If I'm remembering all this correctly, between 1973 and the middle of 1975, a bunch of us found a Ruddles pub in Peterborough run by the rudest publican in the country. An awful Victorian place at best. We had been in there for a couple of weeks and one of the locals was a Fen Slodger sort with a long tan greatcoat on that had seen far better days. He found out that we were archaeologists and came up to one of our number and asked two things: Had there ever been found a Roman kiln out in the Fens and were there mounds out in the Fens. The the first we replied "not as far as we know" and to the second, we said "Yes", citing St. Guthlac who apparently lived in one at Crowland. That was that for another couple of weeks until he came in and very quietly pulled Roman kiln wasters (Nene Valley Ware) out of one interior pocket and out of another interior pocket of his greatcoat he pulled a bronze dagger with a bone handle and gold rivets. The kiln furniture was unusual but not exactly earth shattering, but that dagger was extraordinary. It was hardly corroded. All we ever got out of him was that it was out in the Fens somewhere.
This was near the area where a villager ran into town screaming about dragons and the villagers grabbed their assorted weaponry akin to those chasing Frankenstein's creation and went out into the fens. There was indeed a dragon's head sticking up out of the peat. They then proceeded to burn what appeared to have been a Viking longship as Peterborough was one of the places raided.
Archaeology is about accumulating evidence from here and there, assembling it into a plausible narrative backed by such facts as are known, compared with the bigger picture narrative and then putting it out to be assaulted mercilessly until a consensus emerges. That holds until new evidence comes in and it is then re-analyzed and re-assaulted as the new narrative.
Assembling a public relations narrative seldom hews absolutely true to the archaeological one, and perhaps that's a good thing. A perfectly good story can be ruined by a poor telling. Getting folks in the door is the name of the game and for journalists, grabbing readership from a story. The journalist is seldom an archaeological specialist, writing a story on a political issue one day and an archaeological find another. We all get that.
On Dec 15, 2014, at 7:40 PM, John Wood <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I suspect the romanticising of the burial might be in the main to drum up
> custom for the newish Novium Museum in Chichester. I notice from the
> museum's website that they have dropped the entry charge. This burial, it
> would seem, will be a key exhibit in the museum.
> On 16 Dec 2014 00:24, "Raymond Nilson" <[log in to unmask]>
>> The problem is, that is what was entirely missing. Yet, it was still
>> claimed as fact. Inference means interpretive/hermeneutic. You have no room
>> to interpret with objectivity. And archaeology is nothing if it is not
>> interpretive. We must leave the door open and resist the force-feeding of
>> romantic notions clearly intended for public placation. We need
>> counterintuitive arguments which reflect complexity instead of conformity.
>> All the best,
>> From: British archaeology discussion list [[log in to unmask]] on
>> behalf of Dave Tooke [[log in to unmask]]
>> Sent: 15 December 2014 20:33
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [BRITARCH] Racton Man
>> He was old. He was ill. He was buried with a valuable object. Those who
>> buried him thought it worth putting that object with him.
>> We cannot know, but it is a fair inference thatcher was deemed important.
>> What could that mean? Perhaps he was a chief, perhaps a priest, perhaps a
>> retired warrior. You are right we don't know.
>> But the whole point of archaeology is to explore options suggested to us
>> by the physical remains of the past to make inferences about the past; and
>> thereby learn more about ourselves.
>> Dave Tooke
>> Sent from my iPhone
>>> On 15 Dec 2014, at 19:37, Raymond Nilson <
>> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> This sort of story is interesting up to a point. However, to put it
>> colloquially, it really winds me up when I see these stories in the media.
>> Why do we persist to allow such pontificating reporting regarding
>> archaeology? How on earth do we know this human was a chief? Did they build
>> a time machine and go back and ask him? Moreover, modern western
>> superficial conceptions of 'seniority' would most-likely have been
>> completely dichotomous to these groups in the past. The article states,
>> nonetheless, that the information they have provided is 'fact' advocated by
>> science. It appears that they know everything about this man. Do they also
>> know his name? Was it Frank?
>>> Ray (BA, MA).
>>> Doctoral Research Student
>>> Archaeology, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures,
>>> University of Manchester
>>> From: British archaeology discussion list [[log in to unmask]] on
>> behalf of John Wood [[log in to unmask]]
>>> Sent: 15 December 2014 16:20
>>> To: [log in to unmask]
>>> Subject: [BRITARCH] Racton Man
>>> A nice little write up on the BBC website:
>>> And will be appearing on BBC South Today tonight.
>>> Particular interest to me as I used to live in the parish.