Sunday, 4 October 2015

Lenborough Fiasco, Attempted Damage Control Hoiker Style


No archaeological report has emerged from the Lenborough Hoard Fiasco, but the artefact hunters are still writing about it, as on John Winter's blog. He decides to attempt (The Lenborough Hoard Part 1, 4 October 2015) a bit of damage control - "It’s what detectorists do".

According to this new text, the finder drove all the way up from distant Southampton. He did this because he had some "sixth sense", the article says, because he "had time to do a little research and could see that some of the site was ‘new’ to the club and hadn’t been disturbed too much". So not "hammered" (emptied) like much of the British archaeological record is by collectors skimming off archaeological material to collect for personal entertainment and profit. In fact the search area included a known preserved earthwork site in the HER, i.e., the sort of site responsible artefact hunters should be keeping well away from. The finder was able to use that Southamptonian "sixth sense" again because the dig organizers had on display "details of the area, including large aerial map [of the earthworks preserved in pasture] for all detectorists to study" - but do not think that it is there so responsible artefact hunters could keep away from the areas of the farm with sensitive archaeology. Oh no. As Winter puts it:
"Paul told me that with experience you develop a kind of sixth sense, recognition of the signs in a field, and a kind of intuition that draws you to the best place to look".
Like where the earthworks are.
It’s a good feeling!” [Thumbing your nose at the interests of the rest of society.]
Just "one coin" was all
he found in the bottom of this
hole before he called the FLO
over and enlarged it, he now says
It is interesting to note that the account of the initial discovery has now been modified. The more immediate report (2nd Jan 2015) "then I lifted a larger piece of lead and saw row upon row of coins stacked neatly" has been replaced nine months later with a fable of how after finding just one coin the finder claims:
"I didn’t touch it again and contacted the organiser Peter Welch and Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) Rosalind Tyrrell, who was on the site. She said that I had done the right thing and immediately taped off the area, declared it an archaeological site and directed proceedings.
What we see in the "feroxchaser" video posted on You Tube on 23rd December 2014 her "directing" is a grabbing of loose coins out of a narrow keyhole scoop deep into the archaeological stratigraphy of a preserved earthwork site while it is recognized that the hoard itself runs into the edge of the hoik hole. This is not "directing" anything, it is an utter shambles. Winter reports:
Each item was recorded, photographed in situ and excavated thoroughly and carefully. If you viewed the video made on YouTube of the removal it looks as though we spent about two minutes on the task,” said Ros. “That wasn’t the case. [...] The excavation had taken most of the day.”
Well, then her museum will be making the full documentation available showing that to be the case, won't they? Where is that documentation now? Nobody is saying that the grubbing up of this hoard should be criticised because it took "two minutes". Nobody says that the hole digging took "two minutes". What real (not imaginary) people who know what digging holes in archaeological stratigraphy on preserved earthwork sites involves are saying is that a hoard like this cannot be properly excavated and recorded between early morning and dusk in mid-December. Period. Any archaeologist will know that. The archaeologist quite clearly should have secured the site and organized a methodical recording and retrieval. She did not.

What was the significance of the "row upon row of coins stacked neatly" which the person actually digging the coins out reports? We will not know until we see the careful documentation of the position of "each item" Ms Tyrrell claims she made before she (in the light of her own account) inexplicably threw each of those individually documented coins into a big bag which was later that day tipped out loose on the farmer's kitchen table, irretrievably mixing any recorded coin groups which might have revealed how it was put together. Winter says:
"As yet nothing much is known about the hoard or what these coins were doing hidden in a Buckinghamshire field. It’ll be interesting to see what explanations the specialists come up with".
The specialists (and the rest of us to whom that heritage belongs) would have a better chance of getting to an informed interpretation if the coins and the associated material had been recovered in a way which would allow the internal structure of the group and its stratigraphic and other associations to be properly recorded. Obviously, hoiking them out loose into a carrier back "just before it got dark" reduces the information to a pile of loose coins and it's anyone's guess how they got there.

Seamus von Hanrahan, author of the popular "Numismatic Evidence of Alien Visitations" has already suggested one explanation. Because the archaeological excavation found no trace of a pit in which the find lay, the lead-wrapped parcel (which he says is in a form which bears a striking resemblance to the 'Volusian star cruiser' depicted in the Nazca lines) must have been deposited deep underground by a powerful teleportation beam. He uses this as evidence supporting his hypothesis that the victorious Alfred the Great was a shape-shifting lizard man from a distant planet who owed his victories to secret access to higher technology. Indeed, I doubt there is anything in Ros Tyrell's documentation which would refute that hypothesis in the 'Anything Goes Archaeology' currently being practised in Britain.

1 comment:

heritageaction said...

Such an obvious whitewash job. All that nonsense about him having a sixth sense yet “the first field they chose” (the one where the hoard was found) “didn’t look promising” which categorically shows it was pure luck, not skill! Very silly.

But of course, the main whitewash was the actual recovery which was blatantly too hasty, and too unskilled yet he claims “Paul was carefully supervised and happy to do the heavy work, but the FLO was engaged in the final removal” - oh please, give us a break, we've all seen the video and read the actual accounts.

And of course, Mr Winter makes zero mention of the absolutely crucial fact that the FLO wanted to do it properly with other archaeologists and have the place guarded for a day or two accordingly but had to submit to the ignorant pressure to have it out quick despite the massive loss of knowledge that entailed. Facts are facts and very shameful and Mr Winter can't cover them up. Luckily, the only people who don't now realise the whole process was an utter shambles are metal detectorists.

 
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