Thursday, 9 May 2019

Southend burial site 'UK's Answer to Tutankhamun'?

A sixth century AD burial site found between a pub and Aldi supermarket has been hailed by an archaeologist as the UK's answer to Tutankhamun's tomb ( Southend burial site 'UK's answer to Tutankhamun' BBC 9 May 2019)
Workers unearthed the grave, which contained dozens of rare artefacts, during roadworks in Prittlewell, near Southend, Essex, in 2003. Tooth enamel fragments were the only human remains, but experts say their "best guess" is that they belonged to a 6th Century Anglo-Saxon prince. It is said to be the oldest example of a Christian Anglo-Saxon royal burial. [...] Locals nicknamed the grave's unknown occupant the Prince of Prittlewell and the King of Bling because of the riches buried alongside him [...] Sophie Jackson, Mola's director of research and engagement, said no-one had expected the "unpromising looking site" found in 2003 to contain "our equivalent of Tutankhamun's tomb".
Perhaps she'd have done better suggesting that it was an Essex equivalent of Sutton Hoo. In the figure on the right is Tutankhamun's territory (darker brwn)  and on the left (in red), the kingdom of the East Saxons at the time of the Prittlewell burial, give or take a shire or two.  British megalomania it seems knows no bounds.

Could this be the result of some kind of inferiority complex? Perhaps Britain, isolating itself by leaving Europe still has the need to show the British Isles were somehow relevant and important in the wide world story and not a periphery. Certainly if one compares the archaeological correlates of the culture of the times, that is a debatable point. The reign of the late 18th dynasty pharaoh (on the conventional timescale) probably fell some time in the 1320s/30s - in other words, equivalent in Britain to a period when lowland Britain was one of small scale agrarian societies that built palisaded cattle enclosures and buried their dead in cremation burials (urnfield cemeteries or under low, round barrows) and used generally rather crappy pottery. Far from being some form of hub, Britain in this period was very much under the influence of mainland Europe.

This sort of dumbdown-say nothing archaeo-talkdown to the plebs, unchallengingly treating them all as utterly unable to process anything but the simplest of superficialities, can be placed firmly in the context of a national curriculum that teaches prehistory as “Lascaux, Stonehenge, the Lake Villages and Knossos (followed by "Pyramids-and-Tutankhamun, a bit of Greece then come the Romans”). That’s going to be the only frames of reference the general British population has for anything. I suppose though that’s a bit better than a nationalist post-Brexit “Die Vorgeschichte Großbritanniens- eine hervorragend nationale Wissenschaft” that we may well see emerge - particularly given the Neo-Kossinnist predilection for typological, chorological (dot-distributions) and ethno-emblemic interpretations offered by current object-centred PAS style 'outreach'. This is not without repercussions.

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