24 September 2009

The Staffordshire Hoard Revealed

The hoard was revealed this morning, and it's a doozy: over 1,500 items, 5 kg of gold, and 2.5 kg of silver. Metal detectorist Tony Herbert called in experts after finding the first 500 pieces, and archaeologists uncovered the rest. They suspect there may be more yet buried. The location of the find, of course, is being kept fairly tightly guarded.

The BBC article is here, along with a photo gallery. A Flickr page has over 600 photos for you serious gold geeks out there. It's stunning stuff.

Conservator's comments here and video of the excavation here, behind short ads. (BBC won't allow embedding until October.) They apparently haven't cleaned many of the objects yet, which you can see in the photographs.

You can't highlight a find like this without also talking about the UK's Portable Antiquities Scheme. The PAS is a system of voluntary reporting of archaeological finds - instead of fighting the hobbyists and metal detectorists, the government decided to recruit them to report what they found, and where. Over 140,000 objects have been recorded so far (you can see some especially interesting ones here). The project is administered by the British Museum and was fully funded in 2006.

Unlike many countries, English common law allows the finder to keep archaeological objects. What the PAS does is encourage finders to record the provenance of objects and make information about them available to the public. It has helped promote education about and public involvement in archaeology on a wide scale. Read about the history of the project here.

Finds like the Staffordshire Hoard are governed by the Treasure Act 1996, which is the exception to the common law: it requires finders of gold and silver artifacts over 300 years old to report them to the government within 14 days. Local or national museums can take possession of the objects, but they have to pay the landowner and/or discoverer the market rate for the finds.

The Hoard was declared "treasure" today by the Staffordshire Coroner, which everyone expected: the declaration was needed for the British Museum to keep the objects. Tony Herbert and the unnamed landowner, however, will split the reward for the treasure and are likely to become very rich men.

23 September 2009

The Staffordshire Hoard: Unveiling Tomorrow

According to the Beeb, a huge hoard of gold objects from the 6th to 8th centuries was found in July under a field in Staffordshire. Their ownership is yet to be decided, but in the meantime the hoard will be unveiled to the public tomorrow at the Birmingham Museum. Birminghamnewsroom.com reports:
A discovery that will redefine the Dark Ages is to be unveiled at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery tomorrow (Sept 24).

The Staffordshire Hoard is a stunning find of Anglo-Saxon gold discovered earlier this year. It is the largest such hoard ever found and of international importance.

It will be presented for the first time during a press conference at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery tomorrow (Sep 24) at 11.30am.

Experts will be on-hand to talk about the discovery and how it will help rewrite history. Important pieces of treasure will be on show and available to photograph.

Artefacts from the Hoard will be on display at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from Friday September 25.

Stay tuned for more! Hopefully there'll be juicy pictures in the press tomorrow. Any English readers who care to report from the press conference?

More Craigslist Shenanigans: Plato

Craigslist is full of treasures! Thanks go to Bruce Frier for this gem:

Autographed Copy of Plato's Republic

Date: 2008-07-09, 11:00AM CDT

1st edition of The Republic signed by its author. There is of course a reasonable amount of wear and tear, (light highlighting and underlining, dog-eared pages, back cover missing, etc.), but it is in overall good condition considering its age.

First come first serve

  • Location: chicago loop
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

22 September 2009

Teaching Archaeology at Johnson's Island

Johnson's Island in Ohio was a prison camp for Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, and has been an ongoing dig for the last 2o years or so. Archaeology Magazine has an "Interactive Dig" feature about the site, which is used as a field school and has great public outreach programs. I especially like the most recent field report, written by teachers who were learning about archaeology and developing ideas on how to present the field to young adults.

I especially like Dig Bingo, which seems like a great idea for teaching students to look for the significance of artifacts as they dig. The teachers report:
When we were first given our bingo sheet we assumed it was just the activity for the day and it would be no big deal, little did we know it wasn’t as easy as it looked! As we began digging and sifting as a team we soon realized how difficult it was going to be. Being a young competitive group we quickly learned the techniques to finding artifacts in the dirt. We were able to find pieces of chamber pots, possible tea cups, animal claws, parts of medical and relish bottles, and pottery to get our bingo. Getting bingo after three days of digging was one of the most exciting things about the week.
The Dig Bingo sheet.

Sounds like 'Interpretation at the trowel's edge' with a dash of church social thrown in!

I have a personal interest in the site: my great-great-grandfather, Austin Shoup, was posted there from August 1863 to July 1865 during his service in the 128th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Though winter on Lake Erie is definitely unpleasant, I have admit that this is a pretty soft posting for an infantryman in 1863 - the year of Chancellorsville, Chickamauga, and Gettysburg. It's always made me a little reluctant to brag about "having an ancestor who fought in the Civil War."