Sunday 7 November 2021

X-Marks-the-Spot is NOT any kind of "Context". Archaeology is About Context, not "Things"

  This is supposed to be
contemporary with
the rest, is it? 

 More on the "****** assemblage" (aka. "West Norfolk Hoard") from the British newspapers:

experts believe that the site had been disturbed before discovery and may have therefore originally included more coins. [...] 'The west Norfolk hoard is a really remarkable find [...] said Norfolk's finds liaison officer Helen Geake. 'It underlines the value of metal-detected evidence in helping reconstruct the earliest history of England, but also shows how vulnerable these objects are to irresponsible collectors and the antiquities trade'.
Hmmm. It seems they are not going to expand on that. So how secure is this as a single deposit, and what, archaeologically can we say about it now we know that it is not by any means complete? So even so-called "responsible detecting" has not here produced anything like complete information about this find and its context... has it? Why is the FLO not telling the public that, why is the FLO focussing, once again, on presenting archaeology to the public merely as a hunt for glittery things ("the biggest group, the most valuable, the oldest, best preserved, most unusual example with a pretty picture on the side" that by its mere physical existence above ground can add to our knowledge of the past? Our knowledge of the past in fact here would come from a better understanding of the two contexts, context of deposition and context of discovery from which we can get to the third, the context of use - which is what can tell us about the past. Is that really so difficult for British archaeologists to explain to the people they simply treat and take as an undifferentiated gaggle of plebs? It's easier like that, of course, but they are not being paid to choose just the easiest copouts to collect their salaries.

But then what is that context? The BBC quotes numismatist Dr Adrian Marsden, from the Norfolk Historic Environment Service as saying:
"It seems to have been built up by someone moving around the Merovingian kingdom." "And as it was found near an Anglo-Saxon cemetery, it may have been buried in a barrow (burial) and scattered by centuries of ploughing,"
Oh. So it is a hoard that illustrates the "econmic connections" of the entire East Anglian kingdom, or it is a personal treasure buried as grave goods? Or maybe a ritual deposit in the top of, or between, an earlier mound and its neighbours? Or was it a loss of a merchant who really had been sauntering around the Merovingian realms? How can we decide beteen these various scenarios (not without significance for interpreting the objects themselves and their grouping if you want to do an "archaeology of THINGS") without knowing anything about the context of deposition? Dr Marsden is just guessing here, because the proximuity of the findspot to that cemetery seems not to be so firmly established from what I can work out. Guessing is not archaeology. It is not in any way an academic pursuit and British archaeologists are not being paid to guess and make up unverifiable stories, are they?

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