Friday, November 18, 2011

Bredon Hill Coin Hoard – Should Questions Be Asked

Bredon Hill Coin Hoard – Should Questions Be Asked

Two metal detector enthusiasts have uncovered the largest hoard of coins ever discovered in the South West of England, but did they follow proper archaeological procedures, should the manner of the discovery be investigated, is it time to bring in licenses and training courses for the use of metal detectors.

The background to the find is straight forward, Jethro Carpenter and Mark Gilmore were on Bredon Hill near Worcester earlier this year when they found a signal. This signal turned out to be 3,784 coins along with the shards of the broken pot they had been buried in. Archaeologists who excavated the site after the find now believe they have uncovered a previously undiscovered Roman site. They also believe the hoard of coins is of national importance.

Although the hoard has yet to be valued, it is thought to be worth thousands of pounds. The British Museum’s treasure valuation committee now has to work out how much the coins are worth. Money paid for the coins will be split between the anonymous landowner and Mr Carpenter, who actually made the find in June and will be free of tax.

Their description of how they found and subsequently dug out the hoard strongly suggest that they did not follow the correct procedures and their actions damaged an archaeological site which could have yielded more information if excavated properly.

“We didn’t expect to find much, but then I had this spurious signal, I dug down and found pieces of pottery and then pulled three coins out, stuck together – I realised then that it was a hoard They were coming out by the handful.” A selection of the 3,784 Roman coins found on a Bredon Hill farm near Evesham.

Well the law is very clear, if a horde is uncovered, its covered by the Treasure Act 1996 and must be reported. While technically they did not break the law the question must be asked why did they continue to dig this important hoard and not call in archaeologists immediately . Some people might defend them by saying they probably did not know they had to report it or it was a hoard. Well this does not hold up as they clearly state they knew it was a hoard and also in a statement to the press they said; “We’ve been doing this years” – Then they must have been aware of the law and their responsibilities to ensure they do not damage archaeological contexts.

To reinforce the belief that this hoard could have been excavated to higher standards is demonstrated by a further statement and the concession that it took over two hours to dig out!!

“He called me over, and we were soon pulling these coins out. We loaded them in my welly bag – it weighed two stone – and then put them in the car and took them home.” The Worcestershire coroner is expected to declare the find as treasure but it would be in the public interest for the coroner and the PAS to issue binding guidelines as to the procedures that should be followed if hoards are found in future.

Heritage Daily would go further and say that a license system should be be put place along with compulsory training day to cover topics including, The Treasure Act, recording and how to deal with archaeological artifacts. This we believe should be a basic requirement for all involved in any form of excavation including both archaeologist and people metal detecting.

Written by: Heritage News on October 22, 2011.

Last revised by: Heritage News on October 24, 2011.

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