The way we do this is called a block lift. We removed all of the coins surrounding the bag so that a ring about 5cm across was cleared right down to the earth layer beneath the hoard. When this was done I got a hack saw blade (very hi-tech) and sawed through the earth till we had the bag block separated from the rest of the hoard. This proved very difficult as the earth was full of broken rock fragments. In fact these fragments prevented plan A, which was to simply lift the block up and out using some L shaped brackets as lifting handles. We realised that what we had to do instead was to cut a channel from the bag block to the edge of the hoard and pull it out that way. Fortunately this channel only had to be about 10cm long but it still meant removing several hundred more coins.
Once this earth was removed I widened the gap around the block and made sure it was loose and able to move. I was concerned that the earth of which the block was made was not terribly stable so we wrapped it tightly in Clingfilm to bind it in shape. That done I chose a tool to push under the block in order to move it. If we were the Getty Museum no doubt we would have had a carbon fibre/titanium device made to our specifications but being us instead I looked around till I found a well used coal scuttle just the right size. I pushed this in place and, along with two of our L shaped brackets, it did the job fine and the block came out smoothly. It went straight into a sealed container and into the fridge where it will stay till we organise its treatment.
The hoard looks so strange with this huge hole in it. We'd all thought the disassembly process would simply make the hoard shrink and shrink but always look pretty much the same, but now it looks wounded somehow. The hole also coincidentally looked quite like St Aubins bay in Jersey and I toyed briefly with the idea of removing the remaining coins one by one so as to carve the hoard into a map of the island. I fear however that some of my colleagues might have frowned on that so we continue as before, layer by layer.
Surprises still turn up and the day after we'd started removing the coins again we found our third large glass bead, a nice green/yellow one this time. Once again this was on the very bottom layer of the hoard, on its earth floor. We are definitely seeing a pattern emerge of interesting finds right on the hoard bottom. We've only revealed perhaps ten percent of the base but we've found three large beads, a Bronze Age spear head, the ingots, one purse of coins and a bag of bracelets. It looks like the hoard buriers threw in a selection of more unusual and meaningful material into the pit before then emptying bag after bag of coins on top of them.
This will be the last blog for about three weeks as I'm off on leave but the disassembly work will continue in my absence and I'm sure Georgia and Viki wil turn up lots of lovely things to report when I get back. Cheers till then.