Sunday, 7 July 2019

Staffordshire Hoard Delusions and Deceptions

A PAS FLO's idea of what an
"open area excavation" looks like
Sometimes I wonder what they teach them these days in archaeology-school in that little green isolationist insular place off the shore of Europe. On seeing that a load of back-slapping British archies were congratulating themselves that a whole bunch of glittering Anglo-Saxon goodies fell into their laps  "on this day" ten years ago, I pointed out the obvious archaeological fact that ten years on, we still know too little about its site and landscape contexts. To which an archaeology outreaching FLO responded, surprisingly reflecting the unenlightened conviction that you can't get much archaeological information from a ploughed field (not what we were saying over here in Poland in the seventies) :
Wendy Scott ‏ @leicflo W odpowiedzi do @PortantIssues  
23 godziny temu
We have had two thorough investigations, what more can you do with a ploughed field?
Actually quite a lot, and certainly much more than was done here. As was pointed out by Martin Carver, among others. Oblivious to that (probably he's not read it), another tekkie-partnering and totally complacent FLO jumps in with the same kind of crap:
Durham FLO Ben Westwood ‏ @FLODurhamFLO     15 godzin temu
W odpowiedzi do @leicflo @PortantIssues
Very thorough investigation, including geophysics, trial trenching and open area exc. Plus a pretty detailed excavation report available online. I'm sure more *could* be done, we'd just need to access that bottomless pot of cash that's always available to archaeologists....
IS this adequate? See below
This is the kind of shoulder-shrugging jobsworth dumbdown [non-]outreach that these people are doing on archaeology's behalf that simply ensures that nobody is going to strive for more, nobody is going to tell the public and lawmakers that this is a totally unsatisfactory situation, from any angle. That way, there will be no awareness of the need for access to those funds. As far as the public is concerned, metal detectorists do 'discovery for free', so why pay for more if all we say we need are the glittering goodies and a few keyhole diggings?  The 3.2 million quid Treasure Ransom paid out for a law-abiding finder and landowner of the Staffordshire Hoard field to abide by the law and report it would have gone some way to a proper survey of the archaeology of that field and the surrounding area. As for the open area excavation that took place, I wonder if the Durham FLO has ever actually seen a true example of the sort of open area excavation that would be needed to excavate a complex of timber buildings like the ephemeral traces at Yeavering? I suppose its more of an "open area exc." than a metal detectorist's hoik hole, or the burrowing the FLO did (with a paint scraper and plastic bag) at Lenborough) or CrazyCressie dug at the "GloucestershireLollingDoggie Hoard". But none of these even deserve the name 'excavation'.

I think some of these British archaeologists really need to go back to archaeology school for refresher course and 'PAS-detox'. If they were not 'brexiting', the islanders could perhaps get some EU money to come over here to Europe and see how archaeology is done, if they think that that is the best they can do.

Here is the Hoard field and that allegedly 'very thorough investigation, including geophysics, trial trenching and open area excavation'...

The 'geophysics' consisted of a resistivity survey (in damp clay soil) c 120m x 135m ... That's the beige area in the extreme corner of that "only a ploughed field". Within that is a magnetometer survey of an area some 50m x 20m (shown as the red bit within the beige)... not really 'very thorough' penetration in my book.

The 'open area' excavation (blue here - can you see it?) measured just 9m by 13m (within which occurred a posthole, a gully and a ditch - none of the linear features were extensively excavated and remain undated. There was also a probably modern feature 1012 - 0.4m in diameter, and 0.1m in depth filled with dark grey-black silt-sand, similar in composition to the ploughsoil. This could be the traces of an earlier metal detectorist's hoik hole).

Those trial trenches (also shown in blue - can you see them?) consisted of a total length of 100m of trenches most measuring just 1.6m in width. Some features were found, both natural and anthropogenic - including a palisade trench. But not enough was excavated to make any sense of their plan or establish their chronology and sequence. 

Meanwhile, there is the landcape context all around it - totally unexplored. The natural topography of the microregion, the stream valley (and its sediments), the stream crossing, the microtopography, the slope down towards Watling Street, the location in relation to old road junctions and Tamworth. The old field boudaries. All we have is a pile of glittering objects from a findspot where we know there were other features of some kind, but we are in no position to say anything about them. And that barrow that the previous owner's family knew about? What was that curvilinear feature so poorly examined in 2009-10?

1 comment:

Hougenai said...

It would be nice to hear PAS saying something like ' We don't have enough funding to adequately investigate findspots, so we will be pushing for a change in the law to allow a percentage of all treasure rewards to be split between finder, landowner, and an archaeological investigation fund.
I'm not holding my breath.

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