Sunday 22 July 2012

Britain's "Secret Treasures" By Period


Let us have a look at the way the Treasures presented by "Britain's Secret Treasures" are distributed in time. The number one top find was Lower palaeolithic (a period several hundred thousand years long, represented by one find). The subsequent periods, Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic (c. 45000-2200 BP) are not featured at all, despite archaeology being the only way to investigate them. So basically one piece of evidence for 900 000 years. The Bronze Age (2200BP to 750 BP - 1450 years) is represented by just four finds (22,20,11,2) while the earlier part of the Iron Age by only one (43). The Latest Pre-Roman Iron Age, when Britain is entering the orbit of the classical world (so - nota bene - leaving prehistory and entering a period when we have written stuff, proto-history), ah, well then the PAS starts getting more interested (finds 46, 37, 30, 15, 12) Five finds for just over 150 years. Then the Roman period AD 43-c. AD 410-ish, a period with lots of objects with writing on them and one which metal detectorists like searching for and collecting finds from, so we saw thirteen finds from those 367 years of history. Then we come to "the Dark Ages" and there were only four finds the PAS thought important from those centuries (28, 13, 8 and 3), the early medieval period fares only slightly better due to silver hoards (33, 29, 21, 18, 10). Obviously somebody in the panel of experts does not like Medieval archaeology so there are six objects (49, 26, 17, 16, 5). How odd then that the PAS was set up to deal with finds 300 years or older (to match the main legislative scope of the Treasure Act), but lo and behold the relatively large number of "important objects' which fall into precisely this Post-Medieval timespan (nine: 48, 47, 45, 44, 41, 39, 238, 32, 31). Should this not give pause for thought about expanding the scope of the Treasure Act? It is worth noting the section of the PAS website devoted to the programme:
"Treasure - what do we mean?" Britain's Secret Treasures uses the term "treasure" in a general sense, to emphasise the importance of all of the finds featured in the programme. In these programmes it has been applied without regard to the material make-up or age of the items.
So in other words, much as in Scottish Treasure Trove practice.

"Britain's Got Treasure", ITV 1 16th-22nd July 2012

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