Friday 4 November 2011

Tisbury Hoard a Model with Few Parallels?

Blog follower stewarth99 alerted me to this article (thanks): Annie Riddle, 'Ancient artefacts unearthed in Tisbury', Salisbury Journal, 3rd November 2011.

Apparently a "major hoard" of more than 100 Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age artefacts has been unearthed near Tisbury, Wiltshire by "a metal detector enthusiast [...]on a farmland site which is being kept secret". It includes tools (chisels, axe heads and gouges), and weapons (including fragments of a sword and scabbard and more spearheads). Experts are reportedly "hugely excited about the hoard", but "not prepared to guess at its value yet". Oh, what a shame, eh? The newspaper article mentions in passing that the hoard is "the biggest in the area since the Salisbury Hoard – now in the British Museum - was discovered in the 1990s". Now it is shame that the writer did not remind her readers about the saga of the Salisbury hoard, how the various bits of it got "to the British Museum" after the site was plundered by metal detectorists and others who sold it off piecemeal. More interesting in the present case is: Having first found a spearhead, he decided not to disturb the ground and notified archaeologists, who were able to conduct a meticulous excavation. One spearhead unlike the majority of treasure finders who keep hoiking the stuff out day after day before they finally notify the archaeologists.

Salisbury & South Wilts Museum director Adrian Green enthuses about it... and admits that for all the 800 treasure finds including hoards like this being reported annually in England and Wales by metal detectorists:
“You could count on two hands the number of Bronze Age hoards which have been recorded professionally by archaeologists in this way”.
So, what are we paying out all those rewards for? Loose finds from trashed contexts? Is that what the Treasure Hunter's (oh, sorry Act) Code of Practice says then? No, it jolly well is not. So when are the brits going to stop paying out for those who refuse to abide by it?

[There is already at least one Bronze Age hoard from Tisbury and a lot of traces of Bronze Age historical landscapes on the downs nearby, it would be interesting to know whether the find was made in a totally barren area, or whether the metal detectorist was targeting a likely spot, or even a known site, or whether the find was in ploughsoil or below it or on pasture. The secrecy surrounding the find does not allow us to explore that issue. My comments on it being perhaps a "model" find refer thus only to the fact that it was reportedly reported while there was archaeological context to e examined. Again, just what the archaeologists did there subsequently and the quality of the results of that work seem not yet to be in the public domain].

UPDATE 5th Nov.

Uh-oh, here's a video of a tiny hole in the ground with three people squeezed into it scrabbling around, no grid pegs and an enthusiastic FLO and a winged chape:

Note the PAS archaeological task force Chinook helicopter at the end of the film heading back to London with the archaeological loot. It's not as sleek as the black helicopters some apparently suspect that "radical" archaeological "agents of influence of foreign governments" are transported in, but if it's theirs, I expect it gets the PAS archaeologists and their extensive array of surveying and geophysical equipment to where the action is.

1 comment:

kyri said...

hi paul,this metal detector did the right thing,he reported the find sraight away without looking for or removing any more you know,he is a rare breed,most detectors would have kept on detecting and not even reported the find,so well done this guy.
as to keeping the site secret,they have to, otherwise there will be hundreds of nighthawkers down there,look at what happend when the red arrow plane went sure the dig will be published in good time.

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