Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reported Treasure Find Prompts Catcalls Rather Than Congratulations

The British Press is reporting another large find of Roman coins declared under that country's treasure trove law. For more details, see:

I think the finders should be commended for following the law and declaring their hoard to the authorities. Two bloggers associated with the advocacy group "Saving Antiquities for Everyone" evidently disagree. See:

They appear to be griping because they claim archaeological context was disturbed. However, both seem to miss the point that the find-- like most in Britain and Wales-- was made on ploughed land where the archaeological context was already disturbed. For more, see: Presumably, their concern is based on the fact that the coins were recovered at a depth of 1 meter (approximately 3 feet), but the fact that the coins were found with broken pottery (presumably the remains of the container that initially protected the coins) still argues that earlier ploughing operations already damaged the context of the find.

In any event, I find all their focus on context in this circumstance to be a bit laughable. Does anyone seriously believe that archaeologists would have been visiting this field any time soon to do a full scale investigation that would have come upon this hoard? If anything, this find should prompt local archaeologists to investigate the site further to see if there is anything really worth excavating nearby. If so, the price of disturbing the context of this hoard (if it was in fact disturbed) will likely be greatly outweighed by the value of any larger find.

One final note. I have spoken to several classical archaeologists (with no axe to grind against collectors) that have told me that large hoards like that found here are not typically found at archaeological sites (in contrast to much smaller purse hoards). As there appears to be a difference of opinion on this point, I think it is best to focus on the fact that most hoards found by detectorists are found on ploughed land where context has already been disturbed.

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