Certainly a minority of brooches have come from graves, in almost all cases badly plough damaged graves. The typical depth of the ploughsoil in Kent is 25-30cm (up to 12 inches). Shallow graves that have been disturbed will of course potentially yield artefacts that can be detected. Deeper graves, cut well into the subsoil or chalk bedrock, are proving impervious to detecting. At Lyminge and Ringlemere graves, with metal grave goods, have been excavated that did not produce signals on detectors which were passed over them, even after the topsoil had been removed.
The majority of Anglo-Saxon brooches recovered by detectorists in Kent are broken or damaged copper alloy examples. Cruciform, small long and button brooches are the commonest types, in stark contrast to the burial record. Detectorists recover many Roman and Medieval brooches without anyone ever claiming they are derived from burials. Why should the Anglo-Saxon examples be different? Most are not coming from known cemetery sites. When a detectorist is active on a cemetery site it is usually apparent from the range of artefacts recovered. Brooches from such sites usually retain remains of iron springs and pins, plus often textiles preserved by the corrosion products. But the majority of brooches don't come from such sites, and generally give the impression of having been circulating in the upper soil horizons for a long time. What we are getting in most cases are brooches that have been accidentally lost or casually discarded in the same way as many other classes of objects recovered by detecting.
As I said above, there is a clear contrast between the proportions of brooch types recovered from burials, and the proportions recovered by detecting. Cruciform brooches are fairly rare in inhumations in Kent, but are the commonest single type recovered by detectorists. Thus, the detecting is providing us with insights we wouldn't otherwise have got.
Hope this clarifies matters, but I have a sinking feeling it won't....
From: British archaeology discussion list
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of Rob
Sent: 17 July 2006 10:37
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] PAS strays from its remit ( was Bill Wyman's
light metal )
Not so much the negativity of the PAS but its visual approach to the
community. It seems to me and a few others I spoke with that the impression
given is that it is there for the MD fraternity and one i have tried to get
over is untrue. If that is the view of non Archaeologists and non
detectorists I know ( only 5 people) then whats the real state of affairs?
As for your AS studies. How can you be sure that the brooches recorded with
the PAS were not part of a grave? This is where the context is gone. In
Kent the top soil os no more than about 3 inches to 4 inches deep. Can you
say with any degree of certainty that the finds you have had to record didnt
come from below this depth? You can't. Yes I do know the depth of top
soiol in Kent and Sussex because I have dug in both places on numerous
sites. Even the two Saxon coin hoardes that were found came from below the
top soil. Ok granted not much below but still below.
I know for sure that if I read your report it would be on these arguments I
based a critique
----- Original Message -----
From: "Andrew Richardson" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2006 9:07 AM
Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] PAS strays from its remit ( was Bill Wyman's light
I wish these regular episodes of 'yah boo' between anti-detecting
archaeologists and detectorists on here could be a little more rooted in
reality than they are. This is my personal view of the matter as someone
who works as an FLO (in Kent).
Firstly I think some people are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill
(and if anyone has found any finds on a molehill I am of course very happy
to record them ;-) ) with the PAStexplorers site. The detector survey is,
as has been pointed out, one field survey technique, along with fieldwalking
and geophysics, used on the example (labelled by Paul as 'romantic') of an
Anglo-Saxon village. I would say it is trying to show that responsible
detecting can be a valid field survey technique. But it is one minor aspect
of the site, and should not be made to stand for the whole scheme.
Should we promote metal detecting? Look, if metal detecting under any
circumstances is wrong, and damaging to the archaeological resource, then it
should be banned. But this is actually a ludicrous position. Most
archaeological units now use detectors on excavations, and they'd be mad not
to. English Heritage has just produced a code of practice for detecting on
its sites, and of course there is the new national code of practice backed
by the CBA, English Heritage and others. Responsibly done it is a perfectly
valid landscape survey technique, along with fieldwalking, geophysics etc.
Furthermore, it is the only practical method for large scale examination of
material contained within (as opposed to on the surface of) the disturbed
ploughsoils that actually make up so much of Britain's archaeological
resource. Metal artefacts in these horizons are not resting safely in situ
in a stable context, they are subject to continual threat from weathering,
agri-chemicals and damage from agricultural machinery. They are also of
course, vulnerable to detection by criminals armed with metal detectors who
will never record their finds. Therefore, recovery by responsible
detectorists who will recored their finds with the PAS is probably the best
Somebody in this debate (was it Rob?) suggested that unstratified artefacts
have nothing to tell us archaeologically. So why the fuss about digging
them up? But actually that view is completely wrong. These artefacts do
have important things to tell us about the material culture of past
societies. If you can't imagine what, then you clearly haven't given the
matter enough thought. I'm working on a study of early Anglo-Saxon brooches
recorded by the PAS in southern England that is producing some pretty
profound results, notably the contrast between brooches deposited in graves
and brooches deposited as a result of loss or discard. In this instance,
metal detected finds are opening a new window on early Anglo-Saxon material
culture, one which traditional archaeological methods had failed to open.
Furthermore, in Kent I do have contact with Archaeological Groups and
Societies, as do the county's responsible detectorists. Indeed, the
divisions between detectorists and archaeologists in the county are rapidly
evaporating. There has long been a detecting representative on the
Fieldwork Committee of the Kent Archaeological Society (of which I am now
chairman) and many clubs are affiliated members of the KAS. Further direct
linkage with the KAS is under discussion. The local clubs have also formed
the Kent Archaeological Metal Detecting Support Unit (KAMSU) which provides
volunteers for archaeological projects across the county, and this has been
very well received. Volunteers participating in such projects are happy to
do so, with no expectation that they will keep the finds.
I could go on, but this post is already too long really. But I'd just
appeal for people not to always focus on the negative. If you have issues
with the PAS why not talk to some FLO's; it will help you get a clearer
picture of what is actaully happening than any amount of official statistics
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