Sunday, 1 March 2015

Saxon Gold Find by Student


Archaeology, or what?
A first year student Tom Lucking, 23, who has been an artefact hunter since he was 11, has found  seventh century coins and jewellery next to a female skeleton in a field near Diss, Norfolk . He is referred to in the media coverage as an "archaeology student' (Kate Pickles, 'Archaeology student discovers 'outstanding' Anglo-Saxon pendant worth £50,000 in first-year dig - and he gets to keep the profits'' Daily Mail, 28 February 2015), which might raise some eyebrows and has got metal detectorists chattering and spluttering away. This seems to be based on the fact that "he enrolled on a landscape history course at the University of East Anglia in September, making the incredible discovery just months later". This seems to be the course concerned (the outline does not appear to be very 'archaeological' at all, indeed the UEA does not have an archaeology department). By what means was this site chosen? This makes it sound like another case of a metal detectorist targeting a known site:
'We knew there was something in that area of the grave, but no-one was expecting anything so significant,' said Tom, from Felixstowe, Suffolk. 
The grave is below plough level. According to the Mail's journalist (PAS have a lot to answer for), apparently now in Great Britain, archaeologists are called "Treasure experts" ("The three-inch jewel encrusted pendant is thought to be the most valuable of the lot with treasure experts describing it as an 'outstanding' piece") and an excavation of an Anglo-Saxon grave is now called "Treasure hunting". Anyway, the article suggests Mr Lucking will be sharing any Treasure reward for the grave goods "the pendant will be subject to a treasure inquest before proceeds of any sale can be split between Tom, the landowner and others on the above dig". Then, perhaps they will use that to finance the analysis of the field documentation and recovered artefacts, placing the grave in context and then publication of their report.

UPDATE 1st March 2015
Within a few hours, Mr Lucking contacted me to explain that the journalist was mistaken in portraying him as an archaeology student - see the comments down below this post for the full text. Note the role of close recording in defining the site.

UPDATE 1st March 2015
Somebody else beat Mr Lucking to clarifying a detectorist's story referring to the Daily Mail article, an "Anonymous" wrote (1 March 2015 at 19:42) adding another layer of mystery to an already clouded story:
Tom is on the first year of an UEA Landscape History course, not an archaeology course. He gives some of his hobby time to provide expert metal detection support for the community archaeology group that he and I are both members of but that doesn't make him (or myself) an archaeologist. He and his colleague have put a lot of work into covering the site and recording finds as part of a detection agreement with the landowner. The rescue dig and accompanying geophysics that followed his discovery and reporting of in situ grave goods (the top of a copper alloy bowl that he promptly covered back over) was the first archaeological work on a previously unknown site.
This "community archaeology group" turns out to be the Suffolk Archaeological Field Group, and the bowl was found "just before Christmas" and the excavation was carried out by Norfolk County Council’s Heritage Environment Service (Dr Andrew Rogerson and Steven Ashley) "over two cold days in January". The grave contained the (Frankish?) bowl at the foot, a ‘chatelaine’, jewellery, apart from the pendant there were two other pendants with reused coins including one of the Frankish king Sigebert III and a" wheel-thrown pot which Dr Rogerson has identified as a definite import, plus a tiny knife and iron buckle". If Mr Lucking was taking part in the survey of the site as part of the Suffolk Archaeological Field Group, I do not see why he should get any kind of Treasure ransom. This exists only because hoiker might not report finds, anything found as part of an excavation automatically becomes part of the record and is covered by any standard practice transfer of title documentation signed as part of the preparation for the excavation.


10 comments:

T Lucking said...

Hello Paul,

Thanks for the comments.
I thought I'd clarify a few things since the national press seem to have once again let a good story take precedent over the facts.
At no point have I said to the press that I'm an archaeology student. I've been constantly saying I'm studying landscape history but I suppose it's easier for them to say 'archaeology'. The landscape history course is in no way connected with this discovery and should not be interpreted as such.
The site was discovered purely by chance when a small scatter of early Saxon metalwork was discovered in the plough soil. This was all recorded to a 10-figure grid reference accurate to 1m, and has all been recorded onto both PAS and the Norfolk HER. The site was completely unknown before this.
The quote “we knew there was something in that area of the grave...” seems to have been misunderstood. It is meant completely literally in that once the professionals had removed the topsoil and uncovered a grave cut, the feature was checked with a metal detector before excavation began and a non-ferrous signal (other than the bowl) was detected in the grave itself. This turned out to be the pendant.
This particular part of Norfolk is not known for its Saxon cemeteries, as Mary Chester-Kadwell's 2009 thesis on early Saxon Norfolk will attest. The heavy claylands of south Norfolk were thought to be marginal and difficult to farm, and the area is/was an archaeological blank in terms of early Saxon activity.
The analysis of the grave and the wider site/area will almost certainly form the basis of my dissertation, in which I will try to place everything in as full a context as possible, and hopefully to a standard that can be published.

I find the local news outlets are far more reliable in their reporting, and the Eastern Daily Press have a far more accurate report: http://www.edp24.co.uk/norfolk-life/amazing_anglo_saxon_pendant_joins_the_ranks_of_major_treasures_discovered_in_our_region_1_3972534

I'm aware this probably won't be to your complete satisfaction, but in the spirit of fair play I feel if someone is going to criticise then they need the full facts, not a tacked together story from the Daily Mail.

Regards,

Tom.

T Lucking said...

Hello Paul,

Thanks for the comments.

I thought I'd clarify a few things since the national press seem to have once again let a good story take precedent over the facts.

At no point have I said to the press that I'm an archaeology student. I've been constantly saying I'm studying landscape history but I suppose it's easier for them to say 'archaeology'. The landscape history course is in no way connected with this discovery and should not be interpreted as such.

The site was discovered purely by chance when a small scatter of early Saxon metalwork was discovered in the plough soil. This was all recorded to a 10-figure grid reference accurate to 1m, and has all been recorded onto both PAS and the Norfolk HER. The site was completely unknown before this.

The quote “we knew there was something in that area of the grave...” seems to have been misunderstood. It is meant completely literally in that once the professionals had removed the topsoil and uncovered a grave cut, the feature was checked with a metal detector before excavation began and a non-ferrous signal (other than the bowl) was detected in the grave itself. This turned out to be the pendant.

This particular part of Norfolk is not known for its Saxon cemeteries, as Mary Chester-Kadwell's 2009 thesis on early Saxon Norfolk will attest. The heavy claylands of south Norfolk were thought to be marginal and difficult to farm, and the area is/was an archaeological blank in terms of early Saxon activity.

The analysis of the grave and the wider site/area will almost certainly form the basis of my dissertation, in which I will try to place everything in as full a context as possible, and hopefully to a standard that can be published.

I find the local news outlets are far more reliable in their reporting, and the Eastern Daily Press have a far more accurate report: http://www.edp24.co.uk/norfolk-life/amazing_anglo_saxon_pendant_joins_the_ranks_of_major_treasures_discovered_in_our_region_1_3972534

I'm aware this probably won't be to your complete satisfaction, but in the spirit of fair play I feel if someone is going to criticise then they need the full facts, not a tacked together story from the Daily Mail.

Regards,

Tom.

Paul Barford said...

As I say in the notes to commentators, anyone criticised in this blog has the right to reply. That is fair play.

As I think I said in the text above, I was pretty sure that the Mail journalist was at fault here, glad we got that sorted out.

Thank you for setting my mind at ease about the recording and reporting of the site and that it was completely unknown before this.

This blog is for commenting on news stories and other items about portable antiquities. if you look at the documentation of my FOI request which I posted up last week, you can see what happens when I try to get confirmation of some facts or any comments from the Portable Antiquities Scheme - my experience is that you might as well try to get blood out of a stone.

My main interest when I wrote was that this the story has already been picked up by the metal detectorists and again used to attack archaeology. For example, there's Janner ("Is there a new breed of Archaeologist emerging?" http://janner53.blogspot.com/2015/03/is-there-new-breed-of-archaeologist.html ) followed closely by John Howland. Maybe you should clarify the situation to them before this gets out of hand.

Anyway, thank you for contacting me and putting my mind to rest, good luck with the dissertation, it is a lovely pendant, I look forward to seeing photos of it when the dirt is off.

T Lucking said...

Thanks for the reply. I've had similar questions asked in other places so am putting the record straight where I can as the Mail article seems to missing a few details to keep the story clear. No doubt some other facts will be omitted if the other papers decide to print something.

Tom.

Paul Barford said...

Basically, whenever you give a newspaper interview, no matter how clearly you put your story over, they always print something which is not at all what you said. Every time, expect nothing else.

T Lucking said...

Hi again Paul,

I was having a browse of the net and only just noticed your second update on the article, so apologies for the latency of my reply.

Just to clarify your second update, the metal detecting on the field was being done under a private agreement with the landowner that was obtained a couple of years ago.
I am a member of SAFG but also have my own permissions for metal detecting. This farm is one of them. When I discovered that this site was a potential cemetery, plans were made to carry out a geophysics survey of the site as a SAFG project, but nothing more than that. SAFG were invited onto the land to geophys, but my metal detecting was still carrying on under a separate agreement.
Before the geophysics survey had taken place, I discovered the bowl and arranged with Norfolk CC for excavation. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and have SAFG carry out the geophysics survey in the same week for convenience. So, present on the field during the dig were Norfolk CC excavating the bowl found through my private detecting permission, and also SAFG carrying out a separate geophysics survey, but obviously there because of the presence of Saxon material.

I can see where the confusion has come from. The easiest way I can think to sum it up is that SAFG were present on site during the excavation, but the excavation was not in any way part of the SAFG project. The reason for the excavation was because of my own private detecting permission.

Hope this clears things up.

Tom.

Paul Barford said...

No, not really, sounds like a situation full of ethical pitfalls to me.

Anyway, it is the landowner, not you who should be arranging both excavation and survey, it is his or her land.

T Lucking said...

The landowner was asked for permission before anything went ahead, and was kept informed on a daily basis. They knew everything that was happening and were more than happy for it to go ahead.

Paul Barford said...

You are missing my point.

T Lucking said...

You'll have to ask the landowner about how he chooses to manage his land.
I would like to think that if any professionals, involved or otherwise, had any concerns then they would have raised them with me.

I feel I've given the full facts of the situation, and realistically, anything beyond me clarifying facts is going to become an exchange of opinions. You know we'll probably disagree, I know we'll probably disagree, and we've probably both got better things to do than fill up a Sunday arguing the ethics of detecting when neither of us is likely to change our opinion.
With that in mind, I will take leave of this discussion.
Thanks for being civil in your replies and good luck for the future.

 
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