the PAS documentation that he had apparently neglected to secure before he put the object up for auction. 

All this may be a total coincidence of course, but it would be good to have the full transparency instead of the PAS trying to sweep the whole matter under the carpet and fob off any questions with half-arsed and conflicting answers. And if mistakes were made, then some honest admission of the fact.

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