Monday 27 January 2014

The Reported Burial Place of the So-called Crosby Garrett Helmet

David Gill has a piece on the article by Mike Bishop and Stuart Noon with Matthew Symonds in the February issue (287) of Current Archaeology which has not reached me yet: 'The alleged burial place of the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet', Monday, January 27, 2014. He notes a number of inaccuracies and unanswered questions in the account:
Was the helmet found where it is claimed? The article comments, 'Unsubstantiated rumours speculated that perhaps the artefact had been found elsewhere, maybe even overseas, and that a faux findspot in the Hadrian's Wall hinterland was a way to secure a provenance'. So what is the evidence that the helmet was found in a hole near Crosby Garrett? "Minerva Heritage Ltd opened a small trench on the spot, which revealed that any cut made when the helmet was deposited had been destroyed when it was dug up in 2010". In other words, the metal-detectorists obliterated any archaeology that could have been there, and there is no compelling evidence that the helmet was found at this spot. Interestingly Noon suggests that the depth of soil, some 50 cm, was 'not sure the volume of soil would be enough' to have crushed the helmet in the way that it was presented. So, again, was it found here?
See also my text on the subject: "Crosby Garrett Helmet Findspot", Tuesday, 12 November 2013 [note who I cite there and compare that with the authorship of the recent article]. A question Gill does not ask is why, when the collapsed thin corroded metal sheet was buried half a metre down in pasture, it produced a signal at all. The excavations show that right next to the helmet findspot, more shallowly-buried coins were not detected and hoiked. What machine on what settings do the still-anonymous finders claim to have been using? What were the ground conditions when it was found? Metal detectorists delight in telling us all that their machines cannot go down that far and their hoiking is only from "six to eight inches" (15-21 cm). Here either somebody is not telling the truth, or these claims are in fact nonsense.

Why, actually, are the finders not coming forward to help explain the emerging discrepancies in the story of the discovery of this item? How much of this story have the PAS been able to verify and how? What is the grey gunk on the object in the PAS' photograph of it lying in a tray in Christie's before restoration, when and how did it get there?


Detectorbloke said...

The larger the item the deeper a detector will detect it. Most deep items tend to be iron and some detectorists will not dig any deeper if the item isn't found at a spades depth. Many though will continue to dig thinking its buried treasure or something!

Finding a horseshoe at 15 inches + isn't that uncommon. I don't know the dimensions of the helmet as dug but it is possible to find bigger items at that depth.

Most detectorists hunt in all metal mode. Deep iron and some other materials can oddly come up as non iron ie silver or similar which is another reason a detectorist might keep digging.

You are right regarding the depth of most coin finds. Being small they are harder for the detector to spot.

David Gill said...

Thank you for these observations. Yes, why did the detector miss the coins? And the depth is also telling.

Paul Barford said...

The coins were quite shallow compared to the helmet and close enough to have been located in the next detector swing. The helmet is however quite thin copper alloy (not iron) sheet and was broken into small pieces, though as you say, we have no information from the finder and we do not know if they were scattered or together.

One wonders how many of the 900+ Treasure finds this year have been hoiked out from a depth of half a meter in undisturbed archaeological deposits like here because they produced a signal.

Detectorbloke said...

Im not sure that the helmet was ever considered treasure under the act as it was made out of copper. I don't think it even required declaring. An odd quirk of the act and maybe why we don't know anything really about its origins?

Paul Barford said...

Detector bloke, I did not say it was, but it is hoards and big shiny metal objects that get hoiked up from depths isn't it.

We do not know about the origins because there are too many holes, too many unknowns and too much second hand information in the official story.

Detectorbloke said...

Sorry had inferred that from when you said like here. In any event i still think it a bit odd.

Interesting point re the depths. Some hoards are scattered so again if coins could only find at shallow depth but its not obvious how they were found as you say.

Detectorbloke said...

I doubt with many hoards the detectorist would record the depths of the coins at all. If they haven't called in the Archie's which some do then this info is lost forever

Paul Barford said...

Even when the findspot is known, there is an awful lot of "information lost forever" due to artefact hunting. That's the problem. Not just with hoard finds.

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