Sunday 25 August 2019

Another Day, Another Hoard. Treasure in Teesdale

Camo-clad tekkie on pasture (tees
County Durham’s field archaeologist was called in to a farm near Eggleston in the Dales after the West Lancashire Metal Detecting Club, uncovered Bronze Age spears, knives and beads (Martin Paul, 'Spectacular' Bronze Age hoard found on land at Teesdale farm , Teesdale Mercury 20 Aug 2019)
The discovery was made by club member Phillip Holt who initially found a spear about four inches below the soil when he detected a signal. [...] The group carefully removed most spears, knives and amber and jet beads [...] The discovery was immediately reported to the County Durham Finds Liaison Officer and a meeting was arranged at the find location where they decided to excavate the remaining items. “They managed to uncover more items which were all recorded and photographed. The whole hoard is now being catalogued and conservation is underway.”
And the site? The photo shows that again another metal detecting club is flouting the clear principles in the Code of Best Practice for Responsible Metal Detecting in England and Wales and hoiking stuff blindly from pasture sites. So, not really responsible at all, and it really does not matter if this club does, as its secretary ensure we all know 'raises funds for charities such as the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Fund (RABI)'. What he also wants his readers to know is that the club 'is always looking for new farms to investigate (sic!) and is keen to chat to farmers in Teesdale who are willing to take part. The club also pays farmers for allowing them onto their fields', so its a commercial transaction. And it seems the fact that those farms also have pasture does not concern them. One would have loved to be a fly on the wall when the Durham FLO read the Best Practice Code to the group and hear what they said in reply...

Anyway, we have the objects, but of course that's only part of the story, archaeology is not 'digging up old things', what about understanding the context that these objects were ripped out of? How big a trial trench was dug by the local arkies as a result of this interference with an otherwise unthreatened site (and who paid for it, the farmer who got the tekkies' access money and will get half the Treasure ransom)? What research strategy was adopted? Did the archaeologists carefully dig and document a ten by ten meter trench to record adjacent features only, or was there a broader examination to understand their context? Or was the hole a much more modest one, two by two for example? Perhaps we should be told just what is happening to the heritage that belongs to us all, not just to a few paying tekkies and the FLO.

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