Hoard

Diwrnod ym mywyd Curadur Archaeolegol

Cyhoeddwyd y blog hwn ar ran Adam Gwilt, Prif Guradur Archaeoleg Cynhanes, Amgueddfa Cymru.

Cyfarchion ar Ddiwrnod Archaeoleg!

Fy enw i yw Adam Gwilt ac rwy’n archaeolegydd a churadur. Mae fy swyddfa yn Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd, ac rwy’n gweithio ar draws ein safleoedd eraill hefyd. Fi sy’n gyfrifol am ofalu a datblygu ein casgliadau Neolithig, Oes Efydd ac Oes Haearn yn Amgueddfa Cymru, ar ran pobl Cymru a thu hwnt. Astudiais Archaeoleg ym Mhrifysgol Durham, gan ennill profiad gwaith maes a diddordeb mewn ymchwilio i ddiwylliant materol, cyn cael y swydd hon.

Fi yn gweithio ar gelc Oes Efydd

Mae diwrnod arferol yn y gwaith yn amrywio’n fawr, gyda phob math o ddyletswyddau yn ogystal â gwneud yn siŵr bod eraill o fy nghwmpas yn gallu gwneud eu gwaith. Ymysg fy swyddogaethau mae tasgau ac ymchwil yn ymwneud â’r casgliadau; delio ag ymholiadau ymchwil a’r cyhoedd; datblygu projectau partneriaeth; delio â’r cyfryngau ar bynciau archaeolegol; ymgysylltu â grwpiau cymunedol; cefnogi projectau addysg a’r Cynllun Henebion Cludadwy yng Nghymru.

Rhaid cofnodi’r gwrthrychau yn fanwl

Un o’r pethau gorau am fy swydd yw cael gweithio ar ddarganfyddiadau trysor newydd yng Nghymru. Byddaf yn ysgrifennu adroddiadau i’r crwner ar ddarganfyddiadau trysor cynhanesyddol, gan gydweithio i sicrhau bod y broses adrodd yn rhedeg yn rhwydd yng Nghymru. Ar hyn o bryd, rwy’n creu adroddiad ar gelc o arfau o ddiwedd yr Oes Efydd, a ddarganfuwyd yn ddiweddar yn Sir Fynwy. Yn ffodus, roedd modd i ni wneud ychydig o waith cloddio archaeolegol ar y safle, i greu darlun llawnach a chael gwell syniad pam fod y celc wedi’i gladdu bron i 3,000 o flynyddoedd yn ôl.

Ymysg fy nyletswyddau eraill, rwy’n gyd-reolwr ar broject Hel Trysor; Hel Straeon, sy’n cael ei ariannu gan raglen Collecting Cultures Cronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri; yn gydawdur ar gyhoeddiad ynglŷn â’n gwaith cloddio cymunedol ar safle Oes Haearn Llan-faes, Bro Morgannwg; ac rwy’n cyfrannu arbenigedd ar ddau broject ailddatblygu mawr yn Sain Ffagan Amgueddfa Werin Cymru ac Amgueddfa Lleng Rufeinig Cymru, Caerllion.

An Archaeological Curator’s Day

This post has been published on behalf of Adam Gwilt, Principal Curator of Prehistory at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales.

Hello, on this Day of Archaeology!

My name is Adam Gwilt and I am an archaeologist and curator based at the National Museum Cardiff, also working across our other museum sites. I am the person responsible for looking after and developing the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age collections at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, on behalf of the people of Wales and beyond. I trained in archaeology at the University of Durham, also building up my fieldwork experience and interests in material culture research, before coming to this job.

Me working on a Bronze Age hoard

My normal day at work will be very varied, juggling a range of different commitments and making sure that others around me can also do their jobs. My work can range from collections based tasks and research; to dealing with public and research enquiries; being involved with museum redevelopment projects, exhibitions and loans; developing partnership projects; handling media interest on relevant archaeological topics; engaging with community groups; supporting learning projects and the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales.

Detailed recording of objects is essential

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is getting to work on new treasure discoveries made in Wales. My role involves writing reports on cases of prehistoric treasure finds for coroners, also working with colleagues to make sure that the reporting process runs smoothly in Wales. At the moment, I am reporting on a Late Bronze Age hoard of weapons and tools, recently discovered in Monmouthshire. Luckily, we were able to undertake a small archaeological excavation at the find-spot, in order to help tell the story of how and why this hoard was buried nearly 3,000 years ago.

Amongst my other roles, I am a Co-Project Manager of the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme; co-author involved in preparing a final publication on our research and community excavation of an Iron Age feasting site at Llanmaes, Vale of Glamorgan and contributing expertise within two of our major museum redevelopment projects at the St Fagans: National Museum of History and the National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon.

 

A Welsh version of this post is in preparation.

Bits and piecing

Hundreds of fragments of Bronze Age bronze objects, but do any of them join together?

Large collections of complete and broken bronze objects have been discovered buried in the ground throughout Europe. Here in Kent we have several examples including the large hoard from Boughton Malherbe buried around 2,800 years ago. It contains approximately 352 items but many of these are fragments. Today I am trying to see if any of the fragments join together. I want to know why these different items have been gathered together and buried. Were any of them deliberately broken? Were the pieces buried together? Why?

Sophie in the cellarmould frag

Most days I am studying archaeological reports on excavated evidence for prehistoric bronze casting and working of gold and silver. So I relish this opportunity to actually handle the ancient artefacts (even if through gloves), rather than just reading about them. Digging and being the first to see, to touch, to smell an object or a surface, a structure, even the bottom of a pit, that’s what inspires me. If I can’t be out in the field then examining the objects off-site is a satisfying alternative. There are so many stages of discovery in archaeology and these continue for years after the dust has settled on the excavation site. The detailed examination of artefacts is just one of those exhilarating stages.

Knole Handling Knole Handling 3Knole Handling 2

Research is just one of the many activities I have the fortune to be involved in as an archaeologist. Take this week for example: for me it began on-site, digging with the Young Archaeologist’s Club (18th century archaeology – see Andrew Mayfield’s DoA post). This was followed by a Festival of Archaeology event at Knole House (17th century related) showing and sharing the tactile and sensory handling kit I have prepared for all visitors especially those with a Visual Impairment. Next it was library based research in London looking up metalworking sites (c.2500BC to AD 50). Today has been working on the Boughton Malherbe hoard and I’ll finish the week with a Festival of Archaeology event at Maidstone Museum presenting the latest results on the hoard, and showing some of the objects to the public.

And what did I discover today? Most of the fragments don’t join together. But there are two definite refits: a socketed axe and a socketed gouge. Should I let my mind’s eye imagine a Bronze Age procession of people carrying a fragment to represent themselves? The pieces of the community buried together? One thing is for certain, I keep finding more and more questions in need of answers.

GOUGE REFITGOUGE REFIT 2

Thanks to Maidstone Museum and Kent Archaeological Society, Allen Grove Fund, for making the Boughton Malherbe hoard research possible. Thanks also to the National Trust for the opportunity to make the sensory handling kit for Knole. Extra special thanks to all the staff at Maidstone and Knole for their encouragement and interest.

A day with Macedonian archaeology – HOARD OF BILLON TRACHEA FROM THE SKOPJE FORTRESS

The copper hoard from the XIII century was discovered as a whole X.9.5.1, in a pit from Block: XXI, in the course of archeological excavations at the Skopje Fortress in 2009. It contained 50 copper coins, including 5 items of Bulgarian imitations (no. 1-5) and items presenting rulers, namely 2 items presenting Ivan Asen II (no. 6-7), 2 items presenting Theodore Comnenus-Ducas (no. 8-9), 2 items presenting  John Comnenus-Ducas (no. 10-11), 9 items presenting John III Ducas-Vatatzes with (no. 12-20), 4 items presenting Theodor II Ducas-Lascaris (no. 21-24), as well as the most numerous, 24 Latin imitations (no. 25-47). (more…)

An Inscribed Spindle Whorl

I hadn’t planned for anything exciting today – but you never know what can happen. I had a new detectorist dropping in who recorded a Roman and a post medieval coin with me which was a nice surprise. The coins are recorded as LANCUM-D92224 (Roman denarius of Hadrian) and LANCUM-D8A9E3 (sixpence of Elizabeth I dating from 1572), both from Woodplumpton, Lancs. – it was very nice of the detectorist and his dad, the landowner, to think about recording their finds and I am glad that they somehow found their way to the PAS. I guess seven years ago when I started the job that would have been virtually impossible. Today, I am ‘part of the team’ for most of the detectorists in Lancashire and Cumbria.

Last night, a new club was founded: the Furness Finders. They got in touch with me BEFORE the meeting and asked me which days I couldn’t attend the meetings. It’s great that they want to make sure that the local FLO records their finds and I was pleasantly surprised. That ups my club count from two to three club in North Lancashire and Cumbria. Barrow has proven to be fantastic place to find ‘stuff’ recently: We have had the Viking hoard from the Furness area, a Chinese coin hoard and lately, the first ever Early Iron Age hoard in the area – all discovered by local metal detectorists and all reported within hours/days of discovery. Makes me happy to have played part in this.

Another nice surprise today was that one of my Cumbrian detectorists found an inscribed medieval spindle whorl (see image). I have no idea what it means, but I hope I will find out. I suspect it’s just non-sensical lettering, but wouldn’t it be great if it meant something? Unfortunately, I research Early Iron Age socketed axes, not medieval inscription, so all I could do was photoshop it and send it off to people who know more about medieval lettering than I do…

Medieval lead-alloy inscribed spindle whorl from Great Mitton, Lancs.


The Bitterley Hoard: Part Seven – Concluding thoughts

The Portable Antiquities Scheme logo

 

 

 

And in the end …

Visitors to the hoard site in the rain

The discovery, reporting, excavation, investigation and analysis of this hoard have taken over a year. In that time a detailed picture has evolved which has shed new light on events that happened more than 300 years ago. Coin hoards from the Civil War are relatively common with several known for each county in Britain; so many hoards show the upheaval and underlying worry of the general population. This urgency and unrest can be seen in Bitterley hoard – where the only direct archaeological evidence for the placing of the hoard in the ground– is the hoard itself. The excavation showed that the burying of the hoard was relatively quick – in a prepared container. The local events that caused the hoard to be buried are unknown but the fact that they were never retrieved suggests that something happened to the owner and unfortunately their loss has been our gain.

I would like to thank all the people involved in this treasure case – as well as those who have helped tell the story so far. I would like to say a special thankyou to the farmer – for giving us access to his land and also (most importantly) to the finder – Howard Murphy – who did the right thing in leaving the coins in the ground and calling in the PAS. He has enabled us to piece together a remarkable story. I hope this will inspire other detectorists to do the same when they make their next big find!

Peter Reavill

29th June 2012

The Bitterely Hoard – Part Six – What happens next

The Portable Antiquities Scheme logo

 

 

What happens next?

The hoard has now been declared Treasure under the 1996 Act, the next stage in the process is for it to be assessed and valued by the independent Treasure Valuation Committee. Once a current market value has been established and agreed upon – Shropshire Museums hopes, with the aid of grant funding and local contributions, to be in a position to acquire the hoard. These monies will be paid as a reward to both the finder and also the farmer.

For more information on this process and for all your treasure queries see: http://finds.org.uk/treasure

There is a strong local desire to see these coins kept within the county. The hoard will be displayed at several museum sites in Shropshire for all to see.

Emma-Kate Lanyon, Head of Collections and Curatorial Services for Shropshire Museums has said

“This hoard has thrown light on a dark and turbulent period of our relatively recent history. Like all hoards of this nature we ask the question why was such a large amount of money left in the ground and never retrieved. We hope to find the funding necessary to acquire the hoard and ensure it can tell its unique story as part of our seventeenth century gallery at the new Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery when it  opens at the Music Hall (shrewsbury) in late summer 2013”.

More information about Ludlow Museum can be seen here:

http://www.shropshire.gov.uk/museums.nsf/open/9409F0EC30A6B0BF80257479005015A2

this new museum project can be found here:

http://www.shropshire.gov.uk/museums.nsf/open/07683EFB8004F5BA8025765D003D4319

Peter Reavill

29th June 2012

The Bitterley Hoard – Part Four – What’s it worth

The Portable Antiquities Scheme logo

 

 

Contemporary Value of the Hoard

Jonathon Worton, a research student at the University of Chester has suggested what the hoard could have been worth in the 17th Century. This is really interesting as it puts some perspective into how far money went in the period. From my point of view as an archaeologist it just proves the old adage  “The only things certain in life are death and taxes“.

Jonathon writes:

“with reference to monetary values, I always think it is more informative to consider the contemporary purchasing power, rather than attempting modern equivalence.

Some interesting examples:

1. In 1640/41 the day rate paid by the Corporation of Shrewsbury for ‘public works’ for an artificer – a wheelwright, carpenter, joiner – was 14d (less if ‘diet’ – food – included), 8d for a day labourer. These were probably good average rates for a days’ toil. (Ref. Reed, Shropshire Transactions, Vol LV).

(more…)

SeaCity Museum: Environmental Monitoring

Today I have been doing environmental monitoring of archaeological collections on display at the new SeaCity Museum (opened in April this year). I was lucky enough to start a new job last week as Collections Care and Access Trainee for Southampton City Council Museum Collection Management, funded by the Heritage Lottery Skills for the Future scheme. So far I have had some fantastic opportunities to learn about collections and documentation and today we are focused on environmental monitoring to ensure the objects’ conditions are stable.

Tiny Tag in the Millbrook Roman Hoard display case

The museum houses a range of objects related to Southampton’s past which includes this fantastic hoard of Roman coins excavated in Millbrook, Southampton. Over 4,000 late 3rd century Roman coins were found during building work. 1,000 of these coins have been put on display for the public to view at SeaCity Museum. The coins are copper alloy and need to be monitored to preserve them in as good a state as possible. To achieve this Tiny Tags were put in cases with vulnerable objects to record temperature and humidity readings at regular intervals on a daily basis.

Next job is to download the information to create graphs and interpret if the levels are right for that particular case. These Tiny Tags can record and store data for three months so the data is logged and the Tiny Tags reset at a minimum of every three months.

Another display case for monitoring is the settlement in Hamwic case. This consists of loom weights, a cooking pot, lamp, spindle whorl, linen smoother, bone comb, whistle, ice skate and tweezers. It is important to monitor this case to keep the bone and metal in the appropriate conditions to prevent the objects from deteriorating.

Putting a Tiny Tag into the Hamwic display case

Hamwic was a Middle Saxon (c.700-850) town situated around what is now Northam and St Marys in modern Southampton. It was an important port and excavations show that many crafts and industries were practiced in Hamwic. The excavations at Hamwic have resulted in one of the best collections of Middle Saxon finds in Europe so I feel privileged to work so closely with such exciting finds!

I have a background in archaeology with a BA in History and Archaeology and a Masters in Maritime Archaeology so it has been a very interesting day learning about monitoring conditions for objects post excavation and the dimensions and concerns about displaying objects, and that has been my day of archaeology. Not all archaeological work is in the field!

Now it’s back to learning about documentation and recording and exploring more interesting objects.

If you are interested in seeing the above mentioned objects for yourself then please visit the SeaCity Museum website.

The Bitterley Hoard – Part Two – Conservation

PAS Logo

Investigating the Hoard at the British Museum – Conservation

Unpacking the Hoard

The top of the block

The hoard reached the Department of Conservation and Research at the British Museum and was worked on by Pippa Pierce and colleagues in the department. Pippa had been involved from the start of the project giving really useful advice both before and after the excavation. The hoard was slowly excavated from its clay block and over time the container and the coins within were revealed.

 

Partially excavated

The coins within the pot

 

 

The coins were excavated stratagraphically to see if there was a structure to the deposits – were the coins at the top more recent than those at the bottom?

The excavation showed that there was no difference between the layers and that they had been thoroughly mixed before deposition. What was interesting was that it seems as if the coins were placed in the vessel in small stacks or columns and several groups of coins were removed in this way. In total there were 138 coins all of high denomination -many were very well preserved.

The container was revealed to be a local ‘blackware’ vessel called a tyg. Tyg’s are multi-handled drinking cups / mugs. They have several handles as the sides of the pot are thin and the contents are often hot (and highly alcoholic). This meant they could be passed from person to person without burning fingers; it is also thought that the handles segregated the rim and so each person would have their own section and so drinking would be more hygienic. The size of the vessel is about standard for those known from the period (diameter 88mm).  The vessel was slightly cracked and the rim damaged through compression within the soil – so if the finder had tried to lift it without help it could well have broken into many pieces.

The purse inside the pot

Impressions of the coin in the leather

A relatively unique find within the hoard was that the vessel was lined with the well preserved remains of a fine leather purse. The leather is very fragile and the impressions of the coins can be clearly seen preserved within it. Its survival is rare as leather and other organic material seldom survive in the soil. If the finder had dug the hoard himself and emptied the contents of the vessel then it is likely that this unique element would have been severally damaged or lost as it is so fragile.

 

Removing the coins

Inside the pot – coins and leather

The pot and purse

 

See next post: The Bitterley Hoard – Part Three – The Coins

All images within this blog are used with the kind permission of The British Museum

For more images see:

PAS Flickr Account

http://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/finds/sets/72157630327419608/

Peter Reavill

29th June 2012