Sunday 23 February 2014

Spot the Difference, but Results Still Unsatisfactory

Metal detectorists hoiked out two Kentish brooches, a disc brooch and two hairpins from acidic sandy soil, in a hole "as deep as me elbow". The site appears to have been under grass.
The usually finds were coming up, for instance bits of lead and some buttons and a bad Roman. I then moved onto a large mound / small hill that was flattened at the top and after about 10 minutes got a weak signal that turned out to be the first of some amazing finds. The first find was a broken Saxon pin at about 6 inches in the very sandy soil, not being too knowledgeable to what it was, I showed Kevin Reader, the Vice chairman of the club and he advised me to re-check the hole as it was not a common find. I widened the hole wide enough for my Minelab Safari detector to enter and managed to pick a weak signal out; I carried on digging down to about 20 inches [50.8 cm PMB] till I found the hoard. ::g After that I dug a bigger hole with help from the club and went down to about 20 inches and found the circular brooch. Apart from small over pieces, that was all that was found. We decide to dig the 2 foot by 2 foot hole due to the fact it was very close to the road and many cars would have seen the crowd around the hole. And also the fact we could not get hold of the FLO (Finds Liaison office until the next day), otherwise we would have not dig any more ( Whatunearth, Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:20 pm )
Here they are, trampling about in the bottom and throwing loose soil around with gay abandon. No recording going on. Best practice this is not:

Grabfest (Kent Mercury)

Here we see some more stamping around on the excavated surface, loads of spoil heaped up right on the edge of the ragged hole, some of it slipping back, observation of position, associations and detail of the excavated evidence totally impossible in such conditions, some bloke smiling as he tramples the loose soil in further, the rest of the soil is being trampled into the grass. No recording equipment in sight. Best practice this is not:

"Greg Sweetman from Shepherdswell found numerous Anglo-Saxon items" (Kent Mercury)

The site was explored further ( Thu Feb 20, 2014 6:51 pm):
when back to the site today with the archaeologists, FLO and a few from the club. They dug the area where the items where found and extended the area to try and locate a burial. Unfortunately there could not find one. They decided that this was not a burial and was most likely only a hoard. The FlO did manage to find a Saxon glass bead, but only one.
I would say that if it came from the same group of finds, the bead suggests that this is in fact the remains of a grave, not a "hoard", and I bet there were a number of other small non-metallic artefacts (including beads) trampled into the grass as the hoikers hurriedly hoiked and scattered on Sunday.

Photo of a cleaner, more orderly hole dug several days later (Whatunearth)

While this hole looks a bit different from the other one, it's only a two-by-one-metre hole, which I would say is not sufficient to properly examine the soilmarks on a soil of the type we see in the photo. Also it seems this whole thing was dealt with in one day. The old ploughsoil is 30 cm deep, but is leached, there is a feature in one corner of the trench, was it explored further? Is it the edge of a gully or ditch around a grave? Basically, in such soil conditions, a one-day partisan-type operation is not going to find a grave with a body-shadow already with the top sliced through by old ploughing. If they've hurried and taken the top down beyond the remains of the grave, this excavation will have completed the destruction begun by the metal detecting 'partners'.

Emily Stott, 'Sheperdswell metal detector George [scil. Greg] Sweetman finds valuable Anglo-Saxon artefacts next to A20 near Maidstone', Kent Mercury 22nd Feb 2014.

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