Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Member of the Public Finds, Misses, Richard III's Grave

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From the Leicester Echo, 25th September 1998:
Metal detectorist Terry Thugwit, working with the permission of the landowner, made a lucky find which has delighted the experts, a bronze badge in the form of a boar in the yard behind the council offices in Greyfriars Street in Leicester. Finds Liaison Officer Josephine Flowe says it was an exciting find because it was evidence of the use of boar-shaped mounts in Leicester of which there had not been any firm evidence "so this really is exciting, the first time we've found anything like that in the city!" Near the boar were some pieces of fifteenth century floor tile, an arrowhead and the foot of a bronze cooking vessel.There were also old human bones dug up by Mr Thugwit near some of these finds. "Mr Thugwit is to be commended", said Todd Gland from the British Museum. "Most metal detectorists hide a lot of their finds away, but Mr Thugwit came straight to Ms Flowe with an offer to sell the boar to the museum, for which we are very grateful, he even recorded the findspot giving it a six figure National Grid Reference so we know more or less exactly where it was found; we are of course in the interests of our artefact-hunting partner keeping the findspot secret from the people of Leicester, but we are glad he showed it to us". Followers of Richard III wore such boar mounts on their clothes as badges of political allegiance, and we know that some of the fallen from the Battle of Bosworth nearby were buried in Greyfriars monastery which, until the Dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, stood behind what are now council offices. Perhaps this badge belonged to somebody from Richard's entourage? The bones Mr Thugwith found were probably from the burials around the monastery, a council official stated. The area will soon become a carpark". 
Recently it has been revealed that the findspot was reported by Mr Thugwit was NGR: SK 585043. It appears the funds were not raised to acquire the boar, which was returned to the finder. Mr Thugwit was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2009 and attempts by the museum to trace his family were unsuccessful and the present location of his collection (or whether it still exists) are unknown. 



This whole story is of course total fiction, the Thugwit family does not exist, and no objects metal-detected from this site have been reported to the PAS. The NGR is real though. A six-figure NGR encompasses the entire area of the vanished Greyfriars complex and would not allow any find to be associated even with the building itself, let alone a specific area of the complex, let alone proximity to an individual feature. Note how the concentration on the loose (metal) finds totally ignores the context of the objects, whether they were in a grave fill, the upcast from a destroyed grave, an object hidden in the building or outside it, the "arrowhead" mentioned might be very significant if we knew the exact context of where it was found by the metal detectorist.  But we would not, because that is not what metal detecting is all about. Note also that when the possible significance of the findspot is more apparent than it was to Ms Flowe and Dr Gland (also fictional), the actual objects have long disappeared and cannot be re-examined. 

Of course the Heritage Action Artefact Erosion Counter tells us that most likely a real Mr Thugwit on finding some nice metal geegaws would be more likely not to show these to the PAS, like the majority of recordable objects it suggests are being dug up and secreted away. 

For a (not quite accurate) illustration of where the king's grave was in this area, see here.

3 comments:

John R said...

Dear Paul,
As usual for your blog, you have got something wrong. No arrowhead was found in the grave, it was infact a nail. Bit of a silly post as well.
John

John R said...

Dear Paul,
As usual you have got the facts wrong, no arrow head was found in the grave. It was in fact a nail.
Bit of a silly post as well!
John

Paul Barford said...

"Silly" or not, the general point is incontrovertible.

I most certainly did not say "an arrowhead was found in the grave". If you look, in my fable none of the finds are related to anything at all - just like the typical information from artefact hunting. Just loose artefacts in somebody's collection. THAT is the point, even IF you have PAS-recording, it can never be related to any subsequent information from other investigations.

The "boar" likewise can never be related to the excavated grave, the grave of a follower who was also buried there, or a badge hidden somewhere withing that square so the former owner would not be identified as a former Richard supporter or whatever. Or it might be totally unrelated.

They are just totally loose finds, taken OUT OF a context, a context into which they can never be re-inserted. It is those who think PAS recording actually mitigates that sort of damage that I think are the "silly" ones for ignoring certain basic facts.

Now "John R." are you an archaeologists who thinks I am "silly", or a metal detectorist who accuses me of being a "silly" archaeologist? Why not give your real name instead of hiding behind coy initials? If you want to polemise with somebody, or accuse them of something, at least have the commomn decency to do it under a real name.

 
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