Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 12 November 2022

Iron Age finds go to auction

The BBC News website has two reports about late Iron Age discoveries that are going to be auctioned.

The first is a gold ring dated to circa 100 BC which was found in 1994 by a metal detector in a field at Knaresborough in Yorkshire. The assumption is that it belonged to a high status figure.

The ring is illustrated in the report which can be seen at Celtic ruler's 2,000-year-old ring kept in cupboard for 28 years

The other item is a figurine of a woman riding a bill and thought to be from the 1st century AD. It is also described as being unique. It was found by a metal detector in 2016 at Barnetby le Wold in north Lincolnshire. It is shown in the article at  lron Age bull rider found in field set for auction

Both of these finds are very desirable in their own way and clearly very important from an historical and archaeological point of view.

I hope they are purchased by or for public collections rather than by private collectors. That the Knaresborough ring has sat in a cupboard out of sight and knowledge for more than a quarter of a century is rather extraordineary. 

Whilst there is a perfectly decent and longstanding tradition of private collectors these days we do have public collections that can safeguard and display such finds for both scholarly and public instruction. Indeed in the time before the widespread presence of museums private collections were often made in effect on behalf of the wider public to safeguard items of cultural heritage. Objects of such an early date or rarity ought nowadays to be accessible to the wider public. I hesitate to say they belong to all of us, as that can be misconstrued, but the wider community has, or should have, an interest in such discoveries. Surely the Yorkshire Museum for the ring and the museum in Lincoln or Scunthorpe for the figurine would be the most suitable destinations.
Having written that I checked the internet and found that the Barnetby bull rider has been purchased by a public body and that it will go on display. This is reported by the BBC site at lron Age bull rider fetches £7,800 at auction

The figure and its sale is also reported upon by Detecting Finds which gives a more detailed description of the piece and suggests the figure might well be intended to depict the story of Europa and the Bull rather than a purely British cultic image. This article can be seen at "Barnetby Bull Rider" sold at auction

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