Friday 17 December 2010

Allegedly: "All you Wanted to Know About THAT Helmet (Almost)"

British Archaeology is claiming the next issue will contain: "All you wanted to know about that helmet (almost)".

We can't tell you who bought the Crosby Garrett Roman helmet, but our feature contains much new information about this iconic object that sold for £2m in October, with previously unpublished photos. Archaeologists who studied the helmet during its restoration write about what they saw, and Darren Bradbury explains his extraordinary restoration work. Described for the first time are an analysis of the metals, a simple workshop mark on the helmet, details of the hinge that connected the face to the back and an ancient repair. While the face was found nearly intact in the ground, the back had been broken and folded up. Also described are details of attempts to persuade the helmet's original owners to sell it directly to Tullie House Museum in Cumbria – attempts which, of course, failed – and archaeologists' plans for the future.
I guess when so far there has not been very much information at all about this thing revealed by those who should be imparting it, providing "much new information" would not be difficult.

"Darren Bradbury explains his extraordinary restoration work" that'll be a treat, we can at last discuss it in the open. It will be interesting to learn what he has to say for himself in an archaeological journal.

Also the missing photograph has been relocated: "The pic that was on this thread called "just excavated" or such like showed the face mask, with a hole in the chin, held in two hands. The pic looked as if it had been taken by a mobile camera. The pic is now not on the thread, for some unknown reason.......". It was posted by the mysterious contributor to the Roman Army Talk thread on the helmet calling themselves "Timogen", but then when the discussion about the authenticity of the find began was removed. Now a copy has surfaced:

This photo shows the state of the object before the 'grey gunk' restoration which appears in the PAS photos (from the RAT forum). Whose hands are these? Rather too well manicured methinks for a Cumbrian metal detectorist who'd just been digging about in the Cumbrian soil. These are surely not the hands of some twenty year old Peterlee man or his father. And that jumper in the background, does it not have a rather "Eastern European" look to it?

In the last two pages of that thread there are a lot of questions being raised about the true findspot of the helmet, and whether it really is a British find. I doubt though that anybody involved will really be looking at this question in any detail, a hole will be re-excavated in a Cumbrian field and will also - I predict - be inconclusive. If Mr Bradbury received (as the account by Sally Worrell says) the object with the back of the mask filled with compacted soil, perhaps he thought to keep it and a heavy mineral analysis and isotope analysis could be carried out to link it with the findspot (if one can be certain that the soil was not inserted...). The photo reputedly showing it just "after excavation" however does not show whether the mask was filled with soil, certainly part of it was not.

On balance the British Archaeology article is unlikely to tell us "all we wanted to know about that helmet", not by a long chalk. Nevertheless, I await the arrival of my copy impatiently.


Unknown said...

Hi Paul,
I have been reading your blog updates on the Crosby Garrett helmet with interest, as I am currently using it as a case study for an essay on metal-detecting and conservation. I am particularly interested in the photo you have posted here. In another one of your posts, you mentioned the restoration report, I heard it was available publicly but cannot find it. Do you have a copy of it? I have emailed Georgina Aitken for it, but am not expecting a response...

Paul Barford said...

It's a good topic for a case study. I do not think the report is available publicly, quite understandable, it is scandalously badly-written (though nobody else will come out and say it, will they?). David Gill has a copy, and the PAS I believe has a copy.

I am afraid when dealing with issues like this you have to get used to making do with stuff obtained through 'back door' methods...

I have no better copy of that photo.

I'd be interested to see what you come up with.

Best of luck.

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