Monday, 23 February 2015

The Amazing Stratigraphy of the Lenborough Hoard

Material  reluctantly released by the British Museum into the public domain this afternoon (more on that a bit later) reveals the amazing stratification of the Lenborough Hoard. Ros Tyrrell considers herself qualified "probably more than the critic" (I suspect she means me - and no I was not "slagging her off by email"). She informs colleagues:
There were 160+ detectorists there some may have been bad guys... As to digging it hurriedly it took all day. There was no stratigraphy! It was sealed by undisturbed med soil with med pot in it. The lead it was wrapped in lay on the clay subsoil but no cut was discernable. 
So, let's get this right, the sequence this experienced digger is proposing is:
1) The holocene and neogene topsoil was removed over an area larger than the excavation before the hoard was deposited. The hoard lies on the interface thus created.
2) The hoard was deposited (numismatic evidence suggests c. 1030-ish) it lay there uncovered
3) It lay there uncovered right out in the open on the surface of the ground for two or three hundred years, nobody walking off with any of it, perhaps the excavator will conclude this was because it was protected by some kind of taboo? Maybe, in order to do this important find justice, she will reach for the recent Scandinavian and central European literature on this topic?
4) Finally in the medieval period a dump of soil was created over the hoard (presumably straight onto the natural clay subsoil beyond its edges). This soil was sculpted into the earthworks which were dug through blindly to get to the source of the metal detector signal. None of the artefacts in this upper layer were affected by bioturbation in the subsequent half millennium.

Let us note that this explanation was published on the PAS forum on 24th December 2014 and since then - to judge from the material released by the BM information manager -  nobody in the PAS questioned that depiction of the stratigraphic sequence. Instead the excavator hears a unanimous "You did absolutely fine", "You did a great job". I think we can all look forward to the stratigraphic analysis of Ms Tyrrell's excavation report, it's going to be a cracker.

Meanwhile the video taken at the time suggests that the excavator scooped through at least one interface between layers:

 and anyway no matter how much "experience" Ms Tyrrell claims, you cannot observe stratigraphy in such a hole:

especially if it's done this:


Sam Ofnett said...

Why would somebody just leave them out on the surface like that? Sounds a bit fishey to me. Does she explain that? Can she?

Paul Barford said...

I think that what is fishy here is the claim that "there was no stratigraphy". But we look forward to seeing her promptly-published excavation report - it will not take he long to analyse the stratigraphy if it's a 'one-layer site'.

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