Sunday 28 August 2011

Finding King Arthur is "Very Easy"

More metaldetectian anti-academism, and to an extraordinary extent:
According to a Mr. Paul Barford who claims to be an Archaeologist Alan Wilson only uses one Book to find the elusive King Arthur Geoffrey of Monmouths one. That's far from the truth, in fact there are mases of documents that mention King Arthur. We list them here in order that you yourself can check up on the authenticity of King Arthur yourself to prove we are correct and people like Mr. Barford are wrong and too hasty in making judgement. [...] Alan Wilson shares his knowledge with you that he gained as a graduate at Cardiff University. Alan Wilson loves history but researches it diligently under the microscope. Something academics are too lazy to do. We even give you one site to look for some material the rest you will have to google yourself take this as a personal challenge if you enjoy history.
The site is "Sacred Texts". So the masses of documents this historian bases his opinion on are secondary rather than primary sources, and very much influenced by the Matter of Britain.

Astounding. Well, what I actually stated was in fact something quite different. I am a medievalist and do happen to have quite a bit of familiarity with historical texts, and more than a passing familiarity with the ones these guys are using, and it seems a fair deal more familiarity with the literature on how texts like this can and should not be used in modern scholarship.

The amateur historian's metal detecting pal Alan Hassell adds his own two Australian cents ('
Archaeologists are modern day grave robbers and our enemy') on the US TreasureNet "collectors rights" forum.
Paul Barford [...] himself admits he is a collector of antiquities but the way he goes about it he doesnt want anyone else to enjoy the pleasure of metal detecting. This guy and those like him are your worst enemy. Archaeologists are lets face it legalised grave robbers, they are rag and bone men, scavengers looking for buried treasure which they claim is an art and a science.
Well, that's just the PAS... Then we have this from the video linked below:

Well, there is actually nothing in this blog which to my mind suggest I am trying to win myself "popularity" (quite the opposite is the effect anyway), or that I am after "a bitta-trezzer" myself. If only these people would read between the lines of the Medieval texts and the secondary works based on them with the same criticism...

So where is it according to Mr Hassell that I announce I collect antiquities? Mr H. appears to have forgotten the link to back up his accusation. Maybe he's confusing me with somebody else.

Anyhow, my alleged sins do not end there, Alan Wilson and Alan Hassell think they know where to find King Arthur's grave and a whole lot besides:
For years they have kept these sites secret in order to protect the Nations history and heritage. For years various people have libelled made false remarks about Alan Wilson whose only interest was the preservation of his Ancient British History. We exppose those who have attempted to ensure they are ridiculed with contempt.. Some idiot, who claims to be an archaeologist writes more blogs than he does digs. he lies about the reasons we had put this up on here and accuses us of blackmailing the London Establishment (lie) if they were interested they would of done something years ago. He accuses us of inviting detectorist tor rob and pillage these sites which is stupid when he known about them for years and only interested in them being protected. His blog is and advertisment for any detectorist to destroy these sites as you can see for yourself. This is a most irresponsible thing for a supposed archaeologist to do who is supposed to protect ancient historical sites. His site is
Since he put that up the number of views has increased dramatically bringing it to the attention of the public. However it is not the sort of thing Academics should be doing and further proof that people like this should not be employed in positions of TRUST AS HE IS.

So let's get this straight, these guys "keep something secret" by posting You tube videos about them on the internet, yes? They take great care to point out exactly where one would have to dig or take down a ("oh look, there's a loose stone") wall to get to the "gold" they say is there. They do this to "protect" these sites? Yet when I say that its almost as if they wish somebody would come in the night and dig a big hole so they can say "see, there was something there and its gone now", it is somehow me that is inciting the destruction. I am inciting destruction by not keeping secret the fact that these guys have posted on the Internet a huge mass of videos showing where these guys imagine something exciting will be found? That is as logical as the text quoted above is coherent English. Or that in the presentation:

If having videos on the Internet showing where these sites are so worries the people that put the videos there in the first place, then I suggest they remove them forthwith.

It would seem somebody has a massive chip on their shoulder. A chip on their shoulder about everybody and anything, fancy the Minister not taking advantage of the opportunity when Mr Wilson had graciously agreed to meet him... Mr Hassell got thrown off the UKDN site and they won't let him back, it seems from the above. I think these gentlemen are trying to attract attention to themselves and their theories by these personal attacks.

The logic of this whole construction is a typical piece of pseudoscience complete with conspiracy theory at its core. It seems a bit churlish to point out that the whole claim that the "Anglo-Saxons" in the past and today will not admit there was a British church is wholly false, a straw man argument. Bede actually talks about it, the Synod of Whitby 664 is a key point in his narrative and chronology. Romano-British churches (or buildings generally regarded as churches) have been excavated at a number of places and are not at all controversial. What happened, and happened all over Europe in the early nineteenth century was the growth of historical source-criticism (Quellenforschung) applied to chronicles and annals and other historical texts. It was this process that showed that many of the things treated by these amateurish historians (like the Britons being in reality "Trojans") was just made-up myth set down in writing. Something being written down does not make it true. The Arthur-seekers might like to look at Jordanes' Getica, the history of the Gothic nation which well illustrates the process.

For more of the background, have a read of the text written by metal detectorist Alan Hassell (2003) 'The Worlds Greatest Historian's' (sic):
"There are few geniuses in this world and when one is found instead of being recognized for his/her abilities for some reason they seldom achieve the status and recognition they deserve in life that they get when they are dead. Take Beethoven, Elgar or Einstein for example they were all geniuses in their own way and are all recognized for their achievements to mankind but they are all dead".

Or you could look at this:Alan Wilson
To date, Wilson and Blackett have vanity-published seven books that provide information based upon based upon Old Welsh records that date to the 12th Century. They believe that these provide a final solution to the King Arthur story and claim to have discovered the true sites of the battles of Badon (Mynydd Baedan) and Camlann although the identification had been made 150 years before by Welsh writers.
Please read the whole text, it is quite revealing.

The anti-archaeological rant gets better. I'd like to see the PAS actually answer this ('Archaeology Demolishers of Ancient British History'):

Are they up to it?

I'll address the comment about the claims they made about my assessment of the documentary and archaeological evidence in a post tomorrow on my Detectorist-nonsense ghetto blog.


Mo said...

Arthurian legend was romanticised by the Pre-Raphaelites and Tennyson.

The legends are very similar to Scythian myths. The sword in the lake, the sword in the stone, the draco and dragon imagery.

This would suggest that these legends were not Celtic in origin.

It's not impossible that the "knights" were the remnants of Roman cavalry that stayed behind when the others left.

Paul Barford said...

and indeed Norse myths, the problem being that the sword in the lake and the sword in the stone are twelfth and early 13th century embellishments and probably added outside the British Isles...

Mo said...

The Nart Sagas are very similar to some Arthurian legends.

There is a very similar tale about the sword and throwing it back into the lake.

There is also a theory that the Bretons that came over with William the Conquerer added to the legends. Alanic people having settled in Britanny.

The recent film about Arthur and his knights depicts them as Sarmatians. It's not totally far fetched as they were given land around the Forest of Bowland.They were cavalry soldiers and carried dracos (see funeral stele Chester Museum).

Geoff Carter said...

. . .no mention of the Holy Grail?
how disappointing.
Wow & I thought I had some issues with with some aspects of post-processual archaeology - but this is quite extraordinary; a whole pathological and venomous world of "that's what they want you to think...". I would not want to meet them in a car park at midnight-
come back Eric Von D - all is forgiven!

Mo said...

The Holy Grail has been chucked in a hedge because it was not made of metal and therefore did not even have a scrap value.

Paul Barford said...

No, I think they claim to have found the Holy Grail too, don't they? If not yet, I am sure they will soon.

Geoff Carter said...

Well, clearly, those feet, in ancient times, did walk upon England's mountains green, [or perhaps Wales's].

I have written some satirical pieces, and even drawn cartoons, about poor archaeological scholarship, but these guys are in a different class; I don't know how you do it Paul, but keep it up, you clearly have a talent - as some form of lightening conductor for the rest of us!

They don't seem to have a view on postholes, a small mercy, for which I am grateful.

Paul Barford said...

Helena is, Morgan, the patron saint of archaeologists - so they say (she was Constantine the Great's mum who found the Holy Cross).

There are some posts coming up on the other blog about the archaeology and historical interpretation, but probably tomorrow.

So, Geoff, would you AGREE with me, that the Portable Antiquities Scheme "anyone can do this archaeology lark, its kid's stuff just get a metal detector and spade and join in" creed is producing negative effects like this? There is (surely) a difference between "community" archaeology (whatever that really is) and "karaoke archaeology". When is archaeology going to draw the line or has post-processualism meant that we've abandoned all pretence of standards forever? Where is this leading? These are the more important questions for us.

Geoff Carter said...

I am not well enough connected, or informed, about the detailed workings of the PAS; in a sense, I would rather not know, some of what has gone and is going on is too awful to think about, and I am grateful you take the time to pursue these important issues.
I quick scan through ebay is genuinely shocking.
I am old school about archaeology, it is a destructive process and should be used sparingly. there is enough archaeology being destroyed & degraded to keep us busy, without us gratuitously digging holes in things for no good reason.
Post-processualism is a bit a nebulous target, but imo aspects of it have brought the subject in disrepute, and led to disconnection of some academics from the physical evidence, and 'reality' as many people would perceive it.
Archaeology has always been on the edge of New Age thinking and conspiracy theories, many of the ideas hinted in the video links seem to come from the 'Celt, Druid and Culdee' by Isabel Hill Elder (1938) school of thinking.

Paul Barford said...

"the 'Celt, Druid and Culdee' by Isabel Hill Elder (1938) school of thinking."

I must admit that despite my interests in "fringe archaeology", I had not come across that one before...

Mo said...

I've checked out the other blog.

There is a lot of conjecture about Arthur.

It is possible that some Romano-British leader emerged to fight against the Saxons and Angles. Over the years stories could have been attached to this person and the legend was created.

There is also much conjecture about the birthplace of St. Patrick.

In his confession he names a place called Bannaventa Berniae. There has been many suggestions as to where this place is. It has to be somewhere that is on the West of Britain as an Irish raiding party took him captive.

I just hope that if an artifact that proves the birthplace of St Patrick is found that it does not go the same way as the Crosby Garrett Helmet.

Geoff Carter said...

Paul, I posted a comment in response this morning, with more details of Isabel Hill Elder et al, that has not appeared.[did I mess it up?]

Paul Barford said...

GC, the comment came, but I decided not to post it, but instead deleted my own over-the-top comment to which it responded. Hope that's OK. Sorry.

Geoff Carter said...

Paul that's fine by me, I hope you had a chance to follow up on Isabel Hill Elder, the text is on line, and I think explains much of what is eluded to in the videos.
He publisher [Covenant Publishing -based in NE England] represents a curious sub-cultural strand.

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