Saturday 15 May 2021

Hanson's Flogs off Harness Mount - Forgets to Say Where from


Corroded harness mount*
Readers may remember that I discussed this story, described by Miguel Ángel Fuster Aparicio the object's stated finder as "unbelievable": Questions About Surfacing of Another Champleve Enamelled Harness Mount at Hanson's (PACHI Sunday, 2 May 2021). Now Hanson's has it up on sale,  and the catalogue entry omits any mention at all about its provenance. Why actually is that? LOT 13 Celtic enamelled harness mount. A late Iron Age bronze 'Eared' mount from a horse harness. This object is very similar in style and state of preservation as the one said to be from Buckinghamshire that the FLO there did not see before it was flogged off and Mr Hanson hurriedly got the local Derby PAS office to get it recorded for him at the last minute (in fact she copied out the catalogue description). This one comes with a back story that figured greatly in the pre-sale publicity, but did not make it to the catalogue:

Celtic enamelled harness mount. A late Iron Age bronze 'Eared' mount from a horse harness. The front face of the mount has champleve enamel decoration, the main elements of which are two opposed crescents of red enamel. Each crescent contains a la tene style scrolling foliate motif with terminals in the form of petals and three roundels inlaid with blue glass. There are four further areas of red enamel and two perforations of identical shape. The enamel inlay is complimented by finely engraved curvelinear decoration. On the reverse are a pair of rectangular loops for attachment to the straps. This style of decoration is seen on two other examples from South-East England, from London and from Kent. CF. British Museum object number 1856,0701.998 The overall form of the mount resembles a facing animal mask, hidden zoomorphic and anthropomorphic elements are often incorporated into late Iron Age art. Condition: glossy patina on the front face with almost all the enamel intact. Some nibbling to the edges around the periphery otherwise vey fine condition. Circa mid 1st century BC - mid 1st century AD. 83mm x 64mm, 60.2g. References: Jope, E M, Early Celtic Art in the British Isles: plate 297 a-e; Megaw, R & V, Celtic Art: Plate I.

I am showing here  the back of this object, drawing attention to the band of different corrosion between the two loops. This means the object was most likely buried still on the harness and the decay of the leather led to the metal corroding differentially at the point of contact. this is evidence that instead of being a loose find of a single object, this item was recovered by somebody (Miguel Ángel Fuster Aparicio not excluded) from either a grave or a hoard. If the latter, the object should have been submitted for consideration as treasure  (group of prehistoric metal objects found together). It's not a lot better if this was hoiked from a horse burial. 

Where is the document from the landowner where this find was made assigning title to the finder? Without it, this object cannot be shown to be the product of legal artefact hunting, and the fact that something like this was not proudly shown to the FLO or entered on a database like UKDFD would incline us to the suspicion that the finder did not have the legal permission to be on that land and disposed of it anonymously (whence, if Mr Hanson's tale is true, it ended up equally anonymously in a car boot sale). I think at the very least Miguel Ángel Fuster Aparicio needs to be questioned about this. 

* Image © Hanson' Limited, fair use for purposes of comment or criticism for non-profit educational purposes.

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