Sunday, September 25, 2011

Common Sense

Archaeologists of earlier generations are sometimes criticised for their lack of "scientific method," but perhaps they benefited from more common sense than their modern, but far more ideological, counterparts.

Here, for example, is a quote from Sir John Evans (1823-1908), a noted archaeologist of the 19th Century (and father of the even more notable Arthur), who campaigned to ensure that finders under the Treasure Trove system would receive the fair market value for their finds:

"... His main complaint, however, was against the system of reward for finders, which was for the Treasury to pay bullion value only. Citing the example of a half-angel of Henry VI restored (1470-1) from Park Street, a small coin of modest intrinsic value but great market value. Evans managed to persuade the authorities to change to a reward based on archaeological or numismatic value, although subject to a 20% discount. While this was an improvement Evans felt it was still not good enough --finders should get the full value or return of the coins, otherwise they might still melt them down."

Lord Stewartby, "Evans and the English Coinage", in _Sir John Evans 1823-1908, Antiquity, Commerce and Natural Science in the Age of Darwin_, Ed. Arthur MacGregor, The Ashmolean, Oxford, 2008, p. 196.

Thanks to John Hooker for bringing this quote to my attention.


Ed Snible said...

We have a lot to thank Sir John Evans for. Another version of that story can be found in an article by M. Adrien Blanchet (translated into English by Herbert Grueber) “Treasure-Trove, its Ancient and Modern Laws” (Numismatic Chronicle, 1902, p. 148)

kyri said...

hi peter,as a british taxpayer myself,i agree that finders should be rewarded but some of the amounts awarded nowdays are obscene.i would rather there was a cap of say 4-500k,surely that is enough for anyone.maybe with a cap our museums might be able to buy our cultural heritage rather than it being snaped up by some wealthy collector and dissapear like the crosby garrett helmet.