Friday 2 September 2022

Archaeologists: Show-and-Not-Very-Much-Tell

North Worcestershire Archaeology Group @NWAG_Archaeo · 2 g.
This #IronAge gold coin was found in NW #Worcestershire in 2020. Minted in AD c.30-60, it bears the name of Bodvoc, ruler of the Dobunni tribe, as well as one very funky horse! PAS record: #FindsFriday #archaeology #coins #numismatics #WorcestershireHour 

[Found on the Malvern Hills. Odd surface on this]

But as Wheeler once said, we are "digging up people, not things", so what can they actually show us of the everyday life not of any "Bodvoc" but the people that saw those coins in use - just from the same PAS "database"? Archaeology is so much more than glittery old coins with pictures and writing on them, surely.

Here however we see the usual British archaeological tactic of 'gatekeeping', presenting oneself as the expert guardian of arcane knowledge about the past deigning to show the grockles something to interest and entertain (pretending to "educate") them. After all if it's a coin with the picture of a horse and the name BODVOC in capital letters on it, there's little danger of a curious enquiry "how do you know what it is?". So time and time again, archaeology is presented as "looking at something old". And where is the text explaining how they decided it "is" "the Dobunni tribe" and who and when used the term "Dobunni" and why is it specifically a "tribe" (and in what meaning of that word)? How is it known (or is it) that this Bodvoc [was that his real name?] was their ruler, and was it all "Dobunni" or just part of them? In what form was that power/authority exercised?
Why is there a horse there, and why is it disjointed? How do they arrive at the date AD c.30-60 when among the various dates for these coins, the British Museum cites a much earlier one " 5-20 [something]"?

As for public transparency about where it was found and by home, it is zero. That's all hidden close to the chest. From what we are told, it was dug up somewhere within the Malvern Hills district, which spans most of western Worcestershire, and is not coterminous or synonymous with the hill range. So, basically this is an utterly pointless public "record" that hides the actual information from the inhabitant of that village or hamlet that somebody found this just down the road from their home, where they walk the dog, but pocketed it leaving them none the wiser. Making that information public via the PAS (a massive state-funded show-and-tell project) in fact does not make the actual information public, and in this case actually deliberately obscures part of it - because the archaeologists in the record claim they know to within one square meter where it was in fact found. But that arcane knowledge they keep to themselves.

You wonder just what archaeologists posting up a picture of something and a bald 260 character label think they are achieving? Just to show they are there somewhere, that they "educate" the public about their past? Ticking the box that they "do public outreach"? I really would like to know what these show-and-tells are actually about.

1 comment:

Brian Mattick said...

"Found on the Malvern Hills" ...

That's surprising. The Malvern Hills Conservators are red hot on No Detecting and in 2020, in an article about nighthawking, we wrote

"just this week there has been a spate of cases across the Malvern Hills (and we recently photographed it happening there in broad daylight, right next to a “no detecting” sign)."

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