Wednesday 19 January 2022

That Unacknowledged "One Millionth Record": How Reliable is the PAS database?


Photo PAS, after anonymous finder.

The PAS has not contested that the actual one millionth record made in the PAS database was not the artefact (belt fitting) the Guardian newspaper published, but instead a Beata Tranquillitas Roman coin. Here is the record

Good grief. While a lot of attention is given to describing the coin, there is no reference number (RIC VII Trier 412. They could also have cited Alten, Dieter and Carl-Friedrich Zschucke 1987. Die Romische Munzserie BEATA TRANQVILLITAS in der Pragestatte Trier 321-323). No die axis given, there is duplicated information in entry, and it is incomplete. The VO/TIS/XX is omitted, which provides the date AD 322. The bust is not fully described, (facing right [NOT 'left'], in consular robes holding eagle-headed sceptre in [right] hand, flan badly flaked). The inscription is misread ([..] S IVN NOB C). The coin is of Constantinus II here is a better example (here too). More could be done with the reverse, the last two letters (AS) are, in my opinion, visible. Enough can be made out to confirm the LLIT too, before which it is illegible (four letters?) before which is a clear star. This is important in determining which type of reverse legend this was (continuous or with a break above the globe). The mintmark is misdescribed, there is a clear dot before the STR and no mention is made of the crescent. the state of preservation, the form of the damage is not mentioned (instead it is described as "worn, fine" which is a coin seller's description, not an archaeological one). So actually, the recorder here has just gone for the general type and not a description of the actual object. No wonder they prefer anonymity.

So what about the archaeological value to the general public (or anyone else) of this record? First of all, we are not told where it is from ("somewhere in or near the parish of Badgeworth" and the bit of it that is covered by OS 1:10000 map SO91NW - go figure). Well, there's a roman road goes through there, its not far outside the Roman town of Cirencester. Could have been a casual loss in the third century (some bloke frolicking with his girlfriend in a hayfield) it could have got there with manure used on a field of a settlement near the town. It could have dropped from the pocket of a nineteenth century country parson who'd received it from a parishioner. A single Roman coin found at some unknown spot on land of undetermined use in unrecorded circumstances by an anonymous finder really tells us absolutely nothing that we do not already know about the region. Zero. The fact that there have been 18 random metal objects (>50% coins) taken from the archaeological record "somewhere" in the same parish (including three Late Roman ones recorded within two days of the one discussed here), tells us nothing about the archaeology of Badgeworth, other than people were here in the Roman, medieval and post-medieval periods - big deal. Where is this going? How does this  "raise public awareness of the importance of recording archaeological finds in their context"? What is the "context" of these ripped out collectables? How many artefacts have been removed by artefact hunters from this same patch of the archaeological record that simply disappeared? 


Hougenai said...

What makes me laugh is the decription under 'Materials and construction'. where it is recordeed as 'Complete' even though contradictory to the initial description as 'An incomplete Nummus'. A complete joke when we have eyes. Even reference to PAS own information showing complete items do not have the damage this one does.
'Fine'condition? How does that work when the inscription can't be read as it is only partial, yet Fine grade relies on 'date and lettering being clearly readable'. Physically it isn't, it's only extrapolation and interpretation of that which remains that allows it to be 'read'.

Just how do PAS ensure an across the board standardisation of recording?
Do they have standard onjects of agreed defined condition that are sent to all recorders on a weekly or monthly basis as a means of Quality Control?
Is there a standard pack, given to all recorders to which they may easily refernce finds?
Or is it we just don't fuss about subjective or biased recording in the search for more records? A touch of the never mind the quality.....?

Paul Barford said...

Indeed, this is the whole reasoning behind the series of posts I've been doing here now for several years "how reliable is the PAS database?" of course not a single one of those posts was answered by the PAS (or indeed any other concerned "professional" archaeologist). Actually, it is difficult not to get the impression that they really do not care ... As I say, note that for a while now, all the database records are anonymous to hide the identity of anyone responsible for shoddy and amateurish work. The public, who pay for it, have a right to know.

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